Oh yes... quite a bit...
In other words, Genesis is a species of literature. It’s fiction. It’s story-telling, which means that elements within are drawn from the imaginative capacities of the men who wrote it.
This reveals a very shallow, modern, western idea of what "fiction" is. And it isn't becoming of someone who would claim to be "literate" because we have modern examples which caution us again making these kind of hard distinctions (e.g. fact vs. fiction).
Have you read Herman Wouck's "The Winds of War"? Its setting is historical - WWII. Some of the events it narrates actually happened. Its characters and their personal stories are "fictional". It is a blend of "fiction" and "history" we might call "fictionalized history."
If you are interested in a truly literate take on Genesis you would do well to read Robert Alter's work. Alter is a professor of Judaic studies at Berkeley... certainly no fundamentalist right-winger. He speaks of how Genesis clearly (because its stories are known elsewhere) reach back to some form of ancient memory. It's what the storyteller does with those memories that matter. You want to put everything into a modern dichotomy of fact and fiction... Too bad ancient literature simply defies this desire.
In Genesis you see this delicate transition from the ancient things we remember only through myth (and PLEASE understand in literature "myth" does NOT equal "make believe") to the old things of our family memories. One key signal is Genesis 11:28: "And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans..." The son dying before the father abruptly interrupts what is otherwise a well-known literary rhythm seen in ancient genealogies, including here. It signals the switch from the ancient things remembered only by way of myth to the old things of our family memories.
And even then, as we move forward from that, the Jews understand these people to have been real people. However, they "fictionalize" real events for theological effect. It is foolish, for example, to claim the dialog represents a verbatim report of the words actually said... again, this is not a reporter's notebook. The real people are "characterized" in the story for theological effect. It all boils down to comparing the perspective of God we learn of in God as a character in the story with the perspective of the other perspective characters... The similarities and differences there is from where the theology of the story arises.
The events are real... they are either brought forward by creative retelling of ancient myth or by the "fictionalization" of family memories that form the characters in certain ways and craft the dialog in certain ways so as the bring God's perspective in relief to ours as humans.
Christianity and all other religions (but Christianity was my focus) make claims about the world and the universe that are not true.
You cannot make a claim about what Christianity "claims" until you have adequately familiarized yourself with its literature. By way of what you have said about it being "pure fiction" you are not even adequately familiar with what "fiction" is in literature. It does not equal "make believe" like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
No “God” inspired these stories.
Please provide your evidence. But please note you have now put yourself in the position of having to prove a negative. Good luck.
“And God is the main character in the story.” Excellent! That’s beautiful! You got it! “God” is a character in a story in exactly the same way that “Sherlock Holmes” is a character in the stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Perfect.
See my comments above about characters and characterizations in literature. This kind of shallow (or maybe "illiterate" in a technical sense) answer really is (or ought to be) beneath you.
McGinn says something to that effect that certain “ultimate” mysteries may remain unsolvable because humans are fundamentally ill-equipped to solve them. That sounds reasonable — but it doesn’t follow there’s a religious answer “beyond” our human capacities to understand something.
There is likely an equivocation on terms here. "Religion" comes from a Latin word meaning "to bind". Social people bind themselves together around a common understanding of their world. That might come in the form of a philosophy like Confucianism; it might come in the form of a non-deistic "religion" like Buddhism; it might come in the form a poly-theistic religion like Hinduism; it might come in the form of a mono-theistic religion. It also comes from a commonly agreed upon body of scientific knowledge.
If "certain ultimate mysteries may remain unsolvable because humans are fundamentally ill-equipped to solve them" what does that mean in terms of epistemology? It must mean we are aware of something we do not know. It must mean that we have questions, but do not know how we can answer them (i.e. we are "ill-equipped" for the question).
"[B]ut it doesn’t follow there’s a religious answer “beyond” our human capacities to understand something."
That's not the claim; it is a straw man. Religion does not try prove that religion can provide an answer which conforms to the modern epistemological requirements of the sciences. Religion claims that reason can cross over to faith to provide a reasonable belief system around which we can be bound to each other concerning the questions for which we are otherwise "ill-equipped" to seek an answer. It is interesting because McGinn basically admits there appear to be known limits to a strictly materialistic ontology. So your position only stands here when you insist on an a priori materialistic ontology. You can successfully argue such is reasonable, but you cannot prove it to the exclusion of a theistic ontology.
You and I end up in the same place: You "believe" in a materialistic ontology; I believe in a theistic ontology. I can no more provably exclude your belief from reasonableness than you can provably exclude mine.
Yes, except that religion has never explained anything. See the Harris challenge above.
