Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fundamentalism for the masses

Fundamentalism is a relatively new phenomenon. People had fundamentalist beliefs before but there was no fundamentalist movement. Instead, fundamentalism was for non-experts, the not so engaged lay practitioners. It was a few simple beliefs and a simple form of faith that worked for many people at a time when most people were uneducated and illiterate. It provided a workable faith for the masses and maintained social order. But the thinking part was left to the educated, the Priests, the Mullahs, the Brahmins, the Lamas, etc., who did not take a fundamentalist perspective.  Their ideas were respected by the masses, but this is no longer the case.

It is a very dangerous thing to have uneducated, simplistic thinkers as leaders of religions Being well learned is no guarantee of being a good leader, but simplistic leaders will always cause trouble, no matter how well intentioned they are. A friend of mine experienced this when his warm and loving grandparents drove up from the U.S. with a bumper sticker that said, “Thank God for Aids,” (i.e., thank God for sending a plague to wipe out homosexuals).

Unfortunately, we live in an age where learning and scholarship is not always respected. We don’t ask the furnace repairman to design rockets for space exploration, so why do we trust people with the same level of education to interpret religious texts. Religious texts should only be interpreted by qualified people. Here is a test. IF a leader says that your religious text is literally true AND/OR that he or she can reliably interpret it in the right way, THEN they are NOT qualified.

Fundamentalism is not bad if it is understood that it is a simplified form of faith for the masses. The idea that fundamentalist views represent an accurate understanding is very, very dangerous

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