Reflections about Religious Fundamentalism
Fundamentalism is Fundamentally Flawed
Fundamentalism is fundamentally flawed because it takes one element of the truth and proclaims it as the WHOLE TRUTH. Religious fundamentalists place such a high priority on doctrinal conformity and obedience to doctrinaire spokespersons that they sacrifice values basic to the great religious traditions: love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and caring. In their overwhelming seriousness about religion, fundamentalists do not hesitate to intervene in political and social process to ensure that society is forced to conform to the values and behaviors the fundamentalist worldview requires. Fundamentalists are their own justification.
Fundamentalism appeals for a variety of reasons.
(1) For people who feel unimportant or insignificant, fundamentalism says you are important because you are God’s “special messenger.”
(2) For people who are fearful, fundamentalism says “you can’t be saved without us…join and be saved.”
(3) For the confused, fundamentalism says one doesn’t have to think about doctrine nor even be educated in it. Just believe
(4) Fundamentalism makes the fundamentalist feel good about himself or herself. It is slf-stroking
(5) Fundamentalism justifies hatred of one group of people for another, because it believes that God hates those who do not conform to the fundamentalist’s worldview.
(6) Fundamentalism appeals to people burdened by guilt and shame because it exempts them from responsibility for situations or actions that cause guilt and shame. Fundamentalism says…if you are one of us, you are OK.
(7) Fundamentalism excuses people from honest self-examination; and it justifies their prejudices, zealotry, intolerance and hatefulness.
What should we do about fundamentalism?
- The best way to confront ignorance is through real education that emphasizes critical, analytical thinking skills.
- Real education stresses the importance of gathering evidence and then proceeding to conclusions. Fundamentalists work in the opposite fashion.
- We need to establish channels for dialogue and institutions that promote multi-cultural knowledge and understanding.
- We ALL need to practice a genuine humility that enables us to see the broad human picture and the variety of thoughts and understandings about what we call Reality.
- We need to translate our vision-gained-from-humility into concrete and achievable actions and strategies.