Here's another religious knowledge quiz... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 38 Old 10-11-2010, 06:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/op...me&ref=general

I got 12 out of 13 right, but I confess I made educated guesses on a lot of them.

I agree with his conclusion:
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And yes, the point of this little quiz is that religion is more complicated than it sometimes seems, and that we should be wary of rushing to inflammatory conclusions about any faith, especially based on cherry-picking texts.
Not that any of you guys need to know that, but I thought the quiz was kind of fun!
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#2 of 38 Old 10-11-2010, 06:29 PM
 
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I have a few issues with the nuances of the quiz... the answer to Question 2 doesn't mention that the whole method of salvation in the New Testament precludes coerced conversions, and that coercion is never recommended as an evangelical tactic (even though it doesn't have the actual phrase "let there be no coercion in religion" a la the Koran). It would be easy for someone to read that as "The New Testament encourages coercion and the Koran doesn't", so a clarification would have been nice given that the author made some commentary on the Koran's statement. And Question 6 doesn't address the common Christian contention that Jesus would have believed what was written elsewhere in the Bible - meaning that his views on homosexuality weren't "unknown". (I'm sure one could debate that, but it seems a bit theologically clueless of the author not to at least mention it.)

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#3 of 38 Old 10-11-2010, 06:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Smokering - I didn't get the same impression that you did for question #2, but I think that is because I live in the US. This article is written in response to a lot of people here pulling verses of the Koran out of context to say things like "see - Islam is not compatible with democracy!" or "see - Islam commands killing anyone who doesn't convert" etc etc ad nauseum. I think the author is assuming that most readers here understand already that Christianity doesn't favor coercion because of our dominant Christian culture. But there are a lot of people that would likely to be surprised to learn that the Koran also does not condone coercion, because of the propaganda they've been hearing.

As for question 6... yeah, that's completely debatable .
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#4 of 38 Old 10-11-2010, 09:35 PM
 
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I think you're both right...

I find a lot of American material like this is directed at people who have got their ideas about Christianity from fundamentalists of a certain kind, and who tend to have a lot of false ideas about what the Bible actually says.

I think he was mostly trying to explode some assumptions he feels people have about religion. At the same time, I also felt that he was feeding into another set of assumptions.

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#5 of 38 Old 10-12-2010, 04:47 AM
 
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Wow! I actually missed four on this one, whereas I got 100% on that other quiz.

Part of it was that some questions had multiple right answers, and I wasn't that knowledgeable, I guess. But I also assumed that Islam was the answer to the bombing question, which shows that, much as I like to think I always think these things through and don't assume stuff, sometimes I really do thoughtlessly assume stuff.

It was great to expand my knowledge!

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#6 of 38 Old 10-13-2010, 11:42 PM
 
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I think you're both right...

I find a lot of American material like this is directed at people who have got their ideas about Christianity from fundamentalists of a certain kind, and who tend to have a lot of false ideas about what the Bible actually says.

I think he was mostly trying to explode some assumptions he feels people have about religion. At the same time, I also felt that he was feeding into another set of assumptions.
I agree.

I didn't like the tone of the entire quiz...

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#7 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 01:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm sort of , not sure what the assumptions or the tone is that you object to? Care to elaborate?

Especially since at the end he makes the point that cherry-picking verses leads to an incorrect view of a religion, so it can't be that he cherry-picked some verses in the Bible that are less than savory, right? He was obviously doing that to make his point.
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#8 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 02:02 PM
 
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I'm sort of , not sure what the assumptions or the tone is that you object to? Care to elaborate?

Especially since at the end he makes the point that cherry-picking verses leads to an incorrect view of a religion, so it can't be that he cherry-picked some verses in the Bible that are less than savory, right? He was obviously doing that to make his point.
I think it was that "point" that bothered me. He picked verses out of the Bible (totally out of context) that made it look gruesome. (The one about "dashing infants against rocks" or whatever is poetic imagery written by King David...not God's command)

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#9 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 02:38 PM
 
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I think it was that "point" that bothered me. He picked verses out of the Bible (totally out of context) that made it look gruesome. (The one about "dashing infants against rocks" or whatever is poetic imagery written by King David...not God's command)
Well, yeah...but....

