Saturday, August 16, 2008

Religious Fundamentalism

Chris Hedges has written a new book titled I Don't Believe in Atheists, in which he criticizes the New Atheists for their agenda. I agree with his criticism, as it is well-earned, but I've noticed some problems with Hedges' ideas, in an extensive interview with him conducted by John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute. In the interview--which serves more as an opportunity for Hedges to sound-off than anything else--Hedges takes the monolithic view of religious fundamentalism. This is an issue that crops up in Dinesh D'Souza's book, What's So great About Christianity?, as well.

It seems that both men, and most politicians and members of the media, see religious fundamentalism as one big zealous family unit, working hard in the good fight against human progress in all its guises. This opinion holds true most visibly in the sciences. My concern with this approach is its basis in either willful ignorance, or conscious deceit. Ignored is the simple truth that "religious fundamentalists" often hail from drastically different walks of life, and vary greatly in worldviews, values, and behaviors.

When one begins a study of comparative religion, one finds little in common between Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, with the exception that both embrace religion on serious terms.

The Christian fundamentalist believes in scriptural authority and inerrancy, taking each book of the Bible at face-value. He believes in sharing the Good News and helping his fellow man, in Christ. He thinks our society should be tailored after Christian principles, since those selfsame principles brought Western civilization to heights undreamed by the rest of the planet.

The Islamic fundamentalist, on the other hand, holds a tribalistic view of the world around him. He engages in--or offers moral or material support of--jihad against the infidel. His reality lies broken in two halves: the House of Islam, and the House of War. Enlarging the House of Islam until it incorporates the House of War into its dominion is his goal. Killing in the name of his god is not only defensible, but commendable. It is an expression of his love for Allah, and falls well within the dictates of his god's will.

One who lumps all religious fundamentalists into a single category exhibits intellectual laziness and an incuriosity about the chasmic distinctions between religions and cultures. He shuns history and clutches at a contemporary fad.

One of the reasons why I believe in the correctness of a fundamental approach to Christianity is the irrational, dishonest, and nigh-universal revilement it receives outside fundamentalist circles--in the realm of politics, from the sundry media, the scientific establishment, secular institutions and figures, and even from other self-professing Christians.

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