Fundamentalism

1. “I believe that black people are all criminals.”
2. “I believe that AIDS was a disease sent down by God to punish homosexuals.”
3. “I believe that when someone commits murder they should be hung by the neck until the brain is starved of oxygen and they die.”
4. “I believe that MC Escher is a rapper.”
5. “I believe the earth was created in six days.”
6. “I believe that privatisation of public amenities results in a better service through healthy competition.”
7. “I belive that rape victims secretly want sex with their attacker.”

Here is a list of some things I don’t believe. I don’t doubt that some people will disagree with me.

The thing they have in common, and the thing that I am really struggling with at the moment, is that they are all beliefs. How much right does anyone have to criticise someone’s belief? How much right does anyone have to try to change someone’s belief?

I like to think that if anyone in my presence was expounding on statement 1, I would challenge them fairly robustly. I am not sure this is true for some of the others. I think it is true for statement 6 for completely different reasons.

Statements 2 and 5 for me are both irrevocably incorrect. This is my opinion. I think I would challenge 2 more than 5, as 2 is incredibly offensive, whereas 5 is just bizarre. It has, however, been pointed out to me that it is not really on to criticise someone’s belief system, and I am concerned that, unknown to myself, I am some kind of fundamentalist atheist.

This upsets me mainly because I don’t like fundamentalists. Tolerance is a key virtue for me, in its purest form and stripped of the negative connotations that we investigated in the last post.

So, in summary, my quandary is that I am not sure if it is wrong to criticise beliefs at all, whether there are set occasions when it is and isn’t, and if there are some topics for which any opinion is acceptable and some for which there is a prescribed opinion. If anyone wants to share their thoughts, they would be most welcome.

Oh and apologies to those who like the lighter hearted stuff. But, you know, mix and matching is key to retaining your audience, or so they say.

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21 thoughts on “Fundamentalism

  1. Acceptance of others is important, whether you agree with them or not. You accept that they choose to believe something different to you. However, you have limitations. For example, I could not accept Hitler and what he did. Sometimes people use faith or their beliefs just as an outlet for the hatred inside of them.

    You, for example, don’t share the same faith as me, and I accept that. I don’t think you are a terrible person, I would like it if you did share my faith but I accept that you have your own beliefs.

    I just like you because you make funny typos sometimes…!!!

  2. Hmmm… Now Chris, I like this! This is a discussion! I think you should be allowed to criticise someone’s beliefs, especially if you disagree with them, because you are likely to criticise them in your head whether or not you vocalise them anyway. However, I don’t think this means that anyone should be expected to change their beliefs purely because someone else disagrees, because that would indicate to me that they weren’t really beliefs in the first place…
    I agree with Molly that there will be some things we can’t, and shouldn’t accept: Hitler, Saddam etc… However, not accepting still doesn’t mean those situations can now be changed…
    Some people (let’s talk about my parents) don’t actually think that people should be spending their energy on campaigning for Fair Trade. I do, but I’m not as passionate as a lot of people about it (although I probably should be). I have come to accept that my parents don’t have the same values as I do. I don’t agree with it, but I have to tolerate it. I perhaps don’t have to accept it (I could hassle them daily to buy Geobars and Cafe Direct) but on this occasion I choose to because it is their choice whether or not to change their beliefs on this subject now. If my brother were to be part of a gang who went round beating up gay people (he doesn’t. For the record.) Because my own personal belief system says it is wrong to beat people up, for whatever reason, I would not tolerate that behaviour and would report him to the police and do everything I could to ensure that he was punished for his crime. I might still accept his right to believe whatever he likes but beliefs and actions are not always the same thing.
    I have wittered. I apologise.
    Oh, hang on, I wanted to look at those points again…
    Hmmm, I guess you could tolerate a belief in all of those statements, but again I don’t think you should be expected to tolerate bad behaviour then carried out in their name. So if someone believed point 7) that is their ridiculous prerogative and I accept that I may never be able to change their mind. However, I do not believe we should tolerate it/stand by and allow them to go out and rape lots of people without being brought to justice.
    The end. (For now)

  3. PS (cos I haven’t said quite enough yet) Did I mention that I agree with you totally on disagreeing with all those points?! Isn’t that great?!

  4. Hullo! I come to say that i do agree with all the ladies above, and understand where you are coming from. But i guess the difference (or the excuse i give myself for being judgemental and critize them – i.e. those who hold the ‘beliefs’ you have described) is that these beliefs are underlined with hate. And that’s where the problem is.

