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"Fundamentalism is the Enemy of All Civilized Humanity".
September 21, 2002 5:18 PM   Subscribe

"Fundamentalism is the Enemy of All Civilized Humanity". The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), an organization fighting against the Taliban for the past ten years, commemorates Sept. 11 and describes Afghanistan one year later. What they describe ain't pretty: "With their second occupation of Kabul, the 'Northern Alliance' thwarted any hopes for a radical, meaningful change. They are themselves now the source and root of insecurity, the disgraceful police atmosphere of the Loya Jirga, rampant terrorism, gagging of democracy, atrocious violations of human rights, mounting pauperization, prostitution and corruption, the flourishing of poppy cultivation, failure of beginning to reconstruct, and a host of further unlisted evils, too many to enumerate."
posted by talos (26 comments total)

 
To quote Tool: beliefs are dangerous [...] question everything.

Obviously that is not meant to be taken too literally, but it seems to make sense to me.

Of course, I'm an agnostic, so I'll use anything I can find to support my religious stance (or lack thereof).
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2002


The ironies in this are too sad and rife to bear.

GWB has joined Iran and Iraq in naysaying a proposal to lessen teen pregnancy and the spread of AIDS because of the dreaded "condoms."

So the "Fundamentalists" are at war with each other, despite their common beliefs.

And, meanwhile, all of us are victimized by their superstitions.
posted by kozad at 5:41 PM on September 21, 2002


kozad: Where did you get the info about GWB? I'd be interested in seeing a source to the accusations.
posted by aznblader at 5:48 PM on September 21, 2002


...and fret for your pilot...

-Tool
posted by clavdivs at 5:56 PM on September 21, 2002


kozad: they are not allegations it's a matter of record see this. f.e.
posted by talos at 5:56 PM on September 21, 2002


Errr... I meant to answer aznblader not kozad, sorry!
posted by talos at 5:58 PM on September 21, 2002


aznblader- might not be exactly what kozad was talking about, but Bush-supported Christian organizations have aided Islamic governments to prevent the spread of women's and gay rights. As explaned in this article, one coalition-member is even quoted as praising the Islamic governments' oppression of women, because "We have realized that without countries like Sudan, abortion would have been recognized as a universal human right in a U.N. document." Lovely.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:00 PM on September 21, 2002


Thanks for the links!
posted by aznblader at 6:32 PM on September 21, 2002


I've been reminded many times since 9/11 that I heard Rt. Rev. Robert A.E. Runcie, 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, speak in 1994, when he said, "Islamic fundamentalism is the greatest threat today."
posted by tbc at 10:28 PM on September 21, 2002


tbc - it might be little bit dishonest, but I think Rev Runcie could do with a little editing - let's pretend he honestly meant "fundamentalism is the greatest threat today.".

Funamentally speaking, it's true.
posted by Neale at 11:01 PM on September 21, 2002


everyone's a fundamentalist. how can strongly held, action-affecting beliefs be wrong per se? why is intolerance always intolerable?
posted by mhjb at 3:06 AM on September 22, 2002


Fundamentalism in itself isn't wrong. It's horribly frightening when the fundamentalists in question are fundamentalist about evil ideas and concepts, like Islamism, Stalinism, etc. But if the same people were fundamentalist about a good philosophy, they would be your greatest allies in this world.
posted by dagny at 3:36 AM on September 22, 2002


And yes, everyone is indeed a fundamentalist, mhjb, acting out his/her own moral ideas. Some of which are objectively better and/or worse than others.
posted by dagny at 3:38 AM on September 22, 2002


dagny: It's horribly frightening when the fundamentalists in question are fundamentalist about evil ideas and concepts

You see, thats just it dagny. Each fundamentalist believes he is advocating the right and good philosophy, and everyone else is merely adhering to the evil ones.

What makes fundametalism horrifying if the fact that people adhere to their set of standards so fanatically that it clouds their ability to change their views in light of new evidence. What they are fanatical about makes no difference. Everything is evil to someone.
posted by jono at 5:34 AM on September 22, 2002


why is everyone fundamentalist? what's the argument here (it just seemed to appear as an unsubstantiated claim in mhjb - was it a joke?)?

isn't a good definition of fundamentalism that it advocates a single rigid set of rules? if so, then i don't think most people are fundamentalists - people in general are very flexible. this flexibility is the big problem for moral philosophy - despite centuries of trying it's proved impossible (so far) to work out a set of rules that are self consistent, workable, and intuitively correct in all situations.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:14 AM on September 22, 2002


To argue that "everyone is a fundamentalist" makes hash out of the term's meaning, as well as its complexity; see here.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:44 AM on September 22, 2002


Or see also here (Oxford English Dictionary link).

Fundamentalism applies to both Islam and Protestant Christianity. It also applies to political and economic doctrinism, but I don't think those really apply here, as they could be doctrine to many beliefs, ie Lassaiz Faire Capitalism, Marxism, Libertarianism, Green-ism, etc, and should have no application to moral beliefs.

