Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Threatened Identity -- the Root of Fundamentalism

I started this post today because I wanted to comment on a couple of articles posted recently on "Common Dreams" which have to do with fundamentalism. However, it seems to have grown out of control.

The one article is titled, "God's Dupes" by Sam Harris, and the other "The Many Forms of Fundamentalism", by James Carroll. You'll see that both of them, if you follow the links, were put up at Common Dreams.

Carroll takes his kickoff point in a Vatican declaration from 1993 against the form of fundamentalism which makes the Bible as an infallible source:
"The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life . . . instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. . . . Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide....

Harris starts his essay with praise of a California politician and Democratic Congressman, Pete Stark, who has recently come out of the religious closet and said that he does not believe in God.

In present day American politics, this requires perhaps more fortitude than springing out of the regular closet and declaring that one is gay.

However, Harris then proceeds to make religion his whipping boy and places the worst sort of fundamentalists at the center of religion:
Within every faith one can see people arranged along a spectrum of belief...[with]...concentric circles of diminishing reasonableness: At the center, one finds the truest of true believers...who not only support suicidal terrorism...[and]...the Dominionist Christians, who openly call for homosexuals and blasphemers to be put to death.
I disagree with Harris in that he places the wierdos at the center of religion.

Carroll points out that there are many fundamentalisms and, refers to Gabriel A. Almond's idea that fundamentalism in general has its roots in problems with identity -- and I suspect this is the key to many things.

Our identity is our life and that which threatens our identity threatens our life.
To paraphrase, our identity can only be threatened if it is based on sand.

I suppose this is why some men hate gays, for some reason, the presence -- existence even -- of gays threatens their gender identity.

This is where Harris "goes in the water", as the Danes say -- he doesn't see that religion is a human product, a tool to create and protect identity in chaos.

Carroll, towards the end of his essay, points out that fundamentalism can go under other names, for example, in the Catholic world, it goes under the term "traditionalism".

In fact, fundamentalism needn't be religious in the normal sense. In Denmark they have a pungent term "concrete communist" [beton communist] which describes Marxist-Leninists for whom reality cannot get through the concrete halo which surrounds their mentality.
Notes on the Crazy Bird's world view:

Although what I have been writing this past year would seem to have made my own positions clear of the subject of godbiz in general and fundamentalism in particular, it would be somewhat egoistic to assume that the reader has read even a small portion of my rants, snarky stories, terrible parables and channelings from the Third Galaxy.

I would not like to be called either an atheist or agnostic.

On the other hand, I'm not really comfortable with being called "Christian". However, because of my upbringing in Poosah City, I suppose I am a Christian in the sense that a Jew is a Jew whether he or she will or will not.

That said, I maintain that there is a difference between belief and faith.

Many beliefs betray a lack of faith.

Even if there is an Entity to which the term "God" could be applied, all of the religions are but the grossest approximations.

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