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)
What saddens me is that many blame Christianity and Islam for behavior of fundamentalist extremists in both. Those under extremist authority have usually not read and do not understand their respective Scriptures. Instead they have remembered specific passages, taken out of context, that appear to support their views, but do not when considered in the context of the whole. As such, the neither are authentic representatives of the religions they claim as absolute.
yep Tom, fundamentalism is the reason for most atheists I reckon. You cannot have a civil conversation with atheists any more because they refuse to acknowledge that there is any other kind of christianty other than the wacko type.
My mother is a fundamentalist Christian, and she believes some of the craziest shit. Here’s a sample: Dinosaurs didn’t really exist. God (or the devil, whichever you like) put the bones in the ground to test our faith. Ugh . . .
that particular claim, that satan or God planted dinasaur bones as a means to “test” our faith is an old one. They are more sophisticated now, in simply claiming that our dating systems are flat our wrong and dinasaurs are in the bible “behemoths” and well all lived together. The Creation museum has a dinasaur with a saddle on it, like it was ridden like a horse. Sad but true.
I like more and more what our priest says about levels of consciousness–that there is no point in conversing at different levels; each cannot understand the other at all. But it is frustrating to hear/read what fundamentalists say and write. My mother-in-law is one and can be very loving but also quite judgmental. Back to that prayer: “Bless ______, change me.”
Jan, Deepak Chopra has written about this too, along the lines of “everyone is doing the best they can according to their level of understanding”. I agree, you cannot talk logic to someone whose whole mindset is designed to avoid logic.
It is better to pray to receive the wisdom and change in ways that allow us to stop this poison–such as running to local office and being voices of reason. The schools in TX are in the mess they are in because the right stood for school boards and infiltrated to set that agenda of creationism. We must do the same.
“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.”
And how! After many futile attempts to reason with fundamentalists, I observed this too.
ahab, the problem is that everytime you are faced with the opportunity, you start with simple words, logical progression, and wait for the light to come on, but it never does….they just jump from b to q in one blindingly insane leap of illogic. It drives ya insane if you keep at it.
In my experience, it is not the level of intelligence a person has, but their need for emotional security that dictates whether or not they can hear and understand non-fundy talk.
My father is one of the most intelligent people I know and could easily have become a university professor in many disciplines, from Geography to Medical Sciences. He is a (reluctant) leader in our fundamentalistic cult. The emotional work he would have to undergo to reject that training is immense. Intellectually, he is aware of the cognitive dissonance he lives with but doesn’t currently have the emotional resources to face it.
My more conservative side of the family uses their minds to blackmark the non-conservatives. They describe liberals with such disdain and have no idea that they are they fit that definition of close-mindedness themselves. They didn’t even believe that I was a liberal since “they couldn’t think that poorly of me.”
Real liberalism does not fit their definition therefore they remain blind to it.
btw- I identify as a mystic athiest. Most of the athiests I meet are sympathetic to and appreciative of liberal christianity but they are rarely outspoken in their views. Fundamentalistic athiests (such as Richard Dawkins) are a minority but ending up representing the whole as the fundamentalist Christian and Islamic activists do.
Prairie: I agree, fundamentalism does not stem from lack of intelligence. I cannot imagine what it is like to live in a family torn by this kind of difference. It is not something easily allowed as “live and let live” I suspect. One side feels that the other is going to hell, quite simply.
I am most familiar with a few friends, but we got around it by not talking religion. An old classmate of mine from high school, a person of normal intelligence certainly has gone this route. She ignored perfectly fine schools, and homeschooled her children so they would learn that evolution is a hoax and that Christian charity is wrong in the form of government programs. She gets her news from WND and is proud that “she started three churches in her community.” She doesn’t go to them, just starts them. She conducts bible classes in her home every week, spreading all this misinformation. It is indeed tragic.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard the term Mystic atheist. I’d like to learn more. Sounds quite fascinating. The New Atheists, of which Dawkins is one, only address fundamentalism, which is fine but they give the serious impression that they are unaware of any other form of Christianity and that is quite wrong. In my opinion anyway. Thanks for stopping by. Your comment is most informative and thoughtful.
I made up the term “mystic athiest” to describe my inability to find any sort of god very credible, but to aknowlege that there is so much we do not understand.
Quantum physics, dark matter, documented healings, prophets… all point to the fact that we have so much more to learn about the invisibles of life. I want to be open to that without having the need for the simple explanatory paradigm that fundamentalist religion or New Athiesm offers.
I see prairie. It is an apt phrase I think. I agree, there is much that is not explanable. I have spent a lot of time reading, reflecting, and praying. My journey has taken me a lot of places, and I have a working faith in God that makes sense to me. It doesn’t always comport exactly with any of the formal denominations certainly. I find Catholicism works for me on some levels, and I simply continue to struggle and ponder the rest. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn enough to start making some good judgments I find. I continue to be open to refining my beliefs, because I think that is what the journey is really about. Blessings.