Posts tagged ‘fundamentalism’
It can be easy to feel superior to theists who blindly follow around like docile then alternately hostile sheep, parroting whatever nonsense is fed to them by their minister or media of choice. They can seem stupid, however they are smart enough in some respects to be unnerving and to keep most of us supposedly intelligent freethinking atheists hiding in our closets. Although any mob is dangerous, and sheep are no exception.
What are the causes of sheep mentality? Does it only happen to dumb people? These are questions I am curious about especially after reading an excerpt from Matt Taibbi’s new book, The Great Derangement. I’ve never heard of Taibbi before, but he has his own Wikipedia page. He works for Rolling Stone, oh, and it seems that he is a regular contributor to Real Time with Bill Maher.
So my friend linked me to freethoughtpedia to an excerpt of this book. It’s kind of long, but I found this to be an exceptionally compelling must-read.
Taibbi infiltrates a christian zionist church in Texas. He’s an atheist but he goes undercover to an “Encounter Weekend” to get a look “inside the evangelical mind-set that gave this country eight years of George Bush”.
I found it to be very insightful, frightening and downright hilarious reading. I would highly recommend it. If you’re going to read it and want the full experience, click here. Otherwise if you need more tempting, here are a few really compelling quotes from the excerpt:…
While most atheists are faced with answering how they can be moral without a god, I have a list of 10 reasons that the irreligious are morally superior to religious fundamentalists.
In my experience, the bible goes on, especially in the old testament, about how to treat people who are different than you. It’s full of hate and cruelty, with some arbitrary rules thrown in. Only a few of those rules are sensible. The rest are about control. From the little I know of the quran, it’s even worse.
I’m not going to pick the bible (or the quran) apart. It’s not worth my time and aggravation. If you believe that the bible is the divinely inspired word of god, you’re only going to skim this article, find a few points to attack me while you brew up a cup of moral and righteous indignation, and then try to shove your fundamentalism down my throat because you’re scared of people who think for themselves and don’t have blind faith in fairy tales from the Fertile Crescent like you do. You don’t listen anyway, you just find ammunition then viciously attack. What great role models you are. How very christ-like.
On the other hand, if you are truly interested in breaking free of the iron fist of god ruling your life and keeping you in ignorant fear, you can go to the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible and look around for yourself.
The atheists who read this probably have already read that awful book, because as a general rule, we need to be more educated on religious matters than those militant religious folks that try to tell us how we should believe.
So, onto the 10 reasons atheists are morally superior, in no particular order, and my personal opinion about each one:…
“You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?” – Morpheus
I grew up as an hard-core fundamentalist, and have been slowing drifting secular since the beginning of high school. In sixth grade, my parents got rid of Aladdin due to Jasmine’s inappropriate garb. My church started playing contemporary music in the evening services, and as this form of music is displeasing to God, we changed churches largely for this reason. Together with being home schooled and highly gifted mathematically, I was not what you would call a normal child.
Although this may be barely believable to many of you unless you also have been brainwashed at an old enough age to know better, I followed along willingly. “It will be worth it all, When we see Christ.” In high school, I was not allowed to date. With most people, no dating means that the “courtship” model is the alternative, but in my case, no clear alternative was given. (My adolescence consisted of “enumerated powers.”) As a junior in high school, when cute girls noticed me, it was depressing more than anything, because I could do nothing about it. It’s only a slight hyperbole to say that I thought the F-word was flirt (that’s a sin too for kids that age, in case you didn’t know.) When I was a senior, God told me who I was to marry. *Pathetic story squelched.* A year later, she married another…
Epilogue – I have now completed my series on existentialist ideas as they pertain to fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. It was an exceptionally brief tour of a complex and rich philosophical tradition, but I hope I have helped impart a somewhat clearer picture of what the existentialists were trying to say: life is sad, sometimes, and frightening, and often difficult, and there is no philosopher’s or theologian’s balm that will anesthetize the pains of life. We are thrown into a world not of our making, not designed to meet our needs, and we find ourselves alone, with no one in charge, and utterly responsible for what we do. We find we grow, and grow old, and that life is thereby a series of losses – friends, parents, youth, pets, potential, eventually life itself. These things are all a part of being human.
