Sunday, June 8, 2014

Scripture as Metaphor

Recently, I was speaking with someone on the value of religion (or rather, the absolute lack thereof), and he raised the question of whether I think the stories themselves have any sort of value.  I've said on numerous occasions that I do think that at least being aware of the tales within religion is an unavoidable quantity because of the fact that religion has imbued every corner of culture wherever you might happen to be.  For a lot of Westerners who travel anywhere where Christianity is not prevalent, they find themselves completely unable to comprehend any of the cultural norms because they generally don't have a clue about religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Shinto, etc. in the first place let alone how they have influenced the local culture.  Common expressions or phrases that are somehow rooted in Biblical reference are pretty widespread here in this corner of the planet, but you will find similar use of references to Hindu religious literature and the works of religious philosophers throughout India.  That, too, most of us who are atheists are atheists because we know about religion.  We know it well enough to spot the absurdities.  So even in that sense, I think it's worth knowing about the religions themselves.

So in short, I will admit knowing about the religions gives you a lot of information that sets up a sort of cultural backdrop for understanding where people are coming from.  You can't avoid that religion is deeply seated in the extant nature of society, and that even if we grow out of it someday, it's worth knowing that we as a race were once this stupid.  But one question posed to me was that even if you treat all the religious texts of any religion as fables and folklore, do they hold any value in that respect?  We can look at the fable of the boy who cried wolf and at least see that it teaches a valuable lesson.  Do the stories in the Bible hold that kind of value?  Do the Puranas teach those kinds of meaningful lessons?  Do the tales within the Avesta?

Well, to that, I have to ask...  which stories did you have in mind?