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24 March 2004

Faulty leap in Ryan’s logic

Ryan contends the following:

[F]or people without a deracinated, ecumenical God, religion actually means something, and scriptures should be taken literally.

Let us play opposites here.  For people who don’t have a
hyper-particularized God, can their religion actually mean
something?  And if religion actually means something, must its
scriptures be taken literally?

I don’t think either of his contentions bear up.  By “mean
something”, Ryan has generally opined that for a religion to mean
something, it must spur its adherents to extreme acts, but acts of a
particularly negative character.  Ryan often talks about “strong
religion,” but the ways in which it spurs its followers to act, in his
citations, are generally destructive acts.  My two beginnings of a
counter-example are the following questions.

First, can religion that “means something” — so-called “strong”
religion — spur its adherents to acts, not of superhuman brutality,
but acts of superhuman charity and love?  (Yes, I opine.  And
I can cite a couple of examples.)

Second, why must an act require extreme (in time or in impact) action
to “mean something”?  In other words, can there be meaning in
actions and attitudes that are not extreme?  Why or why not?

As for Ryan’s project of poking fun at people’s seriousness about God
and their images of Him/Her, I’m all for it.  If people are threatened
by it, they’re probably done exactly as Mark Twain said we do with
God.  “God created man in His own image, and man, being a
gentleman, returned the favor.”  We’ve gotta kill our Buddha, as
it were, and humor provides one of the best ways to do that.

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