Misplaced Concretness and Certainty.

There is a five dollar word that encapcilates much of the dispute between belief and non belief.  The word is reification.  I don’t claim to be an expert in application of this word, but hope I’m close.

Reification occurs when something meant to be considered abstract, or, an idea only, is treated as real.  One example is a god.  Related is treating the miracles and tall tales in the Bible as something other than fiction they were intended to be.

When Christian factions, like Catholics and fundamentalists, review each other’s theology, they label each other’s conclusions as “errors”.  However, there can be no error greater than misinterpreting the entire purpose and content of the Bible.

The Bible was written only for the people at that time and those who wrote it had a specific purpose in mind.  They were not writing about actual miracles.

The parts of Christianity that best avoid the error of reification are its liberal wings.  There, most of the Bible is treated as fiction.  It is treated as a tradition that has been passed down through the ages to give us some advice.

There seems to be a slice of people who need to commit this error of reification for their own needs.  Moving through life without the certainty they need is a mountain too high to climb.

That life does not have greater meaning than simply what we experience in real time is just fine for nonbelievers.  They are not in need of certainty about the afterlife.

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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13 Responses to Misplaced Concretness and Certainty.

  1. Michael Ross says:

    “Related is treating the miracles and tall tales in the Bible as something other than fiction they were intended to be.”

    The Bible’s miracles maybe not fiction. You need to real Lloyd Ohmdahl’s column:

    http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/388777/group/Opinion/

    • entech says:

      Thanks Michael it was beginning to feel lonely here.

      Interesting where your man talks about avoiding forbidden fruit. After all if the story is true forbidden fruit is the cause of all problems. If A&E had not partaken of the FF then they would still be gardening away, we wouldn’t be here to need medicare – it wasn’t until after the eating episode and the removal from the garden that he first “knew” Eve (in the Biblical sense :) ) and without death and with only two immortal beings no need for health care.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 6:43 “You need to read Lloyd Ohmdahl’s column>”

      In fact, I did see that column. My friend Lloyd is an evageglical and would have seen a piece of data about church membership as interesting. What I would ask is whether people who believed in fairies also have better health? Or, is it that people who have a circle of friends and a support system have lower hospitial costs?

      When I read the article in our local paper, the first thought that popped into my head was the lower medical costs in the Bible Belt. It is a well established statistic that spousal abuse is also higher in the Bible Belt. Maybe women are just not allowed by their husbands to see a doctor.

    • Avatar of seaofstories seaofstories says:

      I think Lloyd must have been reading that health study upside down. Louisiana and Mississippi are perpetually at the bottom of those studies not the top.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        sea 3:53 Great point. I just looked up Mississippi’s health numbers, they are terrible. True, the average cost per person is lower than the national average, but the uninsured is 20% higher. Infant mortality and teen deaths approach 50% higher.

        I’m searching my mind for the benefits of church membership here. Oh, I remember, churches got a draconian anti abortion measure passed. God thinks that offsets high infant mortality and teen deaths. (sarcasm)

        • Michael Ross says:

          I am surprised by Ohmdahl’s findings. Those states have higher poverty and illiteracy rates. Poorer health usually goes along.

    • Jinx says:

      I have read Bart Erhmann’s book “The Misquoting of Jesus” and a couple of others that lay out the evidence that miracles were not part of the original gospels and other writings. In fact they did not show up until the late 180-200 AD when the early church bishops were jazzing up the teaching in order to recruit new believers. Dr Bart presents some pretty strong evidence to support this.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Jinx 10:20 Erhman and so many others have noted the absense of details about miracles until long after Jesus was supposed to have died. To me, the way the miracles are presented is so over the top, its like there was a contest as to who could come up with the tallest tale. I mean, one or two would have been enough. But, they go on for pages. I want to say, “OK, OK, I get it he does miracles. Now lets write about something else.” But, the miracles go on some more.

  2. entech says:

    Jon, have you been reading those philosophy books again? Two topics in a row dealing with fallacies.

    God in man’s image deals with the anthropomorphic or pathetic fallacy, this is attributing human thoughts and emotions to inanimate objects; for example the idea that the rain has a choice in when it drops from the sky and thus can be beneficial or not to crop growth. The natural extension to this is to assign agency to the rain in the form of a rain god, the first step towards an anthropomorphic god as in the last topic (god in mans image).

    The reification fallacy occurs when a hypothetical entity or belief is treated “as if” true or as a real concrete object. Probably the best argument available for the existence of a creator is the Kalam or Cosmological argument, basically everything has a beginning therefore there must have been a creator to begin or create this universe, further this creator must exist outside of space and time. While this, and the variations introduced by WL Craig, are quite convincing it is still hypothetical and to say this is actual proof of the existence of the God of Christianity is the epitome of this fallacy. Even if true it does nothing to demonstrate the Trinitarian Godhead proposed by Craig and apparently the basis for most of Christianity. It is not only a fallacy but an insult to all of our Jewish/Muslim/Unitarian Christian/Hindu/Buddhist friends; not to mention whatever adherents remain of the multitude of native and tribal creation stories.

    These two are actually related both attributing human characteristics to non human objects or constructs, another relative is the animistic fallacy which states that change MUST come from some intentional action (by design?), while it is possible and perhaps likely, “MUST” is not a necessity. The existence of a deity at all and the creation/intelligent design theories are thus all based on fallacious thinking.

    As, in my boring way, must state although all the evidence is towards there being no deity it is possible in spite of the odds against it (I believe evolution to be the best description available at the moment, in spite of the supposed long odds against it)

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      entech 9:03 “Jon, have you been reading those philosophy books again?”

      The reification fallacy is so common, the majority of the population of the U. S. is guilty of it. My guess is that if you could study university classes in religion, you would find the majority of professors would be committing it without even their own knowledge of their error. The only hope it the percentage of people who now say, “Something just doesn’t add up in religion,” is growing and maybe a majority of our society will see the error someday.

      It baffles me when I read the gospels which tell over and over about Jesus walking here and walking there, zapping sick people into being well, walking on water, turning water into wine, turning a few fish into mountains of fish, how anyone would think the writers actually thought these things happened. Or, that whoever wrote that masses of corpses’ walked out of their graves.

      Certianly, those who wrote this stuff were not there. It’s obvious they knew they were telling a mythical story with the purpose of manufacturing a mythical character. In the reasoning of millions of people is a block to the intellectual passageway that would allow a clear understanding of the reification error.

      • Avatar of seaofstories seaofstories says:

        Jon:

        Seems like the reification fallacy was rampant in the financial markets during our housing and derivative driven bubble. Many, many people mistook their financial models for reality.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          sea 11:14 reification fallacy & derivative bubble.

          That seems like an example. Perhaps another was when W. Bush talked to Iraqi people who lived here, not there. Because they believed Iraqis over there should throw flowers welcoming U. S. soldiers they would. They shot at them instead.

      • entech says:

        Jon 3:27 You got my two favourites from Santayana and Hume in there – “lies told by people that weren’t there” and “the only miracle is that people still take it seriously”.

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