From: email@example.com (Russell Turpin)
Subject: Re: Is religion different from the other disiplines?
Summary: It is practiced like literary
criticism, and that is the problem.
Date: 2 Jan 90 05:18:04 GMT
References: <8121@cbnewsm.ATT.COM> <firstname.lastname@example.org> <8141@cbnewsm.ATT.COM>
Organization: U. Texas CS Dept., Austin, Texas
In article , email@example.com (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 . 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,
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.
 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.