Subject: Re: Is religion different from the other disiplines? Summary: It is practiced lik

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Path: ncsuvm!ncsuvx!mephisto!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!cs.utexas.edu!turpin From: turpin@cs.utexas.edu (Russell Turpin) Newsgroups: talk.religion.misc Subject: Re: Is religion different from the other disiplines? Summary: It is practiced like literary criticism, and that is the problem. Message-ID: <7487@cs.utexas.edu> Date: 2 Jan 90 05:18:04 GMT References: <8121@cbnewsm.ATT.COM> <7476@cs.utexas.edu> <8141@cbnewsm.ATT.COM> Distribution: na Organization: U. Texas CS Dept., Austin, Texas Lines: 41 In article , hedrick@athos.rutgers.edu (Charles Hedrick) writes: > ... But theology as a discipline looks a lot more like > literary criticism than physics. > > I guess I'm not a deep enough thinker to be clear what the > significance of this fact is. Literary theories do not claim to be true or false, at least not in the same sense that Maxwell's equations are true or false, but rather to be interesting ways of looking at literature and drawing meaning from it [1]. For this reason, the evidentiary issues that arise when one is studying physics, history, or biology are not a concern. You are right that the *practice* of theology more resembles literary criticism than any of these other fields. But it claims much greater content. It makes significant propositions about the nature of the universe, and not just how people interpret it or create stories about it. If theology talked about god only as a literary construct, a psychological paradigm, or a sociological convention -- which is how literary criticism talks about its objects -- this debate would disappear. (Indeed, literary criticism does talk about gods in these ways, and no atheist argues that god does not exist, for example, as an object of worship which incorporates the culture's, or its ruling class's, values.) What is ludicrous is a field that makes claims about the basic nature of the universe -- a real god literally exists, it created the world, etc -- but which is practiced like literary criticism. The methodology is inappropriate to the claims. This is at the center of the debate, and why Mr Wingate has tried so much to move out from under the evidentiary issues that must be met head on if religious belief has any reason behind it. Russell [1] Obviously, there are historical, sociological, and other kinds of questions that can be asked about literature that augment literary criticism proper. On these questions, the usual evidentiary issues arise.

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