Occasionally, I’ve been accused of being a bit, how shall we say, fanatical when it comes to the issue of fundamentalism. I would argue that fanatical is a bit too strong, let’s just say I have a basic understanding that this mindset is both in serious error and dangerous.
I’ve had occasion to share my views a number of times, and engaged in numerous frustrating conversations with atheists (who now portray most all Christians as such) and Tea Party adherents. The results are always the same. It’s talking to a brick wall.
I have always wondered why religious fundamentalists find such a ready home in the Republican party. I think I now know. In the end, all faith, fundamentalist or otherwise, comes down to faith–the belief in that which is not proven. It is believed. The difference between mainstream religious folks is that to some degree, faith is rational, based on a series of logical presuppositions, logically worked through and aligned with others in a mosaic which is called a theology which pretty much “hangs together” in a coherent, logical order.
The fundamentalist, while insisting that the Bible must be accepted as literally true in all its parts, selectively chooses some parts to the exclusion of others, and moreover, thinks that faith means denying the rational real world and its discoveries. It allows one, therefore, to deny evolution, deny the importance of man-made global warming, and advocate patriarchal systems as “bible based”.
Faith becomes a banner to be waved in the face of reason. The GOP, or parts of it, realized this, at least in some intuitive sense, and realized that such faith could be turned to their advantage. Thus today we have working class white folks screaming that we must reduce taxes on the rich, and remove each and every impediment to how business operates, because “free markets” are the key to everyone’s success. This in the face of concrete and overwhelming evidence that it does not.
Faith in the truth of what is not truthful or believable is the hallmark of fundamentalism. It works as well in politics as it works in religion.
An article in AlterNet makes all this depressingly clear. Written by a former Republican Congressional staffer, it brings together three books that have pointed in this direction and laid out the roadmap. Two of the three books are available to you. One is, unbelievably, offered free online by its author, a Canadian psychology professor, Robert Altemeyer, who has done his research in the field of authoritarianism. You can download it as a PDF file.
The other, by Max Blumenthal, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, can be obtained through Amazon for $2.01 plus S&H.
The depressing part, is that uniformly, there is no chance of changing minds here. These are psychological disorders, and as such are hard to correct. No amount of logic, facts, or reasoning will affect those afflicted. (Other studies have shown that it is very hard to dislodge a mindset or world-ordering. People tend [and fundamentalists more so than most] to ignore evidence contrary to what they already believe)
Still, it is essential to understand it, so that it can be worked around in some fashion, and exposed at least for what it is. Some suggests that a full 40% of the GOP is now infected, and nationally fully 25% of all citizens are of this authoritarian mindset.
I am going to block quote a few rather shocking statements that hopefully will get it across how very seriously this whole thing must be taken. By the by, Altemeyer‘s work was largely unknown until John Dean went in search of explanations of what had and was happening to his party following the Nixon debacle. The third book in the article is largely unavailable and was written to explain the rise of Nazism in the 30’s.
An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade. In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.
They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times and are often hypocrites.
They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result…. And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going away.
From Wilhelm Reich:
The formation of the authoritarian structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and sexual anxiety…. The result of this process is fear of freedom and a conservative, reactionary mentality. Sexual repression aids political reaction not only through this process which makes the mass individual passive and unpolitical but also by creating in his structure an interest in actively supporting the authoritarian order. The suppression of natural sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars.
Please read the article at least. The downloadable book is not long. The other is cheap. Frankly, we need to understand this if we are to have any hope of putting a stop to this insanity. No doubt, such movements have arisen in the past and died a natural death. However, they had not the benefit of instantaneous transmission through the Internet. I think than changes the game. I hope you agree.
- The Right-Wing Id Unzipped (fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com)
- “The Authoritarians”, A Book Review and Book” (jonathanturley.org)
william wallace said:
In its entirity it being the complexities of complexities.
Water left to its own device will the take the shortest
route back to the ocean / as it be with human beings.
Probably true. Still one must do one’s best to stave off the crazy.
This, I think, is one of your best posts. I’m totally sharing this in my next “commentary tidbits” post.
Regarding Wilhelm Reich’s hypothesis that authoritarian structures are built upon sexual repression and anxiety, we can definitely see this in the Religious Right’s fixation on reproductive issues and LGBTs. If you’ve ever read 1984, Orwell makes a similar observation.
