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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Fake Justification - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 November 2007 03:57AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 November 2007 09:09:21PM 12 points [-]

You know, I've attacked religion a lot of times on this blog. I've said that faith is the equivalent of losing your eyesight, and that the word "God" functions primarily as a curiosity-stopper. These, by my standards, are just about the most nastiest things I could say of any belief system. But these attacks don't seem to have provoked half the response of suggesting that the Bible is not good literature.

Don't people read the damned thing? Say what you like about Shakespeare, there's no way I could do better in five minutes. The Holy Bible fails the five-minutes test. "In the beginning, God created the skies and the land..." If you didn't know where this sentence came from, and you were an editor at a major publishing house who just got it in an unsolicited manuscript, you'd send it back with a note saying: "Show, don't tell."

Here, I'll write something of equal literary quality on-the-fly:

In the dawn of all things there was terrible fire,
brighter than all suns that are or were,
forging all that came after,
the creation light, the searing beginning.

Not particularly inspired, but if you read it with the preconceived expectation that you were about to hear something really profound, it would sound really profound. If those words had been in the first chapter of Genesis, everyone would think it was great poetry because that is what they are obligated to think if they want to maintain their self-image as religious.

One of the scariest aspects of religion is how it destroys artistic judgment. Religious scriptures have no incentive to be well-written because they survive based on being the Word of God, not on convincing blinded judges of their quality.