Definition: red herring: any diversion intended to distract attention from the main issue
There are two main arguments that armchair philosophers or moderate Christians confront me with more than any other argument. To me, the fact that these two arguments are more copious than any other, is extraordinarily revealing in itself; they’re the “fallback” arguments relied upon when all other arguments fail.
Argument #1: “Those in power, including the Church itself, as well as a cast of other characters are responsible for altering, bastardizing, modifying, changing, or hiding, the true essence of who Jesus Christ was and what he stood for. The true essence of Jesus’ message was one of peace and love, and that over time, for countless reasons, it was changed from what Jesus himself preached.”
I address this in my “The True Christian Job Description“ article.
What we’re concerned most in addressing here is the second-most presented argument which states:
Argument #2: “Since you believe so rigidly in your belief in evolution and mysticism, you are no different than any other fundamentalist who clings so rigidly to their beliefs.”
This is nothing more than one of the many red herrings and slippery slope tactics that Christians are forced to revert to; tactics that take a great deal of thought and insight to deal with, affording them what seems like an airtight position, when the truth is that it’s only an intellectual red herring that throws many off the truth, even themselves.
In response, I have my short answer, but that never seems to suffice: Fundamentalists believe that the Bible is true. If any evidence contradicts it, the evidence must be thrown out and not the Bible. Conversely, I have arrived at my beliefs because of the evidence and not despite it. I believe that the Bible is NOT true because of the evidence.
Although I am not an atheist and don’t agree with all of what Richard Dawkins ascribes to, I do think he said it quite well when he remarked; “I am no more fundamentalist when I say evolution is true than when I say it is true that New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere. We believe in evolution because the evidence supports it, and we would abandon it overnight if new evidence arose to disprove it. No real fundamentalist would ever say anything like that.”
Also, Sam Harris in “The End of Faith” captures the difference as well when he said; “The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.”
Sam went on to explain that God is taught to above and outside of the confines of morality as a way to preempt any attack over the multitude of acts committed in the name of God and religion. One only can’t question the motives of their God, but it teaches that not questioning is a virtue, as well as an idea that gives them license to kill (literally) in the name of their God.
In other words, in any other context, acts committed in the name of religion would be considered madness or the result of some sort of mental illness (just look at the number of non-violent criminals in jail convicted of smoking something in the privacy of their own homes, as opposed to the number of people in jail because they’re murdered in the name of their Christian God).
And that’s because most who murder in the name of their God in the United States are hailed as heroes, those who dissent are called “infidels” or “insurgents” or a term that amounts to exactly the same thing in the eyes of some of the most powerful people in the world; “atheists” or even; “homosexuals.”
When people tell me that I exaggerate on that point, I simply quote George Bush (among many others) when he was on the campaign trail in Chicago in 1987; “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” It was further reinforced by his son a number of times, equating exercising our rights to free speech as equaling non-patriotism (another article for another time), which falls exactly in line with what the God of the Bible demands of His followers.
The Fundamental Majority
Actually, one of the more curious things I encountered during my research was a new term that’s emerging and causing the expected reactions. It’s the term “American Taliban“. I rarely post links because links are always changing, but this is one that includes a number of quotes from some of our most prominent personalities and political figures. It’s frightening no matter how one looks at it.
So, anyone who tries to argue that fundamentalists are just a few of extremists who don’t represent the true Christian majority or their ideals and beliefs, need to take a look around at how the rest of the world perceives Christianity. The world views it through the eyes of your leaders, and your leaders, by the sheer numbers alone, are people like Ronald Reagan, George Bush (both), Jerry Falwell, Fred Phelps, and countless other household names.
Honestly, I’m far more on the side of Christians than I’m n the side of of atheists or fundamentalists. But, until moderate Christians understand the true nature of the religion they are a part of and the message it’s delivering to the world, nothing positive could ever happen to repair the damage.
To make matters worse, according to statistics, the number of fundamentalist Christians who have never read the Bible are in even greater numbers than any other group of Christians. Yet fundamentalist Christians are typically the most vocal, often the most violent, and without question; the single-most powerful political force in the world today. I’m shocked at how few people find this simple fact as deeply disturbing as it truly is. And for anyone who thinks that I am once exaggerating the truth or drawing false conclusions in order to make a point, I offer more smatterings of the mountains of evidence that are waiting on the nearest search engine:
Jerry Falwell alone has over 20,000,000 followers and he represents evangelical Christians who have grown so powerful in this country, that it has recently caused a prominent Republican (Barry Goldwater) to say in a passionate plea on the floor of Congress:
“I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.'”
Jerry Falwell (positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/foulwell.htm) is not some “extremist” or some “fringe” Fundamentalist Christian who doesn’t represent the religious majority in this country. His positions are not only right in line with the God of the Bible; he is the perfect disciple as well. He believes that, “Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions,” which aligns with the necessary fact that religion is taught as a virtue that can never be questioned (a requirement to allow the God of the Bible and His followers to justify its numerous atrocities against humanity throughout history).
When it comes to AIDS and homosexuality, Jerry’s got an answer as well when he said, “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
No matter what side of the tracks you are on in relation to this issue, internalize this for a minute: Not only are homosexuals condemned to a life in the fiery pits of Hell, but so is anyone who allows, votes, tolerates any kind of homosexual behavior whatsoever, even if it occurs only within your own mind.
