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Hogarth judge

December 2016

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Hogarth judge

On fundamentalism

Chris Bonds wrote:
I believe that fundamentalism is doomed, but it could take at least a hundred years to eradicate it completely. And it will come through education. We should not make the mistake of believing that since religion has been part of human life and culture as far back as we have evidence, it is always going to be part of human life and culture. Science and scientific thinking are a relatively modern phenomenon.

Haven't you heard? The modern period ended sometime around 1966, although it's taken the news some time to reach some quarters, it seems.

Religion will always be with us, because it's part of the human psyche. Even officially atheist regimes canonize saints and develop totemistic symbols; the incorrupt body of Lenin bears witness to the phenomenon. Protestant Christianity at least has the virtue of bearing the seeds of resistance to this tendency, and opposes the truths of revealed religion to natural religion, which tends to idolatry.

Fundamentalism, likewise, is an inevitable part of the human psyche. Your message is more fundamentalist than you imagine. The problem with the several varieties of fundamentalism, including yours, is that they view the present as a means to an end. There is a future hope, at least a century away in your vision. Your neighbours are either heroes, who work towards the accomplishment of that future hope; or villains, who hinder its arrival. All human beings and all human acts are weighed against the Future, to be found worthy or found wanting. This is why fundamentalisms make trouble.

Against this vain hope, the true faith posits the charmingly named doctrine of Total Depravity. Human beings are utterly incapable of ameliorating their own state, and any improvements that may come to them represent a grace that they do not deserve. Viewed from this perspective, the Future is a succubus whose charms are illusory, tricks of the Devil. Since there is no hope, there is also no blame, and the foundations have been laid for living in peace with your neighbours.

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