21 December 2006

Text (beware, a rant)

The more dealings I have with the religious, the less tolerant I become. My abstract desire for objective equality falls away when confronted with their gross flaws. That's the way it is with any prejudice, isn't it?

GrrlScientist's Carnival of the Liberals 28: Christmas Edition includes an examination of one aspect of my prejudice with a link to Meaning in the Constitution and the Bible from World Wide Webers. The post examines the author's recent reflections on text and intentionality. I realize--as I've probably come to realize many times before--that some of the greatest conflicts of modern man stem from the contention of literalism and (vaguely) relativism. In essence: anyone who's used the phrase "activist judges" is guilty of subjective literalism by considering their reading of a text the reading of a text.

The relevant and punchy quote from WWWs' post is here:

Hence such gross inconsistencies as Bush v. Gore. Or, on the religious side, the fact that virtually every fundamentalist Christian ignores dozens of rules laid out in Biblical books like Deuteronomy and Numbers while exalting others to the status of shibboleths. For example, Leviticus 19:19 says:

Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

About a page later, Leviticus 20:13 says:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Right-wing Christians are forever quoting the latter text, since it's one of the very few Bible verses that share their obsession with homosexuality. But they never quote the former text, because they have nothing personally against linen/woolen blended fabrics.

It's as if a whole generation had never heard of New Criticism.

And thus my intolerance. It's not such a bad intolerance, but I just wish that people wouldn't live up to it. For every ignorant and dogmatic theist I have dealings with, I'm really put at odds with my desire not to be so prejudiced. Something I've (probably) heard from Dawkins recently (and paraphrased): how can you trust someone who puts an arbitrary limit on where logic can be applied? No one denies gravity, yet 50+% of Americans want to deny the equally-well-supported evolution. How can one not be prejudiced in the face of such arrogant subjectivity that clothes itself in faux-pious objectivity?

[ posted by sstrader on 21 December 2006 at 7:49:32 PM in Culture & Society ]