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In recent years, we have been aware of the inflexibility and judgmental nature of people who define the world and their values narrowly. The basis of their position is often religious; fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims brook no disagreement, although the source of their ideas is different, they are both convinced of its inerrant nature.

It is a truism that some find least acceptable those who agree with them almost 100%. Any difference in positions becomes magnified. I suppose it’s easier to give up on convincing those who agree with us about little if anything; the nearer we are to total harmony the more frustrating it must be if it eludes us.

Within Islam, the followers of the Prophet have divided themselves into two distinct factions, the Shiites and the Sunnis. The chasm occurred generations ago, but like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s feud the rivalry continues.

Much of the history of the followers of the Nazarene is a record of disputes over interpretation of various passages from their religious texts. The vast number of denominations grew as the solution to each clash resulted in further cleaving of the body of believers.

Viewed from the outside, religious divisions have both advantages and disadvantages. Adherents to each sect can fashion a tradition that fits or suits them ideally, that may strengthen their faith and increase their ability to affect the world. An obvious disadvantage is the degree that larger and larger numbers of people are defined as being outside of that belief system.

Religion is not the only basis for fundamentalism, though. In fact, the mechanism may be applied to nearly any set of beliefs. A First Amendment absolutist, for example, may be said to practice a form of fundamentalism. Essentially, any position that is “not to be questioned or challenged” represents evidence of fundamentalism.

In some ways, fundamentalism simplifies the world for people, since answers are “obvious.” Those of us who see things as being more complicated and find balances more even can have a tough time sorting out details that fundamentalists can simply ignore. Murky minutiae may lead to decades of sorting and evaluating, while others either have come to a snap decision or didn’t even realize that a choice was available.

Fundamentalists may dismiss others as “relativists,” since our positions are conditional and dependent upon myriad factors. We can’t pretend to have all of the unshakeable core values they enjoy. Recognizing that others and we have erred in the past, locking inflexibly to a position prematurely seems rash at best. Although we may envy their decisiveness, people like myself understand that there is value to both approaches; fundamentalists tend to see those who are fundamentalists (but whose positions are different from theirs) and those who don’t fully agree with them as simply being wrong.

One of the ways I measure fundamentalism is the degree to which it is inflexible. A vegetarian who denounces another who almost exclusively consumes fruit, vegetables, roots, etc.—but who also dines occasionally on cheese, say. Now eating a slice of cheese may represent an imperfect practice of vegetarianism, but most of us wouldn’t class that person with someone who kills bunnies for sick kicks. Fundamentalists might easily convince themselves that there is little no difference between a cheese eater and a bunny murderer.

Moving (finally!) into the political realm, we see those on all sides of many positions who accept no deviation. It’s their way or the highway. Ironically, they will loudly reject those most in opposition to their views, but they do that in an almost rote manner; their true ire is reserved for those who don’t completely agree with them. The basis of the division may be significant, but often it’s miniscule.

Going back to the example of the First Amendment, I am nearly an absolutist; I think that as much as possible people should be able to read, write, and think as freely as possible. Yet I don’t think that freedom should allow anyone to shout falsely “fire” or “bomb” in a crowded public place. In the view of some that might mark my support of basic intellectual freedom as weak or at least suspect. There may be nothing I can do or say that would change their minds.

In a democracy, considering proportionality seems rational. If a tiny sliver of 1% would form an immediate and unshakeable link between my opposition to creating a false panic and Gestapo-like tactics, I may have to sacrifice their approval. I can simultaneously admit that my support for unfettered speech has limits, while still believing that I embrace freedom to the greatest extent possible in a civil society.

It seems to me that this test of proportionality is a consistently valid way of appraising entrenched positions. As our views become rigid, they also become brittle. Perhaps that accounts for some of the desperation we see as folks cling ever tighter to perspectives that are not just skewed but are simply dysfunctional. If they admit any imperfection in their tightly constructed worldview, it may all crash down in a heap.

One trick fundamentalists employ is to focus exclusively on either offense or defense; they loudly proclaim either what they’re for or what they oppose. Garden-variety nihilists may have the easier path; it doesn’t matter what it is, they’re against it (or they just don’t want to discuss it). People who hold firmly to positions may be supporting their convictions, or they may be going through the motions and doing what they feel is expected of them.