This was his point as I read it:

A) My readers largely think Christianity is good.
B) Many of my readers think Islam is evil based on information taken out of context.
C) I will take information about Christianity out of context to show them how even something that is generally accepted as good and wholesome can be made to seem gruesome if you don't look at the whole picture.
D) My readers will consider looking at Islam as a whole, rather than isolated verses and ideas out of context, when coming to a judgement about the religion and its followers.


So, yeah, the whole point was to take things ridiculously out of context. Because pretty much everyone reading the article knows that Christians as a whole don't want to kill babies, but they have some equally ridiculous ideas about Muslims that need to be questioned.
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#10 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 04:10 PM
 
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Well, yeah...but....

This was his point as I read it:

A) My readers largely think Christianity is good.
B) Many of my readers think Islam is evil based on information taken out of context.
C) I will take information about Christianity out of context to show them how even something that is generally accepted as good and wholesome can be made to seem gruesome if you don't look at the whole picture.
D) My readers will consider looking at Islam as a whole, rather than isolated verses and ideas out of context, when coming to a judgement about the religion and its followers.


So, yeah, the whole point was to take things ridiculously out of context. Because pretty much everyone reading the article knows that Christians as a whole don't want to kill babies, but they have some equally ridiculous ideas about Muslims that need to be questioned.
I guess I see the problem as one of fact - lots of people think Christianity is stupid and evil. So he seems to me to be just playing into another stereotype.

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#11 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 06:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I guess I see the problem as one of fact - lots of people think Christianity is stupid and evil. So he seems to me to be just playing into another stereotype.
I'm not sure I understand - did he get any facts wrong? I could see that this quiz could be used to play into a stereotype, but I think given the context of the quiz - his comments at the beginning and end ("we should be wary of rushing to inflammatory conclusions about any faith [i.e. including Christianity], especially based on cherry-picking texts"), and his mention of the recent uproar about Islam - I do not believe it was his intention to do so. Like anything else, this quiz could be twisted to support a stereotype if it is taken out of context. But in that case the fault lies with the person doing the twisting, not the author.

As far as I can see, his facts are correct. He could have mentioned more verses in the Bible - in the OT, for example, where Yahweh commands the Israelites to slaughter all the women and children of the conquered people. Or the firstborn sons of all those Egyptian families that were killed so Pharaoh would let the Israelites go free (that story is taught in Sunday School, but no one ever seems to wonder how many of those firstborn children were innocent infants?) I think Christianity is a wonderful religion, but it can't be denied that those verses are hard to understand. Christians have struggled with them for ages. It's true that some in the US take those verses out of context to slam Christianity, and this is very unfair. But that's what so many people are in the US are now doing to Islam. In my experience the majority of Americans have a positive view of Christianity (can you imagine a non-Christian being elected president, for example? Maybe a Jew - Lieberman came close - but certainly not a Muslim or Atheist). But unfortunately many Americans currently have a negative view of Islam, and so when they hear a similar challenging passage from the Koran they tend to think that is the whole story rather than giving it the same consideration and study they would give a similar passage from the Bible.
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#12 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 08:44 PM
 
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I'm not sure I understand - did he get any facts wrong? I could see that this quiz could be used to play into a stereotype, but I think given the context of the quiz - his comments at the beginning and end ("we should be wary of rushing to inflammatory conclusions about any faith, especially based on cherry-picking texts"), and the recent anti-Islam fever surrounding the building of the community center/mosque in New York - that it was not his intention to do so. Like anything else, context is everything, and anything can be twisted to support a stereotype if it is taken out of context.

But you know, that stuff is in the Bible. He didn't even mention the verses in the OT where Yahweh commands the Israelites to slaughter all the women and children of the conquered people. Or the firstborn sons of all those Egyptian families that were killed so Pharaoh would let the Israelites go free (that story is taught in Sunday School, but no one ever seems to wonder how many of those firstborn children were innocent infants?) The Bible contains some pretty challenging passages that Christians have to struggle with to understand in the context of the whole Bible message. And despite a minority in the US who take those verses out of context to slam Christianity, in my experience the majority of Americans consider Christianity a good thing. (Can you imagine a non-Christian being elected president, for example? Maybe a Jew - Lieberman came close - but certainly not a Muslim or Atheist). But unfortunately many Americans currently have a negative view of Islam, and so when they hear a similar challenging passage from the Koran they tend to think that is the whole story rather than giving it the same consideration and study they would give a similar passage from the Bible.
I'm not sure what his audience is in the publication that was published in. What I find is in the US, you get a large group of Christians, many from Protestant traditions, who may fall into the type of stereotype he is thinking of. Then, you get a large group of "Christianity is for the dull of mind" types who often have a kind of Richard Dawkins sort of mindset.

