Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

 
dchoweller
 
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dchoweller
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30 December 2004 18:10
 

I'm reading the book "The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam," by Karen Armstrong.  Here's and excerpt from the book which I think is relevant to the current situation (specifically, the "values voters" getting all riled up over gay marriage).  This excerpts comes just after her discussion of the Scopes "Monkey" trial in 1925, after which it seemed that the fundamentalists had been defeated:

But in fact the fundamentalists had not gone away.  Indeed, after the trial their views became more extreme.  They felt embittered and nursed a deep grievance against mainstream culture.  At Dayton, they had tried—badly—to fight the view of the more radical secularists that religion was an archaic irrelevance, and that only science was important.  They could not express this point of view effectively and chose the wrong forum in which to do it.  [William Jennings] Bryan's anti-German phobia was paranoid, and his demonizing of Darwin inaccurate.  But the moral and spiritual imperatives of religion are important for humanity and should not be relegated unthinkingly to the scrap heap of history in the interests of an unfettered rationalism.  The relationship between science and ethics has continued to be an issue of pressing concern.  But the fundamentalists lost their case at Dayton, and it seemed to them that they had been treated with contempt and pushed to the margins of society.  Fifty years earlier, the New Lights had constituted a majority in America; after the Scopes trial, they had become outsiders.  But the ridicule of such secularist crusaders such as [H.L.] Mencken was counterproductive.  Fundamentalist faith was rooted in deep fear and anxiety that could not be assuaged by purely rational argument.  After Dayton, they became more extreme.  Before the trial evolution had not been an important issue for them, and even such literalists such as Charles Hodge had accepted that the age of the world was more than six thousand years, whatever it said in the Bible.  Few fundamentalists had believed in the so-called "creation science," which argued that Genesis was scientifically sound in every detail.  But after Dayton, fundamentalists closed their minds even more, and Creationism and an unswerving biblical literalism became central to the fundamentalist mindset.  They also drifted to the far right of the political spectrum.  Before the [first world] war, fundamentalists like [William Bell] Riley and John R. Straton (1875-1929) had been willing to work for social reform and with people on the left.  NOw the Social Gospel was tainted by its association with the [theological] liberals who had defeated them in the denominations.  This will be a constant theme in our story.  Fundamentalism exists in a symbiotic relationship with an aggressive liberalism or secularism, and, under attack, invariably becomes more extreme, bitter, and excessive [emphasis mine].

 
 
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lawrence
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31 December 2004 06:47
 

[quote author=“dchoweller”]Fundamentalism exists in a symbiotic relationship with an aggressive liberalism or secularism, and, under attack, invariably becomes more extreme, bitter, and excessive [emphasis mine].

And naturally as a result the vast population that remains in the middle looks at both edges of the spectrum as nut cases.

 
 
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child
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31 December 2004 09:23
 

So, are we the liberal, secular extreme?  How best to defuse fundamentalism, then, if not to expose its dangerous irrationality for what it is, like Joe Bageant does, for instance?

 
 
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lawrence
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31 December 2004 09:54
 

[quote author=“child”]So, are we the liberal, secular extreme?  How best to defuse fundamentalism, then, if not to expose its dangerous irrationality for what it is, like Joe Bageant does, for instance?

The terms liberal and conservative have become all mixed up. Do not conservatives conserve?

Tax cuts for the rich, rape of the planet, slaughter of civilians, democracy at the point of a gun, hate for any one that does not tow the political-philosophical-cultural line does not sound conservative it sounds radical. 

Exposing fundamentalism’s irrationality sounds like the proper tactics to me.

[ Edited: 31 December 2004 10:03 by ]
 
 
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child
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31 December 2004 09:55
 

Even if this will only drive them further into their holy huddles?

 
 
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Iisbliss
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31 December 2004 12:03
 

I keep trying to find issues that the fundamentalists have that I do agree on.

There are a few actually.

However the very nature of fundamentalism is all or nothing, so I am quite at a loss also.

Maybe in fact the first place to start is reforming the government to seriously remove as much influence from money as possible, then see what we have = )

Then maybe fixing the press to be free and impartial again…or freer anyway.


that is after all something almost all of us agree on, fundamentalist or not
and also most likely the hardest to accomplish

 
 
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lawrence
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02 January 2005 04:40
 

[quote author=“Iisbliss”]I keep trying to find issues that the fundamentalists have that I do agree on.

There are a few actually.

However the very nature of fundamentalism is all or nothing, so I am quite at a loss also.

