Monday, November 15, 2010


There is a fascinating discussion going on over at Bible Belt Atheist (I really enjoy his clear, concise explanations to theists and non-theists alike) that one cannot understand the Koran (or Qur'an as this guy spells it)unless you read it in the original Arabic.

BBA goes on to refute that, quite neatly.

I get where the guy is coming from.... sort of. Some nuances are definitely lost in translation, and one could definitely argue that holy books are ultimate propaganda machines because of varying bizarre translations designed to say what translators wanted it to say. (For more on that go see Bart Ehrman's excellent lecture series on the topic: Misquoting Jesus. This is only part 1 of 10, but it is well worth the 100 minute watch)

But that kind of specious reasoning only holds if one is arguing AGAINST the validity of these books, not for. What this guy seems to be saying is that somehow maliciously the book was mistranslated to give Muslims a bad name. Which makes no sense whatsoever, because historically translations were used in an effort to conceal discrepancies and fix little scriptural mistakes in these kinds of texts. BBA goes off and finds 6 different translations of the same passage. Guess what? With some subtle differences, they all say the same thing. Imagine that.

But then the guy goes on to draw all sorts of absurd conclusions from this idea, like the idea that in order to be objective one must be a theist and other nonsense.

Objectivity =/= belief. Sorry, no can do. The closest one can get to this idea is to be skeptical. Skepticism is the closest we can get to be objective. Believing in something and then hunting for evidence to back up your beliefs is not, I'm afraid to say, objective. It is the story of every creationist ever. It is the story of every vaccine denier ever. Of every 9/11 truther, moon-landing denier, birther, woo-meister, crackpot theory ever.

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