Friday, August 26, 2005

Judeo-Christianity

I've noticed that Americans seem to talk a lot about "the Judeo-Christian faith". While it's nice to see mereological fusions getting a foothold in ordinary language, they do seem to have confused themselves along the way. Judaism is a religion. Christianity is another religion. Together, they make two religions. The fusion of the two religions is one object that is not a religion. Just like the fusion of two people is some third object that is not a person. So I don't think it makes much sense to speak of "the Judeo-Christian faith", unless we're also going to start talking about "the mother-father parent", "the French-US president", and so forth.

12 comments:

  1. I think that the term is supposed to apply to those beliefs that are common to both religions.

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  2. I think that the term is supposed to apply to those beliefs that are common to both religions.

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  3. Yeah, I grant it's useful to have a term to cover shared commonalities. But one can sensibly speak of Judeo-Christian values or beliefs, as people often do. There's no need to say or imply that there exists a combined religion of Judeo-Christianity. (Perhaps such claims are relatively rare though, compared to the more coherent variants?)

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  4. It's not so clear that this is so, Richard; from many Christian points of view, Christianity and Judaism are not really separate religions, even though (because of doctrinal differences) they have different labels and are in some circumstances treated as such. For instance, it's actually fairly common in American Evangelicalism to regard Christianity and rabbinical Judaism as two branches of the original form of Judaism (which they would regard as a proto-Christianity). From such a point of view, Judaism is not another religion but a sectarian deviation, and your claim makes about as much sense as it would in more straightforward cases: e.g., Christianity means Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic (and a whole bunch of others), which have different labels and in certain circumstances are conveniently treated as different religions; but surely it's reasonable to treat them as one religion.

    The matter is somewhat different from an American Jewish perspective, since I think they usually have the legitimate worry that the "Judeo" in "Judeo-Christian" will turn out to be nothing more than tokenism, i.e., that it really means "Christian, but with some purely verbal concessions to the Jews". It usually does. But if that weren't the case, it would also be possible for Jews to regard Christianity as simply a deviant messianic sect of Judaism (which in some circumstances they already do).

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  5. Fair point. That raises the interesting question of when it is that the fusion of two Xs is itself an X. For example, if you had two roads which led into one another, then it would be natural to say that their fusion was also a road. But it wouldn't make sense to say this of two distant roads that never came into contact with each other. So some form of continuity seems crucial. (This seems right when applied to religions too.)

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  6. Hmm I agree with your point but Jonathan also has a point in that if you consider it a diluted term it can define an incomplete object which represents the overlap of the two.

    Still I also see "jew" and "christian" as not particularly complete concepts in themselves. as in statements like "jews are like this" or "christians are like that" are generally things I would be somewhat suspicious of.

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  7. I'm given to understand (via an extremely-liberal Jewish friend with a phd in history) that the "Judeo-Christian tradition" is in inaccurate term that was mainly created as p.r. to avoid anti-Semitism. Probably a better term would be Abrahamic tradition, which covers Jews, Christians and Muslims. I'd argue for including Zorastrianism in any such tradition and calling it the "Monotheistic tradition," but whatever...

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  8. I think Christianity is technically a form of Judaism. If one gets picky about saying they are two religions then one can equally get picky about the different strains of Christianity, calling all of them different religions. At what point does such separation make sense?

    One is left with asking what the term is for. (I'd add that Islam is often added into the term)

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  9. I think Christianity is technically a form of Judaism. If one gets picky about saying they are two religions then one can equally get picky about the different strains of Christianity, calling all of them different religions. At what point does such separation make sense?

    One is left with asking what the term is for. (I'd add that Islam is often added into the term)

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  10. My understanding of the term--how I use it and have usually seen it used--is almost exactly the same as Brandon suggests. Judaism is an early stage of Xnty/Xnty is a late stage of Judaism. Or perhaps Judaism is an early temporal part of the same continuant of which Xnty is the latter part. I think the most common use of the term is as an affirmation that Xnty is unintelligible or not fully intelligible apart from its Judaic roots. I certainly think that is the case and it is part of what I try to express by the term.

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  11. The fusion of multiple X's can sometimes play the same conceptual role as an X, even if it is not, strictly speaking, an X. Parfit offers this interpretation of his view of identity when he responds to someone (Nagel? Nozick?) who accepts a version of the physical criterion of identity. Parfit says ok, I'll accept your physical definition of a person, but let's say that multiple physical people with the right sort of psychological continuity and connectedness constitute a series-person; then my claim is that series-persons are what matter.

    Biologists have a complicated nomenclature to mark off different levels of similarity (species, genus, family, order, etc.). In areas where the nomenclature is less precisely defined, like religions, it is often a matter of taste or temperment when deciding whether broader groups should bear the same category name as narrower ones. The important thing is to figure out what conceptual role the broader group is playing, and to discuss that. Disputes over names should only occur when there is an egregious violation, or when the name is covering up something important.

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