Sorry, but yes it has. Not just in a way which conforms to an epistemology which arises from a strictly materialist ontology - which cannot be proven to the exclusion of a theistic ontology, as stated above.
You’re simply referring to your belief — and unevidenced beliefs (of this stripe anyway) are of no interest to me.
So what do you make of your un-evidenced belief in a strictly materialistic ontology to the exclusion of a theistic one?
“Now if you study the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation…” Study? There is nothing to study... “In light of Aristotelian metaphysics, the claim [that talking to water changes the water] is perfectly reasonable.” Sorry, but that’s nothing but more hilarity from you. “Aristotelian metaphysics” has nothing of importance to say on this matter — called water.
You actually expose a shocking combination of ignorance and arrogance here. Billions of people have bound themselves into communities across the globe for over 2,000 years around this and other beliefs, and you actually think there's nothing to study? I thought you were engaging with "theism" in your article? What is the "matter" in question? Water? I thought it was ten questions a theist supposedly cannot answer.
There is no reason to discuss any religion when it comes to understanding the nature of our moral impulses.
Absolutely fascinating... an almost complete lack of self-awareness. You aren't curious about the philosophical origins of Roman Catholic belief system? You seem well-aware of the underlying ideas of morality like reciprocity... And you surely want others to take your opinions and thinking seriously. (Else why write?). But you don't have the moral sensibilities to be led to reciprocate?
But my point concerned the source and origination of our moral impulses.
How do you see Franz de Waal's work helping you there? He described moral impulses and proved that these impulses are seen throughout the animal kingdom; his experiments prove a sum total of nothing related to your concerns of source and origination. His experiments don't explain from where he got the curiosity to design them. His experiments show animals understand inequity and (in some cases) are angered by it; but they don't explain why. In order to get where you want to go you have to read into his experiments your a priori material ontology to the exclusion of a theistic ontology - which you have not, nor can you, prove to the satisfaction of your own epistemology. You cannot even follow your own rules.
“Barry is wrong, however, when he claims there to be no evidence that this arises from theism.” I am not wrong. To clarify and to revisit what I wrote above: A belief in God (theism) may have provided some embellishments and elaborations to our understanding of what it means to be moral... Read The Moral Animal to get a broad overview and understanding of the root cause of our moral impulses. There are several texts available that discuss this issue, but I always turn to Wright’s book because it is such a wonderfully written introduction to the subject.
Yes, you are wrong, because you have adopted an a priori materialism you cannot prove is right to the exclusion of a theistic ontology. This is the problem with Wright's book and all similar claims - that morality has a provably materialistic origin to the exclusion of theism. Again, you fail to get behind your epistemology and consider your ontological assumptions. I have no problem with proposing that morality has material origins. There are a lot in these claims to commend them to a thinking person who actually wishes to reciprocate in debate with others who think differently. Supporting your claim and refuting an alternative are two very distinct challenges.
“It means morality is a pattern by which the living world around us arranges life successfully.” How secular of you!
There you go again - peculiarly modern, western dichotomies like sacred and secular... Too bad there's a whole non-western world out there who don't think like that. I imagine to you they are too stupid to merit reciprocity. What amazes me is the lack of self awareness by which you might otherwise realize how immoral your stance is - by way of your own definition of morality. Again, you cannot even follow your own rules.
I have no interest in what Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe about life coming into existence. Why? Because a discussion of how life comes into existence that is predicated on what religious “authorities” say (believe) is of no interest to me. I should take “me” out of the equation: What Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe about life coming into existence should, in a rational world, be of no interest to anyone.
It's like you missed the entirely of what I explained about "authority" and religion in the Christian tradition. Your view of religion as being defined by the fiat of religious “authorities” shows - again - that you cannot follow your own moral rules, no matter where they come from.
“The logic of the Flood…” That’s a funny thing to write. I didn’t know that there was any logic behind any flood, Biblical or otherwise. By the way, while I’m here, I hope you do understand that the idea of a worldwide flood is nonsense. Yes? Good. I’m glad we at least agree on that detail.
First, no we don't agree at all on that detail. Please provide your evidence that "a worldwide flood is nonsense." Do you even realize you are assuming the responsibility of proving numerous negatives? At least if you are capable of following your own rules, that is.
I do think we might agree that a meteor struck the earth and resulted in a mass extinction event a very, very long time ago - much further back than the people of the ANE who told stories of a worldwide flood. What we don't know is whether there was a flood event associated with that which would have been phenomenologically understood by various cultures as a worldwide flood. The "logic of the flood" speaks to how the story may have developed, and what was done with it in myth. Literature, apparently for you, started with Darwin's Origin of Species - and you choose to remain otherwise utterly illiterate. What a shame.
