Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fundamentalism Is About Fundamentals

After the terrorist attack in Paris, Richard Dawkins tweeted the famous line "If you don't like your religion's fundamentalists, then maybe there's something wrong with your religion's fundamentals".  This often-repeated statement echoes the sentiment of many skeptics of religion who believe that religious scriptures encourage the kind of violent behavior we see so often these days perpetrated by fundamentalist Christians and Islamists.  As described by Jake Stimpson in this article, the fundamentalists are the truest adherents of their religious traditions.  It is the religious moderates who deviate from them.

Sam Harris and others have written extensively on this topic.  Harris is critical of religious moderates for their role in perpetuating Iron Age barbarity, as seen in this excerpt from his book The End of Faith.  But as we know, Harris is a "new atheist".  As such his every word is subject to harsh criticism from self-appointed defenders of religious nonsense like Mikey at Shadow To Light.   Mikey is so intolerant of reason that he refuses even to listen to the argument of any so-called "gnu".  Instead he proceeds to cut down a straw man.  And as is his custom, he makes a complete fool of himself.

In this post, Mikey calls out an article by Henry Rambow that delineates the problem of religious moderation.  His primary objection to its logic is expressed this way:
The irony of this Gnu Logic is that while Harris points his finger at religious moderates and blames them for the extreme acts of some religious fundamentalists, his same logic would make him (as a environmentalist liberal who supports animal rights) partly responsible for animal rights terrorism, eco-terrorism, and the anti-free speech efforts of the Regressive Left.
And with that, Mikey believes he has dealt another devastating blow to the gnus with a show of superior intellect and solid logic.  But his intellect is inferior and his logic is nonexistent.  He has completely failed to respond to the actual argument.

Evidently, Mikey thinks that the logic he's trying to refute goes something like this:
1) Any ideology has extremist adherents and moderate adherents.
2) If the ideology is bad, then all it's adherents are bad, whether they're moderate or extremist.
3) Animal rights and environmental extremists are bad, so moderate adherents of those ideologies must be bad.
This is invalid logic, of course, and by showing it to be false, Mikey triumphantly proclaims the stupidity of the gnus.  What he doesn't understand is that this is nothing like the argument they actually make. 

If he had bothered to read Rambow's article, he would see that it clearly spells out the problem of religious fundamentalism: that the fundamentalist actually follows the scripture of his holy book (at least more than the moderate does).  It is the moderate who ignores scripture and so makes the religion more palatable to society.  In doing so, he preserves the religion, along with all its scripture that fuels the extremist beliefs of the fundamentalists.  There is no holy book of environmental scripture that exhorts fundamentalist followers to commit violent acts.  Environmental extremists cannot rightly be called fundamentalists at all, because they are making up their own rules of behavior rather than following scripture.  And ordinary people with environmentalist views don't enable them in any way.

It's time for zealots like Mikey to put aside their hatred of atheists for a moment and take a look at reality.  The Koran of full of calls to commit violence, and the Christian bible has its share, as well.  Fundamentalist adherents of the faith have plenty of justification in their holy scripture for their acts of violent extremism.  Those who choose to ignore the parts of scripture that are unacceptable to most of us in modern society make their religion seem reasonable.  But it only seems reasonable if you pick and choose the more more reasonable parts of it.  By making religion seem reasonable, they are perpetuating something that is fundamentally unreasonable - something that at its core is violent and barbaric.  Mikey's hatred of infidels, just like the hateful acts of of Islamic fundamentalists, is driven by the same barbaric beliefs that leads those fundamentalists to commit unspeakable acts.  But he's arrogant enough to think that he's the one who has it right.


  1. The fundamentalists are the truest adherents of their religious traditions. It is the religious moderates who deviate from them.

    I cannot speak for other religions, but as for Christianity, the above statement is as about as wrong as it can be. Here is how it should read (concerning Christianity):

    The members of the Catholic Church, when they are in accord with the Magisterium, are the truest adherents of their religious traditions. It is those who speak (or act) contrary to the Magisterium that deviate from them.

    I cannot put it more simply, clearly, or truthfully. The concept of "moderation" does not enter into the equation.

  2. The teachings of the church have changed over time. They do not always agree with what the bible says. You can follow the church, or you can follow the bible.

  3. The teachings of the church ... do not always agree with what the bible says.

    Really? Example, please. (And I'm assuming that by church, you mean Catholic Church. Protestantism I cannot speak for, nor care to.)

    1. Like this. In this particular case, they changed the bible to match the doctrine.

  4. OH, Good Lord! You link to a site that refuses to believe St. Paul was a legitimate disciple?!? Please tell me you are kidding me. If you are that gullible, then you really need to start including posts in your blog telling us about the second shooter behind the grassy knoll. Or maybe about how it was really the Jews who brought down the Twin Towers. Or even about how you spotted Elvis working a register at the local WalMart.

    1. You are guilty of the genetic fallacy. The argument stands on its own merits. It is irrelevant who is making it. Of course they're not Catholics. If they were, they wouldn't be contradicting church dogma, would they? If you can't refute the argument, you're just blowing hot air (as usual). So how do you refute this argument?

  5. The magisterium? Oh Dear!
    That self-nominated cabal of like-minds that will tell YOU what to know, not the other way round, about what god means and says. This is the same self-appointed magisterium not so long ago [1870s?] unequivocally granted to itself and the pope total infallibility.

    This bunch of old farts apparently collectively think they are the only ones that know what jesusGod says, does and thinks. They are, by fitting analogy, nothing other than jesusGod's ideological minders, the back-room boys that control the party political spin and Catholic propaganda flow out to a truly gullible and mostly unsuspecting public who for the most part, lap up this nonsense like the Pavlonian-conditioned canines they have become.

    1. I find it hard to believe that they can be so conditioned to believe whatever the church says that they don't even recognize that the dogma has changed over time. It's like Brave New World.

  6. You've pointed out where some heretics have rather bizarre views about things, but you have failed to show where the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church has ever changed any doctrine - ever. Saying that the accusations of heretics have any weight here is like saying the 911 Truthers have anything meaningful to say about the attack on the Twin Towers.

    Epic fail on your part.

    1. Speaking of epic fails ...

      - Scholars agree
      - More scholars including Pope Benedict agree
      - Other Christians agree

      Your only argument is to say they're all heretics. Epic fail.

  7. This might help to cure you of your misconceptions about doctrinal development.

    There has never been any "re-writing", altering, or backtracking on doctrine - never. At least, not by the One True Church. The only alterations have been made by the heretics and the schismatics. And you wouldn't want to be associated with them, now would you?

    I thought not.

    1. The National Catholic Register says the church does not innovate doctrine, and you believe it - no questions asked. Forget about the historians. Forget about the evidence. Just believe whatever they tell you. That's what faith is all about.