Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Generalised Fundamentalism

Wrong way round; The question is: "Explain the Similarities". They are there if you look

A news item in the January Premier Christianity magazine asks the question  "Who are Islamic State and what do they want?".  The article remarks on Islamic State brutality and then says:

This shocking barbarism has led some to term the group a mindless death cult. But scholar and Anglican priest Mark Durie says this view is a 'triumph of religious illiteracy'.

As Views, News and Pews is in the religion industry it has a professional interest in trying not to be religiously illiterate. To this end VNP has used up many web column inches on the subject of religious eccentricity and crankiness, albeit mostly of the Christian fundamentalist kind. But that Daesh (aka IS) are also often referred to as Fundamentalists may carry a strong hint; for perhaps general aspects of VNP's experience with Christian Fundamentalism readily port to other brands of fundamentalism. To be frank it has long since occurred to VNP that Daesh's behavior starts to make sense if one has in one's head a generalised model of fundamentalism. So let's see.....

Premier Christianity quotes journalist Graeme Wood:

Much of what the group (Daesh) does looks nonsensical except in the light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventeenth century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about apocalypse. 

SNAP! Straightaway that's very recognizable. Christian fundamentalist's anti-science, anti-modern antics look at first sight to be nonsensical. But never underestimate the Christian fundamentalist's utterly sincerely held certainty and uncompromising conviction and commitment to winding back the clock to the fancied practices of first century Christianity or to pre-nineteenth century science and beyond; in its most extreme manifestation this can take the form of geocentrism and flat earth conspiracy theorism. The common ground of all fundamentalists is that they have huge self-belief because they are quite convinced they have a very direct line to God either through traditional readings of scripture or gnostic revelation, sometimes both.  Although Christian fundamentalists are not usually as proactive as Daesh in wanting to bring about apocalypse many of them mark time as they watch for the violent and terrible end times with the joy of vindication and anticipation. 

Premier Christianity also quotes Mark Durie on Daesh:

ISIS believes that killing disbelievers is moral act, in accordance, for example, with Sura 9:5 of the Qur'an, which states: "Fight and kill idolaters wherever you find them".

Once again VNP feels no sense of surprise here whatever: Whilst New Testament Christians are hard put to it to find divine sanction for killing the unfaithful one can nevertheless see reflected in Daesh the same unwillingness to re-interpret a verse that is open to interpretation - after all, it's arguable that neither Western atheists or Christians are technically idolatrous. But of course nuanced reinterpretation is not part of the fundamentalist mental complex. They are utterly convinced they know God's mind from scripture (and/or gnostic revelation). For them ambiguities that allow reinterpretation are considered as heretical compromise. Let me be frank: I have met Christian fundamentalists who, if the NT contained verses like Sura 9:5 providing an arguable case for killing infidels, would do just that.

Christian fundamentalists don't kill but under the threat of being branded an excommunicated heretic they are prone to some very weird practices and beliefs. In the same issue of Premier Christianity we can read an article sympathetic to a church in American that specializes in bizarre behaviors that have a lineal descent from the ministries of Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne and John Arnott e.g, collapsing into trances, fits of "uncontrollable laughter, convulsed by shrieks and groans" - and there I quote Premier Christianity. On top of this there are claims of "angel feathers" falling from the ceiling and gold dust appearing on people's skins during services. Claims of golden teeth fillings is another one that has appeared from time to time The writer of the article justifies these ludicrous goings on by telling us that although this church "messes with my theology." and is puzzled by it.....

 .... that sounds rather like the kind of things that Jesus would be doing doesn't it?

That's not a very robust argument in favor of this particular Christian sub-culture! Just about every Christian subculture between here and Salt Lake city want to mess with our theology and will claim that our sense of offense at their irrational antics is a sign that God is challenging us! This is the fideist gambit whereby it is claimed that God effectively deceives the rational person into disbelief. Further examples of this gambit can be seen here and here. It is a gambit which is frequently used by churches with gnostic leanings.

