Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fundamentalism, Old and New

Recently, I have been reading Chris Hedges book I Don't Believe in Atheists. Hedges has already distinguished himself by writing several brilliant books. He is especially adept at taking on fundamentalism (see esp. American Fascists). Hedges has produced an insightful look at the craziness and scariness of Christian fundamentalism. Now he sets his sights on atheist fundamentalism. This short series will take a chapter by chapter look and offer some commentary on I Don't Believe in Atheism.

Chapter 3: "The New Fundamentalism"

The "new fundamentalism" Hedges speaks of is atheistic fundamentalism. Really, it is not much different from the religious variety. Both are centered in a world view that is absolute in outlook. Both are highly dismissive of alternative viewpoints. Both are, as he states "binary" worlds.
In such a world everything can be framed in terms of right and wrong-- or better yet, good and evil.

In the binary world one can find all kinds of fear and intolerance. It would seem as if fundamentalists all share a good measure of xenophobia. Our fundamentalist atheist friends have certainly not escaped this. They make confident statements regarding the evils and naivety of religion, although they are unwilling to look into the matter in any in-depth way. One can find in the fundamentalist atheist world many confident statements made by the progenitors of the "theory", yet they have little knowledge about religion and less inclination to obtain information.

This is why I reviewed the book Godless so highly on this blog. It is a book written by a former evangelical turned atheist that leaves the vitriolic hate behind. Such knowledge and such an even-handed treatment of a view the author no longer accepts (theism) makes the book more rational, measured, and likely to gain a hearing and engender dialog. That approach, however, is sadly missing from the great "high priests" of atheism. You might say that the fundamentalists are giving atheism a bad name.

Earlier, I had written about the need to approach an investigation of religion agnostically (not an original idea, as you can see by the post). Our fundamentalist atheist friends seem incapable of even attempting such a view. Their minds are firmly made up. Don't confuse them with the facts, thank you!

Fundamentalist atheists do not see any "moral worth" in believers. Christian fundamentalists share that belief concerning those "in the world." Even though, as Hedges points out, science cannot form a moral code, as it does not operate in that domain, fundie atheists still keep trying to claim the moral high ground. They see those who disagree as standing in the way of their simplistic scientific utopia. Those who differ may be viewed as "throw away" people.

It seems as if atheist fundamentalists and their religious counterparts share something of "the same religion"-- absolutism.

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