But in that very anxiety before loss and our own deaths, in the duty to self-create, in our loneliness and vulnerability, lies our salvation – for in forsaking the illusions we wish we could believe about life, we find we are truly able to see life, for the first time. And what we see is breathtaking: the stunning preciousness of life, and the indescribable beauty of the world and of those around us. All we have to do is face our fears, make our peace with the uncertainty and “groundlessness” of our lives, give up on the fantasy that someone, somewhere will recognize our own specialness enough to swoop in and save us from life’s pain. Then, and only then, can we really begin to live…
My upbringing was entirely Protestant. My family were good Protestant “churchians” (people who go to church regularly ’cause that’s what good folk do). The faith, such as it was, was just cultural really. I did know some real Christians (all Protestant) and I admired them but I wasn’t one of them any more than the rest of my family.
Somewhere around 14 or 15 years of age I realized that the religion I’d been brought up with was largely dead, worthless, and meaningless, so I stopped going to church. That lasted about four or five years. During that time my parents somehow started taking the faith more seriously. When I was 19 they asked me if I’d like to come along to church with them. They had a good reason. The preacher, they told me, was a very good speaker who made sense and was logical. Now a sensible, logical, interesting, skilled speaker in a church was a whole new concept to me. I just had to see it to believe it. So I went.
Sure enough, the man lived up to his reputation. In fact I was so interested that I went back a few times. Then my parents told me there was a youth group full of interesting, intelligent, lively guys and gals my age. So I went there too. And they lived up to their billing…
Meaning - Finally, the issue of meaning resonates powerful among many de-converts, and existentialists addressed it in great depth. Yalom here usefully distinguishes between cosmic meaning and terrestrial meaning (individual, “local” meaning – the meaning of my life, not of all life). His focus is on the latter, as cosmic meaning tends to be the purview of religious systems. Indeed, existentialism rests on the assumption that there is no cosmic meaning to life; there is only terrestrial meaning.
The tension we face is that, perhaps alone among the animals, we seem to hunger for meaning, we want to be told our lives serve a larger purpose – but they don’t. Yalom notes Camus’ observation: human beings are meaning-seeking animals in a universe that is meaning-neutral. There is no grand design to the world and hence, no meaning “out there” to be discovered. Yet we seem constituted, as creatures, to seek meaning anyway. Camus calls this state of affairs “absurd”, and it’s not hard to see why.
One can deal with this dilemma by seeking ready-made meanings in a system, such as fundamentalism, and there are few things about such totalizing ideologies more seductive than this aspect of them. How sweet the thrill in playing a part of the Greatest Story Ever Told! The Master of the Universe wants you!…
So far we have reviewed the existentialist themes of death and isolation, why they are considered to be ubiquitous human issues, and why they are important. Then we looked at the fundamentalist Christian “answer” to these issues, and how I suggest that answer goes awry. Here, we continue with another existentialist theme: our freedom.
Freedom/responsibility - Just as we are, each of us, our own parent, so too are we the author of our lives. No better term exists for the description of the rock-bottom responsibility – an unavoidable responsibility – each of us has to create our lives. I am the author of my life. I write my life in the first-person; I do not “find” it in the third-person. I am responsible for my decisions. I constitute my world, no matter what my circumstances, no matter what I am given; if nothing else I am still responsible for my attitude toward my life.
It may sound odd but how, really, could it be otherwise? For any proffered external basis for valuation and decision-making – such as “you should do x because x is reasonable” or the pragmatic “you should do x because it helps you achieve your goals” – it always can be asked: “and why should I care about that?” Even the justification “You should do x because God says so” (and even assuming I agree that God does in fact say so) requires something further – after all, why should I care what God says?…