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.