Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stevie Joe Lands a Blow Against Religious Strife

Creating world peace is a pretty tall order. I'm taking it a piece at a time. I figure that forming some understanding between those with different religious views is a good place to start.

So, I've been pondering a bunch of stuff that the late genius and blowhard Christopher Hitchens had written and said over the years. In particular, I was attracted to his views of religion as he expressed them in a series of public debates with a number of folks defending the practice. Hitchens was an atheist and quite proud of the fact. I don't know if he was right, but he certainly made a better case than most of his opponents.

In any case, in one debate with author David Berlinski, Hitch spoke of his respect for Socrates. He said that today we have the words attributed to Socrates and that we have some evidence that Socrates did, in fact, exist. If, however, we were to somehow discover that Socrates never did exist and was, rather, a fictional character, it would have little impact upon the importance of his words. On the other hand, Hitch continued, if it was found that Jesus did not actually exist, it would ruin Berlinski's life. Berlinski ceded this point.

So, it appears that we have a divide, but if we dig a little deeper, the divide might not be as wide as it appears. The presumption in this argument is that the value of Jesus' words is that they come from the Son of God and that the words have little value without this supernatural origin. I think that is a mistake. If Jesus speaks the truth, it is still the truth if it is spoken by Dickie Jensen (however improbable that may be).

Evidence of this presumption can be seen in the argument that our system of laws and beliefs has its origin in the Ten Commandments (as argued by some folks of faith). If you follow the logic, we would never have figured out that murder and stealing are bad ideas if God didn't tell us so. How folks raised outside the Judeo-Christian tradition reached this conclusion is an apparent mystery.

Further analysis of the Ten Commandments provides some confirmation that the importance of these values does not come from above. After all, the creation of graven images and coveting of stuff is the basis of the US economy. So, why are these commandments held in the same regard as those against murder and theft? Ol' Stevie Joe would argue that the importance society places in these things comes not because they are the word of God but because they have a universal value, or a universal truth, separate from that of religious belief. An atheist can certainly believe that killing is wrong without having to believe in a Judeo-Christian God.

So, this opens the door for the concept of an atheist or, at least, an agnostic view of Jesus. One should be able to discern the value in what Jesus taught separately from a belief in a supernatural being. Why cannot this be the common ground between Hitchens and Berlinski? Can we agree on the value of the teachings of Jesus without having to agree on the whole question of God?

Something to ponder anyway.

Can I get a witness?
Stevie Joe Parker

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