The rise of fundamentalism

Dean Esmay has posted another of his posts questioning the standard orthodoxy on AIDS and its treatment and it got me to thinking about fundamentalism. I had been thinking about a related phenomenon—radicalism—so it was a natural progression.

Fundamentalism is a strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles and it’s everywhere. The term is usually thought of as applying to religion but it’s equally applicable to religion, politics, science, and practically any other area of human activity. Many of those who react so angrily to Dean’s AIDS posts are AIDS fundamentalists, who, as best as I can tell, believe that the truth about AIDS has already been revealed and questioning that truth is heresy (I, myself, am a non-combatant in this struggle).

Benedict XVI’s recent quotation of a quotation of a Byzantine emperor seven centuries dead in the context of an academic address about reason and religion has aroused the ire of a group of Muslim fundamentalists whose faith cannot tolerate being perturbed by mere history. In this country there’s concern on the part of libertarians on the left and the right about the increase of political influence among Christian fundamentalists.

Politics is increasingly dominated by fundamentalists. Joe Lieberman’s and Lincoln Chaffee’s opposition seems to come from a relatively small group of partisan fundamentalists on the left and right, respectively. There are libertarian fundamentalists, anarcho-capitalist fundamentalists, and Lord knows what else.

I don’t honestly know where it’s coming from. Perhaps it’s always been around and today’s means of electronic communication have given relatively small numbers of fundamentalists a higher platform and improved methods of coordination. Maybe it’s actually growing. A reaction to modernity? It’s certainly a lot more comforting to think that your team has all the answers and the other guy’s is crazy, wrong, lying, or otherwise malign.

My own view is that not only is the universe more complex than we know it’s more complex than we can know. Nobody has all the answers. There’s always somebody I can learn from.

3 comments… add one
  • Lieberman’s opposition includes a great many more than simply the fundamentalist left–and those ranks are growing rapidly. His latest comments about Afghanistan illustrate how out of touch he is. The man is not a serious leader on foreign policy matters and lacks character–that is my problem with him and I am far from a leftists fundamentalist.

  • I have no doubt that the opposition to Lieberman is broader than just partisan fundamentalists. But I also think that it’s uncontestable that they were the tip of the spear.

  • That may be, but I wouldn’t be concerned unless the candidate likely to replace him was, in fact, a fundamentalist himself (which by all accounts isn’t the case). Every party has their zealots, their true-believers–the problems arrise when they have undue sway over policy. I don’t see that as necessarily the case for the Dems—yet…

Leave a Comment