I don’t know if Maher has apologized, but his argument was sloppy. It wasn’t entirely wrong: Christianity has lots of stuff borrowed from the worship of Dionysus, Osiris, Mithras, various Babylonian texts, and so on.
Some Bible-Radio talk-show jerks try to deny this, but, really, it’s fact. There were other guys born of virgins and who conquered death. Mithras was born on December 25th. The rite of priestly confession was practiced by Dionysians.
(And it went forward, too. Odin’s hanging himself from a tree might have been a borrowing from Christ on the cross. As the Christian missionaries went through northern Europe, the local pagans might have been tempted to say, “Oh, yeah? Well our guy did the same thing, so there!”)
He should have only included the things that could be properly backed up.
The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus was born on the 25th anyway. I think Christmas was put on that day to fit in with existing religions. And I don’t remember the Bible teaching priestly confessions. As far as virgin births and conquering death goes that’s hardly anything compared to the original list.
So similarities don’t always prove that Christianity copied it.
Been a long time since I studied it, and I’m not claiming that those who taught me had their interpretations in line with anything resembling popular consensus, but I remember being taught that the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation had its basis in the passage when Jesus made Peter the “Rock” upon which he would build the church- something to the effect of “Whatever you hold bound on Earth will be held bound in Heaven, whatever you let loose on Earth will be let loose in Heaven”. Basically, that everyone can from thenceforth confess their sins to a priest and if the priest forgives the sin then the sin is also forgiven in Heaven.
Again, just regurgitating what I was taught. Making no claims that it passes muster.
This is a major problem any time people discuss religion.
Somebody finds a hole in a bible story, or they find an outrageous extremist statement , and proudly announce “this proves that the whole thing is a pack of lies and bullshit.”
You can do this easily, with any religion. (example: “Look! here’s a line in the bible that decrees the death penalty for homosexuals”. )
The problem with this logic is that it is much too limited.
It assumes that the “textbook” is the one and only source you need to draw conclusions. No other context is necessary.
To counter this logic, I like to use non-religious texts, and make the same argument.
“Look! Here’s a line in the sacred text that says ‘All men are created equal’. But the men who wrote it owned slaves and whipped them like horses… Obviously American democracy is a pack of lies and bullshit”
Or “Look! Here’s a line in the constitution of the old USSR that clearly states not only that freedom of speech is a guarranteed right of all citizens, it also requires every city to maintain a large open plaza for the purpose of allowing the people to gather for demonstrations.” Obviously, communism is a great system of government."
To discuss complex issues, you need more than just one text. You need context, you need history, and you need to judge human behavior–ie. how people have used that text.
My question has always been if Morgan Spurlock ever responded to heavy criticism of that Super-size Me documentary he made.
I believe he refuses to give up his journal of food intake and some people have examined his claimed caloric intake and concluded there is almost no way he followed his own rules at McDonald’s for 30 days. He consumed so many calories, he had to be refilling his soda a few times. Or ordering way more food than suggested in the movie.
If you are willing to concede that religious texts and non-religious texts should be treated with similar skepticism, then I don’t think that any critic of the religious texts will have any remaining bone of contention. Specifically:
written solely by fallible humans with a level of knowledge and moral sense commensurate with the era;
to be assessed critically based on the merits of their content;
truth claims to be treated with appropriate skepticism, similar to any other uncorroborated source when no independent supporting evidence exists.
But it’s rather obvious that it is the extraordinary claims for religious texts that create the problem, and that make your case for equivalent treatment to secular texts somewhat disingenuous.
The problem I was pointing out is not that the religious fanatics make extraordinary claims about their texts.
The problem is that the skeptics and critics are using bad logic.
The skeptics assume that the text must be perfect, and must have zero errors. Then they evaluate the text, and find errors.
But they evaluate ONLY the text…and nothing more. They totally ignore the context, the history and the way people use the text.
You can’t evaluate a religion by evaluating its sacred text and nothing else. Just like you can’t evaluate a system of government by its “sacred” texts and nothing else.
Even the true believers in a religion don’t rely only on their text. They first organize themselves into a social group (i.e. a church), and they follow the norms of that group–while they evaluate the text.
That’s how different sects come to different conclusions based on the same text.
They already know what they want to find. (Sometimes they don’t even realize that they are
biased…but they are reading their texts in the context of their own history and attitudes.
Simple example: before the Civil War,some Christians found that the Bible supported slavery, and others found exactly the opposite. All within the same text.
So skeptics like Mahrer who want to disparage religion need to do more than attack the text. They need to read the text *in the context of how it is used. *
Even the believers will agree with Mahrer that the text has contradictions----But they believe that they know how to interpret it in a way that solves those contradictions–therefor the text is still perfect.
And with that kind of logic, ya ain’t gonna beat 'em anyway
So skeptics like Mahrer are basically just talking to themselves,to make themselves feel good.
It’s what in religion is known as "Preaching to the choir. "
This technique is specifically used in rebuttal to that minority of believers who do claim that their holy book is perfect and has zero errors. We have had people come here on the SDMB and say, “There are no contradictions in the Bible.” Showing even one single contradiction (and there are dozens!) is enough to show that this specific claim is wrong.
I don’t know of any skeptics or atheists who argue, “The Bible must be perfect,” and then, by showing that it isn’t, conclude that it is wholly invalid. ETA: There may be such persons, but they’re being just as silly as the literalists themselves.
And skeptics, critics, and atheists are very aware of context, history, and tradition: you are completely wrong in saying “They totally ignore” these.