Alpine Summit

Thursday, December 08, 2005

To Fundi or Not to Fundi

I recently got in an "argument" (it was really just him expressing his views) with my roomate about religious fundamentalism. Specifically, Christian fundamentalism. I contended that there is no such rise in this country while he held that this country has never seen such a push in its history. So, I decided to show why I think he's wrong on both counts.

Before I start arguing about fundamentalism, here's the definition on dictionary.com

  1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
    1. often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
    2. Adherence to the theology of this movement.

Note in the first definition, it is characterized by (among other things) an opposition to secularism. It's important to note that I'm not saying fundamentalism doesn't exist in the government, but it isn't at such as level as my friend says it is. The way he characterizes it is as if we're going to God in a handbasket, and it simply isn't the case.

His first argument was that fundamentalism is on a rise. His reasons for this were the "oh my God! violent video games, violent and sexual TV, abortions, Teach ID, etc." people happen to be Christians and must therefore be pulling for religious dogma within the state.

As far as the ID argument goes, I'm not inclined to believe evolution because of its flaws, but I'm also not inclined to believe the Earth was made in 6 24-hour days (as I mentioned the other day). I think both theories have been soundly disproven through empirical evidence. So I think this debate is being argued by religious fundies on both sides. Those who religiously adhere to evolution as a valid theory, and those that adhere to young earth creationism as a valid theory. In that regard, I'm inclined to believe the tone of the argument is set by the fundamentalists and since it's part of the national discussion these days, is one example of religious fundamentalism in the government.

However, on such things as "bad" TV, abortions, etc... I see politicians and people making moral judgements about those issues. Simply saying: "I think abortions are wrong," is not being a religious fundamentalist. A religous fundamentalist would say something like "God, and the Bible according to my interpretation, says abortions are wrong, so we must stop abortions immediately and anyone who disagrees with me is going to hell and nobody should listen to them." I'm hoping you draw the distinction between a religous fundie, and one who derives their moral intuition from a religious base.

The discourse of political discussion in this country is more along the lines of "I think abortions are wrong" rather than "God hates fags." There is no religious message behind the actual discussion, it's merely the undertone since ultimately, morality is derived from God. I guess a skeptic would say I'm being a fundie for saying such a thing, but I challenge them to tell me where else it could come from.

My roomate's second point was that this country has never seen such religious undertones in the the public discourse since its inception. I would disagree with this as there are many examples where God was (in some cases, still is) the central figure discussed. For example the President, since George Washington, has had to place their hand on a Christian Bible when taking the oath of office. There has been the Scopes monkey trial, those "Godless commies," or how about the huge debate behind JFK's run for President? Many thought he would be a subject of the Pope and threaten the soveriegnty of America as a whole.

Even before the United States was formed, the writings of Locke heavily influenced the founding fathers in their concept of the morality of leading others. Locke used a biblical justification for human rights and human equality. Since my friend calls any public discourse on the morality of something an infiltration of "religious fundamentalism," he would have to agree that using the Bible to justify having human rights is the epitome of religious fundamentalism in the government.

This discussion came about from Jon Stewart's interview with Jimmy Carter on the "Daily Show" the other night. As with most of Carter's interviews, he was able to put forth such idiotic comments as "there is a rise of religious fundamentalism in government" without being challenged on it. As I said, I'm not saying there isn't any religious fundamentalism in the government, because I haven't kept up on every single statement of every single government official. However, from the general discussion I hear, God usually only arises when talking to other like-minded religious people as to why they believe something to be right or wrong.

When you take something at face value to simply be wrong, God won't ever be brought up. When you start asking why it's wrong, inevitably, God WILL be brought up simply because of the nature of morality. So I guess whenever the government makes a law based on the morality of something, it's evidence of religious fundamentalism: things like outlawing pedophelia, or murder, or robbery, or infanticide, or racial equality laws.

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