    I am what some might refer to as agnostic (which i somewhat don’t like, but we’ll come back to that later…ouh, Mister Chris, you have opened a bag or worms here!), and i do humbly admit that religious people do scare me a little, just bc i’ve always had this prejudice that they want to convert me :S. Truth is, some of my best friends are Christians, but, as your last post pointed out, they don’t ‘tolerate’ my ‘impious ways’, they just take it as is, without any negative connotations, just as i don’t think my unacceptance of their Christian God is any superior to their faith. There is mutual respect, and openness to discussion. Most ppl who are fundamentalists – and mostly bigotted – aren’t. They discriminate, and when faced with disagreement resort to distorted personal attacks.
    Personally, when i start discussing about someone’s beliefs, whether it be racial, religious or sexual, it is to better understand it more than to change it necessarily, especially if they are different from mine (and if they somehow do change in the end, then great! ;)), but i’m interested in exactly how someone can come to believe that all criminals are blacks, or that rape victims deserve it, or that homosexuality is a sin, that the all mighty and loving ‘God’ could hate gays? And i would gladly answer to any of their interrogation, and explain where my beliefs, my reasonning come from, and would even be ready to be challenged [just as long as there is a true atmosphere of understanding, not intolerance… actully, no, i’d still welcome arguments even if they attacked me… i’m foolish that way)]. Because i don’t think that i’m always right, that i know all things above and beyond….

    Which brings me to why i don’t like being called ‘agnostic’ :). Or anything concerning matters of spirituality for that matter, just bc i don’t know. Whether there is a god or not, whehter it cares to watch down on us or not, i just don’t know, and my belief changes depending on what i am going through. ‘God’ doesn’t play a significant role in my life bc it doesn’t make any sense to me right now. But to set myself into a definitive category as ‘agnostic’ feels to me like i am restricting myself inside a dogmatic box that doesn’t allow error nor change. Yet, error & change are the only things I irrefutably know as occuring in all of us.

    So there. My two cents (canadian too, so not quite sure it’s worth that much :P) But um, yes. I don’t know how else to end this, so g’day!

  5. At risk of criticising your beliefs:

    You are wrong on No. 6.

    That is all 😀

  6. In reverse order: (!)

    Walesy, I put that there just for you! I wonder why it is considered socially acceptable for Red and Blue to hurl abuse at each other but not when religion enters the fray?

    VV (which for some reason looks like a W in this font) – thanks for your input. I guess most Christian friends I have would rather I was a Christian, but I see this as proof they really are my friend after all. If I believed all the things they believed then I would want the people I cared about to believe it too. Similarly, in my heart of hearts, I would rather they were atheists, although much less so, as their beliefs (in the majority of cases – see last post) do not conflict with mine, and so they are welcome to believe what they wish if it makes them happy.

    Agnosticism is a tricky old category and no mistake, but if you have found something that works for you then you have done pretty well, in my book. Being open minded to change would seem no bad thing either.

    And your centimes are acceptable currency here. Even if you do say “aboot”.

    Although of course you might not say that. I get a lot of knowledge from South Park, but it does let me down sometimes.

    Welshy, well done on agreeing with me (!) although I did my best to try to choose ones that were not too controversial! If you are interested, the point about homosexuality from the last post falls somewhere about the statement 1 or 7 level of offensiveness for me, although I accept this is personal.

    You say a belief is not a belief if it can be changed by discussion? Is this not a bad idea? That would mean you could only form a belief if you had access to all the information, which is impossible.

    You also say we shouldn’t accept Hitler or Saddam, but these are individuals who are now either dead (Saddam) or living on the moon with Elvis and Lord Lucan (Hitler) – however their philosophies live on elsewhere and these should continue to be repudiated.

    Next point: beliefs cause actions. If you tolerate a racist belief in someone, then they can bring up their children (massively oversimplifying here for reasons of succinctness!) to commit race hate crimes, so that is why I believe even the belief itself should be censured as well as the action.

    Not sure if I agree with Fair Trade either, to be perfectly honest, as it is a nice idea in principle, but a bit artificial, and feels like companies and people playing at being ethical consumers/producers rather than anything fundamental.

    Also I would rather buy my lettuce from someone 2 miles away than some Fair Trader 100 miles away. Think of your carbon footprint!!

    Molly, you are the soul of tolerance, and if you tell anyone I accidentally said I was meeting Welshy in a “pubic area” rather than “public” I will get you!

  7. Molly, you are the soul of tolerance, and if you tell anyone I accidentally said I was meeting Welshy in a “pubic area” rather than “public” I will get you!

    Um, I think you just told her yourself! What a larf we had about pubic areas!!! Hee hee hee!

  8. Um, ‘agnostic’ means literally ‘without knowledge’. So, if you don’t know whether God exists or not, that pretty much makes you agnostic by definition. (Similarly, ‘atheist’ literally means ‘without God’.)

    As for the beliefs themselves, I disagree with all of them (except #6, about which I’m unconvinced either way).

    As for homosexuality, I don’t care – it doesn’t affect me in the slightest. What does offend me are ‘civil partnerships’, but only because they’re incredibly stupid. (If society really believes homosexuality is okay, then approve gay marriage, and call it ‘marriage’. If not, ban it. But ‘civil partnerships’ do the double duty of being offensive to those opposed to gay marriage AND clearly show that the marriage of a same-sex couple is different from that of a mixed-sex couple.) There’s more on that topic, but I’m disinclined to elaborate further at this time.

