Perhaps the point of the feeding of the masses story is that Jesus' teachings can feed everyone's soul, even if there's little to work with? TADA: metaphor, I'm sure someone who's actually studied theology can give you a better one. I'm sure the other passages you reference can be read as metaphor with a bit of thinking. I don't agree that things in the Bible need to be factual to have meaning and impact. Classical music holds a lot of meaning for me, but I'd be hard pressed to call it factual. What would it even mean for e.g. Mozart's Requiem to be factual? Great works of literature can also have great impact without being factual.
Oh, of course the stories in the Bible can be inspiring, but that puts them on equal footing as other works of fiction in terms of educational value. "The Three Little Pigs" also gives us a valuable ethical lesson, but that's a made up story, made to illustrate how laziness can lead to bad consequences. And there are no claims that pigs can actually build houses out of anything, which are supposed to give extra credence to that story compared to, say, the story about the ant and the grasshopper.
Religions, however, actually do claim that their ethical ideas are in fact superior to the competition, because their teachings are presumably rooted in fact. In particular, Jesus' teachings are supposed to be more valuable than similar teachings from a mere mortal, because Jesus is the son of god, and the miracles are meant to prove that. Now if the feeding of the masses was just Jesus pulling off a mass placebo, allowing hungry people to not collapse from hunger on their way home (which was the reason Jesus gave for feeding them in the first place), while that's kinda cool, it hardly servers the purpose of giving extra credence to his moral teachings.
I'm not against the idea of putting the Bible right next to the fairy tales and fables or any other kind of art or literature, in terms of potential life teachings and inspiration value. But something's telling me that the religious people would be against such a state of things.
Also, a note on the subject of authorless books. Daniel Dennett in Consciousness Explained gives an excellent example of a coherent story being made up without any mind making it. People sit in a room, and one of them gets sent out of the room and is told that the others will pick a dream that one of them had recently, and then the person would have to come back, and ask "yes" or "no" questions about the dream, and from the answers figure out who's dream it is, or something to that effect.
Once the person leaves, the rest of the people are told, however, that they are not to talk about a dream at all. Instead they are to give a "yes" or "no" answer to any question depending on the final letter of the question, with the sole exception that the answers cannot contradict previously given answers.
It's pretty obvious that this will actually lead to the formation of a coherent story, which is however entirely authorless. In fact such a thing has been done in practice, with quite amusing results. Needless to say that a similar setup can be, at least theoretically, pulled off without actual people involved in the process. Internal coherence isn't indication of an overmind presiding over the system, it's just indication of a regulating mechanism like the non-contradiction rule in the game.
beyondweird wrote: I believe 'why' is meaningful, but then again, I'm a Philosophy student and I kind of have to. Seriously though, I think they don't necessarily presuppose an answer as long as you are willing to consider the answer to 'why are we here' being 'we just are'. Also, though they presuppose a mind it doesn't have to be a mind apart from a body.
I don't disagree. If you include the question of whether there is a meaning at all into the investigation of meaning, that's fine. In fact my point was that before asking "what's our purpose?" we need to establish that there is indeed some external source of purpose other than ourselves. If we choose to assume that there is and investigate the possibilities, that would also be alright, provided we are explicit in acknowledging that we are indeed ASSUMING this source to exist. In this respect the endeavor is a bit like cutting-edge theoretical physics... only less promising. But too often the argument is turned on its head and presented as "well there MUST be a mind that created the universe with intention, otherwise there would be no purpose besides what we just make up". Indeed, there wouldn't... and we aren't anywhere close to being confident that there is.
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.