Worthwhile Reads: An answer for everything

Blogger Sober Second Look has another piece you should read:

The conservative brands of Islam that I came to know intimately all had one thing in common: they gave you knowledge of everything. Everything in this world that mattered, anyway, as well as a glimpse of the next.

Whatever question you might have, there was a plausible-sounding, coherent answer for. Often, a fairly straightforward answer. All you had to do was to ask an imam, a shaykh, or a person known for their Islamic knowledge.Any question at all. Ritual questions. Legal questions. Ethical questions. Practical questions. Theological questions. Eschatological questions. Questions about how Islamic beliefs stack up against other religions. Historical questions. Psychological questions. And so on.

The world made sense, because we learned how to slot every question, every experience, every situation or thing that we encountered or read or heard about into its “correct” place in the scheme of things. And because we could do that, we gained a feeling of control over our lives. And, sad to say, over the lives of others.

It really is interesting how similar the attractions of fundamentalism are across religions. Uncanny, really. Because I’ve often thought of fundamentalist Christianity in the same terms – it offers answers to all the big questions, answers that are simple and easy to understand, and a way of making sense of the world that dispensed with uncertainty. And for many, that is very attractive.


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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • machintelligence

    “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” H. L. Mencken

  • Kevin Alexander

    I think that human brains are wired that way. Every unresolved question is a stress added to a brain that seeks equilibrium so it’s better to come up with some answer, any answer, even if you have to make one up. Religions are just organized systems for that.

    Plus, having an authority saves the effort of making one up so it’s win-win for the lazy or the frightened.

  • Rob Major

    Underneath every religious belief is a thumb to suck, a skirt to hold — a security blanket for the frightened child. It’s a big, scary world out there, and it doesn’t care about you. Not At all. Deal with it.

  • Ismenia

    You don’t even need to be a fundamentalist to feel that. As a teenager part of me found great comfort at times persuading myself that my beliefs was the most important thing and that I was privy to something that eluded many who were otherwise very clever. The sad thing was that I could never stomach fundamentalism and I could never reconcile what I wanted to believe with the actual contents of the Bible or my actual observation, knowledge and experience. Those moments of comfort, joy and smugness were far outweighed the torment of doubt and fear of anything that would force me to acknowledge that none of it was true.

  • Ismenia

    Correction: that last sentence should read, “Those moments of comfort, joy and smugness were far outweighed BY the torment of doubt and fear of anything that would force me to acknowledge that none of it was true.

  • smrnda

    Part of the reason I’ve never found the notion that there was someone or some institution out there who just had all the answers was that growing up, I read a lot and realized that not only did many adults get things wrong (from comparison the books I’ve read) but that the books could even be wrong sometimes. The world is a complicated place, and the answers are incredibly messy and incomplete much of the time.

    I’m always surprised by how credible people are, but I also realize that my upbringing was pretty unusual in that I had really educated parents who, rather than being more involved ‘helicopter’ parents, left me completely alone. I wonder if there’s something dangerous in raising your kids to believe you’re infallible in that it sets them up to want to repeat the process in adulthood.