  9. Argh, I’m so behind! However I feel the need to comment, just briefly, because you commented at me. I didn’t say that if something can be changed by discussion it isn’t a belief. I said that if I changed my mind about something just because someone else told me they disagreed with my opinion, then that might indicate it wasn’t much of a belief.
    And I still think there are things we have to accept even though we don’t tolerate them. You cannot force someone to believe something that they don’t.
    You just can’t.
    And I wish nobody had mentioned the pubic thing!

  10. I see your point, Chris. Perhaps because from the outset the focus of politics is to find the best solutions, whatever they may be; whereas the point of religion is to fundamentally believe you’re right and everyone else is wrong?

  11. That’s a rather simplistic view.

    In theory, politics is about finding the best solution to problems, but in reality it’s about bureaucrats hoarding power by pandering to public opinion. It really shouldn’t be acceptable for Red and Blue to hurl abuse at one another… but since there isn’t enough space between them to fit a manifesto they can’t actually criticise policy. All that remains is attacks on the persons involved, attacks on the record of the government (or, the Tories last time they were the government… which after 10 years is particularly laughable), and hyperbole about what a given party intends to do next.

    And, in the meantime, the country circles the bowl…

    As for religion, the point is to do the will of God, whatever that might be. It is simply a logical conclusion of religious belief that if one religion believes the right things then the others of necessity must be wrong – either Jesus was the Son of God, or he was not.

  12. I think all the religions are probably right. I think God to Christians is the same person as God to anybody else, and that it is just that people have screwed things up by hating each other.

    I am not looking forward to CW’s conservative rant!

  13. Ouh! “Lady Gardens”, “Pubic Areas” & “Tories”, but it is a bag of worms you have unleashed here, Mister Chris!

    A few little details though (bc apparently i can’t be bothered finishing my paper atm…):
    – Mr Stephen, yes, quite correct there with the ‘agnostic’ thing, but doesn’t ‘agnosticism’ also implies, on top of not knowing, that it is unknowable? That there is absolutely no way of ever finding out whether ‘God’ exists or not? And as such, i personally am not entirely comfortable to fit in such a category bc i don’t have the conviction that we can never know, and though the probability of knowing is rather slim, yes, i don’t write out the tiny chance that Jesus can some day appear from the sky to say ‘Oi! Purgatory Time!’. Again personally, i just don’t care, is all. Right now, that is. Even if by some miraculous discovery (e.g. said appearence) we come to see that ‘God’ really does exist, and he really will condemn all gays to hell, etc, it still wouldn’t change my view towards them. For me, it’s not about believing whether God exists or not, or will there ever be a way of knowing for sure more than whether i agree with what it says or not.
    – And, yes, Mister Chris, that is what i mean when i said i do not necessarily wish to change my friends’ (or anybody’s) beliefs more than to understand them. As long as it doesn’t hate and it makes tham happy, then it’s all good. In fact, it makes things that much more interesting, i find.

    Voilà. That is all.

    Nothing to add to the ‘lady gardens’ part. Ahem…

  14. “The focus of politics is to find the best solutions”… Walesy, you wag! (Not trying to suggest you are dating a footballer, you understand… you get the idea.)

    Stephen you old cynic. I´m sure theý´re just looking out for what is best for us all. Ahem.

    No more time now, I have to immerse myself in Basque culture.

    Agur to all. I will return and comment at my (English) leisure.

  15. Ahh, I guess I am free to join the ranks of Coleen McLoughlin in declaring, “I am not a wag!”

    I take your point Stephen, though I think reality probably lies somewhere in the middle of what you and I both said. On the one hand there is far too much pettiness; people clinging to power past their due; name-calling and character assassination. But then on the other hand, a lot of politicians I have met have come across very genuinely to me. I suspect that it’s the actions of a minority that are blown out of proportion; certainly, I find it insulting that the minute you declare a political affiliation that suddenly you are told that you can no longer have a valid, reasonable opinion on anything- you’re either toeing a party line, saying anything to get elected, jumping on the gravy train or some such other cliche.

    And maybe that’s the problem. It’s easier to paint people or groups as angels/demons, corrupt/incorruptible, right/wrong; perhaps because we don’t want to face up to the difficulty of accepting a group of people could have as many bad as good people in?

    And anonymous: you have a great tool on your computer for filtering out any “rants” of mine. It’s called the off button 😉

  16. Ah, Walesy, it is one of the benefits of conversing with you on the computer rather than face to face.

    [OFF]

    :o)

  17. I think I might become rich and famous by inventing a device that does that face-to-face…

  18. Is that really how you spell ‘quandary’?! I always thought it was ‘quandry’. Like ‘laundry’. Hmmm, I am really not as well-read as I like to think…

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