Folks who are simply anti-everything are at a major disadvantage—especially among liberals. We may select elements of the “pro” fundamentalist’s beliefs, adopting or adapting those we find useful. We instinctively know that we will never be “anti” enough for the other crowd, though. We may reject some of the same things these elaborately negative people do, but rarely because they persuaded us to. If we recognize our own imperfection, we immediately create a barrier between them and ourselves—perhaps not by choice. The overwhelming negativity of this approach is self-limiting; who wants to march in a parade with people who may be taking us to our execution by firing squad?

“It’s in the way that you use it,” is how the song goes. We’ve also been told since people had tongues that, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” or some variation. Still people persist in the harshest, rudest, interactions with others they are purportedly trying to influence. The more extreme their attacks, and the cruder their language, the less likely they are to change a single mind. This increases their frustration, and their reaction is often not to re-evaluate their tactics but to escalate them mindlessly —further dooming their efforts.

I have in mind particular topics here at Daily Kos which seem to generate automatic responses which look a lot like fundamentalism to me, but I prefer to keep this diary as general as I can. In the comments section, feel free to include points as specific as you wish. I hope this can be a freewheeling conversation, but see no reason it can’t be a respectful one as well.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that is not a sign of strength. That is a sign of weakness. President Obama

    by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 12:09:50 PM PDT

  •  OK, First Amendment... (4+ / 0-)

    There is what you legally can say or write, there is what you cannot legally say or write...

    And there is what you in good common sense SHOULD NOT say or write. Because saying it opens wide the cracks in a dynamic, varied community and not saying it lets any cracks fill in or be filled by the epoxy of community.

    So.

    Am I a fundie on the 1st Amendment? Well, best left UNSAID.

    Ugh. --UB.

    The Republican Party is run by the KOCH BROTHERS.

    by unclebucky on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 01:25:41 PM PDT

    •  When It Goes Unsaid, "You" the Human Citizen (4+ / 0-)

      are on equal regulatory footing with a hundred billionaire or his trillion dollar global corporation.

      It's the principle that's most at the foundation of our inability to stop destroying human habitability.

      We can send out an interstellar probe if there's time and remind its eventual discoverers that our extinct species held true to our principle.

      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 Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 01:59:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's true, too! :D I was above only... (0+ / 0-)

        writing in the case for the moment of two people, on equal footing, and the freedom of speech.

        And then your case is way different. In such a case, speaking truth to power is where you're going and that he who does so is like a bug.

        Yep.

        Ugh. --UB.

        The Republican Party is run by the KOCH BROTHERS.

        by unclebucky on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:35:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Well, the First Amendment only (3+ / 0-)

      stipulates that the government can't without some valid reason (e.g. national security) restrict our communications. As private citizens we can bump and jostle.

      While I agree with you, there are some things better left unsaid in the interests of comity, a more skilled communicator may barge ahead and fill cracks with community and understanding.

      I'm particularly concerned by the tone of what is being said--rather than the particular perspective being presented. I especially wonder what the point is of some of the things I read here. As I allude to in the diary, once the insults start persuasion has mostly ended.

      If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that is not a sign of strength. That is a sign of weakness. President Obama

      by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 02:08:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, tone is awful important... (0+ / 0-)

        But as a language instructor, I tell my students that tone (or NVC, Non-verbal communication) often carries MORE info than the dictionary blandness of words.

        The context/tone/purpose of one's speech is very powerful, too.

        You're right about the 1st as that the GOVERNMENT cannot hurt you for free speech.

        Also right about one's private ability to bump and jostle.

        Do that on your own time, and please check for the bump of the concealed weapon. ;o)

        Best,

        --UB.

        The Republican Party is run by the KOCH BROTHERS.

        by unclebucky on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:41:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I used to be a 1st A absolutist, or nearly so... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unclebucky

      ... until the USSC ruling that calling for assassination of elected officials was "free speech."

      It's one thing for people to have an untested theoretical right to do X, but not do it because they have respect for others and for civilization.  

      It becomes another thing when people push hard on every theoretical right, to the point where it starts to cause real harm to others (stochastic terrorism) and cause a breakdown of the essential components of civilization (anti-vaccination CT, creationism in public schools, etc.).

