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Biblical literacy and literalism are as highly regarded in Alabama as football.  Gov. Doctor Robert Bentley said that, unless I am not a born again Christian, I can not be his brother.  Candidates for public office must prove their Biblical bona fides in the form of Sunday School classes taught.  It seems that the state's forty year experiment with segregation academies, run by fundamentalist churches, has destroyed the capacity for critical thinking in the adult population of Alabama.  

In my discussions with anti-choice voters, I observed certain people who Clarence Darrow called "fundamnentalists" don't abide by the rules of logic in public policy debates.  Science is trumped by scripture.  How did that happen, especially in the Deep South?  This is what I have been pondering lately.  I am not a historian, so feel free to verify my accounts.  

Think about Plato's Cave analogy. Our knowledge of truth (or reality, whatever your description of the most accurate level of understanding) is limited by our perceptions.

Language and writing allowed us to write all we learned. There were many writers who observed different things, and much debate. Philosophers come up with the concept of logic, scientists come up with a method.  Ideas were tested and refined. Progress was made.

The Printing Press was invented. Up until this point, few people had books and most were illiterate.  Books were handwritten and expensive. Only sons and occasional daughters of the wealthy were educated by tutors.  All the average churchgoer knew about the Bible was what was preached to him.

King James of Scotland ascended to the throne of England when Elizabeth I died, and became head of the Anglican Church. He ordered scholars to write and publish an English language Bible. The scholars wrote a Bible containing 67 books of the Jewish Torah and the Christian New Testament, with a protestant influence. They had no original writings.  The best sources were located in other parts of the world. The King James Bible is great poetry and prose, but it was written by a committee using a source containing old translation and scrivener's errors.

Settlers from the British Isles came to to Appalachia and the Deep South, bringing their KJV Bibles.  Those who could not afford a ship ticket made a deal for free passage and land, if they settled in areas west of where the gentry lived to form a buffer between them and native Americans.  These settlers had this one book, and it was used to teach children to read. No college schooled priests were available to marry people, so common law marriage was accepted. Sermons were delivered by preachers who interpreted the Bible without benefit of any formal education.

New sects formed in Christianity, as dissatisfied members left the Church of England for branch sects. These branches split again and again.  Fundamentalism took root.    Church leaders formulated a doctrine that the Bible was the inerrant word of God, and must not be questioned.

This is how I surmise the Bible became a filter, through which all new learning in the Deep South is processed by fundamentalists.  Education, logic and science is regarded as with deep suspicion. All conflicts are resolved by resorting back to a primitive understanding of the Bible.  

Have they heard about Galileo yet?  

For a discussion of fundamentalism, go here:

For further consideration, go here:  

James Webb, Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think to understand fundamentalists, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pirogue, jan4insight

    all you have to do is watch that show Deal or No Deal.  It always drives me nuts how people get this look of zeal in their eyes and rave about how they KNOW that their case has the million dollars in it.  You know they're trying really, really hard to convince themselves of it even though deep down they know it's unlikely.  I think they think it's the way to win.

  •  Tangential aside, but relevant to the headlines... (5+ / 0-)

    While, as an atheist, I would prefer everyone scrap any sort of faith altogether in favor of testable hypotheses, I nevertheless make allowance for many bright and forthright folk of faith who disagree with me.

    But I simply must make an observation now which was first apparent to me as a middle schooler some 30+ years ago, when I was still nominally a Protestant Christian (part of why I dropped that label, actually...)

    Rape is not a sin for a biblical literalist.  Nowhere in the Torah, the revised version known as the "Old Testament", the Gospels, or the Epistles, is the act of violence against women (and the same violence against men is a whole other subject well worth discussing some other time....) listed as sinful in and of itself.

    Rape is only considered wrong *if you don't follow up that crime by marrying your victim.  

    Talk about enlightened.

    Now, those who do not proclaim themselves literalists (see the U.C.C.'s admirable "We take the Bible seriously, but not literally" for reference) do not really have a moral problem with this -- after all, they are enlightened about a whole host of things not available to ancient cultures and writers.

    But those who believe the Bible is literally, word for word, God's instructions from on high have defined themselves right out of what 99% of the rest of the world would consider civilization.

