Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fundamentalism Starts With Telling People Not to Think

Hmmm...so one common theme that I'm getting as I read the different stories of some (select) fundamentalist movements in history is that they all are reactions to large changes in society.

People who are uncomfortable with changes to the status quo react by reverting back - they look back to a 'perfect' past time that never existed. Religiously minded individuals tend to take the track that if we were truly following the original form of whatever faith they are then this upheaval, this (to them) disastrous change in society won't destroy us. Or won't happen.

And one of the first things they do is start to tell people that all theological or philosophical thought since this 'ideal' time is a part of the problem. That it has removed us from the core, the fundamental of the faith. And they begin teaching people not to think. That they can't think about their own faiths because they don't understand it properly - they have to rely on that particular leader and the interpretation that he has. They close the ability of the people to embrace new thought.

But new thought is important to the survival of any religion. If a religion cannot adapt while still keeping true to the core principles of the faith then it runs a strong chance of dying out or becoming effectively obsolete.


  1. Do you think the RCC and OC are also guilty of this since they make people get their interpretation from a central leader? It seems in history the Catholic church has gotten into 'trouble' for essentially not allowing the common people a Bible in their languages because the leaders wanted to keep the power. So this seems to be something that has been happening for a long long time and isn't necessarily an American,Protestant, Baptist thing, right? Maybe we all have it in us to varying degrees?

  2. I'm not sure that I would term the need to rely on the Church for interpretation as fundamentalism. And now let me explain! :)

    Yes, the Church does hold that they have the correct understanding of the faith. But they don't deny people the ability to study and explore and expound on their own theory. The difference is that the new theories or understandings must be in line with the faith as it has been taught and understood in all places and by all people throughout the ages. It's not that people aren't permitted to think but that they must always be able to refer back to the core, true teachings to understand if their line of thought is going off the rails or might just be a new understanding in line with the teachings of the faith.

    In fundamentalism there is no new interpretation allowed.

    Yes, the RCC did for the longest time try to keep the Bible and the liturgy in Latin and therefore most people couldn't read it for themselves or understand their services. That's a huge error and not in keeping with the way that it had been done since the beginning. The Orthodox Church, however, never had such a period. The Bible and the Divine Liturgy have always been translated into the local tongue as soon as possible so that the people could grasp and participate fully in their faiths.

    I don't think that anything 'fundamentalist' could ever just be 'American, Protestant, Baptist' or anything else. Right now the fundamentalist movements I'm reading about are happening in the 1400's. It's something that happens in all religions in all times.


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