Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Holy Scripture not working for you? Then re-write it!

Just when you think that the ultra conservative right wing hardcore religious inhabitants of this planet couldn't possibly extend and expand their capacity for preposterousness you will find yourself, as I recently did, running across the simpletons and buffoons that inhabit the world of Conservapedia. There apparently really is no depth of intellectual absurdity to which these imbeciles will not sink, and here is the proof. In case you haven't heard, Conservapedia are re-writing the Bible to remove, astonishingly, its liberal bias!

Wait, what now? Yes you read that right, translations of the Bible are apparently too liberal for ultra-conservatives. Just exactly how delusional or detached from any real connection with reality do you have to be to consider any translation of the Bible as liberal? For crying out loud, Hitler was more liberal than any translation of the Bible ever was. At least he was a vegetarian.

Of course, unwittingly but also in an immensely gratifying way, these numbskulls are proving several points that atheists, skeptics and critical thinkers have long argued about religion, the religious and alleged holy scriptures. Rather than examine the twisted intellectual gymnastics that the people at Conservapedia must be using to justify doing what they are I am going to look at the problems they have created for themselves and the suspicions they are confirming for those of us of a skeptical bent.

Isn't the Bible inerrant and to be taken literally?

If ultra-conservatives claim that the Bible is the word of God and/or inerrant then this whole project of theirs clearly hits a snag. Of course skeptics have long argued that there are mistranslations and conflicting translations between varying editions of the Bible going all the way back to the earliest surviving manuscripts that we possess - but that has never once stopped biblical literalists arguing that the Bible can and should be taken literally. Now however, Conservapedia is saying that yes there is something wrong with translations of the Bible. Does this mean the end of biblical literalism? How could it not?

How can you argue that the Bible has been mistranslated BUT at the same time it should be taken literally because it is the word of God and inerrant?

Furthermore, if you are going to argue that the Bible has been deliberately mistranslated then you should be able to show exactly how, where and why this occurred. It is not enough to merely proclaim that you find a word too liberal and therefore it must be a politically liberal deliberate mistranslation. If you can't do that then you are simply demonstrating that because you don't like the wording you think you have the right to reword it.

You can't have it both ways Conservapedia - either the Bible is the inerrant word of God and must be taken literally or it is the work of human authors prone to error and filled with mistranslations, bias and contradictions. On top of that - if the Bible is the word of God then why did he let it be reproduced with incorrect translations if that isn't what he wanted?

Basically, Conservapedians now think they know the mind of God, and it just so happens he's a Republican and a Rush Limbaugh fan.

Not translation - interpretation

Of course, what is really happening here is that these cretins are not now giving a more accurate translation, they are simply reinterpreting it in light of their own worldview. Read their silly article on the project here and watch them admit that this is what they are doing.

The only way to ensure that a correct translation of the Bible is achieved is to first be fluent in the languages that the earliest surviving manuscripts are written in and then re-translate directly from those manuscripts with no intervening liberal or conservative bias. However, the Conservapedians admit they aren't doing this. They say there are three sources of error in conveying biblical meaning (but - literal and inerrant?) and the third of these is :

translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.
And then they say :

But the third -- and largest -- source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate.
In other words, in order to remove bias and give an accurate translation of the Bible they are going to use their own conservative bias.

There is no translation here, merely the rewording of the Bible to suit a conservative interpretation and conservative bias. This makes them no better than the liberals they claim have mistranslated the Bible since it isn't about a correct translation, but one that suits conservative principles.

This problem of the religious interpreting religious books how they want when they want is of course one of the problems skeptics of religion frequently point out - Conservapedia wants to substitute a conservative translation for what they think are liberal ones. The telling consideration is that they aren't interested in an accurate translation, just one that removes those naughty liberal words and replaces them with more conservative sounding terms.

Still think this is about translation and not interpretation? Then check out some of the list of possible approaches they identify:

identify pro-liberal terms used in existing Bible translations, such as "government", and suggest more accurate substitutes
What is a pro-liberal term? How is it identified? Is a pro-conservative term more accurate? Why? What if a pro-liberal term IS the most accurate translation? Is it to be changed anyway for a less accurate but conservative term?

identify conservative terms that are omitted from existing translations, and propose where they could improve the translation
Why only conservative terms, why not more accurate terms?

Then look at how they word the stages this could be done in:

In stage one, the translation could focus on word improvement and thereby be described as a "conservative word-for-word" translation.
"Word improvement" is a telling phrase. Not translation accuracy, but word improvement. Spoken like a true Communist. No doubt word improvement means replacing those pesky liberal words with fine upstanding conservative words, irrespective of accuracy of course. I suppose they feel, in that uniquely arrogant conservative way, that the conservative term is by definition the accurate term.

It's all arbitrary anyway

Another problem skeptics of religion like to highlight is that which version of a translated holy book is used is almost always entirely arbitrary, there is no logic behind the believers use of a particular one or other.

This silly project is no different, Conservapedia opt to start with the King James version as the baseline for their translation. Not because it is the most accurate English language translation. Not because it is a fine example of early English literature. No, they choose the King James version as the baseline for their new translation of the Bible because it is freely available online.

