My previous Ethical Musings post explored reasons people find religious fundamentalism attractive. The post concluded that some people turn to fundamentalism as a source of political power. Fundamentalism, especially when adopted as a source of political power, unavoidably spawns three evils.
First, fundamentalism promotes ignorance and devalues non-religious sources of knowledge. Abundant evidence of this exists in the United States. Christian fundamentalists oppose the teaching of scientific theories such as evolution even though no credible alternative theory exists. They also want to falsify U.S. history to fit their beliefs of American exceptionalism and that the US was established as a Christian nation. Similarly, Islamist fundamentalists close schools for girls and destroy important historical artifacts.
Second, fundamentalism divides rather than unifies people. Opposition in the name of Christian fundamentalism to full civil rights for all people regardless of gender and gender orientation exemplifies this divisiveness. The divisiveness is also evident in Sunni Islamist fundamentalists declaring that all Shiite Muslims are apostates. Genuine tolerance, which is essential for people to live in unity and harmony with one another, requires mutual respect in the face of diversity. Fundamentalism produces an intolerance that demands conformity to laws and norms the fundamentalist promulgates.
Third, fundamentalism is an early step toward religiously motivated terrorism. A majority of people find religious fundamentalism of any flavor unappealing. This means that fundamentalists represent a minority, generally a disempowered minority. Non-state terrorism is a violent tactic or strategy that the weak adopt because they see no viable alternative to right what they perceive to be egregious injustice. Terrorism is always wrong because it targets the innocent for the political benefit of others. Thus, Christian anti-abortion terrorists bomb abortion clinics (a weak, non-state group targeting healthcare providers the group deems guilty of murder). Islamist terrorists destroy the World Trade Center (a weak, non-state group targeting business people they deem guilty of anti-Islamic policies and, if nominally Muslim, of apostasy).
Fundamentalist religion provides both the motive and justification for the terror attacks. The motive is to establish a more just world. The group's conception of a more just world is religiously determined and therefore not subject to discussion or compromise. Hence, the vision of a just world is unique to each fundamentalist group and will inevitably be incompatible with a secular democracy that respects the dignity of all persons and a broad diversity of beliefs and values. Violent attacks that target non-group members are justifiable because adherents of other (or no) religion are prima facie guilty. Non-members implicitly, if not explicitly, reject the one true way, i.e., the terror group's fundamentalist ideology.
As Christians, remaining silent in the face of Christian fundamentalism is no longer excusable. We betray the one who taught that the truth will set us free, who loved and respected all people equally, and whose disciples called knew him as the Prince of Peace. Love the person and reject fundamentalism!