Unfortunately, these are just a very few examples of countless. The infamous “Year of the Bible” (www.criminalgovernment.com/docs/pl97-280.html), enacted in Congress (and Ronald Regan) in 1983 is something Christians hold up as proof positive that this nation was founded on Christian beliefs and ideals (see “The USA: Hijacked by Christians“ for more). This only makes it more apparent that the indoctrination is so deep and the fundamentalists have progressed so far in their “Crusade” that it has reached the mouths of modern presidents who have evangelicals dictating the law of this great country.
The resolution states: “Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of The United States … Whereas that renewing our knowledge of, and faith in God through Holy Scriptures can strengthen us as a nation and a people. Now therefore be it resolved … that the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national ‘Year of the Bible’ in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.”
If this isn’t a case of Christians saying something enough times that it becomes the accepted truth, I don’t know what is.
Knowing how pervasive this system of belief is makes it even more frustrating that arguments get couched in such specific terms of “Christian,” “Muslim,” “atheist,” “agnostic,” “liberal,” or “fundamentalist.” I am guilty of it, too, and it only serves limit any discussion and only further reinforces the divide between people instead of creating a desperately-needed atmosphere of common ground. Part of what I dream of is that he atheists, agnostics, Christians, and mystics at least agree that the fight isn’t with each other, but with the brand of Christianity that has hijacked the entire world.
Back to the Point
As is my manta: I never intended to be on the side I am now (which is no one’s side, but certainly NOT on the side of Christians either); I only ended up here because after an exhaustive search of all available research, opinion, and debate from ALL sides, there was no other conclusion I could come to. And this is, in no uncertain terms, is quite the opposite of Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is typically defined as a religious movement characterized by rigid adherence to principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
So, when fundamentalists feel I’m being unfair, harsh, or critical, it’s only because I’ve taken the steps that they refuse to take themselves. In fact, I’m deeply interested in debating any Christian to who takes issue with any of my positions because it offers one of the most treasured gifts I’ve ever been given by others; perspective. Perspective is something that continuously shapes, modifies, and well”¦evolves my position. I personally believe that there are multiple pathways to find one’s personal divine and would never claim that my way is the only way or even the best way, but I know what’s true for me and no one could ever tell me any differently.
Furthermore, fundamentalism teaches its followers that faith is not only a virtue, but that there is no room for evolution on one’s beliefs in relation to religion, because, at all costs and no matter what evidence points to the sheer absurdity contained within the Bible, since it’s the word of God, it’s infallible. Yet religion, without question, has repeatedly been one of the greatest stumbling blocks to human evolution on this planet, with more deaths racked up than any of the atheists Christians like to parade as examples of the evils of atheism ever could hope for.
If moderate Christians feel that they’re being unfairly limped in with fundamentalists, they need to have the courage to open their eyes to the truth. Whatever they believe the “true essence” of their religion to be; it’s been hijacked by what the world views as the religion known as “Christianity.” I actually feel that Christians have work that’s even more difficult than mine, because they are forced to frame their arguments and debate within a very specific and narrow framework if they hope to be heard. I, on the other hand, have the freedom to state my case from a completely outside and objective place.
Either way, what makes all of this even more disturbing to me, is that Christians do not stop at trying to police the world in the name of their God; they are now working tirelessly to police the content of each of our minds as well! This is perhaps the most distressful issue I presently have with the fundamentalist movement in America as well as the rest of the world.
It’s here that I could trot out all the examples of Christians interfering with our individual choice in the name of their God, or skillfully deploying slippery slope arguments or tossing out red herrings. Instead, I offer one of the more troubling as well as bizarre examples I’ve found, but one that has made waves throughout the world, especially in relation to the number of protests that have been organized by this person. Some like to paint Fred W. Phelps as an “extremist” (just as many like to paint the actions of terror groups as extremist, when in fact, they are following the instructions of their Good Book in exactly the same way Christians are), but the number of followers he has alone clearly removes him from the “Extremist” category and places him squarely in the “mainstream” category.
Fred W. Phelps and he’s one of the leading anti-gay activists in the world. One of his many websites is www.godhatesamerica.com, and although we’d like to write him off as an extremist; like it or not; he is one of the most powerful and influential voices of Christianity today. He’s made it his personal mission to rid the world of homosexuals, and he doesn’t stop there. Take a look through his websites, follow the news, reactions from the Christian community, and look to his thousands of demonstrations; he has a voice more powerful than even Christians would like to admit, but he’s become one of their spokespeople, like it or not.
Although he’s indefensible in virtually every regard, I have to acknowledge one disturbing but redeeming factor in regards to his case against the Catholic Church, presented on a sister website called www.priestsrapeboys.com. He says; “The Catholic Church is the largest, most well-funded and organized pedophile group in the history of man!”
At least he got that one right.
Although membership numbers are dropping at a measurable rate, fundamental Christianity still rules the world, infecting and polluting the very essence of what it means to be human, and in greater measure than most of us realize or are willing to admit. Our morals have been conclusively shown to not come from religion (see my “Morality from Religion Myth” for more), and there is indisputable evidence that most of the violence in the world is in the name of religion. If there is any way to effect a change, it’s got to come from the followers of Christianity itself; they need to educate and inform themselves, and to stop empowering their leaders through their own self-inflicted ignorance.