Going with the application to Islam and Protestantism, I agree wholeheartedly. Nothing's a priori wrong with deeply-held action-affecting beliefs, but the second they get tied to hate, ignorance, and destruction, then they are bad. And don't argue that it's only the Muslims that fit these criteria... cough cough Christians cough.

On a side note, at the International Center of Photography in New York, there is an exhibition of printed video stills and clips taken by RAWA over the last ten years (though I don't think it's on their website for some reason; it still should be at the Center). Crucifixions, stonings, firing squads, hangings. The horrors weren't unexpected to me, but seeing them was so different... I recommend seeing it to anyone around New York.
posted by The Michael The at 7:24 AM on September 22, 2002


Based on my own youthful experiences as a Christian fundamentalist who educated himself out of it, I think a common trait of fundamentalism would be attempting to over-simplify a complex subject. It seems to usually involve taking an archaic world-view and forcing the world to fit into it, rejecting any information that causes cognitive dissonance and disregarding the violence to your own rationality.

Recently one of my aunts said to my mother, "You just pick and choose what you want to believe in the Bible. You think you're smarter than God." Of course she must remain unaware of the fact that she is "picking and choosing" herself, since in her daily life she doesn't act as if the world is flat and disease is caused by demonic possession. Nor would she be very sympathetic if her daughter suddenly became magically pregnant without intercourse.

And why do people do this? Because the world is a confusing place and it's easier to pretend you know the answers than it is to live with uncertainty.
posted by norm29 at 8:03 AM on September 22, 2002


i don't think most people are fundamentalists - people in general are very flexible. this flexibility is the big problem for moral philosophy - despite centuries of trying it's proved impossible (so far) to work out a set of rules that are self consistent, workable, and intuitively correct in all situations.

This "flexibility" you speak of (or "relativism" or "subjectivism" or whatever you want to call it) is a set of rules in itself, which was my point to begin with. Philosophical inconsistency applied consistently.
posted by dagny at 8:37 AM on September 22, 2002


This "flexibility" you speak of (or "relativism" or "subjectivism" or whatever you want to call it) is a set of rules in itself, which was my point to begin with. Philosophical inconsistency applied consistently.

But what defines fundamentalism is not the existence of moral rule sets but the nature of those rule sets, where they come from and what happens when a conflict occurs. In Fundamentalism the rules are held to be true by authority. If the Book says Pi= 3 (which it does) or that the Earth is flat then by all means all evidence for an irrational Pi or a round Earth must be rejected. (Fundamentalists themselves are inconsistent on this point.)

In contrast, most philosophy holds that rules are open to modification if new information requires it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:13 AM on September 22, 2002


life: a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% mortality rate. it's fundamental!
posted by quonsar at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2002


This "flexibility" you speak of (or "relativism" or "subjectivism" or whatever you want to call it) is a set of rules in itself, which was my point to begin with. Philosophical inconsistency applied consistently.

That's cod philosophy that's been lying around in Billingsgate until it stinks. 'Flexibility' isn't a set of rules, it's a set of practices. A bloody cricket match is governed by a set of rules, but that doesn't make cricketers fundamentalists.
posted by riviera at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2002


Just to note: fundamentalism isn't a religious movement, but a political one. Of any stripe. It ain't about morals, it's about power.
posted by jokeefe at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2002


Philosophical inconsistency applied consistently.

all you've done is define fundamentalism so widely that any action becomes "fundamentalist". you're free to do that, but then "fundamentalism" loses all practical meaning - so why even bother talking about it? under your definition, "the action of a fundamentalist" is semantically equivalent to "the action". this is obviously not consistent with current usage.

what's "fundamentalist" about the actions of a new born child, for example? nothing. yet its actions, are necesarily philosophically inconsistent and so, by your absurdly wide defintion, fundamentalist.

and i wasn't speaking of relativism or subjectivism or any other ism - my point was that the very failure of any ism to capture what it means to live a "normal" moral life demonstrates the fundamental (ha) problem of fundamentalism - that defining any rigid set of moral rules is impractical. you either break the rules or end up comitting daft acts like flying aeroplanes into buildings.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2002


Re. Neale's reply to my comment -- I agree with jokeefe -- fundamentalism is dangerous when it has power, e.g. control over territory, money, weapons, etc. However, before one chooses to paint all religious fundamentalists with the same brush, I would make an additional assertion: genuine religious fundamentalists are distinguished by what they are willing to die for; the counterfeits concentrate on what they are willing to kill for.

"One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted."
-- Thomas B. Reed, American lawyer and legislator (1839-1902)
posted by tbc at 4:25 PM on September 22, 2002


tbc - so do you think it's wrong to attack people who provide abortions? (i ask because you're website is clearly pro-christ anti-abortion, and your comment above suggests you consider yourself a fundamentalist).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:00 PM on September 22, 2002


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