2008-01-16

Once more on the fundamentalist mindset

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by Neil Godfrey

Some time ago I began to engage a few fundamentalists with some critical questions about some of their claims. I know, many will think I was wasting my time and in some ways I was. But one charge these folk raised against me a number of times was revealing. They accused me of “attacking Christianity”. At the time I tended to brush aside the charge or at most offered a simple denial. It should have registered with me at the time that by raising this accusation against me they were in fact informing me why it would be a waste of time continuing any attempt at a critical discussion with them.

They were informing me that they consider any critical questioning from a nonbeliever who is attempting to engage them with the logical and factual fallacies in their dogmas as a form of warfare on the Truth of which they are the guardians. They did not consider it an attack on their particular interpretation of Christianity, but on Christianity itself. In other words, they were revealing that in their minds their fundamentalist view embraces the essence of Christianity — other Christian views must be labelled “so-called Christian” or “false” or something similar.

Their accusation demonstrated a mindset that sees itself under siege in a world of darkness. That they must be prepared to fight enemies who are out to persecute or destroy them.

This victim mentality is actually interpreted as a virtue in the Bible: “Blessed are the persecuted”.

There is no concept of open and honest intellectual exchange as equals. How can their be “equality” between Light and Darkness? And their very identity itself is the embodiment of Light — a concept I discussed more fully in my previous post: Authority and identity in the fundamentalist approach to biblical and scientific debates.

Their world is divided into white and black. Honest intellectual enquiries and debates between proponents of different hypotheses, especially if they result in one person deciding to modify or reject a hypothesis, are in many cases merely signs of a confused and benighted world. (“God is not the author of confusion”, their Bible says, and uncertainty, free enquiry, tentativeness, challenges, are interpreted by the black and white mindset as “confusion”.) As Vinny so aptly put it on a comment here, they know the truth so there is no need for further enquiry in that respect. Debates can have only one purpose for a person who “knows the truth” — to garner ammunition to attack “enemies” who they believe are “attacking Christianity”.

  • 2008-01-16 09:43:58 UTC - 09:43 | Permalink

    … whether we believe or not does not lessen God … truth remains nevertheless …

    in fact the minute we think we really know the truth is when we should also know that we really don’t …

  • 2008-01-16 22:01:39 UTC - 22:01 | Permalink

    Hey excellent site! I have put you in my blog role. Love the essays!

  • 2008-01-16 22:35:05 UTC - 22:35 | Permalink

    Hi C.L. Mareydt

    There is a also nonreligious converse of to your statement that “the minute we think we really know the truth is when we should also know that we really don’t … “: I think of it as:

    The more one learns, then the more one learns:

    (1) how many more questions there are to explore,

    and (2) how questionable everything one has learned really is.

    Or most simply expressed as: the more one studies a topic the more one understands how little one knows.

  • 2008-01-24 00:23:15 UTC - 00:23 | Permalink

    Playing the victim role is a very effective (yet underhanded) debate tactic. It puts your opponent on the defensive by wasting time trying to prove or show evidence that they AREN’T attacking, that they’re just arguing the points.

    One way to combat this is to just agree with them: “Yes, I am attacking your faith, because I believe it is misinformed and disingenuous for these reasons ___” — just get past it and move on.

    A lot of Christian rhetoric and debate strategy involves tactics that send little whirlwinds at their opponents — if the opponents try to wrangle the whirlwind, they get caught up in it and waste energy that could otherwise be directed at the Christian him/herself. These are frequently used as defensive tactics, although I sometimes see them used offensively — if they’re using it defensively, ignore their argument completely and reinforce your original statement. The “I asked you first” counter is generally accepted.

    Do you think the fish they served in the Bread & Fish parable was a Red Herring? :)

  • Samuel Skinner
    2008-01-24 05:15:58 UTC - 05:15 | Permalink

    Tell them you are attacking Christianity. Only works if you aren’t a Christian though. Then when they are upset give reasons and point out the reasons they have are ones provided by Christianity or false.

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