Monday, November 08, 2004

A Fundamental Disagreement

A group that we are all going to have to come to grips with - and soon - are fundamentalist christians who have taken over the far right wing of the Republican party. One of the questions that will have to be answered over the next several years is whether or not fundamentalists can be considered - in even the broadest definition of the word - rational. How that question is answered will determine the way in which we must deal with them.

Don't expect to see or hear any reality based discussion of this question in the media or in any public forum by representatives of the major parties.

But here is the question in its stripped-down form:

Can a group of people who overwhelmingly believe in the "virgin birth" and the coming "rapture" but are purposely blind to the irrefutable evidence of evolution be considered rational?
Notice the way that I've worded that question. I didn't say that they don't "believe" in evolution. Belief has nothing to do with evolution. It is a theory with incredibly broad explanatory power in biology, geology, medicine, epidemiology and other fields. It is also well supported by evidence gleaned from these fields. But belief - the kind of belief that results from faith - has no power to explicate evolution or the world. Fundamentalists are the flat-earthers of our day and are exactly analogous to fundamentalist Muslims in their hatred of modernity and progressivism.

So what do you call someone who ignores all evidence and persists in believing and promulgating outdated, obviously false or deluded world views? Rational? I don't think so. And yet the Republican party panders to this group, using them for their votes by appealing to their baser prejudices to drive them to the polls - in many cases against their own interests. Democrats have been only slightly better; witness all the "god talk" during the latter part of the presidential campaign.

Where should this discussion go from here? There are bits of it all around the blogosphere, but nobody has any solid ideas about how to raise this subject with the rest of the country. My formulation of it here is very rough... Outright bashing of the fundamentalists for their beliefs, regardless of how out of the mainstream of religious thought, will only alienate other believers. Appealing to them only makes us more like Republicans and is anathema to true progressive ideas. This will be a subject much debated - quietly in public, loudly in the blogosphere - for the next four years, at least.

Readers; any ideas?


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