Religious Fundamentalism

Today's A to Z Challenge post brought to you by the letter...

PLAYING GOD AND THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM OF FUNDAMENTALISM originally appeared on Andrew Leon’s Strange Pegs and was reposted here with permission. Go visit Andrew’s blog for more astute analysis.

Let's have a bit of a thought experiment, shall we?

If you espouse at all to Judeo-Christian mythology (because that is the correct term to use in this case, so don't go getting your undies all twisted in a knot and stuck in your bunghole) and, actually, to Islam, since it has the same roots, then there is a basic premise you have to acknowledge. Actually, it is the basic premise, the one without which there is no Judeo-Christian mythology, no Judaism, no Islam. That premise? Free will.

Yes, the basis of Christianity is the idea that God gave us choice. This is the fundamental concept of Christianity: God made man so that man could choose to love Him. Or not. Love has no meaning without the power to choose not to love.

Or to obey.

[I'm not offering this point as up for debate. This is my given, and I'm not going to enter a discussion in order to prove it. For one thing, that would be a whole other post. Also, it's been an accepted idea for... I don't know how long, so plenty of other people have already argued the point. If you don't agree with me, go find some of those arguments. Or offer your own counter argument, though I probably won't engage in some long, drawn out discussion over it. Not that I might not want to, but I just don't have time for that these days.]

The truth is that, on the whole, people are bad at "choice." We don't want to have them -- or, at least, not too many of them -- and we don't want other people to have them, especially if they are choices we feel like we don't get to make (because, you know, then that's not fair). We so much don't want to have them that we -- again, if you follow Judeo-Christian mythology -- demanded to God that He give us some rules to follow and, thus, we have the Law.

Conservatives love rules. I'm not being snarky. Conservatives tend to be rigid thinkers, and they like clearly defined boundaries and parameters. Rules. If you have a rule, you don't have to stop and figure out what choice you should make: It's clearly laid out for you. And, more importantly, it tells you what other people ought to be (or not to be) doing.

Also, if you are good at following the rules, that makes you better than everyone else.

Sound familiar Republicans?
(Now I am being snarky.)

Fundamentalists are the BEST at following the rules and doing what they're told. So good, in fact, that they come to believe it is their job to enforce the Rules, as they see them, on everyone else. In effect, they choose to play god.

How is this playing god, you might ask. What's wrong with making sure that people are doing the things they're "supposed to do"? What's wrong with enforcing "the rules," the Law?

[I'm going to use Christianity as my example religion here, but this behavior is by no means restricted to Christianity. Christians, however, seem to believe that they do NOT engage in these behaviors, so I think it's important, especially in the United States, to deal with this from the "Christian" perspective.]

Problem One:
You are choosing to enforce your version of "the rules," and those rules are not necessarily correct or moral. "But! The Bible!" Sure, I believe you believe your rules are in the Bible or are "Biblical," but, cherry-picking is an all too common occurrence with Christians, so it's quite likely that your rules are not going to match the rules of the denomination next door.

Now, I bet you think I'm going to get into that whole thing about who's rules are the correct ones and all of that, don't you? Well, I'm not. Because, you know what? No one is correct, because it doesn't really matter if anyone is correct. As soon as you try to enforce your version on someone else, even if it's 100% correct, you are in the wrong and it completely invalidates what you're doing. Yeah, crazy talk, I know.

Look, God gave us free will, gave us choice. Who are you to come along and take that away by trying to make me follow your version of the rules? We'll even go with the assumption that you are correct, but big deal. If God Himself as left it up to me, who the fuck do you think you are to come in here and tell me that it's not? God? Of course you do.

Problem Two:
Yes, really.
Jesus came along and said the Law didn't matter anymore. See, prior to Jesus, you proved you were "good" by following the Law, but Jesus said that wasn't going to work anymore. Well, it never worked to begin with because people followed the letter of the Law and tried to enforce it on each other without paying much attention to what it was all really about: being good to each other. So, Jesus (God) said, "No more Law." And, of course, what did everyone do? They double-downed on the Law.

What that means is that when anyone starts "Bibling" at you, they are saying that what they are saying is more valid than what Jesus (GOD) said.

Problem Three:
And Paul is a problem. Paul is the reason so many "Christians" are still clinging to the Law.

See, people are pretty savvy, and people realized that since the Law was no longer valid (everything was grace) that there was no more sin. Paul's response? Well, Paul said, "You know what, you're right; there is no more sin. Follow the Law anyway."

Paul, with a full understanding of what Jesus said about having done away with the Law, said that people should do it anyway, then he went around exhorting everyone to keep following the Law.

And "Christians" for the last 2000 years have done all they could to follow Paul's example and make people do as their told. Because, you know, they know better than God what ought to be going on. Forget "love your neighbor" and shit like that; just do as you're told. So say the Republicans.


  1. Interesting analysis. I am Jewish, and moderately religious. The exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai are the central themes of Judaism. The Torah -- the Five Books of Moses -- set forth the laws which govern our relationships with each other and with G-d. Yet Rabbi Hillel -- who lived about 100 years before Jesus -- is revered for articulating the concept that the entire Torah can be summed up as "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. All the rest is commentary."

    If you accept "love thy neighbor" as the guiding principle, following the Law makes sense. Following the Law without question, blind obedience, does not make sense.

    Jews don't proselytize to non-Jews, but we have our own version of fundamentalists who want to impose their interpretation of the Law on the rest of us. While most American Jews tend to be Democrats, our fundamentalists align with the a Christian Right. That is not a coincidence.

    1. Unfortunately, "love your neighbor" is not an actual point of the law and, if it was, people would want the "10 Commandments of Loving Your Neighbor":
      No. 1 -- Bake cookies for you neighbor everyday.
      No. 2 -- Mow your neighbor's grass.
      I mean, Jesus summed it all up:
      Love God
      Love your neighbor
      But no one does it.

  2. I, of course, agree with everything said here.


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