Fundophobia?

Is opposition to fundamentalist Christianity a kind of prejudice?

The Democrats in America are increasingly influenced by an educated urban elite who intensely dislike fundamentalist Christians, say two American academics. According to Louis Bolce and Gerald D Maio data from the American National Election Study shows the emergence of a new kind of voter – the anti-fundamentalist:

ANES results indicate that anti-fundamentalism appears disproportionately among secularists, the highly educated, particularly those living in big cities, and persons who strongly favor legalized abortion and gay rights, oppose prayer in schools, and who, ironically, "strongly agree" that one should be tolerant of persons whose moral standards are different from one’s own.

The results indicate that over the past decade persons who intensely dislike fundamentalist Christians have found a partisan home in the Democratic party. Clinton captured 80 percent of these voters in his victories over President Bush in 1992 and over Senator Robert Dole four years later; Gore picked up 70 percent of the anti-fundamentalist vote in the 2000 election. One has to reach back to pre-New Deal America, when political divisions between Catholics and Protestants encapsulated local ethno-cultural cleavages over prohibition, immigration, public education, and blue laws, to find a period when voting behavior was influenced by this degree of antipathy toward a religious group.

The ANES asked respondents to rate various groups on a ‘feeling thermometer.’ As Boce and Maio explain, "Feeling thermometers ask respondents to rate social groups and political leaders on a scale ranging from 0 degrees (extremely cold) to 100 degrees (extremely warm). A thermometer rating below 35 degrees (the average score that whites express toward illegal aliens) is commonly considered to reflect antipathy; scores above 50 degrees indicate varying degrees of warmth." Around a quarter of white respondents in the 2000 ANES rated fundamentalists at 35 degrees or below while only 1 per cent felt this antagonistic to Jews and only 2.5 per cent towards blacks and Catholics.

Australian columnist Andrew Bolt thinks the elite’s opposition to Christian morality is itself a kind of intolerant fundamentalism. "Our ‘intellectuals’ hate the United States for one dangerous reason in particular. It’s Christian."

But the reason liberal intellectuals most often give for their hostility towards Christian fundamentalism is that fundamentalists are intolerant of equal rights for homosexuals, women, and members of non-Christian religions like Islam. To them it seems as if fundamentalists would rather die than embrace the beliefs and values of homosexual activists, feminists, or Muslims. Their offence is ‘ethnocentrism.’ Philosopher Richard Rorty describes the problem this causes for ‘bourgeois liberals’:

When we bourgeois liberals find ourselves thinking of people in this way – when , for example we find ourselves reacting to the the Nazis and the fundamentalists with indignation and contempt – we have to think twice. For we are exemplifying the attitude we claim to despise. We would rather die than be ethnocentric, but ethnocentrism is precisely the conviction that one would rather die than share certain beliefs. We find ourselves wondering whether our own bourgeois liberalism is not just one more example of cultural bias.

So have Christian fundamentalists replaced Jews and Catholics as the new persecuted religious minority? Or are they, as David Marr says, caught up in "bogus and unscientific" moral rules which inflict cruelty on ordinary human beings?

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arba
arba
2022 years ago

No, and yes, in that order.

Factory
Factory
2022 years ago

Disliking someone does not make them persecuted, it just makes them disliked, just as “bogus and unscientific moral rules” do not inflict creulty upon people, it is the actions of people that does this.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

What Arba said. And with reference to – “To them it seems as if fundamentalists would rather die than embrace the beliefs and values of homosexual activists, feminists, or Muslims.”, I myself am happy to let fundamentalists embrace their own values and beliefs, providing they respect my and everyone else’s right to our own values and beliefs. It’s never worried me if someone wants to defend – and live and embody – a value such as the sanctity of marriage – providing they accept:

(a) the world is a complex place and relationships between people and the choices they make are complex and fallible;

(b) anyone has a right to choose a lifestyle that actualises their own becoming as a person and thus the form that family might take for them, providing it does no harm to others.

One could actually make an argument (well sustained by the evidence) that the dogmatic heterosexism of some (note the qualifier) Christians has done real harm – and often to those in their own congregations. Check out some of the research on rural youth suicide among young lesbians and gays from areas dominated by “Christian values”. Try to think yourself into the position of a funeral of such a person – or of a more mature person dying of HIV/AIDS who has been rejected by their own family – when their biological and legally privileged relatives exclude their friends and/or partners and make a mockery of what their life meant.

