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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.

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Comments»

1. Chetna - February 9, 2006

What I fail to comprehend, inter alia, is that how can we claim to be evolved, thinking animals when we display no such tendencies? Mob mentality set aside, what is beyond me is that how can we be taken for such a ride, be it the US of A or our very own India? Can we not see through these farces? Be it the violence that ensued after a Danish cartoon or an artistic depitcion of a Hindu goddess, how can we react so explosively to “issues” that don’t concern us at all and yet remain unmoved by the futile wars, poverty, illiteracy, inhuman conditions prevelant in our society today? We are no better than cattle who are led by our self elected leaders, to extol the virtues of whom we will need a separate blog altogether.

The other thing I would want to understand is how your mind functions the way it does.

Cheers

2. Tapki - February 10, 2006

Hey Fungus,

I do not find any mention of the American White Male in ID Movement. However, assuming that you have done enough research on the subject, I do believe that the so-called burden of the White Man is definitely a burden for everyone else.

On the other hand, I do not believe that ID is completely devoid of merits. To a scientific mind, religion holds not use. However, to an emotional mind spirituality and religion can together provide a meaning to life.

ID, I believe, tries at a more holistic level to bring peace of mind to many folks. After all, science has not been able to resolve the eternal question of “Why (not how) we came into existance”.

Do not interpret whatever I say as being contrary to promotion of science. Interpret it rather as “to each his own”. If someone feels good about the fact that “God created us” instead of “we were created through a process of evolution”…well let him/her. This is what true liberalism and freedom of speech is about.

3. Arindam - February 10, 2006

I have some objection to Tapki’s comments. Freedom of speech does not mean you can say anything and everything. Absolute freedom results in absolute mess. Hence, freedom is bounded by laws and norms of the society.
It’s not true that science has not been able to tell how life was created. The origin of catalytic RNA will soon be unearthed, I believe. Through simulated experiments a lot of advances have been made there. There are proofs also of evolution of humans. So, comments like “God created us” seems juvenile and illiterate. On the contrary, we created God and named them differently as per our beliefs and convictions.
Definitely in a world where one can’t believe even close friends, having a super natural force to worship helps to relieve emotion stress. I have no objection to that but uttering juvenile concepts in the name of freedom of speech is something to seriously ponder about.
Also, the propaganda in US reminds me of the Nazi propaganda during WWII. I hope sincerely that the world is not moving in that direction again.

4. Kamal - February 20, 2006

well, it should.
and it does.
but honestly, cross my heart and swear to die, not much.

fortunately or unfortunately, i know i’m apathetic towards a lot of things that are going wrong in the world today. and frankly, i don’t think its ever going to change. but i’m not too worried. there are too many people and too many opinions and too much din that everyone is making for any ‘one’ voice to cut through and fool the world. and that is the reason why one or two or n people will never be able to ‘take over the world’ with any sort of belief. that’s the tragedy of the world today, but also the best part.

and its that fact that makes me, as an individual, stop myself from going out of my way to convince people and try to open their eyes to the hoax that is the world today.

because i know there will always be resistance when one tries to ‘make someone change their mind’. people will believe only what they want to believe. and even though we’d wish, there is only a small fraction of the world that is willing to listen to logic and reason and an even smaller fraction that is willing to change its beliefs based on new logic & proof. and i am pretty darn sure that bunch (including me) will sooner or later get disillusioned with the masses of people who get swayed by popular logic that rises like a wave once in a few years to become ‘flavour of the decade’.

And I don’t think any of these changes can be done in the matter of a lifetime. You and I and everyone we know will be long gone before any cause like this actually makes a tangible difference, and by that time, there will be a dozen new issues that will be more serious than this.

I agree with Arindam when he says that belief in ‘God’ helps people to relax and allows them to let ‘fate’ take over – it gives them ‘hope’ – the belief that there is someone ‘human’ out there who is taking a personal interest in your life. And I strongly believe in ‘to each his own’. I personally think ‘belief’ in God makes me feel weaker and I choose not to. But if it makes someone feel stronger, good for him. I just know it doesn’t feel like my thing.

As far as America goes, my information, like yours, is also completely second-hand. And I think the basic problem is that it is a society that is cocooned in its own world, where what works is only ‘information’ and ‘marketing’, both of which are heavily controlled by the media and the Government. Information about the world is something the American public has never been good at, and its in the best interests of the Government to keep it that way.

I took life very seriously till I consciously chose not to. I know there’s a part of me which died that day, but at least I’m glad I killed it myself instead of letting the disillusionment kill it. Sorry for sounding so terminally cynical.

However, one thing I would love to discuss on one of your posts is this –

A fair share of boys (including me) got bullied in school. But over time, you learn how it works. You learn that you get bullied because you let yourself get bullied. And its possible to prevent that by having controlling your actions and reactions. And then the bullying stops. And the bully becomes someone who is willing to take the ‘peer’ role with you. Because you won’t take his shit anymore.

What I don’t understand is why are all the remaining nations in the world letting the US bully its way around world politics.

Is it just the money? Or is it the fact that they couldn’t care less? Or the fear of being ostracized? Or the fact that they don’t believe that they could all be united and put their collective feet down and tell the US to shut up and stand in the queue just like everyone else?

5. Tapki - March 1, 2006

Arindam,

You must have heard of something like this:

Give me strength to change what is not right
Give me courage to accept what I cannot change
And the wisdom to see the difference between the two

I believe in the 3rd line more than anything else. You (or for that matter anyone!) has a brain for the purpose of assessing what is worth the time and what is not.

Bans and censors are not required for speech. Filters in the brain should be developed to see the difference between what to accept and what to disregard. Thats what brains are for in the first place. If someone else does the thinking on your part…what’s the use of your intelligence?

6. Malicious - May 15, 2006

I dont quite agree with the view expressed by Tapki because we make decisions based on information available. If the information fed in is false and malicious, then the informed decision you take will obviously be wrong. For a moment if this information were assumed to be a vicious rumour and a viciously wrong untruth and the populace believes in it because it is packaged and presented well you could have absolute chaos.
Freedom also means responsibility and censorship curtail irresponsible behavior of the free people.


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