It is a tangent, DaryLLL, but I don't mind exploring a tangent for a post or two. Especially since NM won't be with us again till Monday. We gotta keep busy somehow, right?
Nobody (and nobody's beliefs) can be defined
by what they aren't; but they can and must be described
by what they aren't, when it is relevant to do so. Let's look at some hypothetical examples before coming back to personal experience.
Just for instance, let's say you don't smoke. I don't know if you do or not, but if you do, imagine you don't, because we're being hypothetical. Would it bother you to be considered a nonsmoker, (as in "nonsmokers live longer than smokers")? And if it would bother you, what else would you call it? "People who, no matter what their other qualities, happen not to smoke" comes to mind, but it's cumbersome, and still
defines the class by what they're not. You might try to strike a more positive note and say, "the opposite of smoker isn't 'nonsmoker', it's 'thinker', because smokers don't think" or some such, which would avoid the whole negative-definition problem (if it was a problem), but only at the expense of accuracy, because that's not what thinker means.
Or, moving juuuuust a little closer to our real topic: suppose you were visiting a foreign city seeing some foreign sights, and suppose your guide were to explain at some shrine that, "Muslims are allowed to enter this site, but non-Muslims may not enter." Would it really chafe you to be considered a 'non-Muslim' in that context? Would you object that he should instead have listed all the faiths whose adherents aren't allowed in? That would take all day, and he'd still probably never get around to mentioning yours. And why not
say non-Muslim when you mean non-Muslim?
So, then, to induce a general rule from the specifics
- Sometimes it becomes necessary to classify people into mutually exclusive (non-overlapping) sets, based on some relevant descriptor.
- The two sets which result from such a classification will be (1) those for whom the descriptor is true, and (2) those for whom it is false.
- Sometimes English terms will exist which accurately describe each of the two sets (e.g., Jew & gentile, female & male, living & dead).
- If such terms don't exist, the second set will just have to be described by its negatory relation to the first (e.g., nonsmoker, non-Christian, unwed, unemployed).
And finally, to apply the rule to our topic (if we still remember our topic): some people may be literalists. I still don't know how that word would be defined, but let's hypothetically say literalist means "one who interprets all of scripture literally." Its negation, I think, would have to be nonliteralist, meaning simply "one who does not
interpret all of scripture literally."
When I said "illiteralist," I was trying to coin a term for a subset of nonliteralists, that means "one who interprets none
of scripture literally," and yeah it was kind of tongue-in-cheek. There's probably a better word for that somewhere. I don't think "gnostic" is it (with apologies to Freke and Gandy), because while some gnostics may feel that way, some other famous gnostics believed some scripture (especially their own gnostic texts) should be interpreted literally.