Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is fundamentalism inherently violent?

My studies this semester are leading me to a closer examination of the nature of religious fundamentalism. I have a reading list that includes some of the best known athiests of this time such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. There are two questions that have been prompted for me this week:

Firstly, does fundamentalism always result in violence? I mean this to include spiritual and psychological forms of violence such as condemning people to Hell. Secondly, do religious moderates unwittingly align themselves with such violence by tolerating these views?

I have few doubts about the first question. I think there are clear links between fundamentalism, fear and insecurity. Its not a big step to see a variety of forms of religious violence being the outcome of this combination.

The second question is more challenging but unavoidable if we resolve the first in the affirmative. I suspect you'll see many more posts on this subject...

7 comments:

Cameron Horsburgh said...

I suspect a lot of the silence is due to fear and intimidation. I might not be sure what the preacher just said, but I'm not going to say anything because I will have my salvation called into question. Worse, other people won't side with me for fear of sharing the same fate.

The little boy who dared mention the Emperor's nakedness would, in reality, be put in time out with no friends for a very long time!

I think the problem lies in the way we polarise ourselves according to fairly arbitrary criteria. For example, if somebody disagrees with a conservative preacher, they might be labelled as 'liberal.' Once the label sticks, it's very difficult to get rid of it. Nobody wants an inaccurate label, so why risk it?

Once again, fear stops good people from otherwise speaking out.

Anonymous said...

2nd Question - what is the alternative? Should Christianity strive for unity and can unity be generated if there is no tolerance?
But if fundamentalism is inherently violent, is tolerating any form of violence ever acceptable?
AND Do people actually discover God and God's goodness through this portrayal of violence, and if so do the ends justify the means sometimes?

David said...

Isn't the important question, "Is fundamentalism true?" Does fundamentalism model truth more accurately than alternatives?

And why fundamentalism? Are not most shades of Christian theology based on the "violent" atonement.

I'd say look at truth rather than packaging.

Anonymous said...

can one be conservative and not fundamentalist? can one not subscribe to liberal theology and not be tacitly accused of "violence" and spiritual abuse? or at least not be an accessory to the crime.

I'm beginning to wonder if there is a centre or if there is allowed to be.

JDK said...

More questions than answers all round. For what it's worth, I don't think that I can worship a God of violence. Yes, this does make parts of the Bible problematic for me, but to be fair most people have difficulty with some parts of the Bible.

There are ongoing difficulties about labels and locating the 'centre'. For the moment, I'm less concerned about these than I am about living the best life that I can. If others want to judge or label my position then there's little that I can do about it and frankly more important things to worry about.

Regards, JDK

Jack said...

My experience has been that the moderates, who are the silent majority in churches, just don't think very deeply about the concept and/or reality of hell. When pressed on the issue they tend to fall back into a position of "I don't know, it's up to God, it's not my place to judge" etc. Because if you stop and really think about the fundamentalist Christian belief that all who do not 'repent and believe' are going to be tortured for eternity, the 'god' who allows this to occur is a truly evil being. The moderates align themselves with these views because they don't thik about the consequences of the fundamentalist views.

So what's your view on the founders and early leaders of the Salvation Army - it would seem to me that they were socially liberal but religiously very fundamentalist. Every Salvo fundy loves to throw out the Catherine Booth "Jesus or hell" quote.

JDK said...

Hi Jack, your characterisation of the Booths as 'socially liberal but religiously very fundamentalist' is fair, though there are exceptions to both sides. In reality, the category 'fundamentalist' is anachronistic as William and Catherine predate the existence of fundamentalism, which really began in the US in the early 20th century. There are examples of both conservative and very radical theology in the writings of the early Salvation Army. Personally I prefer the later William Booth (post 1890) to Catherine's writings but neither are infallible (nor am I!).

Regards, JDK