Daily Archives: July 22, 2008

Roman Catholic Blog and Hyper-literalism

Regular readers of this blog and my ongoing work on refuting God is Imaginary and Why Won’t God Heal Amputees know that I’m no friend of hyper-literal interpretations of the Bible.  I hate when people look at the words of the Bible hyper-literally and draw fantastic conclusions about what the Bible is trying to say, instead of just using common sense.

For example, the Bible is not forward-thinking when it mentions the “circle of the earth” in Isaiah 40:22.  That is meant to be poetic.

As it happens, it isn’t just hyper-literal readings of the Bible that annoy me.  Hyper-literal readings of popular literature also does it.  The Roman Catholic Blog, which comments on current events from a Catholic perspective, has just read National Geographic hyper-literally.  The writer says that a recent article with the headline “Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas?” caught his eye and raised his ire.

According to the Roman Catholic Blog, murder is only the unlawful taking of a human life.  By definition, one cannot murder a gorilla.   checked Merriam-Webster Online and confirmed that neither the definition of “murder” nor the definition of “person” had changed.

But he fails to consider the purpose of the headline.  The headline is designed to grab the reader’s attention and rope them into reading the rest of the article.  Consider the headline of this blog entry.  I expect mostly regular readers and Roman Catholic Blog authors will read it; people stopping by will probably only glance it as long as it stays near the top of the page.  Why?  Because of the rather boring headline.  My most active posts are the ones with sensational headlines: “Brian Sapient Punched Out” and “The Tablet that Ends Christianity?”  I imagine most people pick which posts they read on the basis of the headlines.  People are no different whether they are scanning an RSS feed or a National GeographicMurder has more emotional weight to it than killing.

I don’t think that this is, as the author of the Roman Catholic Blog seems to think, a covert attempt to make a flawed philosophical argument.  I think that this an editor’s attempt to get people to read the story in the magazine.

Okay, I’m done ranting for today.  Tune in tomorrow when I finally put up what I’ve been promising since last Wednesday: a piece on the Tablet that Ends Christianity!!