Not quite the same issue, but I will never forget the funeral of a friend who died at age 25 from a heroin overdose (a very warm person and a promising classical scholar). His requiem mass was in Latin and the sermon referred to his “quietly passing away”. As I understand it, this was untrue – to say the least. None of it had any relevance to his life and the fact of what caused his death, but no doubt it made his conservative Catholic rellos hypocritically happy – having re-written the story of their family in nice family value terms.

In Derek Jarman’s words – “get your laws off our bodies”.

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

What arba, Factory and Mark said. It’s also a little rich for political fundamentalism to demand of the left and centre the level of tolerance they themselves deny to various faith and gender minorities. No-one’s passed a law recently excluding fundamentalists from marriage.

If the straight family is the natural order of society, it’s more than faintly weird it needs quite so much defending. It’s also notable that one of the family-friendly policies advocated by FF is excluding all except a man and a woman in a voluntary, exclusive and permanent union. Bummer for the divorced, the unfaithful etc etc

Constantine’s deal with the Christian church was much more profitable for the state than the church. Reviving the Constantinian deal in the twenty-first century is not going to being any different. It will be interesting to watch the first time Howard’s economic policies bump into the compassionate side of Family First’s platform. I wonder which will give. I also wonder how much of the huge swing in the ACT election is a reaction to the sudden prominence of political fundamentalism.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Alan, the apposite reference to Constantine suggests to me that all this lends a bit of weight to a (non-dead) French thinker’s idea – the sociologist Bruno Latour’s contention that far from being postmodern, “we have never been modern”.

Jamie
2022 years ago

There seems to be a fundamental difference, in my mind, between the modern fundamentalist and anti-fundamentalist camps. The former appears to increasingly believe it deserves (or in some cases actually already has) a mandate to prescribe the civil boundaries of everyone around them. The latter, in my observation, has never been interested in divorcing people from their beliefs or customs, but rather, through blanket rejection of theocratic influences to democratic law reform, wish to ensure that a clear separation of church and state is maintained – secular liberties intact.

Fundamentalists lobby for the reform of peoples lives through the law. Anti-fundamentalists lobby for the protection of the secular democratic governmental model.

Jamie
2022 years ago

I forgot to express my point, which was that anti-fundamentalism in its manifestation as protecting a secular government and judiciary, is not a prejudice. It seems almost insulting to suggest that a fundamentalist holding up a sign that reads ‘GOD HATES FAGS’ at someone’s funeral is comparable to voting against a party because of its close and observable relationship with people of certain religious zeal. As I intimated in my above post, fundamentalism is a sense moral superiority that actively seeks to control other people’s lives. Anti-fundamentalism, on the other hand, is a sense of political superiorty that seeks to maintain secular, plural ideals (on which most western nations were founded).

‘GOD HATES FAGS’ and casting a vote in a certain way … worlds apart.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Not sure I’m following you, Jamie – while I’d make a distinction between the actions of those who held up the signs saying “God hates fags” at Matthew Shephard’s funeral – a person who had been killed in a particularly painful and vicious way in a heinous hate crime purely because he was gay – and those who vote for fundo parties in full knowledge of their moralistic agenda – I’d still argue that there is a link in the motivations for the two actions – condemning someone else because of who they are, and seeking to impose one single way of living on everyone else regardless of their choices or views. So both are to be condemned – though obviously the first action deserves much stronger condemnation – one would hope that its extreme insensitivity and repulsiveness is obvious to every reasonable person.

DrShrink
2022 years ago

The “anti-fundamentalisty” lobby if we wish to call it that, has only risen up in opposition to the fundamentalist rhetoric and laws being advanced. Often its a very conservative movement, simply wanting to stop the regressive anti-abortion, anti-gay rights legislation the evangelicals are demanding.

Whilst the amount of apathy towards a certain religious group may be higher than in the past 60 years, its also true that no religious group has had this much direct power in the US in even longer.

And whilst the current mob disliked are evangelical christians, the same objections would apply if it were fundamentalist muslims in the white house proposing banning gay marriage.

Yes the modern liberal find it easier to attack christian fundamentalists than muslim ones. But thats mainly because Christianity is still the dominant religion in the US and down under, and the one closest to the centers of power.

