The Thirst For The Absolute

If fundamentalists had truly arrived at their perspective through a close reading of the Bible or the Qur’an, then they would have a decent scriptural knowledge. It can easily be demonstrated that the great majority have very little. Only half of American fundamentalist Christians can tell you who preached the Sermon on the Mount. Ergo, the driving force behind fundamentalism cannot be scriptural interpretation but must be something else entirely.

It follows in turn that if we wish to understand fundamentalism, there is no point studying theology. One approach is neurological; it has been suggested that frontal-lobe dysfunction can lead to disruption to divergent reasoning, that is, the ability to switch strategies if the first approach is not working out. That is to say, damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can lead to difficulty in “letting go” of objects. The failure of portions of the frontal lobe to develop in the womb or later may therefore be responsible for all unconditional adherence to religious, political or even scientific doctrine.

Banging the drum about the inerrancy and authority of scripture may satisfy emotional needs that have nothing to do with the actual content of that scripture. One of these needs is for the “absolute”, as being more seductive than the balanced, the integrated or the commonsensical. Nowhere better is this thirst, and its consequences, shown than in Ibsen’s Brand. Variety, mixture and subtlety simply make the fundamentalists anxiously feel that they are no longer in control; as of course they are not and never were. In the Vale of Tears, no one is in control. Such people find great comfort in the prospect of being completely one kind of thing, of being surrounded with one kind of thing, and of making other people into one kind of thing as well. The notion of a single god may result from the same drive turned outwards, in the form of the denial of complexity, a neurologically-based hunger to make the world simple – if needs be, by force. It is quite possible, indeed, that the greatest attraction of fundamentalism is the permission to be unpleasant to such people as persist in being non-absolute; the flight from “moral relativity” is in fact a flight from the burdens of judgment and compassion, or even a legitimisation of a longed-for cruelty.

Posted on February 9, 2010 at 09:51 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Emotional Tech

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