Daily Departures

Departing daily from the ordinary objects of my thoughts.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Textual similarities


Many people spend their entire lives both interpreting and analyzing religious texts. One field of study is cross-textual research (henceforth, "CTR"). Someone engaged in CTR might take two (or more) religious texts, say the Bible and the Qur'an, and look for similarities between the texts. These similarities may take the form of sameness of event, sameness of concept of the divine, sameness of moral principle, and so on.

I'm sure that many look down upon CTR because they see it as a the first step in a slippery-slope that leads to Religious Pluralism. I am very dubious of this worry; in fact, I think that if you press anyone who suggests it, it will quickly become evident that the worry is groundless.

That said, I think that CTR is quite interesting. In fact, I've wondered whether there isn't some set of rules that will allow you to translate one religious text into another. Of course, the set of rules will be different for each pair of texts. I can't claim to have discovered what any of the rules are, but I have discovered something nearly as exciting. One of the major problems with reading any religious text--of a religion that is not ones own--is that, it is extraordinarily distressing to read a text that purports to be about the divine, yet calls the divine by a different name than you do. What I have discovered, although not the rules alluded to above, a set of rules for making this reading of religious texts--from faiths other than ones own--easier. I call these rules, the Rules of Softening (henceforth, "ROS"). I name them thusly because they soften the blow of a non-familiar religious text.

Instead of listing the rules and letting my two readers go off by themselves to do the conversion, let me give you a few examples. Within Christianity, a central passage is known as the Lords Prayer. It is found at Matthew 6:9-13. The passage says:
Our Father in heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we also have forgiven those who trespass against us.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
So, as a demonstration of the ROS, I will give translations into the religious language of Islam:
Our Imam in Paradise Hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in Paradise.
Give us this day our daily brecite.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we also have forgiven those who trespass against us.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Isn't that exciting? Now, let me give you a couple more examples from more well established religions.
First, Scientology--yes, the religion followed so astutely by the illustrious Tom Cruise.
Our auditor in Galactic Confederation Hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in Galactic Confederation.
Give us this day our daily space rations.
And forgive us our intergalactic political boundary crossings, as we also have forgiven those who cross our intergalactic political boundaries.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from engram.
And now, the famously intellectual and emotionally charging, Veganism:
Our typically young female in lentil soup Hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in lentil soup.
Give us this day our daily badhere to.
And forgive us our torturees, as we also have forgiven those who torture against us.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from flesh-devouring.
I don't know about you, but I find this all incredibly exciting and intellectually exhilarating. If you are interested in more applications of ROS, I'm happy to post more in the comments. Just let me know.

Credits: Thanks to these people for all their hard work. And thanks to Stephen for his expertise in the ways of Scientology.

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