Of course both have stereotyped visions of the other group. But I'm not sure why you point out that the hard stuff is in the Bible. Yes, it is - as it is in the Koran. A "cherry-picking" treatment of either is inappropriate though.

Now, if it is the case that the majority of the author's audience tends to fall into the pro-Christian, knows little about Islam group, then his remarks may be appropriate. But if that isn't the case, he may actually be confirming a stereotyped and ill-educated view rather than exploding one.

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#13 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 08:53 PM
 
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I'm not sure what his audience is in the publication that was published in. What I find is in the US, you get a large group of Christians, many from Protestant traditions, who may fall into the type of stereotype he is thinking of. Then, you get a large group of "Christianity is for the dull of mind" types who often have a kind of Richard Dawkins sort of mindset.

Of course both have stereotyped visions of the other group. But I'm not sure why you point out that the hard stuff is in the Bible. Yes, it is - as it is in the Koran. A "cherry-picking" treatment of either is inappropriate though.

Now, if it is the case that the majority of the author's audience tends to fall into the pro-Christian, knows little about Islam group, then his remarks may be appropriate. But if that isn't the case, he may actually be confirming a stereotyped and ill-educated view rather than exploding one.
This! (thank you. I couldn't figure out how to word it)

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#14 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure what his audience is in the publication that was published in. What I find is in the US, you get a large group of Christians, many from Protestant traditions, who may fall into the type of stereotype he is thinking of. Then, you get a large group of "Christianity is for the dull of mind" types who often have a kind of Richard Dawkins sort of mindset.
I think I'd divide up the American public a little differently. There are the committed Christians, the ones who really study the Bible and practice their faith. There are the Richard Dawkins types on the other side. And in between is the majority, the big mushy middle of Americans that go to church on Christmas and Easter and maybe sometimes in between, who don't have the time or inclination to get into it really seriously but generally have a positive view of Christianity. Christianity is "us", it is their childhood holidays, that summer Bible school they attended once, the pledge of "one nation under God" they said as a kid in school (you know it wasn't talking about Allah!) They'd feel weird if the president attended a mosque. They've got a devout aunt/grandma/friend who annoys them sometimes with all that morality but they know she's a good person who doesn't want to kill babies. They may not know about the challenging passages in the Bible, or if they do they don't think about it much because they are too busy with their lives.

Unfortunately, since they don't know any Muslims, and they have a negative rather than positive perception of Islam due to the terrorist attacks, they are more susceptible to the demagogues who have been distorting the Koran than they would be to the demagogues who distort the Bible. I think this is his audience.

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Of course both have stereotyped visions of the other group. But I'm not sure why you point out that the hard stuff is in the Bible. Yes, it is - as it is in the Koran. A "cherry-picking" treatment of either is inappropriate though.
Well, I point out the hard stuff in the Bible simply because it's what I know . I don't know enough about the Koran, except I think everyone by now has heard that there is a verse which says something about slaying the infidel which gets quoted by the anti-Islam groups ad nauseum. But I certainly agree with you that the Bible and the Koran are equivalent when it comes to hard stuff. I did refer to "similar challenging passages in the Koran" in my post, sorry if I wasn't clear enough.

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Now, if it is the case that the majority of the author's audience tends to fall into the pro-Christian, knows little about Islam group, then his remarks may be appropriate. But if that isn't the case, he may actually be confirming a stereotyped and ill-educated view rather than exploding one.
Yes, I do think the author's audience is overall pro-Christian and knows little about Islam. But as I said above, I also think the author made his intentions pretty clear in the article, and he doesn't just point out the hard verses in the Bible, he does for the Koran as well (the one about wife-beating, and Mohammed killing Jews). So I'm still alittle that it could be perceived as being anti-Christian.
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#15 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 10:01 PM
 
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Yes, I do think the author's audience is overall pro-Christian and knows little about Islam. But as I said above, I also think the author made his intentions pretty clear in the article, and he doesn't just point out the hard verses in the Bible, he does for the Koran as well (the one about wife-beating, and Mohammed killing Jews). So I'm still alittle that it could be perceived as being anti-Christian.
I wouldn't go so far as to say it was anti-Christian. More that it just could have been better. I don't know the publication the article came from, so I don't know the audience.