Christian sects are past masters in the art of messing with theology and insinuating and beguiling their belief systems into the life of the believer, usually backed up by spiritual intimidation: They invariably have a very strong leadership (usually patriarchs) who make claim to divine authority (e.g prophets and apostles). The communities they preside over have ways of conveying that to go against their status quo of praxis is to set you self against God, In fact we have a fine example of a subtle spiritually intimidating innuendo above (albeit unintended):  "Sounds rather like the kind of things that Jesus would be doing doesn't it?" . Translation: You're against Christ and therefore in danger of being a heretic!

Premier Christianity says the following of Daesh's patriarch-in-chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi:

Baghdadi believes Muslims have sinned over the past 1000 years by abandoning their duty to establish a caliphate. In reestablishing this ancient system of governance, ISIS view themselves as following in the footsteps of the original caliph - the prophet Mohammed.

This is also a very recognizable pattern found in Christian fundamentalism; namely, a nostalgia for the past that seeks restoration and recovery of what is believed to have been lost by a heretic and/or apostate church. Because most Christian sects and cults are a relatively recent or historically patchy phenomenon they invent narratives to explain why they are the one true recovered and restored church and why other churches are at best compromised and at worse apostate. This entails writing off for the burning huge swaths of the faithful as do Daesh. 

Finally Premier Christianity's  news items makes what I consider to be a really serious sociological faux pas.  They give space to Jeremiah J Johnston author of Jesus and the Jihadis: Confronting the Rage of ISIS:

Speaking on Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable? programme Mr. Johnson said Westerners don't realise how theologically driven Islamic State is. The Church has been quiet for years, not wanting to offend Muslims in general,

Anyone who has observed Christian fundamentalism ought to be quite capable of spotting the patterns and putting 2 and 2 together and realising just how theologically driven Islamic State is! But the following statement from Johnson which is bound to offend (moderate) Muslims (which it seems he is prepared to do) is as bad as it gets:

If you want to see a case study of exactly how Mohammed desired Islam to be implemented, look at the Islamic state...Mohammed would not only join the Islamic state, he would lead it.

Nice one! What's this guy want us to do? Enrage and alienate otherwise moderate Muslims? We need to bring Muslim moderates on board, not tell them that their exemplar wants them behave like Daesh! In fact According to the Christianity article:

Inayat Bunglawala, founder and chair of Muslims4UK such statements sound 'utterly outrageous' for 'normal sane Muslims'

Too right! Johnson's statement is a bit like someone saying that Jesus would join the Christian Young Earthers, geocentrists,  flat earthers or the Westboro baptist church! I suspect that Johnson has at least subliminal fundamentalist tendencies himself and so he just can't abide with the fuzzy world of interpretative ambiguity which provides space for review and reinterpretation - for fundies the latter always smacks of at best relativistic compromise and at worse blaspheming heresy. Johnson, like Daesh, is very comfortable with clear cut fault lines of division and difference, thus helping to reinforce and stoke up tensions between Muslims and Christians. Idiot!

Fundamentalist religion of all brands comes over as an all too human complex of weaknesses, foibles, idiosyncrasies, self-deceits and conceits: Viz: the desire for absolute epistemic security, black vs white oppositions and dualities, God's literal Wordism, nostalgic restoration of the one true church, overbearing patriarchal leaders with unchallenged authority, gnostic and fideist enlightenment etc. etc. - VNP has seen all these very human religious sectarian excesses the world over whether they be of Islamic or Christian gloss. Under fundamentalism Christianity loses its uniqueness. It is also a denial that humans are epistemically challenged and beset by uncertainties. The Christian walks by faith and trust. All that I have seen teaches my to trust the Creator for all that I haven't seen. (Emerson)

As a finale below I publish a YouTube I picked up from P Z Myers blog. It's a classic example of fundamentalist logic; Namely, that one has the duty to enforce one's religion on others on the basis that one is utterly convinced it is true, as convinced as one is of 2+2 = 4! No wonder these people eschew the controlled row of democracy in favour of war, fear and famine; you only need two sets of blockheaded protagonists like this who are as equally convinced about different religions and you've got a world class scrap on your hands; everlasting warfare in fact; ruined cities, refugee crisis, starvation etc - remind you or anywhere? - probably quite a few places in fact. PZ Myers remarks that this Islamic fundamentalist is indistinguishable from Ken Ham, and at the generalized level he is completely right!

Democracy and argument should be removed by force according this fundie. 

No comments: