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Old November 28 2012, 08:30 PM   #1
RoJoHen
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Religious Stories

Possibly a weird topic, but I'm going with it anyway.

Religion can often be a touchy subject, but I would like this thread to remain as objective and civilized as possible. To start, I would like to say that I am an atheist, though while I was growing up my mom made me go to Sunday School in a Methodist Church, so I have a passing familiarity with the Bible and the stories within.

Though I personally don't believe that these stories are the Word of God, I still find value in them, either as lessons in morality or simple entertainment. I honestly think the Old Testament is awesome, full of heroes and villains and floods and locusts and crazy larger-than-life tales. Some stories teach valuable life lessons, and others are just fun to read.

So I ask, whether you believe it to be real or fiction (a fictional story can teach you about morality just as well as a true story can), what are some of your favorite religious stories, and why? They don't have to be stories from the Bible; any religion will do.

For whatever reason, I really enjoy the story of Samson and Delilah. It's the ultimate story of love and betrayal.
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Old November 28 2012, 11:07 PM   #2
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Re: Religious Stories

I have a love-hate feeling to the story of Noah and his Ark.

I hate it because it is a horrible tale of genocide, in which innocent babies and little children (as well as innocent animals) are drowned by a truly nasty being.

I love it because it is the story that most helped me become an atheist. When I was 7 or 8 years old I was given a book on Bible stories for children which includes Noah's Ark. It had lovely pictures in it including on of the Ark sailing happily as people (men, women, children and babies), who had made to the mountains pleaded for rescue. I became extremely angry that Noah wouldn't rescue kids, and that a God would drown them. I threw the book across the room. Later I decided that the story couldn't be true and I picked up the book and put it with my mythology books.

I think that it is shameful that this is passed off as a children's story. One woman I know would let her children read about Noah's Ark yet she would stop them from watching "cartoon violence".

I would love to find a copy of the Bible story book I used to have - I would recognise it even after all these years.

Here is an illustation of Noah's Ark that I approve of.


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Old November 28 2012, 11:10 PM   #3
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Re: Religious Stories

I think most people who teach the story of Noah's Arc to children probably omit the genocidal parts. It's about saving animals! Just ignore all the ones that didn't make it.
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Old November 28 2012, 11:33 PM   #4
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Re: Religious Stories

I've always found Genesis extremely interesting. God created humans for his amusement, he lied to them (that fruit is gonna kill ya!), and when humans became knowledgable and self-conscious by eating of the Tree of Knowledge (of Good and Evil), he became angry and threw them out of Paradise before they also ate of the Tree of Life. The text also shows that God had no powers over these two trees. They were there, and all he could do was lie about them.

Basically, I see in it a tale about the basics of oppression. Every tyrant wants to keep the masses uneducated and ignorant. Knowledge is a dangerous thing to them, and they need to get rid of the educated people.

Of course the more accepted interpretation is that it was one of those tests of God, in order to explain that lie away.


I personally don't want a God that lies to me and tests me on a constant basis.


There are other examples where God pretty much acts like a despot and bully. Noah's Arc is one, then there's also the story about God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, as a test of his loyality, and an angel comes down to prevent the whole thing saying something along the lines of "Now I know you are afraid of God".


Based on what I read in the Bible, I will never understand how people can pray to that character. God is portrayed as a very sick, nasty and evil person, abusing his powers countless of times. And from the very beginning, he never trusted his own creations. All he does is testing, commanding, punishing, erradicating, exiling, and then, in the end, with Jesus, kindly forgiving us poor misguided souls four our sins.
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Old November 28 2012, 11:36 PM   #5
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Re: Religious Stories

i don't think an individual- say, me, for instance- needs to have self-defined / self-described relationship/thought processes regarding/to deity in order to appreciate Abrahamic religious Mythos.... e.g. the Western Bible {mosaic texts, torah, talmud, kaballah, 'old' & 'new' testaments, the koran, the apocrypha, the dead sea scrolls, the nag hammadi codices, etc...} as Foundational to Western Literature {and, similarly, other cultural religious texts within the context of their origin cultures} and thus to the Stories which Define a Culture's Mythos, Ethos, etc...

in my limited experience, it seems that many a Star Trek Fan~ for instance~ is enamored of the show BECAUSE of its generous allusion to Western Literature- at least in part. Therefore, by natural extension, one's familiarity with 'religious stories' and literature inspired thus IS perennially pertinent in Sci-Fi discussions... it informs the very raison d'etre of Fiction.

