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The World’s Largest Fundamentalist State? February 9, 2006

Posted by fungus in Uncategorized.
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Consider the word “Fundamentalism”. Just let it run through your head for a bit. What are the images that come to your head? Osama bin Laden would be a common recurrence. If it is images of protests against supposedly derogatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish paper; of self-immolations and burning of embassies and high-commissions, I would not be surprised. If it is the sermons of the cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri talking about killing the “infidels” your brain would be on the right track. After all, all of this is fundamentalism. This is what has damaged the image of the religion – Islam, in this case – in the eyes of the world. But there is a more subtle and, hence, more dangerous type of fundamentalism operating in today’s world. One that operates slowly, demanding less, seemingly innocuous things with loftier aims and greater delusions than we dare speak of. One that speaks a more secular language that hides its cloak-and-dagger intentions. This fundamentalism lives in the corridors of power, in the living rooms of ordinary homes and the churches and schools regular people attend. It lurks in our shadows and looms large in front of our faces yet we do not recognise it. It wins elections, it starts wars, it kills blameless soldiers and it ruins the minds of succeeding generations. Welcome to the world of American Fundamentalism. Don’t confuse this with Christian Fundamentalism despite the fact that there is considerable overlap. The tenets of the two are very different and, hence, the motives and the desires are completely different too.

I wasn’t sure I’d be up to addressing something this big. At some level I realise that I’m not qualified to comment on fundamentalism, being an atheist myself. My knowledge of American society is all second-hand. If you feel these are big enough shortcomings feel free to ignore this post. That said, political commentary isn’t my thing either. My sole foray into something related was a lampooning of the White House trio of “Dubbya”, Rice and Powell in an earlier post. I don’t even comment on politics in India. No, political commentary is, definitely, not my thing. But social commentary is. I have strong beliefs about what is good and bad for society today and society tomorrow. The war has been talked about enough. Bush’s election does not bother people enough any more. Dead soldiers do not weigh heavily on anyone’s conscience. But what I will not accept is the interference with the minds of our next generation; the theistic subversion of Science. In short, I stand in direct opposition to the Intelligent Design Movement.

Again, do not confuse this with Intelligent Design. ID has fair claims to being a science, albeit one on the wrong side of proof and one I do not subscribe to. Its proponents believe that no amount of coincidence could be responsible for such great complexity in design in nature or gradual reduction in entropy that must have been at the heart of Evolution. Their agenda is limited to academic interest. The Intelligence Design Movement, on the other hand, is dedicated to “defeat the materialist world view as represented by Evolution” in favour of “a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”. To understand how this falls within the purview of American Fundamentalism, as I call it, let’s go back to the tenets of this fundamentalism. While all fundamentalism stems from chauvinism, American Fundamentalism goes that extra mile by believing that it is not just the White Man with his burden, it is the American White Man who bears the burden of furthering society and urbanising the rest of the “savage” world. And this burden stems, no less, from the divine right/responsibility bestowed on the American Man by God himself. That God being a far superior God to the British one or the French one; certainly superior to any God the Muslims might invoke; or the Hindus. And as the child of a greater God the American White Male is a human superior to any other out there. Evolution is the study of the chance events that led to life on this watery planet. And if life is the result of a series of fantastic coincidences it is devoid of purpose. Or so believe the Creationists. Evolution, thus, is in direct conflict with the American White Male’s belief that he was put on this Earth with a purpose – that of edifying the brutes that surround his homeland on all sides. It is the underlying assumption of America’s delusion of grandeur. And it is this delusion that sent American troops looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction that never existed. It is this delusion that has America forever looking outward, conveniently ignoring the problems that plague it at home. It is this delusion that Osama had the nerve to challenge. And it is this delusion that the American White Male is looking to pass on to the next generation through the study of Intelligent Design in the Science curriculum in primary schools.

My favourite dysfunctional cartoon character, “Dubbya”, did this debate no good when he went ahead and said, on record, that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside Evolution in schools. He added that students should be “exposed to different ideas”. Either he’s a complete idiot or he’s much smarter than most of us are able to fathom – I’m tending towards the former. The point that he’s missing here, as are most participants of the debate, is that one is a scientific view while the other is a religious one. And never the two should meet. The President’s irresponsible comments could easily be followed by a Government directive to introduce ID into the school syllabus making the position of the ID proponents all the more creditable.

The problem with arguing against Intelligent Design is that you run the risk of legitimatising their position. These people are smart. They’ve realised that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Every argument against ID is, in fact, a step towards a mainstream debate where it will not be the merits and demerits of ID as a science being discussed but a battle between two lobbies, which is what everything in America comes down to. With true scientists on one side and the Church and the State on the other – because it is, after all, they who are propagating the ID Movement – it is clear who will win. The ID Movement’s main backing seems to come from The Discovery Group but you can rest assured that as time passes, and this matter becomes more about passion and less about reason, the support and the lobbying for ID will only increase. America is caught in a downward spiral and there seems to be little anyone can do about it. Scientists have never been very good at PR or propaganda. What they need is the support or clear-headed people – clearly a dying breed in America.

Does it bother you that three out of four Americans don’t even believe in Evolution? That just under half of them believe that God created the world in six days as proposed in Genesis? That they believe that the Earth is only three thousand years old? Does it bother you that not only are they proposing to teach this religious propaganda in schools but under the science curriculum, of all places? And does it bother you that they’re getting away with it? That district after unsuspecting district is actually introducing creationism into its science syllabus? Well, it should.