The Divine Misconceptions FAQ
© 2008 Aaron Solomon Adelman (“Friendly Pharisee”)
What is Divine Misconceptions?
A few years ago, I became disgusted with widespread religious illiteracy in our society. One aspect of this lack of understanding is ignorance of religion; people often know little about the religion they claim to believe, much less other people’s religions. Another, arguably more dangerous aspect is that many support their religious ideas with poor reasoning or none at all; indeed, for many religion has become synonymous with unreason, through which people can believe and do whatever is right in their own eyes in complete disregard of evidence and sense. At first my disgust led me to merely list misinformation and bad logic claimed in the name of religion. However, the list has grown not merely in length, extent, and organization, but it is evolving into a book or (more likely) series of books (tentatively titled Divine Misconceptions: An Orange Catholic Necronomicon of Religious Fallacies and Misinformation) on why religious misinformation and poor thinking are wrong.
The goal of the Divine Misconceptions project is to produce a book or series of books covering all the common religious fallacies and misinformation in contemporary society. The hope is that this project will help people to think more about what they believe and why they believe it, because the stakes are high. Religion is not a game or a mere social activity. What are at risk rank among the most important things known to humanity: truth, morality, salvation, and even life itself, with major questions of what is obligatory or unconditionally prohibited dependent on the truth of beliefs. People are regularly harmed or killed by religious irrationality of various kinds, including refusal of vaccination or blood transfusions; use of “complementary” and “alternative” medicines; slander; exploitation by cults and people with alleged divinatory powers; and oppression, violence, homicide and war with an alleged prophetic basis. Given that contemporary society is extremely tolerant and even accepting of religious illiteracy and poor reasoning, and Hillel says in Pirqe ’Avoth 2:6 “And in a place that there are no men, make efforts to be a man”, I am stepping forward to do something, anything to change the situation for the better.
What is the meaning of the project’s name?
Divine refers specifically to deities (a subject frequently misunderstood) and to religion in general.
Misconceptions refers to the bad ideas.
Orange Catholic is an allusion to the Orange Catholic Bible of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. In this series, the Orange Catholic Bible is a scriptural text produced by a 121-member ecumenical council for the express purpose of removing conflict between rival religions. The result is a condensed and harmonized version of the scriptures of all the major religions of the day. Orange Catholic has been utilized because the project is relevant to all religions (including ideologies such as atheism and communism on the borderline of religion) and as a reference to some disturbing trends in religion these days.
Necronomicon is an allusion to the Necronomicon of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. In this series, the Necronomicon is a grimoire containing occult secrets that many would prefer were kept secrets. Necronomicon has been utilized since this project aims to bring into public discussion of religion such ideas as truth, reason, and objectivity that many would rather be hidden away and forgotten completely.
What is the current state of the project?
I already have what may best be described as a skeleton of a book, stretching over about 150 pages, waiting for me to fill in a lot of details. Current work on the book is comprised mostly of 1) trying to write basic, introductory material and 2) reading/watching relevant material, analyzing it, and reviewing it; some such material has already appeared on my blog).
There is also effort being expended to decide on the correct scope, both in terms of religions covered and the works about them used; restricting the scope is vital, because religion such a large topic that no single human could hope to cover everything possibly relevant in a single lifetime. Definitely to be investigated are current major world religions, historically important religions, well-publicized new religious movements, and various ideologies and disciplines on the borders of religion. A more extensive list of topics is found below. Also needing to be taken into account are depictions of religion in popular culture; though not authoritative, they frequently reflect people’s views of religion, especially views that might not be expressed in authoritative sources.
Also in need of work is determining how to bring this project properly to fruition. Some of the topics to be covered range far beyond my own experience, and I will probably need the help of experts to wade through the sea of material available to find the information I need. Even in subjects with which I am familiar, there is a need to find people who are qualified and willing to do peer review so that mistakes are corrected before publication. There are also questions about how to go about getting the work published, in how many installments, and whether it would be possible to get funding for the work.
What topics will be covered in Divine Misconceptions?
Note: This list is unlikely to be exhaustive.
Section 1 (likely to become a separate book): “The Book of Seductive Interest in Logic” (as it is written in Frank Herbert’s Dune, “It was said that its pages were filled with a seductive interest in logic.”):
- Formal fallacies (bad logic)
- Informal fallacies (rhetorical dirty tricks)
- Extreme relativism
- Epistemology (including theism versus atheism)
- Bad terminology
- The nature of religion and syncretism
- Abusing the boundaries between religions
- Hermeneutics and scripture
- Things claimed to be what really matters to the exclusion of anything else
- Trust in one’s deity
- Morality, judgement, commandments, and transgressions
- Natural rights
- The human condition
- Categorization of beings as superior or inferior
- Groups alleged to be involved in nefarious, religion-related plots
- Abortion and embryonic stem cell research
Section 2: “The Azhar Book of the Dead” (likely to contain a separate book in the form of a commentary on the Hebrew Bible and New Testament):
- The Hebrew Bible
- Judaism (including the Qabbalah and Ḥasidhuth) and Pseudo-Judaism (“Reform Judaism” and its descendant ideologies)
- Christianity and Pseudo-Christianity (including Mormonism)
- Islam (including the Jihad and Islam’s relations with other religions) and Pseudo-Islam (including Ahmadiyya and the Nation of Islam)
- Druze religion
- Vaishnavism, Smartism, Shaivism, and Shaktism (“Hinduism”)
- Buddhism and Pseudo-Buddhism (including Falun Gong)
- Ancient Greek and Roman religion, ancient Egyptian religion, and other ancient paganisms
- Baha’i religion
- Yoruba religion (including Voodoo and Santería)
- Assorted “native” religions
- Ceremonial/ritual magic and occultism
- Neopaganism (including Wicca, Discordianism, polytheistic reconstructionism, and the relationship of such ideologies to historical witchcraft and paganisms)
- LaVeyan Satanism (including its relation to the Christian paranoid fantasy of Satanism) and other Left-Hand Path religions
- Scientology (including Free Zone)
- New Age religions
- Quasi-religious atheistic ideologies
- Obsolete hypotheses and assorted problematic claims assumed to be true
How can I help?
This project is bigger than any one person, so help is always appreciated.
- Read my blog, Weird thing of the day, and comment on posts containing material relevant to Divine Misconceptions (all posts, review posts). Feel free to tell me when you think I am wrong and back it up with evidence. If I am wrong on something, I would much rather find out before publication than after publication.
- Notify me of any religiously fallacious or incorrect material you find, suggest matters for me to discuss, or ask questions.
- Tell any friends who might be interested about this project.
- Publicize this project among people who will hate it. I have already had someone from Jews for Jesus complain about one of my postings.
- I have put bounties on certain information. See the Divine Misconceptions bounty list.
- I also welcome donations of materials related to the project that you have and are doing nothing but taking up space right now. Those who are unusually generous can buy me something from the official Divine Misconceptions wish list on Amazon.com. Actual money would also be nice.