      So at this point my attitude toward the 1st A is similar to my attitude toward the 2nd A: people have rights, but rights have limits, and when people abuse their rights, those limits have to be strengthened and enforced.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 01:08:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I would say the fundamentalist branches of all (6+ / 0-)

    3 Abrahamic traditions or faiths have their own version of Dominionism, each one representing the same conclusion arrived at differently from different places based on different proof.  However, for each religion to periodically experience "Great Awakenings" with increased fervor, religiosity and militancy seems to be part of a general cycle so it appears that religions, if they may be said to develop, are circular in their development and end at at the same place where they began in a fairly regular pattern.  What is catastrophic is when two of the Abrahamic faiths reach this point in their development simultaneously or nearly so.

    It appears Christianity and Islam have now almost done exactly that, with the concomitant disaster and destruction we have come to expect from religious zealotry combined with economic and political means

    •  I may be misusing the word (4+ / 0-)

      "Fundamentalism" here. I used examples of religious fundamentalism, partly to remain a bit oblique.

      I think that many, with far better reasons than I will ever have for feeling negative, have embraced the positive loving-side of life. I believe I'm not alone on this site in recognizing the vast privileges I have enjoyed.

      Some, as pampered as I have been perhaps, continue to act (or at least write) as if they were little more than the sum of their resentments. Well, that's okay, too, I suppose.

      Some seem to view any deviation from their "more liberal than thou" approach to be tantamount to being little different than an extreme right-winger.

      It particularly bothers me when the same tired rhetoric is used to blast all or most of our leaders--as if they have all sold us out.

      Do I think Democratic leaders are perfect? Certainly not. Then again, neither am I. When our leaders (or those who offer themselves as potential leaders) blunder we shouldn't pretend otherwise. Still, the attacks that are stale now won't ripen into anything worthwhile through repetition.

      I'm trying to challenge people to develop skills of persuasion rather than lobbing the same old hand-grenades.

      If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that is not a sign of strength. That is a sign of weakness. President Obama

      by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 02:36:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  excellent analysis: (0+ / 0-)

      What you said:  "What is catastrophic is when two of the Abrahamic faiths reach this point in their development simultaneously or nearly so.   It appears Christianity and Islam have now almost done exactly that..."

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 01:01:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I meant to wish a happy Father's Day (3+ / 0-)

    to all daddy Kossacks and hope that we all have an awesome Magna Carta Day. Somehow I goofed up on the tip jar; I can be a clumsy oaf sometimes!

    If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that is not a sign of strength. That is a sign of weakness. President Obama

    by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 03:09:20 PM PDT

  •  I prefer liberal religion. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Had Enough Right Wing BS, G2geek

    Scripture and tradition tempered with reason is the approach my particular Christian denomination takes. Part of what makes the Fundie and Literalist approaches inflexible has to do with a pushback to a theological trend called "Modernism" over a hundred years ago. It rejects reading in historical and textual context, and therefore, IMO, perverts Scripture.

    Now, religion aside, I think you are quite right that one can be literalist or fundamentalist about all sorts of things. If you've ever met a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist, you'll know that's true.

    SPES MEA IN DEO EST.

    by commonmass on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 03:49:55 PM PDT

    •  Robbing ourselves of context (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass

      and perspective was a big part of what I was trying to write about.

      And thanks for the link above, the second paragraph says it better than I did:

      The term usually has a religious connotation indicating unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs, but fundamentalism has come to be applied to a broad tendency among certain groups, mainly, although not exclusively, in religion. This tendency is most often characterized by a markedly strict literalism as applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, which can lead to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which it is believed that members have begun to stray. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established "fundamentals" and their accepted interpretation within the group is often the result of this tendency.
      I can only occasionally get on-line (@#$! job!), and when I do I'm often disappointed by the infighting and such here on my favorite web site.

      I don't want Daily Kos to be over run by robots, but sometimes a little courtesy would be nice. In case anyone is wondering nobody has insulted me (or I just didn't understand it yuk, yuk) and as far as I know I haven't offended anybody else, either. It doesn't feel like some of the interactions are at all positive, I don't think.

      People should know that this isn't how to build a team, though. I may not object vigorously when I see some of the crappy things members write to others here, but more than one person has forever lost the ability to convince me of much of anything due to the tactics they've used

      If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that is not a sign of strength. That is a sign of weakness. President Obama

      by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 04:13:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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