Absolutism in Religion
The Meaning of Words
Marine24 asked, "How can the bible or any other religious text be believed as absolute when the dictionaries that define the words in them aren't absolute? "
My answer is, "They can't and they aren't". People want them to be absolutes, because living in a world without absolutes isn't very easy.
If the dictionaries were all the same, that wouldn't change the fact that the people that use them would still be seeing the definitions in the dictionaries differently.
The way each human uses words is different. Because of that, once again the communication that is being attempted, may or may not be successful.
Someone once said, and I quote:
"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard was not what I meant." (grinning)
While communicating we need to understand how people see words.
The human brain sees in pictures, that are assigned words(as children). When you think of the word fork your brain pictures a fork. Each person sees a little bit different fork. When we get to complex ideas, each person has a vision of what a concept means to them, each person's concept vision is at least a little bit different than everyone else's. So when we talk to one another: person 1 sees the concept vision in their mind, attaches the learned words they assigned to the concept vision, which are relayed to another person who takes the words and translates them into their concept vision,(that the 2nd person has assigned to the relayed words). The 2nd person's concept vision is probably different from the 1st person's concept vision. So the resulting communication may actually be the communication of two completely different things, even though they both know and understand the words that were used.
Some of the problems people have with anger in debates is this inability to understand how an obviously smart person can possibly not understand something that one person is saying to another. The problem is that the visual concept pictures are just different enough that the second person's image(concept vision) is an absurdity when applied using the first person's concept vision words.
The desire for absolutes in the Bibles lead some people to stretch the truth and others to simply lay aside rational thought. They Rationalize that the Bible is an absolute truth, therefore even when something seems irrational, since it is in the Bible, and the Bible is an absolute, it must be true. In other words even though in any other case they would think what they are saying is absurd, if in the Bible it says this absurd thing is true, then it is HAS to be true, no matter what. Even if the contradiction is in the Bible itself. An example of this is a conversation I had in one of the HubPages forums.
quoted from aquasilver
"The bible is a coded book, not in the Da Vinci or Bible Codes style of stuff, but one which can be understood by anyone who has the key, and the key is the Holy Spirit, and just like any information that is privee and could be misused by an enemy, that key is only given to those who God knows will not abuse the privilege of UNDERSTANDING what the bible was/is /will be saying. Would you let Osamabib Laden into the security compound with explosives strapped to his chest or driving a truckload of explosives?" Marine24 stated,"So God favors some to get the magic key and says the hell with the others." Aquasilver continues,"God favours nobody, God is NOT a respecter of persons, you have the same access to the key as any other believer, but obviously you must believe and God must be able to see in your inner being that you are genuine in that belief. It's not "the hell with the others." - it's your choice whether you wish to comply with the conditions that gain you the key, or continue in your rebellion against God. As a Marine, would you give someone opposed to your whole authority a security pass into the base intelligence section?"
The earnestness and passion, the pure conviction, and the absolute belief in the ridiculous statements, is a direct result of the belief that it comes from the Bible therefore it is infallible. As if God fears anything, as if God would have to hide the truth so that all those entities that are as powerful as God, wont snatch away God's secrets to God's safety. AS IF God needs protection from God's enemies, all of which are entities that God created. AS IF God had any weakness at all, that would require the almighty, all powerful, all encompassing, unlimited being to have to have secrets that could, if they fall into the wrong hands be used to kill GOD. AS IF anything that got to GOD'S security hideout, where God hides in fear from God's enemies, could do anything to the all powerful being that God is.
Chapter and Verse
The need for absolutes is manifest in the memorization of chapter and verses of the Bibles. It is also manifest in a security wall that goes up anytime someone comes along with information that leads an absolutist to a conclusion that eliminates the Bible as an infallible absolute. As illustrated in a conversation I had with SirDent.
SirDent asked, "Do you think everyone can acknowledge God and know Him on their own?"
I responded, "Me personally yes. God has the ability to be a personal friend to each and every one of us. Humanity has it in them to have a singular relationship with God. The fact that each of us see things differently, even when looking at the exact same thing, leads me to believe that a personal understanding of God is what God intended. Some people's ability to know God won't be as "deep" as some others, but that is the nature of everything."