Indeed I did read 1984. Thanks Ahab. I know I beat this horse rather incessantly but I do think it is THE issue we need to addresss. All the crap we are dealing with, stems for the psychology of the uber right.
william wallace said:
Sherry / I not need not tell you of forgiveness / I need not tell you of
turning the other cheek. The solution is always in one embracing the
Almighty as Allah as whatever name one having given to the creator
Sherry / I’ll come direct to the point of learning as understanding that
you need in life ///rather than fruitless disagreement with other folk’s
know such hath no purpose if the tree is withered there being no fruit.
Sherry / the ultimate in ones understanding is turning unto meditation
thus turn the senses inward in bringing a unfolding of the spiritual self.
Prayer is but a shortened version of meditation // in prayer one talks to
god thus one in a world of belief / with meditation one experiences god
thus a world of knowing god // such for you your desire is knowing god.
That you are at such a stage is to your credit however / you should be
of mercy unto your brothers sisters /as not too judgemental upon them
which you are being / thus remember the good samaritan as its lesson.
Sherry / throughout the history of humanity there be spiritual teachers
(I do not refer to religious teachers) but that of *Spiritual Teachers / in
among such spiritual teachers be the “Teacher of Teachers” present
time the teacher of teachers is Prem Rawat / thus humanities blessing.
On PC search put (words of peace) on the site be a selection of videos
in which Prem Rawat explains meditation // in turning the senses inward
thus in bring an unfolding of the spiritual self. Not of ideas. Not of beliefs.
Not of a heaven or a paradise beyond the clouds but in having practical
spiritual experience that gifts a clarity of understanding in answering all
questions. WHOM AM I?. WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF LIFE ?. IS THERE
A HEAVEN ?. IS THERE A GOD ?. Such questions answered / in leaving
a world of belief a world of ideas to a world of knowing the power of love.
Peace be with you William.
Thought provoking article with excellent sources (I have not read Reich on 30 years!)
A note, however. Not all atheists think of Christians as extreme fundamentalists. I know I don’t.
Btchakir, I probably overstated and you were right to call me on it. I should have said “new Atheists”, which would be closer to the mark. I have ordered the one book from Amazon and am now reading The Authoritarians. Best stuff I’ve seen for about 3 years or so when I found some psychological studies on fundies that were most enlightening.
Sherry and folks,
There have always been fundamentalists- I am almost 70, and my father was, all his life, in thrall to fundamentalist preachers who claimed the bible was “literally true,” except of course, for the parts they did not agree with, and therefore never mentioned. The sad difference now is that 50 years ago, most fundamentalists thought it inappropriate to concern themselves with politics (and some still do). The evil genius of the Republican party was to lure the crooked mountebanks who were shearing the fundie sheep for money into the GOP with promises of even more money, and POWER. Once they came into the fold, and started preaching that the GOP was the “party of God,” the sheep followed. They don’t have the mental equipment to question their preachers. Even the “sincere” preachers who are truly religious rather than con artists have drunk the koolaid. We now have the very dangerous situation of almost all of the fundamentalists robotically voting for Republicans, no matter how repulsive they may be. This country is in trouble.
You are exactly right. The GOP either by pure luck or design realized that they can tap the desire to believe in the face of facts, and have been able to get people to believe in lies and when coupled with the desire to follow the authority which Altemeyer documents in his studies so well, it makes for a very dangerous mix that means that these folks literally will pick up guns in the “name” of freedom, and take yours away and give it to the Corporate/neo-con/ Lords. It is frightening indeed.
Nicely laid out Sherry. You’ve piqued my interest.
Very glad I did. I’ve done much reading when it comes to fundamentalists. Basically I don’t care if you worship flies, but these folks are mentally deranged to a greater or lesser degree and they are mucking up this country. They were fine as long as they stayed out of politics, but now that they are, they are a true menace, and well, if you think Radical Islam is dangerous, these folks have exactly the same potential. All in the name of God.
Snoring Dog Studio said:
Excellent post and it’s exactly why I fear these people. I really do fear them.
Yes SDS, so do I. They will grab the gun and go if the right trigger is pulled.
Incidentally, have you read Breaking Their Will by Janet Heimlich? It follows the abuse of children when authoritarians use religion to fan their fears and aggression. Some of the parents were ashamed of the horrors they had put their children through and others dogmatically defended even the deaths of their children by claiming they were obeying God and that the parents right to do whatever they want with their children was being religiously discriminated against.
No I have not read that, and thanks for the heads up. Certainly such minds do in my opinion irreparable harm to their kids. I have documentaries about this and thankfully, some parents do come to their senses, often when their kids are beaten by “religious” authorities. Obviously the same kind of thing occurs when parents refuse medical care for their children because it’s up to God to heal. The courts do step in in those cases.
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