    Go ahead and look for contradictory evidence if you wish.  King James, NIV, whatever.  Makes no difference.  Those who take scripture as metaphor can find plenty of moral guidance to take them away from this hateful extreme; those who need the words to be literal and "factual"... well, sorry.  The "literal" God of the Bible is worse than Salazar Slytherin.  Regardless of the concomitant scientific insipidness noted by this diarist.

    "Confunde et vince." Come visit our chickens at

    by Walden Ponderer on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 03:07:28 PM PDT

    •  Well Jesus Literally Forbids Public Prayer but the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SteelerGrrl, Walden Ponderer

      first political crusade of the religious right was to restore prayer to public school and other government functions. The list of what the bible literally commands that evangelicals directly oppose in teaching and practice is longer than the list of teachings they support.

      There's no Biblical logic that explains what they've cherry picked out of it, although there may be some aspects of their movement that do.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 03:59:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The logical brain is on the mental plane (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Ageless Wisdom Teaching tell that man develops first consciousness of his physical nature which is termed Lemurian. We would know it as cave man consciousness (if that state could be called conscious).  Then there is development of the astral-emotional-desire vehicle termed Atlantean. Astral desire is said to have been developed (or more accurately over-developed) by humanity over approximately 8 million years of the Atlantean age.

    Those who developed a seed of mental capacity during the end of the Atlantean age rose above the masses and, using their superior minds, became unbelievably wealthy.  Wealthy beyond the Kochs, Waltons and Romneys of today.  It is said their misuse of power for dark ends which caused the disappearance of Atlantis which Plato touched upon.  The way those with power of old treated people was much the way Republican leadership of today treats those of less means - like sheeple.

    Today the mass of humanity is not much different than Atlantean man - still firmly entrenched in their astral-desire bodies.  The emphasis of public education by America's founding fathers was part of push by those who teach the human race - the Buddhas or Masters of the Wisdom - to help as many people to develop their most often latent mental faculties.  The logic capacity is said to exist on the lower levels of the mental plane (the soul on the highest).  If you have not developed mind then the capacity to be logical would not exist.  Instead you would be reactionary and capable of being controlled by those who have learned the art of manipulating the astral plane (see Rove).  

  •  Appalachia As Well. These Are British Isles Folk (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteelerGrrl, Walden Ponderer

    with a major portion being Scots-Irish or in some places direct Highland Clearance immigrants. They've remained clannish to this day.

    They're into literal magic, they have a magical realtime relationship with God that makes it easy for them to know his wishes about ordinary matters and figures in our world. I almost never hear any of the say the literally converse with God but they do commonly claim to know his guidance of themselves and others including public figures.

    Before the conservatives recruited them 45 some years ago, faith healing was a very common part of their regular revival meetings, services and radio / televangelism. I suspect that the conservatives convinced them they could grow more rapidly out into the mainstream population if they dropped the faith healing, which leaves too many opportunities for incomers to see disturbing evidences of failure or false claims.

    There are some who post regularly on this movement who know a lot about how it arose and developed up to the point when I first saw it in the middle of the last century.

    Given that Scottish Americans overall are close to the top in immigrant groups for wealth and education, I doubt there's a simple mental explanation for this population. I know engineers and other kinds of technically educated people who have joined the movement in recent years.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 03:57:13 PM PDT

    •  Dinnae fash yerself wi' narrow strokes! (0+ / 0-)

      I've got a Scots-Irish ancestor who sold his Atlanta estate and went North in 1861 because, as a Union-sympathising atheist, he wanted no truck with irrational proto-NASCAR-nation behavior.  

      Of course, as a general rule, you are correct.  But the exceptions are almost as informing as the rule.

      "Confunde et vince." Come visit our chickens at

      by Walden Ponderer on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 04:18:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating! (0+ / 0-)

    I hope this diary gets more eyes.  I never knew the history of the KJV and how fundamentalism took root in the South.  It explains a lot!

    The link from The Week is also a great read -- it really nails the evangelical mindset. I got "saved" in college and was a self-professed fundamentalist for a couple of years in the early '90s.  I'd say the article accurately describes the way Evangelical Christians think and pray.  

    I'm 44 now and a devout atheist.  I work as a nurse in the South; many if not most of my patients are some flavor of conservative Christian.  It actually comes in handy to "speak Christian" with patients and their families.  Hardly anyone even realizes I'm an atheist, since I can quote scripture better and have been married longer than most of them ;)

     I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine.     -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by SteelerGrrl on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 04:06:32 PM PDT

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