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Tag: rhetorical devices

Questions from an Atheist #6: Does God “Do” Miracles?

Questions from an Atheist #6: Does God “Do” Miracles?

Here is the original wording of question #7 in Maynard’s list: Can god intervene in events whenever and wherever, to violate natural laws and change their course (i.e. perform miracles)? Ian approached answering it this way: Can God intervene in natural processes? Of course—He’s “the Omnipotent”—but He does not need to break natural laws to do so; He may act through them—as the Medievals already described in their concept of “secondary causes.” The idea that miracles necessarily require breaking natural…

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The “New Atheism” 14: Literalism

The “New Atheism” 14: Literalism

One of the new atheists’ major problems from a Bahá’í perspective is their consistent literalism in reading Jewish, Christian and Muslim scripture. They read scripture in its explicit and most obvious sense and reject non-literal understandings. Dawkins rails against theologians who “employ their favourite trick of interpreting selected scriptures as ‘symbolic’ rather than literal. By what criteria do you decide which passages are symbolic, which literal?” 106 Assuming there is no rational answer, he simply continues his literalism, a practice…

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The “New Atheism” 11: Intolerance Against Religion

The “New Atheism” 11: Intolerance Against Religion

One of the areas of major disagreement between the Bahá’í Writings and the new atheism is the latter’s emphatic rejection—not just of the intolerance shown by religions—but also for inter-religious tolerance. Sam Harris writes, …religious moderates are themselves the bearers of a terrible dogma: they imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others. I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the…

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Terms of Faith 11: Neutrality, Ambiguity, Humor, and Affection

Terms of Faith 11: Neutrality, Ambiguity, Humor, and Affection

This is the last installment of my Terms of Faith series, so I’d like to do a little “wrap up.” An aspiring writer once asked me how he might write about religion “safely.” He had collected an array of anecdotes and stories from his business dealings but was afraid that if he fictionalized them, he’d be accused of mocking someone’s beliefs. I had never really thought about it before. As I said, most, if not all of my work has…

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Terms of Faith 10: The Benefits of Vagueness

Terms of Faith 10: The Benefits of Vagueness

Today I’d like to look at a trifecta of verbal devices that—whether intentional or accidental—contribute to vagueness. I think that sometimes this vagueness does surface accidentally when a writer or speaker doesn’t quite have a grasp of the specifics of a subject or hasn’t walked through the logic of a situation such that they understand it. They try to approximate or use a sort of shorthand. Other times the devices are used intentionally. Passive Voice—Mistakes Were Made: This method is…

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Terms of Faith 9: The Illusive THEM

Terms of Faith 9: The Illusive THEM

Use of the illusive THEM is a type of Straw Man argument. Ideas, beliefs and actions (usually negative ones) are attributed to a loosely defined “They.” One example of this is in Chapter 24 of Max Dimont’s Jews, God and History (Penguin Group) Dimont presents the idea that racism is a misbegotten child of the Enlightenment (i.e. the biological racism of Gobineau). This isn’t a new or startling idea, but he takes it in a new direction by proposing that…

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Terms of Faith 8: Sleight of Tongue

Terms of Faith 8: Sleight of Tongue

I was accused recently of Sleight of Tongue. Someone with whom I was having a dialogue on an atheist forum asked me what it would take for me to disbelieve in God. I thought about it and replied that I really didn’t know. There wasn’t any one thing, or if there was, I hadn’t encountered it yet. She applauded my sleight of tongue, using the term to mean she thought I was trying to be evasive. For the record, I…

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Terms of Faith 7: Guilt by Association

Terms of Faith 7: Guilt by Association

This is the seventh in a series of posts about how we communicate about religion. This time, examples of how a writer can use well-chosen words to create emotional impressions that they want to leave with the reader. A form that’s used more frequently in politics than religion, is … Guilt by Association We’ve recently seen this in the political arena with the accusations to the effect that our newly minted President “palled around with” terrorists. Now, when I think…

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Terms of Faith 6: Added Color

Terms of Faith 6: Added Color

This is the sixth in a series of posts about how we communicate about religion. Today, more on added color—specifically… Misdirection through colorization By colorization, I mean the writer is attempting to “tint” the reader’s perceptions by using emotionally charged or highly connotative terms. I’ve seen a number of forms of this in use. A writer, for example, might use negative or odd descriptions of things or people to distract the reader from the substance of the account. This colorful…

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Terms of Faith 5: Shaping the Dialogue

Terms of Faith 5: Shaping the Dialogue

by Maya Bohnhoff This is the fifth in a series of posts about how we communicate about religion. Today… How we use words to shape the dialogue The purpose of language is to communicate. It can be used to educate and inform or to obscure and confuse—to build bridges or to drive wedges. I spoke earlier about writers having divisive agendas. Because of the nature of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings and our religious culture, the Bahá’í agenda tends toward using language to…

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