First—why does the Cobb library have a separate category for “Christianity—Controversial literature” in their catalog? Is that an official Dewey designation, their own thing, what? I’ve never run across it in any other system before.
I’m into one of my periodic Christianity/theology/apologetics/church history binges. “Bedtime reading” last night was Lost Christianities: the battles for scripture and the faiths we never knew by Bart D. Ehrman. It’s a fascinating look at the various scriptures used by different factions of the Christian church in the first few centuries before the canonical Bible was assembled.
I think the ancient literature class kicked off the exploration this time. In any case, I always learn something interesting. I was going to do my second presentation for the religion & psychology class on parenting as a spiritual practice, but I think I want to talk about fundamentalism instead.
The book I was trying to recall earlier was Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic and Jewish Movements by Richard T. Antoun. Cobb doesn’t have a copy, so I’m going to look for it elsewhere.
The following are excerpts from a couple of good articles I found while looking for the name of Antoun’s book.
Why The “Fundamentalist” Approach To Religion Must Be Wrong by Scott Bidstrup
Fundamentalism is variously described by various authors, but to me it really boils down to a rather simple test: In my view, a fundamentalist religion is a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part.
Religious Fundamentalism As Mental Illness by Jason R. Tippitt
This sort of religion brings out the worst, not the best, in human nature. Instead of putting us “closer to God,” this sort of religion reduces us to something less than admirable. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
* Appealing to base instincts. Homophobia, racism, and sexism have all been given the divine seal of approval by fundamentalist Christianity. Prejudice is approved; discrimination is promised a heavenly reward. Hate is, bluntly, a sacrament in many Christian sects. Revenge fantasies are fueled by the teaching that the redeemed will one day listen gleefully to the screams of souls damned to eternal torment — the souls not only of murderers and rapists but also homosexuals or members of other religions (even other denominations of Christianity).
* Discouraging achievement and fostering dependency. “He who hesitates is lost,” goes the proverb. I wonder how many opportunities have slipped past people who were too busy waiting for divine intervention? Many are the problems allowed to spread because the faithful have opted to pass the buck to God. With religion offering the prayer exit, why do anything? You really don’t even have to be moral — you can do as you please during the week, then confess on the Sabbath and have a clean slate.
* Suppression of knowledge. The Big Bang happened. Several million years later, evolution started to happen (and still is). Period. But fundamentalists are still trying to substitute the Genesis creation myth for real science. In the past, religion just as firmly insisted that the earth (which was flat) was the center of the universe, with the sun, planets, and stars all orbiting it (this coming from the same self-centered yahoos who declared us the pinnacle of all creation).
* Needless suffering of the ill. I list this separately from the Creation Science idiocy because while those people’s ideas are alternately amusing and frustrating, this is a matter of the (pardon the quite unintentional pun) gravest import. Jehovah’s Witnesses are prohibited by their religion from receiving blood transfusions; Christian Scientists can’t receive any medical care at all (believing that since we don’t really exist, our ailments are all an illusion). When you add in the people who’ve died after handling snakes or falling on coals or trusting faith healers instead of doctors, you’d have enough dead bodies to declare religion a plague. It would be easy to laugh at these people and say “They asked for it — at least it’s culling the weak from the gene pool,” except these damned fools invariably end up murdering their children through their negligence.