Sunday, January 11, 2009

WPost: The Bible, Koran, Torah are "myths"

From the Washington Post column "On Faith" that ran yesterday:

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most tragic example in modern history of the folly of trying to base political arrangements on the myths in ancient books."
Unfortunately, what could have been a profound sentence turned possible insight to injury with the phrase "myths in ancient books." Don't think we should politically live to the word of the Bible? That's why we have seperation of church and state. If all adulterers were stoned, we'd need to kill about a quarter of Americans. But the phrase Susan Jacoby uses to describe the Holy Books -- the Torah, Bible and Koran -- is simply incendiary. To actually convince someone to come to your opinion, showing them respect is a good start. The phrase she uses only translates a lack of respect.

Unfortunately, at a time when we need a good news source more than ever, this becomes just more evidence that the Washington Post is out of touch with many Americans.


Aaron said...

Incendiary to some, perhaps, but I see the larger point that Jacoby, a devout secularist, is pointing out here and I think it lends (whether intentionally or not) to your notion of the separation of church and state. Jacoby is right to identify the apparent folly in the Israeli conflict precisely because both state's claims are rooted in an overtly religious understanding of national origin and territorial destiny. I have no argument with your claim that referring to holy books as 'myths' is incendiary. But, I think this obscures the very valid point of her missive: that the intractable conflict in the Middle East is just so because of the state being caught up in a wholly religious purpose.

Anonymous said...

Question: Do you consider the stories of the Greek and Roman pantheons to be myths?

Plunk said...

I would offer that the current conflict (and I'll define current conflict as post-Ottoman Empire era to today) of the Middle often is called a religious conflict. Yet, it has little to do with religion. This is a situation of major nations playing "Risk" with real land and real ethnic peoples.
Moreover, most religious conflict throughout history has little to do with religion. The Crusades might be given a religious catalyst, yet it's squarely an economic war.

On the second question, the Bible, Koran and the Jewish sacred scriptures are mythological in the sense they tell a story that provides overarching meaning. In that sense, it plays the same role as Greek and Roman myths. However, I agree with Greg that Jacoby wasn't using that definition, but rather was saying it was adolescent and false.