The Rise of Fundamentalist Christianity

Millions of people in the United States are fundamentalist Christians who think that the Bible is infallible, the Earth is only a few thousand years old, and Jesus is due to return within half a century or so. Starting in the 1950s, fundamentalists began to engage in vigorous political campaigning against policies like sex education, the legalization of abortion, and state recognition of homosexual marriage.

Why do fundamentalists campaign against these policies, and why did they start doing so when they did? Based on what I have read, fundamentalism as a political movement started in reaction to events like Watergate, the loss of the Vietnam War, and student rebellions on college campuses. They interpreted these events as analogous to when, in the Old Testament, God would pass judgment against Israel for turning away from God, and they think that the only way to get God back on our side is to make our nation as “Christian” as possible.

To this end, fundamentalist leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have developed an enormous media empire dedicated to spreading the message of fundamentalism. Fundamentalists have numerous television shows, radio shows, and websites, in addition to having a collective captive audience of millions in the pews across the country every Sunday. Fundamentalists exert considerable political influence as well. Ronald Reagan, for example, went out of his way to appeal to the evangelical voters, and explicitly said in several of his speeches that he agreed with them on many points, like abortion.

Fundamentalist Christians think that the family is central to the survival of the United States, and they think that the husband should be at the head of the family and that the wife should try to make herself subservient and appealing to him, as the Bible allegedly requires. Accordingly, they generally oppose movements like feminism and the gay rights movement which they see as threats to the family. They were also generally opposed to the civil rights movement, although there were dissenters among fundamentalist preachers on this point.

Just as they think that the Bible should determine family roles, fundamentalists think that the Bible should be the arbiter of our scientific conclusions as well. Among fundamentalists, Young Earth Creationism is considered a legitimate, albeit controversial, scientific theory, and a serious competitor to the theory of evolution.

The odds of routing fundamentalism are not very good, but I think atheists who want to make a difference could try to do two things. First, they could explain why fundamentalism is not intellectually credible. Fundamentalist leaders repeatedly assert in their speeches that fundamentalist Christianity is intellectually tenable, and that is a clear weak point in the movement’s narrative. Second, they could explain why atheism does not imply nihilism or moral decay. As I mentioned above, one of the main concerns of fundamentalists is that abandoning Christianity will leave us without moral guidance, so atheists need to combat that claim if they are to persuade fundamentalist Christians to leave the movement.

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One thought on “The Rise of Fundamentalist Christianity

  1. dstamps2173

    Reality is what it is irrespective of how finite beings interpret it. Interpretation is done in several ways. Scientific investigation is one. Observing several results and interpreting the cause or causes. Observing causes and projecting future results. Many more could probably be listed.

    Unfortunately, there is one condition that interferes with all of Man’s interpretative ability–the self-serving nature. This nature prevents Man from becoming a unity with all contributing to the highest purpose possible for Man. A purpose where everyone has all they need or want. Since there is no conflict, peace reigns. Man does have an example of this unity within the healthy human body. Therefore, there is a finite version of such a reality at the physical level of Reality.

    The self-serving nature, on the other hand, affects all of Man’s pursuits, interpretations, and beliefs; yes, even scientific investigation as long as it has not been absolutely proven yet. Scientific investigation of the past, and future, is very susceptible to the desires of the self-serving nature. All such claims should be accepted with reserved suspicion.

    The self-serving nature exists wherever the individual is. It doesn’t matter whether they say they are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, or anything else. All tend to interpret Reality according to how they want it to be. Each seeks out “so called proof” that their beliefs are true. In many cases they take a fact and then give it a purpose different from its actual place in Reality. They can do this because the self-serving nature blinds them to what they really don’t want to see.

    For atheist, one of their primary blind areas appears to be in the understanding of random. Some will say that evolution results from a mutation that begins a process that is determined by existing conditions in the environment. Since the end of the process is predetermined by environmental conditions, it is not random. Unfortunately for their logic, any sequence that begins randomly will also end randomly because the end follows the beginning.

    Living organisms have 1000s of synergistic processes occurring in their bodies to support their life. Therefore, if a mutation occurs to the part of the DNA that determines the length of the neck, other parts of the DNA must change to balance the synergism. This could be 100’s of changes. An animal can’t just have a long neck without a bigger heart that increases blood pressure, which requires a stronger vascular system, etc. Since the head is sometimes very high and other times very low, there must be a way to compensate for the change in blood pressure in the head. Any unthinking process is incapable of knowing what changes to make.

    When I consider an atheist, I think of this:
    An atheist is someone who believes a spoon is intelligently designed and created; but a myriad of complicated, interdependent living organisms, with 1000s of synergistic internal systems that only function properly when complete, resulted through some unthinking random process called evolution.

    Reply

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