In large part the anti-fundamentalist movement is simply a part of the 60’s final reverberations. The evangelical christians are simply the lead group in trying to undo the progressive change since those times in social policy. They certianly arnt the only ones, but they are the most vocal and intolerent. So necessecarily a counter group springs up to try and maintain the social change.
Its no suprise that those most determined to want to prevent the regressive legislation from the fundamentalists are also those who think we havnt gone far enough in the change.

If one group demands that certain actions are outlawed according to its moral code, then its no suprise that many find that a deeply intolerent viewpoint. The anti-fundamentalist movement has its own moral code and own intolerence at times. But it isnt seeking to outlaw anything.

To me thats the critical difference between the two.

mark
2022 years ago

There is no real opposition to Christian morality — this is because Christian morality is, by and large, Western morality. It’s also Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Bhuddist, and… miscellaneous morality. Christianity is the majority religion in every single Western nation! We can’t be a “persecuted minority”, not just because we’re not persecuted, but also because we’re not a minority!

There is a distinction to be drawn, which idiots like Bolt fail to realise, between “Christians” and “Fundie bastards”. Christians are in the majority, but get on no better or worse with people of other religions than one might expect. Fundies are intolerant bigots, who are shocked that the rest of us don’t let them get away with all kinds of shit, and, essentially, can’t take even a tenth of what they dish out.

Fundie Christians are indeed a minority, but before they start complaining about the lack of traction they have in the marketplace of ideas, they should start to wonder how they’d react to a Muslim minority banning alcohol in America/Australia, or a Jewish minority banning pork. Fundies trying to ban their particular anti- at the moment (be it homosexuality, abortion, divorce, female emancipation, whatever) are no different.

Red Peter
Red Peter
2022 years ago

There is a simple rule to liberalism that deals with this: tolerance should be extended as far as possible, but not so far that it embraces intolerence.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Don ,
could you give me the expurgated version of what a cristian fundamentalist is.

you like Ken appear confused on the topic or maybe it is just me.

Link
2022 years ago

I’ve known a couple of ‘fundamentalists’, and I thought at the time, ‘oh good’, someone who believes in God too, how novel. Alas, it is an exclusive clique; who have ‘their own God, who they will pray to- for you. They wear their belief on their sleeve, which is intended to announce to the world that they are uniquely ‘good’. They usually however, have far too many prejudices to be approaching anything remotely ‘Christ-like’. Sometimes sweet, sometimes innocent, but sadly crossed, they suffer all the same heinous emotional states that we (normal people!?!) do. Hatred, envy, greed, etcetera – yukky stuff that reminds us we are only in the least bits – Christlike. Hypocricy is their biggest problem and their greatest weakness.

The only people I have ever had to report to the RSPCA, (for negelecting their (once loved) three horses), were a family, of grossly overweight evangelical ‘christians’. I felt like rushing into their church and announcing loudly to the congregation news of their sad, starving, beautiful animals.

This family now openly and clearly hate me with a passion. – very Christian. My very visage reminds them of their cruelty and hypocricy! Good!

Alan Green
2022 years ago

Red,

Can liberalism extend to the intolerant without embracing their intolerance? Do you draw the line at the person or at specific actions?

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

link, this is unlikely.
A fundamentalist I would assume believes the bible is inerrant therefore would believe that human beings have dominion over the animals.
such behaviour is incongruent with this.

I know a christian who used to go shooting but on understanding this has abandoned this ‘recreation’.

Rex
Rex
2022 years ago

The danger for the anti-fundamentalists and the secularists, is that in their opposition to fundamentalists, they are cast as anti-Christian.

Something like this happened to Salman Rushdie if you recall, and he was vilified by almost all Muslims.

It seems to me that there is no point in getting all worked up about the Family Firsters, until it becomes clear what they espouse.

If their strategy is to introduce social change under the guise of “family friendliness” then at some point in time they’ll have to define what they call a family. Who’s in and who’s out. When that becomes clear then the real game begins.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

So if uneducated non-elites hate MUSLIM fundamentalists only, that’s not a phobia, but if people who have knocked a couple of cells of grey matter together in considering the issue have worked out that all irrational extremist nutbags are difficult to deal with, then the politically correct label of the ascendent Right- ‘educated elites’- gets tiredly wheeled out again by some unimaginative twit, and they get labelled phobic?