SirDent, "I will say now that I agree partially with what you wrote. It is in every human being to have a singular relationship with God. This is how God intended it to begin with. I also state that no man can understand God. He is so far beyind our comprehension that we can't even get close to understanding Him. I will also say that no man can know God in any way unless God reveals Himself first.
Mikel, "God 'revealed' ITself (because God is not a 'man') and as always it is just the inability of humanity to understand what God truly is, that leaves us baffled.
SirDent, "As far as different people seeing God differently shows that man is the one who lacks knowledge and understanding. God is the same no matter where He is acknowledged. His personality and character is always the same no matter which nationality, belief, non-belief, etc. . ."
Mikel, "It is humanities inability to 'see' and understand God in God's entirety, that lead humans to say that 'only this' is God, that thing/part/entity isn't part of God (Satan for example). I believe God is EVERYTHING, and everything minus anything at all, is no longer everything, it is something else. Leave out anything at all and it becomes only a partial truth, or just a part/piece of God."
SirDent, "You call God "It" like He is nothing more than an object. Man cannot understand God, but God can reveal Himself to man. How could God reveal Himself to man? That is the real question."
Mikel, "I call God IT because I know God is so much more than a pathetic human, and Humanity is not capable of producing a word to adequately 'name' God. calling God a man 'limits' GOD, I try to not 'limit' God by calling God something that is sooo much less than what God is. You'll have to explain to me what you mean by 'reveal', if by reveal you mean show us the Magic, the Miracles, then, Yes God could do that. God chooses not to."
SirDent, "Do you think God has a personality and character?"
Mikel, "A Human personality and character, not exactly. In your attempts to understand God you are trying very hard to Humanize God, God is NOT human."
SirDent, "Man was created in the image and likeness of God. God has emotions, feelings, just like we do. This makes God a person, though far above what men are."
Mikel, "I knew that was what your stumbling block was. God made man in his image, written by a caveman, with a caveman's perception of the universe, with a caveman's ability to communicate. God made our souls in God's likeness(in a way similar to what God is), not the cocoons(human bodies) that hold our souls until they(our souls) are strong enough, seasoned enough to shed the cocoon and continue on to whatever is next."
SirDent, "Actually God breathed into man the breath of life. This is when man became a living soul."
Mikel, "Again, taken from the words of a caveman, with a caveman's understanding of linguistics and the universe. Tell me what you think, not what they think."
SirDent, "Do you believe God can keep His Word?"
Mikel, "The generic answer, God can do anything. now what's your point?"
SirDent, "The point is, if God has a Word, then He will keep His Word. His Word will remain the same no matter what. He does not have to change His mind like we do.
Five thousand years ago, fire was hot. It is still hot today. Nothing has changed that fact. When speaking of God, we speak of someone who does not change. We speak of someone who knows and sees all things. We speak of someone who knows how to get man's attention. We speak of someone who wants a relationship with mankind. We do not speak of someone who forces mankind into a relationship. We all have freedom to choose what we believe or do not believe. That is a God given right by the way. So if God is all that I wrote here, why wouldn't the same God be able to keep His Word intact?"
Mikel, " If by God's word you mean the Bibles, it is because the bibles were written in a time when Humanity was primitive, we have grown, evolved, and changed. Our changes change our perspective, our point of view, our understanding. When we were toddlers, baby talk made sense, it is insulting to think that because baby talked worked well when we were 3, that we have to continue with baby talk for all eternity. The Bibles are now baby talk, the point of view of primitives. Expressed to the best of the primitives ability, inspired by God, but not perfect, and definitely not the best we can ever achieve. Imagine if we treated Medical books the way you're trying to treat the Bibles..."
SirDent, "You are missing the point. Probably my fault for not making it simpler.As I said before, we are talking about God. God is eternal. He has never changed. Man has changed, but God remains the same. Since God remains the same, His Word remains the same.What you speak, is what comes from your heart. It is who you are. It is the same with everyone, including God."
Mikel, "Your right, your not making any sense to me. I may not be smart enough to grasp the concept your trying to get me to understand.
