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  1. #1
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    What distinguishes a fundamentalist?

    In another thread, I wrote:

    "... claims are held to because those making them are ignorant of the subject matter (which is why Dawkins is such a delightful clown sometimes, although I will note that he at least has admitted on more than one occasion that he was speaking totally outside his knowledge base, something I don't think I've ever heard a fundamentalist do..."


    It struck me as I was about to hit <enter> that perhaps the reason I've never heard a fundamentalist make such a concession is because anyone capable of doing so wouldn't be a fundamentalist. It seems to be of the essence of fundamentalism to ever admit that someone else might know more about something, an excellent example of this being the lectures from just about any young-earth creationist advocate or defender.

    That in turn reminded me of a thought I had last night while reading some of Isaac Asimov's robot stories as a brief break from a study of the U.S. during the first thirty days after Pearl Harbor, a thought that arose from a synthesis of thoughts from those two sources: an attribute of fundamentalism in any form is a desire to have the world be less complex than it actually is. That describes not just Christians who really wish that what I call the "toy farm model" of Creation were true, but those who argue against them but treat the biblical texts with the same uncaring ignorance those Christians do; it also describes Muslims who reduce the problems of the world to the "Great Satan" -- the U.S. -- and thus reduce their obligation to think, setting it aside for the far more simplistic devotion to violent holy war; it further describes those who deny global warming and retreat to the shelter against thinking of saying in essence "It's not our fault!" And for those who have made an actual study of the Bible's languages and cultural context(s), it absolutely describes those who study Greek and Hebrew just enough to be able to look words up in a lexicon and thus treat those not as two actually different languages but as some sorts of codes or ciphers that really represent English words.


    Does this work as an essential criterion of what a fundamentalist is? Why or why not; how or how not?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  2. #2
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    Re: What distinguishes a fundamentalist?

    As to the root of fundamentalism being "a desire to have the world be less complex than it actually is", see Karen Armstong's book "The Battle of God: A History of Fundamentalism" (Ballantine, 2000). She traces fundamentalist movements within the three Abrahamic traditions, and her thesis is that rapid social, political, economic and technological change give rise to fundamentalism, rooted in a desire to slow the pace of change or stop it altogether.

    Certainly what it does is discourage intellectual inquiry or the consideration of alternatives which threaten the status quo or the preson's worldview.

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    Re: What distinguishes a fundamentalist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gros Morne Guy View Post
    As to the root of fundamentalism being "a desire to have the world be less complex than it actually is", see Karen Armstong's book "The Battle of God: A History of Fundamentalism" (Ballantine, 2000). She traces fundamentalist movements within the three Abrahamic traditions, and her thesis is that rapid social, political, economic and technological change give rise to fundamentalism, rooted in a desire to slow the pace of change or stop it altogether.

    Certainly what it does is discourage intellectual inquiry or the consideration of alternatives which threaten the status quo or the preson's worldview.
    "...discourage intellectual inquiry..."

    Makes me think of a speaker I heard on the tube recently, who said that fundamentalists believe in magic. The point was that fundamentalists don't want there to be any means except "God did it!". Of course as with any stage magician, if you believe in magic it's amazing and impressive, but by treating it that way you lose one of the HUGE aspects of stage magic: the talent and skill required to fool people into thinking there is magic! You would miss the wonder of the methods involved in pulling off a stunt that takes no more supernatural power than a soccer goal scored from midfield -- and if a soccer player made such a score, none of his fans are going to explain it by saying "God did it", they're going to praise his talent, skill, and dedication.

    This is why it amazes me whenever I hear someone say evolution isn't possible: they're treating God as a magician who pulls animals out of hats, when the Bible doesn't say that at all (in the Bible, in Genesis 1, God commands the earth to "Bring forth!" living creatures, and living creatures arise from the earth... which sounds an awful lot like evolution).

    I think every fundamentalist I've ever encountered could benefit from a bit of study of Aristotle, specifically his "four causes" to anything. Once that's grasped, it becomes plain that both sides, the fundamentalist believer and the fundamentalist unbeliever, are missing the picture: one says "God did it", and look s no farther; the other says "Evolution did it", and looks no farther. But then I suspect that the moment Aristotle got mentioned a fundamentalist believer would decry that as pagan philosophy... so they wouldn't be interested in so much as listening to another word.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: What distinguishes a fundamentalist?

    This is an interesting discussion. Thanks. (And unlike some discussions I've seen on this forum, I actually understood every word, thought, and concept discussed.)

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