“We are fragments in infinity and moments in eternity. For such forked atoms to describe the universe, or the Supreme Being, must make the planets tremble with mirth.”
I hate fundamentalism.
I’m okay with people holding strict beliefs in whatever religion they choose (I almost never agree with it but I respect it and on some occasions even admire it). What I cannot abide is the intolerance in which fundamentalism–fanaticism, really–is awash. This fanaticism isn’t about a particular religion. It’s about the dictate that one’s own belief system is must dominate all others. Any belief system can fall victim to fundamentalism, most of them already have.
Fundamentalism is not about piety. It’s not about faith. A person can believe devoutly yet respect other people’s choice to believe differently. Fundamentalism is about cultural destruction. It’s a gloved word. The ironically fundamental flaw of fundamentalism is cognitive dissonance.
We are imperfect beings; our beliefs and behaviors conflict with each other. This conflict inevitably leads to exaltation of one belief (or set of beliefs) to either the repression or oppression of others. In a fundamentalist’s cognitive dissonance, the belief is always exalted. For example, a fundamentalist Christian father, who abhors homosexuality, learns that his son is gay. Fundamentalism would force the father to either use his paternal influence in oppressing his son to prevent him from being actively gay or in repressing his love so that he may disavow his child. This in turn forces the father to disregard contradictory biblical teachings and promote those that support his actions. It’s hypocrisy. More importantly, it’s virulently unappealing to those who don’t share the belief and therefore doomed to fall short of its goal.
Most religious fundamentalists are counterbalanced by their share of detractors. For some reason, atheistic fundamentalists do not. All atheists tend to get lumped together. This may be because atheism is typically not a religion. There isn’t really a shared system of atheistic beliefs–outside of the assertion that there is no God. However, atheism is a faith; it’s a faith of oblivion, but a faith nonetheless.
Many atheists shroud their belief in what they would call deductive reasoning. But the existence of God is scientifically unprovable. Either way. Anyone telling you there isn’t a God is stating an opinion, not a fact. Of course, it’s their right. And my problem is not with atheism in general, but rather with its fundamentalist manifestation.
I’m sure you’ve seen the type. Brazen. Rude. Dismissive of the cultural and even evolutionary significance of faith in the human experience. They forget about hope and purpose and belonging. They ignore the soul’s requisite to continue. They mock piety as simple-minded credulity. They laugh at people’s most dearly held beliefs. Atheistic fundamentalism, like all fundamentalism, seeks only to destroy opposing views. And worst of all, atheism offers scant metaphysical assurance in return. It’s pure vitriol and psychological violence at its worst.
I am an agnostic theist. I don’t believe in the Biblical miracles and I am cynical about the divinity of Jesus Christ. Still, I find profound truth in Christ’s teachings as well as hope and inspiration in the tenets of many religions, especially Christianity. I am a product of Judeo-Christian culture–as is half the world. My social and moral values are defined by it. Yet it’s not how I identify myself. I think people take the bible far too literally and interpret it through their own neuroses to justify their own moral point of view. But that doesn’t invalidate the entire belief system. Personal faith is a fiercely intrinsic, trans-rational choice. We are wholly ignorant of other people’s spirituality and have no place in trying to define it.
I don’t begin to think I have any kind of answers. I’d be audacious to challenge whatever answers others may come to. But I do take umbrage with anyone who tears down another person’s faith to glorify their own.
(Coexist image from: http://www.geardiary.com/2010/11/29/coexist-a-shirt-for-every-os-at-woot/)