However, God does change, God is not stagnet. God grows with every new soul. The thing your not understanding isn't that God changes so the bibles have to change, it is that in first grade we weren't capable of understanding college level algebra, so the first math books taught us adding and subtracting. Once we got to a level where we could understand algebra, the math books changed. That doesn't mean Math changed.
We are at a level now where we can understand God better, a more detailed, more accurate version of what God has always been. It doesn't mean that what we learned from the addition and subtraction classes is no longer valid, it is just that they are primitive concepts. We have grown to a better understanding of math and of God."
SirDent, "You are wrong with this assumption. As far as I am concerned this conversation is over. It is going nowhere. "
Mikel, "I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm not wrong however. We have grown in the understandings of both the concept of math, and the true nature of God, from what we understood 2,000 years ago."
The wall went up and a very smart and informed man stalked away, because I said humanity had grown in understanding from what we understood 2000 years ago. The concept is a threat to the absolutist view of the Bibles. In order to remain faithful to the absolutist ideal SirDent felt obliged to stop the conversation.
restoremyheartwrote: "Many people call what's good, evil. The majority of the world would like to say Christians are haters. True Christians, will be careful, what they say, what they do, to not offend others."
I agree that what many people have been taught is evil, really isn't evil. I think your using the words "True Christians" to mean "Good People". In using the words True Christians that way your excluding all the "Good People" that are of different faiths(religious organizations).
Christianity doesn't own goodness, a person can be a Muslim, Jew, or an Atheist, and still be a "Good Person". One of the reasons why "Christians" are disliked, is this absolutist belief by them that "True Christians" are the only "Good People". The belief that anyone can become "Good People" if only they would just become "Christian".
restoremyheartwrote: "Doesn't matter what religion or if a person is a good person, or not, or a Christian or not. None of us are perfect, even when we try not to make mistakes or offend someone, we sometimes do. I don't see a pope, or a preacher, or any other human being, to be a Saint. Because we aren't we seem to fall short somewhere! I wasn't trying to say that only what some believe are True Christians, are the only good people. I was saying even people who say they are Christians, sometimes think some things they are doing are for the good, and they are deceived, which anyone of us can or have been their at one time or another. LOL, thanks for commenting Wishing you Blessings!"
I absolutely agree, there are NO perfect people. Lots of people with good intentions make mistakes. Believing that what they are doing is good and helpful when in actuality it is being hurtful, or prideful. I am a good example of all that. I try to do nice things, sometimes my actions aren't successful. I come across as arrogant, or as a know it all. I don't mean to, but it happens. My personality is somewhat of an acquired taste...
What is truth to one person may only be partially right to another. It may even be completely wrong to a third. A persons point of view, or perspective is essential in the basis of that person's "reality" (or truth). Which means that there are very few if any absolutes, in my opinion 'everything' and 'nothing' are absolutes. I'm not sure there are any others. The Bibles are definitely not absolutes.
the desire for absolutes are everywhere...
In another conversation that same day 'Friendly word' stated a desire for an absolute, the desire to believe that we were 'all' absolutely going to the 'same place'...
friendly word: "I think we are all going to the same place. I'm just not sure if we'll need a sweater or a fan. Even if you are a religious person of any faith; how could you believe God would save you and not his child standing next to you? We are all going to dance in Heaven or Burn in Hell Together."
Life is not about absolutes, so fear not, life is also not about making it to heaven or avoiding hell, it is about learning and growth, seasoning. We are all learning. God will not condemn you or anyone to eternal damnation for making mistakes. That doesn't mean go out into the world and reek havoc, committing all manner of atrocities. Laws must still be followed, consequences for your actions are always there. It just means that God loves us, and understands us, and our shortcomings. I would have to say the next part of our journey isn't "heavenly retirement" so put away your fan and your sweater, and get ready for college, we still have much to learn after this.
More by this Author
If religion is about peace and love why must you kill for it?
Doing Good is the doing of Evil to Evil, which is Evil... HUH???
If there are more than one forms of life and they are not identical, then one must be the lesser. If there is a lowest form of life, then there must be a highest form of life. The highest form of life (whatever that...