Thursday, December 27, 2007


People having fun: fundamentalism's worst fear

Now that religiously-inspired violence is in the headlines again—Yes, the assassination of Ms Bhutto was religiously-inspired, just like so many other killings in the news—I'm reminded of a clipping I found in a magazine put out by the Unitarians.

I'm not a Unitarian, although I think as religions go they're pretty good...even if they don't know whether or not they get Sundays off, yeah... They're intelligent and try to see similarities, not differences. Of course there's nothing that pisses off fundamentalists of any and all varieties more than showing them similarities between view points...

The Fundamentalist Agenda
is absolutely natural, ancient, and powerful—but the liberal impulse makes us humane.
By Davidson Loehr

The most famous definition of fundamentalism is H. L. Mencken's: a terrible, pervasive fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun. There's something to this. Fundamentalism is too fearful, too restrictive, too lacking in faith to provide a home for the human spirit to soar or for human societies to blossom.

But there are far more fundamental things to understand about fundamentalism, especially in this age of terrorism. An adequate understanding also includes some inescapable and uncomfortable critiques of America's cultural liberalism of the last four decades. The attacks on September 11, 2001, provided us a rare revelation about fundamentalism that arrived in two installments.

First, we became vividly aware of the things some Muslim fundamentalists hate about our culture:

* They hate liberated women and all that symbolizes them. They hate it when women compete with men in the workplace, when they decide when or whether they will bear children, when they show the independence of getting abortions. They hate changes in laws that previously gave men more power over women.
* They hate the wide range of sexual orientations and lifestyles that have always characterized human societies. They hate homosexuality.
* They hate individual freedoms that allow people to stray from the rigid sort of truth they want to constrain all people. They hate individual rights that let others slough off their simple certainties.

Not much was really new in this installment of the revelation. We had seen all this before, when Khomeini's Muslim fundamentalists wreaked such havoc in Iran starting in 1979. We have long known that Muslim fundamentalism is a mortal enemy of freedom and democracy.

The surprise second installment came just a few days after 9 / 11 in that remarkably unguarded interview on The 700 Club when the Rev. Jerry Falwell told Pat Robertson, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'” These men are so media-savvy it's amazing they would say such things on the air. But it's also remarkable because in their list of “causes” of the 9 / 11 attacks, we heard almost exactly the same hate list:

* They hate liberated women who don't follow orders, who get abortions when they want them, who threaten or laugh at some men's arrogant pretensions to rule them.
* They hate the wide range of sexual orientations that have always characterized human societies. They would force the country to conform to a fantasy image of two married heterosexual parents where the husband works and the wife stays home with the children—even when that describes fewer than 25 percent of current American families.
* They hate individual freedoms that let people stray from the one simple set of truths they want imposed on all in our country. Robertson has been on record for a long time saying that democracy isn't a fit form of government unless it is run by his kind of fundamentalist Christians.

Together, the two installments make vivid the fact that “our” Christian fundamentalists have the same hate list as “their” Muslim fundamentalists....

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