I could have been one of the hijackers in 9/11.
Luckily for me, there’s no culture of terrorism among young Christian fundamentalists (yet). But I believed it strongly enough that, if you’d shown me Bible verses that persuaded me it was God’s will, I would have blown up myself and other people for the faith.
Hopefully, you’ve been following my mini-series on Fundamentalists and conspiracy theories. To recap:
Fundamentalists think Global Warming is a lie, part of a New Age agenda.
Further, they believe this New Age agenda is an Illuminati conspiracy to destroy the church and create one world government. The Illuminati strategy is to attack the church through the ACLU and the public school system, and eventually create the conditions for the Antichrist to rise to power.
So, I imagine, you’ve concluded that these people are insane. I recently stumbled across this WordPress blog post:
The ACLU is a threat to our existence as Christians. They will not stop until we are homeless and have no place to go. By virtue of the fact that we pay taxes, they could ban us from even having an income. By virtue of churches being a public place, they could ban us from churches. By virtue of the promotion of our beliefs being in violation of their views of state and church, they could end up banning the Bible itself. By virtue of their view that religion should be separated from the political system, they will ban us from voting of any kind. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The existence of Christianity and the ACLU are mutually exclusive. This gets ten times worse when you consider how much of our land the government is going to own. We will be slaves to the atheists while they get special treatment in almost every part of the economy and government. That is the end result of “state church separation”.
The guy’s a nutbag, right?
Maybe, but probably not. I used to believe most of what I’ve explained in these posts, and a lot more besides. I believed Satanists performed miracles. I believed in demonic strongholds over cities. I believed giving money to a televangelist would make me rich. I believed the earth was less than 10,000 years old. And although my mental health did suffer a lot in my mid-teens, I was never insane.
I was not the worst. One of my teachers at Victory (my ACE school) came back from a missionary trip in Argentina, excitedly telling us how the city she’d visited was cursed by the devil because Freemasons had built it in the shape of an inverted cross. This kind of thing is common with fundies.
Stephen Law was correct to write that Creationism involves thinking “in ways that, under other circumstances, might justifiably lead us to suspect the thinker is suffering from some sort of mental illness.” Under other circumstances. But, under the present circumstances, we are not dealing with mentally ill people.
What we are seeing is the net result of a belief process that does not teach you to believe things based on evidence. Sure, some of the irrational beliefs I’ve exposed do not have any kind of Biblical foundation, but they are still the result of faith. You cannot be a fundamentalist and have a robust, critical way of thinking about the world. You cannot know how to evaluate evidence. You cannot know, in short, how to think. Fundamentalism is a cancer on the ability to think, and it leads to this level of extreme gullibility.
3 Ways Fundamentalism Stop Rational Inquiry
1) It puts certain matters beyond question.
Take Accelerated Christian Education’s claim, typical of fundamentalists: “If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.”
2) It uses distorted systems of thought which superficially appear reasonable, but which in fact aren’t. So believers think they are thinking logically, when they are not. See Stephen Law’s Believing Bullshit.
3) When all else fails, it simply denies that reason is a valid way to reach truth:
“Man should never trust his own reasoning – his reasoning may be incorrect because man’s reasoning is not God’s reasoning.”
Here is the core question:
Can a belief make a good person do evil things?
Of course it can. Just look at the superstition that raping a baby can cure AIDS. If you have AIDS, and you believe that, it’s more likely you’ll do it.
Once we accept that this is possible, we have to determine whether it does happen in practice. And, well, it does. Here are a handful from recent news:
Now, Christians (and Muslims), I am not saying these views are representative of your faith, or even that they are common. I am just saying that they have happened.
Christian apologists will say that these people would have done wrong anyway. They will argue that they may use religion as a justification for their actions, but the real reasons are not religious. That might be true of people who come to faith as adults (the beliefs have to originate somewhere, and no one sensible is claiming that murdering gays is God’s idea), but what about children?
The children of Westboro Baptist Church carry out digusting, repugnant actions. And they do these on the basis of the beliefs they were raised to have. And almost all fundamentalists are fundamentalists from birth. They were all raised this way. And it’s a way of thinking that’s virtually impossible to shake off. I’m not advocating sympathy for them. I think once you reach adulthood, you’re responsible for your beliefs and actions regardless of how you were raised. But let’s not lie to ourselves for the sake of appeasement: It is the faith itself that creates the abhorrent actions. And it’s the faith that stops people questioning the morality of this.
The reason I believed all this crap is because I was raised from birth to believe it, with the accompanying faith-based system of thought that is necessary to support it. I mean it when I say I could have been a suicide bomber. I had no support network of rational thought to defend against it. And I am not an evil person, and I was not insane. I just had absolute, unshakeable belief.
These people are probably not insane.
But how can you tell? Fundamentalism leaves sane people entirely indistinguishable from insane people.
Come back tomorrow, when I’ll explain how I think a Christian terrorist could act, based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture. UPDATE: Here it is.
- What Fundamentalists Believe About Global Warming
- Fundamentalists, the Illuminati, Freemasons, and the UN
- The Scientific Method According to Accelerated Christian Education
- Book Review: Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law