So, no prob here with religious/biblical allusion in Speculative Fiction or any other Genre for me.... in fact, one of the reasons i loved BSG so much was the Incorporation/retelling/rebooting of the Classic Origin Myth. {i HATED the ending of BSG... too ACTUAL, not MYTHOLOGICAL... ruined the Whole Series for me... (true Networky deus ex machina ) but it was Fun While It Lasted...}

Just sayin'....

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Old November 28 2012, 11:42 PM   #6
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Re: Religious Stories

As a Christian, I think some of the Old Testament stories, especially the ones in Genesis, are just plain dumb and should not be taken seriously or literally, even by the most religious of readers. Somebody gave me a book called The Purpose Driven Life, and one of the chapters talked about how Noah built an arc for 100 years, and he was 5,000 years old at the time. Like Ms. Chicken, I almost turned into an atheist. But my faith in God goes beyond the fictitious and outrageous tales in the Bible.
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Old November 28 2012, 11:45 PM   #7
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Re: Religious Stories

Gryffindorian wrote: View Post
As a Christian, I think some of the Old Testament stories, especially the ones in Genesis, are just plain dumb and should not be taken seriously. Somebody gave me a book called The Purpose Driven Life, and one of the chapters talked about how Noah built an ark for 100 years, and he was 5,000 years old at the time. Like Ms. Chicken, I almost turned into an atheist. But my faith in God goes beyond the fictitious and outrageous tales in the Bible.
That has always been the wrong way to look at these stories anyway, in my opinion. These are parabels, and they have some sort of intent and meaning. Probably. The "facts" should be ignored.

The messages in Star Trek episodes are not diminished by the fact that warp speed is impossible, are they?
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Old November 28 2012, 11:50 PM   #8
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Re: Religious Stories

I can see no worthwhile intent or meaning in Noah's Ark, and this is true for several other Biblical stories (Lot, Abraham and Isaac, Jonah, Job etc).

I see much more meaning in the lovely stories of the Kalevala, or in Greek/Roman/Norse literature.
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Old November 29 2012, 12:08 AM   #9
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Re: Religious Stories

JR, I realize that, but there's a certain degree of suspension of disbelief when you're reading or watching science fiction and fantasy. Being a Christian means you have faith in that which cannot be seen, heard, or touched (except in the Bible, when people claimed to have communicated with God). Then again, like you said, these are parables that have underlying meanings. What's clear is that the Old Testament God was wrathful and vindictive, while the one Jesus tells us about in the New Testament is more like a loving father figure.
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Old November 29 2012, 12:14 AM   #10
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Re: Religious Stories

We could devote a whole thread to the craziness, inconsistency and inhumanity of Bible stories. Not to mention the retcons and revisions. My favorite Medieval add-on is the Harrowing. I also get a kick out of how Adam and Eve were the first people, yet Adam managed to have a first wife before Eve (it's also amusing to realize that all of Humanity must be the product of incest-- explains a lot). But the stories themselves are great to read and to mine for imagery and allusions. They're completely outrageous.

I don't know if this counts as a religious story, but Christmas is coming and I've always loved the song "The Little Drummer Boy." There's a story with a message I can believe in.
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Old November 29 2012, 12:20 AM   #11
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Re: Religious Stories

I'm not sure if "religion" is the right word here, because the whole affair is as much parody as philosophy (that's all part of the point) but I'm very fond of the Discordian creation myth. As with all Discordian matters, taking it at all seriously isn't advised, which doesn't mean it's not intended to say something important:

"In the beginning there was VOID, who had two daughters; one (the smaller) was that of BEING, named ERIS, and one (the larger) was of NON-BEING, named ANERIS. (To this day, the fundamental truth that Aneris is the larger is apparent to all who compare the great number of things that do not exist with the comparatively small number of things that do exist.)

Eris had been born pregnant, and after 55 years (Goddesses have an unusually long gestation period -- longer even than elephants), Her pregnancy bore the fruits of many things. These things were composed of the Five Basic Elements, SWEET, BOOM, PUNGENT, PRICKLE, and ORANGE. Aneris, however, had been created sterile. When she saw Eris enjoying Herself so greatly with all of the existent things She had borne, Aneris became jealous - and finally, one day, she stole some existent things and changed them into non-existent things and claimed them as her own children. This deeply hurt Eris, who felt that Her sister was unjust (being so much larger anyway) to deny Her her small joy. And so She made herself swell again to bear more things. And She swore that no matter how many of her begotten Aneris stole, She would beget more. And, in return, Aneris swore that no matter how many existent things Eris brought forth, she would eventually find them and turn them into non-existent things for her own. (And to this day, things appear and disappear in this very manner.)

