I’ve often concluded that I’ve said everything I have to say about fundamentalism. I end up being wrong. I find something new to add.
When I speak of it, I just don’t mean the fundogelicals, the religiously obtuse. I also refer to all those folks who operate in the same fashion, taking as truth that which they desire to be true. That’s the working definition we’ll be using.
I kind of came to this after reading an extraordinarily good article in Esquire yesterday, Greetings from Idiot America. For, in fact, the same mindset is at work in both groups. That is why to some degree I think that the wacko religious right and the wacko political right will find each other understandable.
Note I said understandability. That is the problem. To most of us, hereafter called the rational world, such people are plainly not understandable. It seems impossible for such moronic people to hold down jobs and, well actually walk and chew gum at the same time. It would be easy to just assume that these folks are all of sub-intelligence, for indeed they talk that way sometimes.
“We’ve been attacked,” he says, “by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture.” (this uttered by Pastor Ray Mummert during the Dover, PA “intelligent design controversy)
Indeed! For in a real sense, it is education that is under attack in America as the Esquire article points out so well. But it is far more than that.
Alan Bloom suggested it in his classic, The Closing of the American Mind. Paraphrasing, Bloom suggested that the fundamentalist mind is amazing. It has the ability to erect a wall that allows contradictory beliefs to be held at the same time, all the while, never allowing them to meet and thus cause a conflict.
I think it does even more than that. The wall is not just an internal one that keeps geology as it relates to finding fossil fuels a good thing from intersecting with geology that makes claims about the ancient age of the earth evil . No the wall is external as well.
The wall is a decision to believe that something is true, and then believing it in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary, no matter what, forever. Everything then coming from the outside world meets this wall and must pass inspection. When no conflict is seen, it can be accepted, if it fails, it is simply rejected.
This is what Pierce means in the Esquire piece when he says:
Never has a nation so dedicated itself to the proposition that not only should its people hold nutty ideas but they should cultivate them, treasure them, shine them up, and put them right there on the mantelpiece.
What this means is that you can spend a lifetime trying to explain truth to these people and never gain so much as a centimeter of progress. It is akin to trying to teach particle physics to a four-year old. Their brains are not functioning in a mode that makes them able to comprehend what you are talking about.
The trouble is, they think everybody thinks this way, backwards. And they don’t realize that on the day-to-day activities of life, they don’t either. We could accomplish nothing if we did. Yet, they honestly believe that those who oppose them, who don’t believe the bible is literally true as historical fact, and that trickle down economics won’t secure them a financially secure future at the car wash if only we will let business be; they honestly believe that we make the opposite assumptions about the world and then go in search of backup “facts” to support our preconceived beliefs.
They really do believe this. That is why they can so easily ignore all that we bring them. They assume our facts are simply created to win the battle and control their lives.
What they do not get is that one doesn’t come to such a bizarre mindset as a matter of course. It is the result of a deep-seeded fear. Of course they don’t feel fearful at all, and will laugh if you tell them this. But their mindset was developed precisely to eliminate the fear. It is fear of the unknown, and fear that the future, the world is ultimately unknowable. It is fear of non-existence. It is a fear of insecurity.
When this fear becomes so great that living becomes difficult, the mind searches for security. Anything that will make life livable without the constant nagging fear that it all means nothing. Religion is not in and of itself a bad thing, nor is food, or alcohol, or even perhaps recreational drugs. All become bad however, when they are used to force down the fear of the unknown future.
The fundamentalist mind finds relief in answers, answers in the bible or from Fox Noise, it matters little which one. They offer relief from uncertainty, from guilt, and from not knowing. They offer people and things to blame other than oneself. They allow one to be selfish and not feel any remorse.
The fear must be intense, because the solution is so absolute. Absolute fidelity to the “belief” is essential. No crack can be allowed. Any and all contrary evidence is misguided, or intentional to gain the upper hand for the other side, or the work of Satan.
This is exactly what the GOP and the Neo-Cons have learned to exploit. Pray on fear, ease guilt about being selfish, and point the finger somewhere else.
The nutty right can hear and see that there is another side, but they cannot allow even a tiny seed of doubt to enter into their minds. If they do, all is lost, God will forsake them, or the security they have so assiduously constructed will tumble into dust.
That’s my take anyhow.
For a response to the biblical belief that God will never allow the earth to be destroyed, and thus we have no such thing as “climate change” read James McGrath’s post.
And for a sort of related post by OKJimm on Veterans Day and the futility of arguing with the right-wing nuttery see this post.
- Arguing With Liberals: An Exercise in Futility (dakotavoice.com)