Fundamentalism: Christians who know much less than they think they know.
Today I met with the pastor of the Baptist Church that I attended growing up. I hadn’t seen or heard from him or anyone in that church for the better part of six or seven years. I stopped going to Church in High-school and haven’t been to a Sunday sermon ever since. Our meeting was predicated on a question I posed to him about Baptism; that is, can you be baptized in private (not in-front of an entire congregation as a sort of spectacle).
I didn’t do much research on Baptists, or baptism. The little I do know I gleaned from stories in the bible and my experience growing up in Baptists churches. Apparently Baptists hold the belief that baptism is reserved only for professing believers. I say this because after he dropped me off at home, he told me ‘I don’t think you’re ready for baptism yet’. Although I agreed, in my head I knew I would only ever be ‘ready’ if I conformed to his standard of unequivocal belief in the ‘word of God’; without doubt, and without faith. That is something I cannot, and will not, do.
He picked me up at school and took me out to lunch. The conversation was nice, friendly and cordial at first. I noticed he had a sort of sympathy to him, and I appreciated that. I also noticed a sort of arrogance, or confidence, in him too, though; that was off-putting. Eventually the conversation steered towards more important questions. He asked me (very condescendingly) about Jesus, the point of the cross, what I believe are the most important Christian doctrines and what constitutes a Christian. Eventually we got on the topic of Homosexuality; as you do… My brother is gay. He knew that, but he pressed me for answers. As I began my reply, he immediately cut me off; he laughed and said ‘that’s not a very good argument, but keep going’. I was using the cultural argument (that only now have our cultures diverged from ‘Homosexuality is gross’ to a sort of enlightened egalitarianism (we have choice; you’re born gay (determinism).
I often forget why I was an atheist. Becoming more agnostic in my beliefs these past few months, I’ve become quite embarrassed about my previous behavior. I really thought religious ideology was an abhorrent infection. I have now adopted a more liberal view; ‘just accept that people have different opinions and leave them to it’. So long as their opinions don’t limit the freedoms and liberties of others, I could care less if I don’t agree with them. The principle of charity governs how I communicate with others; I think that Pride is a mortal ‘sin’, and humility the chief virtue.
I go to a ‘Christian’ University. I switched from a pre-med major (due to illness) to a Clinical Psychology and Philosophy major (with a minor in biology). I get good grades and quite enjoy and value studying – truth is very important to me. I get more excited about a brand new book than a video game, or a new movie. The reason I’m telling you this is because the way I was spoken to took into question my general knowledge, and the corresponding passion I have for the acquisition of knowledge. I have studied the most complicated and the most simple philosophical arguments; those related to Christianity, and those not. I still have a lot to learn, but to be sure, I am not an ‘uneducated amateur’ – as his attitude suggested. Ultimately, the whole conversation between myself and this pastor was pointless. But I didn’t write this long, drawn-out essay to tell you about the ‘nature of boredom’. I want to talk about fundamentalism.
In once sentence, a fundamentalist is someone who thinks they have battled truth, and won… only they don’t know why they’ve won, and they didn’t actually do any fighting. Christian Fundamentalists believe in a strict, literal interpretation of the scriptures. Pastor Bill told me he thinks the earth is only six thousand years old… how am I supposed to put forth an argument for homosexuality to a christian who denies all fact and pigeonholes his reason for the sake of tradition and a book. There’s just no way. He reads Corinthians, where it says homosexuality is sexual immorality, and forms weak inductive arguments (but believes they’re deductive) which he applies with perceived precision to all.
The reason I chose to be an atheist, and not just remain an indifferent agnostic (indifferent in the sense that I wasn’t going to tread on the liberties of others because I believe a particular worldview dangerous), was because of Christian Fundamentalists like this man. There is no reasoning; no arguing with them. If you believe the entire bible is literally true, down to every word and every proposition, there’s no way any evidence to the contrary is going to change your mind. And that, my friends, that is dangerous. And the abolition of which is worth fighting for.
In a few of my posts I’ve talked about the need to let people explore truth for themselves. I’d like to think I still hold that view, but I’d like to add a little modifier to it. I think everyone should have the right to explore truth, but only if their exploration doesn’t impede the liberties and freedoms of another human being, in their quest for truth.
And to all the fundamentalists out there: you ruin it for the rest of us!
Below is a link to an article about liberty and conscience. Rather than attempting to sum them up myself, I have linked the relevant site below. If you choose, enjoy!