Yeah, I’m fundo phobic, I have no difficultly suggesting that religious fundamentalism is a primary cause and/or perpetuator of the following:
* literal readings of the koran that truss women up like parcels and execute people of ‘close’ faiths (like sunni’s by shiites, bahai by either, Salman Rushdie etc) for apostacy.
* Jews who want to populate pieces of the holy land because it was ‘given by god’ (not most Jews, I might add).
* Jihadi causes that basically come down to wanting islamic states etc. Not to be confused with freedom fighters, but this group DOES include Jem. islamah and their pan-south east asian game plan.
* Christians who insist on committing cultural genocide and to this day attempt to ‘convert’ people in remote corners of the world to save their souls.

THere is an obvious clash with such views and a sound, varied education. Obvious clashes with any study of science. Who gets paid to state the obvious in these idiotic theses…?

Fyodor
2022 years ago

A difficulty with fundamentalists of any creed is their dogmatic belief-set. How can one reach a social or political agreement with people who cannot compromise?

It’s all very well for a Christian or Islamic fundamentalist privately to oppose abortion or homosexuality as immoral, but why should they impose their values on the rest of us? No middle-ground is possible in a good-evil/black-white world-view. Precisely because many fundamentalists refuse to submit their beliefs to scientific scrutiny or logic, there is not even recourse to fact or reason.

Some Islamic fundamentalists believe they will transcend to paradise if they die a martyr. These people are exploited into committing terrorist atrocities.

Some Christian fundamentalists believe that Israel cannot be allowed to give up land mentioned in the bible to the Palestinians, lest it delay the “rapture”. These people have a voice in the administration of the USA.

Is fundamentalism something to be feared? Damn right it is.

Red Peter
Red Peter
2022 years ago

“Can liberalism extend to the intolerant without embracing their intolerance? Do you draw the line at the person or at specific actions?”

Well, I think holding a view, no matter how heinous and irrational, does not in and of itself forfeit anyone’s rights as a human being. At the same time, though, there is no obligation to respect that view, or indeed the person who holds it. People should feel free to condemn idiocy even if that causes offence, but coercion should be reserved for actions, not beliefs.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

It’s like the quandary you face where a party is running for power in democratic elections, but with the stated intent of destroying democracy and taking away the right to vote as soon as they get into power. You are left with an imperfect set of choices from a ‘democratic’ point of view, but it may be difficult to stand back and let the party have its way, even if they may attract majority support- because they are not willing to subsequently seek majority approval for their performance.

THis contradiction is encapsulated by a number of islamist parties on my understanding, for example in Algeria.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’ve no doubt that histories not yet written will dwell at expansive length on how the evolution of western Christian tradition was disrupted in the last quarter of the twentieth century by a fundamentalist religiosity aimed squarely at dislodging the primacy of the rationalist/humanist approach. In less than a generation the very understanding of “Christian” was turned on it’s head, with that terminology exclusively ‘reserved’ for those who claimed a literal faith in biblical writ. The very word “Christian” has been purloined to now represent a narrow-minded, socially conservative, mindset that rails against modernity (apart from it’s devotion to state-of-the-art social marketing). And of course, it parallels the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, particularly since the Iranian revolution in the late 70’s.

In each case, the growing acceptance of pluralism and secular humanist democracy as normative appears to have been the catalyst against which the fundamentalist pyre ignited.

The Shah was undemocratic in any sense of the word but the ayatollahs were only too well aware of where his modernising thrust would eventually take Iran – and leave them. Post-revolution, Iran reverted to being a police state the like of which the Pahlavis could not have envisaged.

I’m intrigued as to why the fundamentalists of the Christian and Islamic traditions don’t actually see the synergistic commonality they share. But I’m quite grateful that they don’t.

James
James
2022 years ago

“But the reason liberal intellectuals most often give for their hostility towards Christian fundamentalism is that fundamentalists are intolerant of equal rights for homosexuals, women, and members of non-Christian religions like Islam.”

That would be the Islam that is intolerant of homosexuals, women, and members of non-Islamic religions like Christianity?

I have a fundi christian friend. He thinks (for example) that homosexuality is wrong, but at the same time he’s tolerant of it, and has gay friends. I’d like to think the same is true of many fundi Muslims, but I have no direct experience.

“ANES results indicate that anti-fundamentalism appears disproportionately among secularists, the highly educated, particularly those living in big cities, and persons who strongly favor legalized abortion and gay rights, oppose prayer in schools, and who, ironically, “strongly agree” that one should be tolerant of persons whose moral standards are different from one’s own. ”

Now that’s too funny.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

Did these morons get year nine passes for this proto-academic tripe?