At first, the things brought forth by Eris were in a state of chaos and went in every which way, but by the by She began playing with them and *ordered* some of them just to see what would happen. Some pretty things arose from this play and for the next five zillion years She amused Herself by creating order. And so She grouped some things with others and some groups with others, and big groups with little groups, and all combinations until She had many grand schemes which delighted Her. Engrossed in establishing order, She finally one day noticed disorder (previously not apparent because everything was chaos). There were many ways in which chaos was ordered and many ways in which it was not.

"Hah," She thought, "Here shall be a new game."

And She taught order and disorder to play with each other in contest games, and to take turns amusing each other. She named the side of disorder after Herself, "ERISTIC" because Being is anarchic. And then, in a mood of sympathy for Her lonely sister, She named the other side "ANERISTIC" which flattered Aneris and smoothed the friction a little that was between them.

Now all of this time, Void was somewhat disturbed. He felt unsatisfied for he had created only physical existence and physical non-existence, and had neglected the spiritual. As he contemplated this, a great Quiet was caused and he went into a state of Deep Sleep which lasted for 5 eras. At the end of this ordeal, he begat a brother to Eris and Aneris, that of SPIRITUALITY, who had no name at all.

When the sisters heard this, they both confronted Void and pleaded that he not forget them, his First Born. And so Void decreed thus:

That this brother, having no form, was to reside with Aneris in Non-Being and then to leave her and, so that he might play with order and disorder, reside with Eris in Being. But Eris became filled with sorrow when She heard this and then began to weep.

"Why are you despondent?" demanded Void, "Your new brother will have his share with you."

"But Father, Aneris and I have been arguing, and she will take him from me when she discovers him, and cause him to return to Non- Being."

"I see,"replied Void, "Then I decree the following:

"When your brother leaves the residence of Being, he shall not reside again in Non-Being, but shall return to Me, Void, from whence he came. You girls may bicker as you wish, but My son is your Brother and We are all of Myself."

And so it is that we, as men, do not exist until we do; and then it is that we play with our world of existent things, and order and disorder them, and so it shall be that non-existence shall take us back from existence and that nameless spirituality shall return to Void, like a tired child home from a very wild circus.

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Old November 29 2012, 12:29 AM   #12
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Re: Religious Stories

Or depending on which of the Genesis originals you read, three wives. Lilith, who rebelled, Eve-1 built as he was bit by bit in front of him (which has got to kill the mood) and was too independent also, then Eve-2 from his rib with the idea his own rib would not deny him. How...lovely a tale.

Job has to be the final straw for anyone, a rich man who was still kind and wise, tornented to the brink by the one he loved, totally abused to see 'what would happen', and never learns from it, going back to his abuser (god).

Also the fact that god seemed to think abusing his creation because the devil thought it was a good idea was worth doing. Which begs the question of why they were hanging out together in heaven to come up with this idea.

Rape, genocide, homicide in troves, children sold left right and center, human sacrifice, torment of innocent people for fun, sorry I just don't find these stories all that 'fun'.
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Old November 29 2012, 12:37 AM   #13
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Re: Religious Stories

Eris had been born pregnant, and after 55 years (Goddesses have an unusually long gestation period -- longer even than elephants),
That is short pregnancy when compared to Ilmatar from Finnish mythology. She was an air goddess who fell from the sky and who was impregnated by the air and the sea. She floated for 730 years unable to give birth until there was land. Her son, Vainmoinen, was born an old man, with all the wisdom of the ages.
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Old November 29 2012, 12:46 AM   #14
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Re: Religious Stories

Miss Chicken wrote: View Post
Eris had been born pregnant, and after 55 years (Goddesses have an unusually long gestation period -- longer even than elephants),
That is short pregnancy when compared to Ilmatar from Finnish mythology. She was an air goddess who fell from the sky and who was impregnated by the air and the sea. She floated for 730 years unable to give birth until there was land. Her son, Vainmoinen, was born an old man, with all the wisdom of the ages.
That last point reminds me of several Chinese myths, like the popular legend about Laozi (Lao-Tzu), who supposedly took 62 years to be born and also emerged as an elderly man. Whether he himself ever claimed this, I have no idea...
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Old November 29 2012, 12:51 AM   #15
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Re: Religious Stories

and... natch, most of the stories in the bible being based on earlier Mesopotamian & regional or Ancestral stories (as in the Flood Stories of Gilgamesh & Noah, and on and on).....

A Story based on a story based on a story... Who Knows how far back it goes? 6,000 years? or Graham Hancockian Origins Times? or Panspermia- written in the Code Of Life? Did life here begin OUT THERE?

Lotsa Good Stuff in Origin Myths... GREAT fodder for fiction... I loved the TNG episode, "The Chase".... and the ideas presented therein are, i think, only made more provocative by a familiarity with the G-D concept and world-wide mythologies...
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