Which blows any claim they might have to wanting a more accurate translation clean out of the water. You don't get a clearer translation of a book written in many other languages into one other language by re-interpreting a prior translation already in the one language. I don't get a better Greek to English translation of Plato's Republic by simply substituting one English word that I like for another English one used in the English 'Penguin Classics' version.

On top of that, the King James version was already interpreted by its translators under instructions given to them by King James, and this interpretation was intended to support the structure and beliefs of the Church of England circa 1604. Conservapedia are simply further biasing an already biased translation.

The only way to get a new and accurate translation is to go back to the earliest surviving manuscripts and then closely and correctly translate from the original language. Nothing else will do. Anything else is just reinterpretation.

It's a pick 'n mix

Skeptics of religion have long pointed out the religious believers' practise of picking and choosing which parts of their particular holy book apply and which don't, and the problems this creates. Conservapedia are doing no different here, and they are proving the point of the problems this causes for religious belief and taking any holy book as a basis for anything.

One of the ten guidelines they list for reinterpreting the Bible is:

Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
Of course, this wasn't inserted by modern liberals in a modern translation, it was inserted in early manuscripts of John's gospel. To suggest otherwise would be, well, stupid. This just shows a very basic ignorance of the history of biblical manuscripts and the creation of the Bible. I mean, do you really think Conservapedia are going to drop the last verses of Mark's Gospel? They aren't original and were added by someone other than the original author, so an accurate translation should drop them as well. Given the reasons for the possible exclusion of the adulteress story over at Conservapedia, Mark 16:9-20 should also be excluded. But, checking the Conservapedia Bible shows those verses are included, just with a note to say they are not likely to be accurate. So why are they included at all then? If the new translation is to be guided by conservative principles, as stated, are we to surmise that accuracy is not a conservative principle?

All this of course merely reinforces what skeptics of religion have always said, the religious are merely picking what they like and discarding what they don't. Which merely highlights the abject dishonesty and arrogance at the heart of this entire project.

Then we have this:

Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."
Never mind the ridiculous implication that inventive and poetic use of the English language in literature is somehow a liberal weakness or fault we have here further evidence that this is not about accuracy, but about what conservatives think the Bible should say rather than what it does. What if the correct translation IS 'Yahweh', or 'Jehovah' and not 'Lord'? Why, conservatives want it changed anyway, because conservatives know what the word of God really is, after all.

Unadulterated dumbfuckery

And that, really, is what this Conservapedia project is. They've made a mockery of any claim that the Bible is the word of God or inerrant or to be taken literally, and I am quite sure they can't even understand why.

They've shown that they have no interest in the truth or accuracy, only in what conservatives believe.

They've inadvertently begun to make the arguments of skeptics of religion for them, and won't even realise why this is the case.

They've highlighted once again their own hypocrisy.

And here's some examples of just how low they've sunk. The first example they give as to a liberal falsehood in the Bible (that is literally what they call it) is a verse in Luke's Gospel, 23:34.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Conservapedia asks:

Is this a liberal corruption of the original?
No, not if it appears in a manuscript written centuries before there were any liberals. Since you ask this though Conservapedia, you have been back to the original to show it doesn't appear until translations made in the twentieth century, right? Of course, since we don't have any ORIGINAL New Testament manuscripts you are going to have some problems proving this. The fact that you refer to originals as if we can go back and check them just proves exactly how far into dumbfuckery this whole project has gone.

But it gets better, Conservapedia goes on to say:

This does not appear in any other Gospel
So, if a story does not appear in every Gospel it is grounds for it to be discarded? Are you really sure you want to do this? For instance, how many of the Gospels mention the Virgin Birth?

Now, I bet you didn't know that the Bible also promotes socialism, did you? Well according to Conservapedia the conservative word 'volunteer' (how does a word become conservative or liberal, by the way?) appears only once in the English Standard Version of the Bible, but the socialistic (their word, not mine) word 'comrade' appears, wait for it, three whole times! It's virtually the Communist Manifesto! I mean, twice more than 'volunteer'. The Reds are coming I tell you. It gets worse though, why that blatantly Marxist word 'labourer' is used an entire thirteen times. THIRTEEN. 'Laboured' is used a mammoth 15 times. Everyone knows that there are absolutely no other possible uses of the word 'labourer' and 'laboured'' ever, other than in reference to the brothers and sisters of the Comintern and in the context of worldwide Marxist revolution.

In case you were wondering about the context of this breathtaking stupidity, a quick Google search suggests there are between about 773,000 and 784,000 words in the Bible, depending on the version. That means 'comrade' constitutes about 0.0004% of the words in the Bible. All hail the revolution.

This is the first time I've bothered to read Conservapedia, and on this evidence it seems to be the place for any half witted, ignorant, arrogant, uneducated dimwit to voice their opinions online as though they are fact. I'm going to be keeping a closer eye on this place as blog fodder, especially since they seem to have a world history section that I definitely plan to give the Terrible Truth treatment to.

And ultra-conservatives wonder why their guy and their values lost the 2008 US election. Let me spell it out:

It's because as soon as you open your mouths the rest of us realise you're all fucking idiots.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe we should take a transcript of Rush Limbaugh's radio show and remove any dumb ass comments, flat-out lies and any hypocrisy or bloviating from it.

    I'll assign that mammoth project to you once you've finished analyzing the Bible. I think it make take you a little longer.