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

I’m intrigued as to why the fundamentalists of the Christian and Islamic traditions don’t actually see the synergistic commonality they share. But I’m quite grateful that they don’t.>/i>

Dave Neiwert at Orcinus documents some of the (occasionally explicit) linkages between white supremacists, allegedly Christian fundamentalists, and allegedly Muslim fundamentalists. It goes without saying that the violence of some US fundamentalists is a long way from Family First.

TJW
TJW
2022 years ago

I think there is some confusion as to exactly what a ‘Christian fundamentalist’ is. A Christian fundamentalist is “one who holds to all of the five Fundamentals of the Faith as a bare-minimum definition of Christian faith” (Wikipedia). They, like pretty much everyone else in society, seek to influence the law through the political process. The religious right and Christian fundamentalism are also often confused. “It should probably be considered an abuse of the term, to label the religious right a fundamentalist movement in any sense” (Wikipedia).

See Wikipedia reference for “Fundamentalist Christianity”

When a person votes a certain way they do so for their own reasons. No external review by a body of academics is necessary. Their vote is legitimate merely because it stems from a belief they hold. Using their Christian views as a basis for their vote does not make it any less legitimate than someone using their own subjective views of science and society as a basis.

I see a lot of people attempt to de-legitimatise the views these people hold. They call them ‘unscientific’ and ‘oppressive’. They say that they contradict the doctrine and law of the separate of church and state. To me, though, the attacks on the views of Christians who simply want the law to reflect their Christian values, just as those with a secular mindset want their secular views expressed in the law, are completely disproportionate to, and unconnected with, what these vocal Christians are in fact advocating.

And I don’t necessarily agree with many of their beliefs, particularly on theological issues. But I think some people are over-reacting just a bit when they discuss them.

Irant
2022 years ago

Homer,

A fundamentalist I would assume believes the bible is inerrant therefore would believe that human beings have dominion over the animals.
such behaviour is incongruent with this.
I thnk for some fundies that such treatment that link observed is congruent with biblical innerancy. As often the case with biblical innerancy the interpretations are legion.

Remember back to James Watt, Regean’s Interior Secretary. A good example of dominion theology in action.

Alan Green
2022 years ago

TJW,

Thanks for pointing to the Wikipedia entry. It was useful.

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

Lets imagine there’s an argument that redheads should not be allowed to marry. Sect X believes this because their sacred text is inerrant and the unmarriageability of redheads is a divine command.

Members of Sect X can reasonably run for parliament. They can argue that the marriage laws should change to ban redheads from marrying. They can even argue that a society that obeys the divine commands of Sect X is a better society.

What they cannot reasonably do, as a way of slipping the divine commands of Sect X into the statute books, is launch deceptive arguments by saying, for example, that redheads get sunburnt a lot, treating them is a fiscal burden on society and their marriages propagate redheaded genes. If their deceptive arguments then start actively misrepresenting or fabricating science you’re fast moving from liberal democracy into a completely different kind of polity.

Alan Green
2022 years ago

DrShrink says “The anti-fundamentalist movement has its own moral code and own intolerence at times. But it isnt seeking to outlaw anything.”

Each year a bill pops up in the NSW parliament that would ban the public reading of parts of the Bible. Some anti-discrimination laws don’t allow churches to choose employees on the basis of religion. Christian workers in some (but not most) TAFES and universities – allowed by law to be on campus – are being edged out by teaching staff and vice chancellors.

I’m not complaining here… just saying let’s not pretend that liberals don’t want to change laws to restrict the activities of other citizens.

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

Each year a bill pops up in the NSW parliament that would ban the public reading of parts of the Bible.

Sorry, I’ll need a cite for this, unless you’re talking about attempts to repeal the religion exemption in the anti-vilification provisions of the anti-discrimination act. . I follow the NSW parliament fairly closely.

I’m not complaining here… just saying let’s not pretend that liberals don’t want to change laws to restrict the activities of other citizens.

Let’s not make failed attempts to change the law the moral equivalent of successful attempts to change the laws.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

that link to Wikpedia is a definition for christianty! This is not surprising as it deals with the origins of fundamentalism which is the Fundamentals a series of papers that sought to define chrisitanity.

On this definition I believe both alan green and myself would embrace all five beliefs.

On the other hand I do not believe it is possible for a chritian to be in politics nor do I believe there is a biblica case to defend modern day Israel indeed quite the opposite!!

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