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#16 of 38 Old 10-14-2010, 10:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I wouldn't go so far as to say it was anti-Christian. More that it just could have been better. I don't know the publication the article came from, so I don't know the audience.
New York Times opinion page. It's in the link and at the top of the quiz . He's syndicated in papers all over the US, our local Seattle Times paper carries his columns. So I don't think he is targeting any particular subset of the American public. Just the American public in general.

How would you make it better?
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#17 of 38 Old 10-15-2010, 08:56 PM
 
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New York Times opinion page. It's in the link and at the top of the quiz . He's syndicated in papers all over the US, our local Seattle Times paper carries his columns. So I don't think he is targeting any particular subset of the American public. Just the American public in general.

How would you make it better?
Huh, I don't know how I missed that. Yeah, I would think there could easily be a substantial portion of that audience (the Times) that holds on to the "religion is for the unwashed masses" kind of mindset.

To make it better - I don't know. Maybe that format can't be made into a better article. If one is going to make a negative point, I think it needs to be more deeply engaged than is possible in a silly quiz.

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#18 of 38 Old 10-16-2010, 01:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As I said, he's syndicated all over the US, so his target audience is not limited to New York Times readers.

And I don't see his point as negative at all, that's the part that I . In response to rampant attacks in this country on Islam by pulling verses from the Koran out of context, he shows that such verses exist in the holy books of both religions (and also pointed out "good" verses in both) and then concludes his article with the summation "religion is complicated" (NOT "religion is bad") and a plea to not cherry-pick verses. Is there anything you disagree with there?

I do understand that those verses are often used to slam Christianity, but it does not follow that anyone who talks about them is necessarily slamming Christianity. I wonder if you would respond differently to this quiz if the Richard Dawkins types weren't out there slamming Christianity?
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#19 of 38 Old 10-16-2010, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'd like to add something that is kinda long and rambling, but it really does relate in the end, if you'll indulge me...

I used to teach a class in cultural sensitivity and we did an exercise that I thought was pretty powerful, designed to point out how we all hold assumptions that we may not even be aware of. I'd tell everyone that I was going to describe a person, and ask them to close their eyes and visualize the person as I did so. So I'd start out with something like "16 year old girl" and then wait while everyone visualized the girl. Then I'd add "inner-city african-american" and wait while people adjusted their images. Then add "single mother" and wait a bit. Finally I'd say "straight A student". I know the first time this exercise was done on me, I felt an internal jolt when that last one was thrown in. Because my image of a 16-year old african-american single mother from the inner city did not include her being a straight A student, even though there is no reason such a girl could not be a straight A student. I consider myself a pretty aware person, but I didn't know I held such assumptions. The exercise was not limited to just race, we also did progressions that would start with things like "white man.... muscular... athelete... parapalegic". Doing it in this way was much more effective than just talking about the issue intellectually.

When I read this article, I think the author was trying to do the same thing that the exercise did. The quiz elicits an emotional response. We naturally hold an assumption that our own religion is good and right, and do not hold the same assumption about other religions (we may not have negative assumptions about other religions, but do not have the strong positive assumptions we hold for our own religion). So it is jarring to see the good qualities that we ascribe to our religion (like "no compulsion" or "turn the other cheek") in a foreign scripture, or negative qualities that we ascribe to other religions (like violence) in our own. Heck, I found it jarring, and I officially left the Christian fold years ago! (although I still hold very fond feeling for Christianity, which I think you know ) But jarring or not, it's true. Religion IS complicated. And the author is asking people to keep that in mind and not judge other religions based on a verse or two. To me this is a positive message.

I'd be really interested to know if the Muslims on this board found the article to be negative?
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#20 of 38 Old 10-16-2010, 05:50 PM
 
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I do understand that those verses are often used to slam Christianity, but it does not follow that anyone who talks about them is necessarily slamming Christianity. I wonder if you would respond differently to this quiz if the Richard Dawkins types weren't out there slamming Christianity?
No, if there weren't any RD types, i would be much less likely to find this off-putting.

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#21 of 38 Old 10-16-2010, 11:03 PM
 
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I thought that the point was more that there was not only a general lack of knowledge of what other people believe, but in the US a huge portion of the population who claim a religious affliliation, but are not aware of the contents of their own holy book. Although I did find some of the passages out of context, making them more difficult to place.