There are bad, wrong, and immoral behaviors and actions that occur in this world, but there is no such thing as “sin,” which is just another term in a string of relentless religious fictions that theists love to attach to human behavior.
Wow. Are you aware that the word for "sin" in both Hebrew and Greek means "missing the mark"? So: "There are bad, wrong, and immoral behaviors and actions that occur in this world." Meaning they "miss the mark" no? If you contest the origin of the mark that is missed, fine. If you think you can prove its origin to be exclusively materialistic to the exclusion of a theistic origin you have to now prove a negative without presuming your argument ahead of time... Once you actually deal with the ontological foundation of your epistemology, it might become clear you cannot do such a thing.
“Again he is missing the distinction between ontology and theology.” Ah, you’re so charming to haul out theology, as if the theology has anything important to say about anything.
But I thought you were challenging theists to answer your questions? How is it, then, that you foreclose discussion of theology?
Whatever, as the kids like to say. It’s all fiction. It’s all literature. But here’s a question that could have been an eleventh question.
I have already shown that you don't even know what fiction is. I really do hope you will not contest that is a term of literature as a body of study. You might want to inform yourself about what literature is in human culture before you make a fool of your... wait... that horse has left the barn... Never mind.
Why are so many believers literal-minded when it comes to believing certain things in the Bible? Why does anyone believe in a literal “Adam & Eve”? Why do many people believe that Earth is only ten thousand years old (or younger)? Why do some believers think the Jonah story is about something that really happened? Ditto Noah and his stupid ark. Why do some believers believe in “angels”? Angels! Wow.
Why do you even bother asking these questions? You're clearly neither interested in, nor capable of, a reciprocal discussion which might offer an intelligent answer. I thought you were, so I offered the observation that you’re upset is over a peculiar, relatively small, and very recent stream of Christian thought called fundamentalism.
Whoa, Nelly. It’s not me you want to stop. It’s the millions of people who truly believe in the supernatural non-sense of the Bible that you want to “stop” (for want of a better word).
NO... For God's sake (and please don't fall as you run naked screaming into the night at the invocation) NO! Because there are actually more important things than being right! Like attending to morality (from wherever it arises) to successfully arrange our life together. And that requires reciprocation. I want the fundamentalist to listen to me so I might have the opportunity to persuade them that they create more problems for themselves than they solve. But that requires I reciprocate... It is not enough to be right, one must also be persuasive.
Once you come to your senses and realize that Adam & Eve never existed, the entire corpus of Christianity crashes to the ground. Think I’m mistaken? I am not. Without Adam & Eve, there is no Garden of Eden. With no Garden of Eden and a ludicrous talking snake there is no “Original Sin,” and with no “Original Sin” in the world… well, you should be able to figure out the rest.
I could write a whole article burning this little pile of nonsense to the ground. Where did I claim that Adam & Eve "existed"? An ancient, pre-modern person would easily think back to his parents, and his parent's parents, and their parents.... and arrive at the conclusion that there must have been a first set of parents... But the story is not told to introduce us to that first mom and dad... It is told to cast the imaginary first mom and dad (whose putative existence is, by way of basic biology, perfectly reasonable) as characters to introduce us to ourselves. If you weren't so shockingly illiterate, you might actually be curious about how the storyteller in Genesis takes stories from the ANE literary imagination and recasts them to make a theological point... But no, not only do you de-legitimize theology entirely (yet while posing ten questions a theist supposedly cannot answer) you have a priori robbed eons of literature of any legitimacy to the affairs of the modern world - with neither a shred of evidence nor even awareness of your ontological a prioris and your inability to defend them.
Wow! How is that you don’t see that your analysis here is akin to analyzing a Charles Dickens novel? The difference between a fan of Dickens and a fan of the Bible, is that Dickens fans know they are dealing with a make-believe universe! Theists? With the most incredible degree of gullibility, they go on and on with utmost seriousness, as if any analysis about “Satan” and a talking snake (!) has anything to do with the real world. Is this sad or pathetic? Both, I guess.
That my analysis is like the analysis of anyone's novel is quite the point. But again, for reasons I have explained above, you do not even know what "fiction" is and the various ways it is used in literature. Is this sad or pathetic? Both, I guess.
I'm sorry, I thought I was offering a reciprocal answer to your ten questions. What I ended up doing was entertaining utter sophistry. But I don't think I wasted my time... Not because of what conclusions you might draw, but because of the conclusions others reading this exchange might draw. You probably don't realize this for your lack of self-awareness, but you have probably triggered a conversation that will prompt a lot of people to actually read Genesis again, and see it through different eyes.