Maybe in fact the first place to start is reforming the government to seriously remove as much influence from money as possible, then see what we have = )

Then maybe fixing the press to be free and impartial again…or freer anyway.


that is after all something almost all of us agree on, fundamentalist or not
and also most likely the hardest to accomplish

The press can never be free if the profit motive is the driving force. PBS, BBC, etc are the only that actually report on relevant issues. All others are money driven.

 
dchoweller
 
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dchoweller
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02 January 2005 09:32
 

[quote author=“child”]So, are we the liberal, secular extreme?  How best to defuse fundamentalism, then, if not to expose its dangerous irrationality for what it is, like Joe Bageant does, for instance?

How best to defuse fundamentalism?  The answer probably involves first finding out why fundamentalist beliefs appeal to so many people. 

Is fundamentalism a reaction to change that happens too fast, causing the adoption of beliefs that provide some certainty in a world of constant flux?

Is fundamentalism a search for some meaning or transcendence in an increasingly secularized world? 

Perhaps it’s a reaction to the nihilism that some people fall into when traditional support mechanisms fall away.

Somehow, I don’t think that fundamentalism will be defused by logical argument or by pointing out to fundamentalists that their beliefs are ludicrous.

 
 
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lawrence
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02 January 2005 09:47
 

[quote author=“dchoweller”][quote author=“child”]So, are we the liberal, secular extreme?  How best to defuse fundamentalism, then, if not to expose its dangerous irrationality for what it is, like Joe Bageant does, for instance?

How best to defuse fundamentalism?  The answer probably involves first finding out why fundamentalist beliefs appeal to so many people. 

Is fundamentalism a reaction to change that happens too fast, causing the adoption of beliefs that provide some certainty in a world of constant flux?

Is fundamentalism a search for some meaning or transcendence in an increasingly secularized world? 

Perhaps it’s a reaction to the nihilism that some people fall into when traditional support mechanisms fall away.

Somehow, I don’t think that fundamentalism will be defused by logical argument or by pointing out to fundamentalists that their beliefs are ludicrous.

Fundamentalism involves elements of each of these:

Humans need nurturing, most of the people that are on a mission have had dramatic traumatic experiences.

When a culture enters a state of flux, as we have entered, then more individuals will feel insecure. (We are no longer the light of the Earth that we became when we freed Europe from Germany and the Pacific from Japan.)

Joseph Campbell believed that all humans look to a purpose for being and myths, misused by fundamentalists, are beacons of light that carried the individual through the changes that occur as we go through life.

Layers of myth, common in religious writings, are meant to be able to reach people of all ages and abilities and give them the tools to conceptualize abstract thoughts to get them through dilemma and paradox.

 
 
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Anonymous
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28 March 2005 08:26
 

I recently read Mr Harris’s book and was feeling vindicated for some my own views on faith and unreason. However, I wish Mr. Harris had devoted a chapter or two to “new” and emerging secular religions like communism, extreme environmentalism, irrational new age religions and anti-science and anti-reason based movements and ideologies like post-modernism and the extreme potential dangers they pose today or in the future.

 
 
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Anonymous
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20 April 2005 09:05
 

[quote author=“nickedge”]I recently read Mr Harris’s book and was feeling vindicated for some my own views on faith and unreason. However, I wish Mr. Harris had devoted a chapter or two to “new” and emerging secular religions like communism, extreme environmentalism, irrational new age religions and anti-science and anti-reason based movements and ideologies like post-modernism and the extreme potential dangers they pose today or in the future.

I recently read a pretty good book by James P Hogan called _Kicking the Sacred Cow_.  In part of the book he slams junk science and political hacks masquerading as scientists. 

One neat line was about perhaps needing a wall of separation between “Science” and State.

 
 
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Anonymous
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20 April 2005 10:15
 

The author is being a little unfair here. The author says: “Fundamentalist faith was rooted in deep fear and anxiety that could not be assuaged by purely rational argument.”

Actually, I think the entity called the Holy Spirit was/is working in people’s lives (it’s in the book). Fundamentalist faith was actually rooted in a disgust at the masses calling themselves Christians and behaving like heathen. Hence, getting back to the fundamentals….

The author also said: “Fundamentalism exists in a symbiotic relationship with an aggressive liberalism or secularism, and, under attack, invariably becomes more extreme, bitter, and excessive [emphasis mine].”

Actually, that would be true of any group, yes? But one thing that was not mentioned is that every time the church is persecuted, it grows. The enemies of the church would make things better for themselves if they were more ambivalent.