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#22 of 38 Old 10-17-2010, 07:18 PM
 
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Forgive me if I'm wrong, one of the Muslim Mama's can probably tell me if I am, but from my research over the past few years I was under the impression that the Qur'anic verse that is oft' quoted by non-Muslims as promoting wife beating doesn't actually do that...

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#23 of 38 Old 10-18-2010, 04:24 AM
 
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I'd be really interested to know if the Muslims on this board found the article to be negative?
I rarely find decontextualizing to be a positive thing, and here no more than usual.

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Forgive me if I'm wrong, one of the Muslim Mama's can probably tell me if I am, but from my research over the past few years I was under the impression that the Qur'anic verse that is oft' quoted by non-Muslims as promoting wife beating doesn't actually do that...
That the relevant verse doesn't refer to permitting a man to strike his spouse under certain circumstances is a rather small, albeit understandably popular, minority view. I have yet to see an argument for that point of view which seemed to hold up, in my opinion, though I know there are other Muslims on this board who see things differently. (<-- Not meant to imply that I agree with a man striking his spouse. Simply that as far as I can see what I say and what the Qur'an says differ on that point.)
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#24 of 38 Old 10-18-2010, 01:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for responding, Liquesce! So it sounds like you are in the same camp as Bluegoat - don't necessarily disagree with the point the author is trying to make, but don't like the way he made it?
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#25 of 38 Old 10-21-2010, 03:28 AM
 
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More likely, I don't think he made it particularly well in the first place. Or that the point was misplaced ... all textual religions having both pleasant and difficult verses is all well and good, but if it is up in the air as to whether or not those religions are able to address difficult verses in a manner that is not actively harming people then it's an argument for all textual religions being equally detestable more than anything.
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#26 of 38 Old 10-21-2010, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sure, and if I thought the article promoted the conclusion that religions are all equally detestable I wouldn't have posted it. I dislike the Richard Dawkins types as much as you all. But I thought that given the conclusion it was pretty clear that the article promotes a nuanced, not negative, view of religion.

Clearly most people don't agree with me .

Which leads to another question: is it even possible for "outsiders" of a religion (I have no idea what Kristof's religious affiliation is, but let's assume he is not a devout Christian or Muslim) to publicly discuss the difficult bits of a religion without it being perceived as criticism?
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#27 of 38 Old 10-21-2010, 05:51 PM
 
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I don't read him as criticizing; I just read him as failing in his intentions. If you are demonstrating that various holy texts are "sympathetic to slavery," for example, it really doesn't matter whether you're a believer in any of those faiths or not, it simply would probably be prudent to get into what it means to by sympathetic, how that has been dealt with historically and modernly, and whether or not people who are believers have been able to use their own theology to either distance themselves or reinterpret themselves away from accepting slavery in practice. If Muhammad both praised and killed Jews, it would probably be prudent to get into in what contexts those events occurred, and what they mean to followers of a religion which so strongly idealizes acting as Muhammad did to the best of one's ability. You don't have to be Muslim to do that, just as you don't have to be non-Muslim to leave it at "Muhammad praised and married Jews, except when he was killing them."
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#28 of 38 Old 10-21-2010, 06:21 PM
 
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I also didn't consider him to be criticizing. I just felt he wasn't engaging the question in a meaningful way. Just to show that some lines from religious texts say one thing or another doesn't mean much. Verses in isolation like that can't tell us much at all.

I do think that one can discuss religion as a non-member without it being seen as criticism. I think of Eagleton's book rebutting Dawkins as a recent example.

I think that this quiz format was just no good for what he was trying to do.

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#29 of 38 Old 10-21-2010, 06:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't think his intention was to demonstrate the truth of the questions he asks. I think his intention was to demonstrate that the holy books of both religions contain verses that say on their face i.e. without any other context some difficult things (slaves obey your masters, dashing babies against a rock, beating your wife, etc) along with some wonderful things. And then warn against thinking that such a simplistic reading in any way reflects the truth of the religion. (Because that is what the anti-Islam groups in the US are doing).

As for going into all of the detail you suggest, that obviously could not be done in a newspaper column. Nor was it necessary for the point he was trying to make. But I can see that the article could come across as flippant to those for whom these issues are a very tender point, especially after being targeted by anti-Islam or anti-Christian types.
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#30 of 38 Old 10-21-2010, 06:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Verses in isolation like that can't tell us much at all.
Right, that was his point!!!
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