Connection Between Fundamentalists and Atheists

Alise Wright of Alise, Write! had a guest-post at Friendly Atheist in which she asked that atheists stop telling Progressive Christians like herself that they are not “real Christians.”

Amongst the comments were many saying thing like, “… that’s what the Bible SAYS,” ignoring the fact that Progressives are not Biblicists, pretty much by definition. (There isn’t really a definition for Progressive Christians, but not interpreting the Bible in a flat, context-free way would be part of any that existed.)

Over at Irreducible Complexity, Ian has a *facepalm* over the fact that the Fundamentalist have won:

They have successfully convinced the world that Christianity is nothing more or different to bible worship. That being a Christian is believing in an inerrant, absolute bible. That the ultimate goal of Christians is to follow every instruction in the bible.

I think Ian is partially right. I think that the prominence of conservative Christians has allowed them to define the terms of the debate, and that even many people outside Christianity have internalized those terms. But I also wonder if there isn’t another layer to it.

Both Fundamentalism and atheism are products of modernity (although only atheists admit it.) There’s a certain straightforward appeal to the Fundamentalist approach to religion that I think might appeal to modernist sensibilities. There’s a clear line of authority: everything is supposedly laid out in scripture, which is the ultimate authority and the Word of God. There’s none of the ambiguity or the subjectivity that haunts other forms of Christianity.

Of course, this means trying to force the Bible to be something it’s not. There’s no way for a few biographies and a passel of letters to become “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” and trying to force it just makes you look silly. But interpretation sounds arbitrary to some modernists, and so anything that smacks of it gets labeled “picking and choosing” or “wishy-washy.”