Fundies vs Rationalists
Two world views result in smashed towers and torn-up freedoms.
   By Bryan Zepp Jamieson

        Fundamentalism isn’t a religion.  It’s a personality disorder.  It gets associated with religion a lot, because religion, with its claim to be able to provide final answers to life’s greatest mysteries, appeals to a mind-set that is fearful of uncertainty, antagonistic toward a world where trains don’t run on time and other people might do things that the fundamentalist is afraid to try personally.

        Most religions attract fundamentalists, and the results are often ludicrous.  The Prophet never told anyone that massacring over 5,000 innocent civilians was a good thing.  Jesus never demanded that his teachings–let alone Exodus–be forced upon non-believers.  Even religions that don’t have the type of authoritarian regimentation that is so important to the fundamentalist mind are afflicted by the breed.  There are fundamentalist Buddhists, fundamentalist Quakers (Nixon was one such), and there are even fundamentalist dog breeders.

        But fundamentalists exist everywhere there are commonly-held beliefs or enthusiasms, and they tend to accept the “truths” of their objects of veneration as perfect and inviolable.  A fundamentalist Constitutionalist (known as a “strict constructionalist”) will often steadfastly ignore all amendments after the initial bill of rights as being latter-day dilutions of the original, perfect whole.  A fundamentalist baseball fan will insist that no change could possibly improve baseball.

        Molly Ivins noted that the psychological testing procedures used to judge whether individuals were competent to serve as policemen included fundamentalism as a disqualifying personality trait.  That makes sense: if you get pulled over for a speeding violation, you don’t want to find yourself facing a livid cop who is outraged that you have violated his sense of order and perfection in his cosmos.  You want, at the very worst, a cop who is mildly disgusted at you for being stupid in public and who is going to write you up no matter what excuse you give him.

        Baseball is a good example.  Baseball has seen quite a few changes since 1957, when the Giants and Dodgers moved west.  That wasn’t the first change in baseball since 1876, but it marked the point where change markedly accelerated.  With nearly every change that brought baseball of 1957, with its eight teams in each division, early October World Series, no DH, wool or cotton uniforms, and higher pitching mound closer to the baseball of today, there is legitimate room for debate about whether the changes improved or hurt the game.  Any of the changes.  All of the changes.

        But fundamentalists will point to a time when baseball was pure and holy (yes, some people will use the word “holy”) and describe every alteration made since then as the work of the devil, a communist plot to turn American youth into soccer fans, proof of a general decline in morals and public good taste.  (Soccer fundies can be even worse; at least rooting for the “wrong baseball team” in some areas won’t get you killed).

        Fundies have an often frightening ability to organize and march in lockstep to achieve their desires.  Since they are people who need regimentation of and authority over their lives, and since there’s no shortage of selfless volunteers willing to provide same for just a little bit of unlimited wealth and power, they tend to be a force in their field of interest that far outweighs their numbers.

        To return to the baseball analogy, the fundamentalists, who basically worship the game, have managed to stave off some of the dafter suggestions made over the years, like flourescent orange baseballs, outfield fences pulled to within 250 feet of home plate, and have just generally prevented baseball from being taken over by “change for the sake of change”.  They forced all change to be subject to considerably scrutiny and criticism, and while there’s lots of room for argument over the efficacy of any given change, the game hasn’t been destroyed.  Yet.

        So fundamentalists, in their place, have a valuable function.  They are the brakes on social change, and while that can often be frustrating, and sometimes prolongs injustice, it also prevents some truly hideous mistakes.  Over the years, for example, some 2,500 proposals to change the Constitution of the United States have made it to the House floor, and it’s safe to say that about 2,400 of them were truly idiotic ideas, ranging from assigning votes based on personal wealth to banning flag burning to banning the sale of alcohol.  Eighteen of them subsequently went successfully through the rest of the process, only one of which was truly idiotic.  People will favor or oppose all amendments for various reasons, good and bad.  Fundamentalists will oppose all amendments, and are good at setting up organized resistance to same.

        But fundamentalists should never, ever be put in a leadership role, and there’s a good set of reasons for it.

        First, they can’t tolerate diversity of thought.  They are the keepers of the flame, the arbiters of what is true and good, and dissent, ipso facto, is evil, and demeaning to their purpose.  Almost all organizations and certainly all countries have some diversity, and if the differences are visible or distinct in some other way, savage repression and even genocide will result.  In Baseball, it results in great players being denied recognition for sins that aren’t even crimes in the greater society: Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson are both banned from the Hall of Fame, and in Jackson’s case, he wasn’t even guilty of what he was accused of!

        I once had a Constitutional fundamentalist tell me that the country had been going to hell ever since the Marbury vs. Madison decision.  I asked a couple of followup questions to make sure he understood what this decision was, and when this decision occurred.  I couldn’t believe it.
        He was serious: Marbury vs. Madison, in which the Supreme Court essentially granted to itself the power of judicial review upon the constitutionality of specific laws.  It’s hard to imagine how the Supreme Court could function without such a power, but since it wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution, this guy felt it was an abrogation of power, and that the country hadn’t amounted to its potential because of that decision.

        The decision occurred in 1803.  The US hasn’t been worth a damn since.  Nosiree, Bob.

        One reason fundamentalists can’t lead is because of their great inner flaw.  If you talk to two baseball fundamentalists (often self-described as “purists”) about the ideal state of baseball, you are likely to get two different views of ideal baseball.  One might rhapsodize about Napoleon LaJoie, all day games, double headers, no PA system, five cent popcorn.  Another might talk about the stalwart days when men were men and sheep were scared, the good old days of Fernando Valenzeula and Dwight Gooden, ‘way back before there were teams in Florida and Arizona.

        They might react to the guy who passed up tickets to Game seven of the World Series to catch the Ottawa-Atlanta NHL preseason match on TV with resigned sighs.  What can you do about atheists?

        But when it comes to one another, they are likely to experience murderous rage.  The heretic is always hated more than the infidel, because the infidel is blind to truth, whereas the heretic perverts it.  Infidels should be taught, and if they can’t learn, then they should die.  Heretics already know, but consciously choose evil, and must die!

        Fortunately, societal pressures and the rule of law keep them in check, which is why we see so few massacres at baseball games.  (Soccer is another story, of course).

        Fundamentalist regimes most often fall from internal divisions.  It is their greatest weakness.  It’s cause for hope should Ashcroft, Falwell and Moon gain control of our government through the GOP.  The first thing that would happen is that Ashcroft and Falwell, no longer needing Moon, would turn on him.  (Moon isn’t an easy subject for fundamentalist Christians.  He believes that he, not Jesus, is the Saviour and Redeemer of all Mankind.  I checked with our local parish priest, and he seemed reasonably sure that the Vatican still had Jesus as the number one guy on that particular list, and that if Moon was rated at all, it was pretty far down on the list.)  After they got rid of Moon, or he got rid of them, there would be divisions galore among all the other supporters.

        After that, you would have major sectarian strife, with groups from one church flying large planes into tall buildings owned by groups from another church, and they would have death camps for Christians Utilizing Lesser Theologies, and in all this, American freedom would have about as much chance as a soap bubble in a thermonuclear explosion.

        Letting fundies run the country just wouldn’t be a real good idea at all.  Genocide, whether the victims are Jews or Mets fans, just doesn’t coincide with the idea of a free and pluralistic society.

        The biggest flaw in fundamentalism is that it truly cannot understand the forces of rationality.  Fundamentalists find it impossible to believe that members of their own church, political party, TV fan club or baseball fantasy league could even consider other points of view to be valid.

        So when Ashcroft said that bin Laden hated and feared freedom, he was quite correct.  The only problem is that Ashcroft, too, is a fundamentalist.  And when crisis arrived, he was ready, with 51 new laws designed to make sure that there was a lot less of that freedom floating around, encouraging people to sustain false beliefs.

        Fundamentalists don’t just fly planes into buildings and blow up restaurants and imprison dissenters.  They also pass laws to “counter terrorism” and even “keep America free”.

        Don’t let your fear of middle Easter terrorists blind you to the very real threat of domestic terrorists who use pens instead of 757s to subvert your freedoms.


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