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Posted on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 9:19 pm:   

I was raised in a christian fundamentalist environment. My indoctrination began in early childhood and continued through my adolescence. In early adulthood as I began to grow into an individual I began to realize that my beliefs and values were largely a matter of simple conditioning and brainwashing. Only now, almost 30 years later, have I started to fully understand the impact of that conditioning and become aware of the impact of fundamentalism on society, politics, and culture.

Many of my friends are thoughtful and intelligent people. However most of them, not having come from a fundamentalist background, fail to grasp essential elements of Christian fundamentalism and fail to understand the influence that it has on shaping the way millions of fundamentalists view the world.

What most thinking, rational progressive liberals dont realize is that while they see voting as a hiring decision - a mostly rational decision based on credentials, experience, and qualifications - the fundamentalist sees it as an opportunity to do their duty in the on-going religious war.

Chrisitian conservatives are well-organized, well-financed, diligent, and relentless. Unfortunately they are also thoroughly conditioned to do as they are told, not ask questions, and fear anyone that expresses an opinion contrary to those of their leaders. As a result they make decisions based on ideology not reason.

Fundmentalists are highly motivated. They meet regularly with their peer group(s) to reinforce their belief systems. They network extensively and constantly. They are always "at war".

The basic vehicle of indoctrination is Sunday worship services.

My family attended The Church of the Nazarene. Sunday activities consisted of two 'services' per day - minimum.

The morning session consisted of two parts - "Sunday School" for children and adolescents, and "Study Sessions" for adults. These would generally start aywhere from 7 to 9am. Then all groups convene for the main "worship service" until noon or 1pm.

The Sunday evening sessions are usually centered around a main 'worship service' from 6 or 7pm until 9 or 10pm. There are usually various 'youth groups' - choir rehearsals and so forth preceeding the evening services. Basically the whole day is dedicated to these activities.

And thats just on Sunday.

Wednesday 'prayer meetings' are considered slighty less mandatory than Sunday services but peer pressure among the true believers generally makes it mandatory. This is a slightly less formal version of the Sunday evening sessions.

Then of course there are "prayer breakfasts" and "Christian businessmens breakfasts". There are mid-week "Revival" meetings. There are Vacation Bible School sessions in the Summer for grade-school age children as well as "Church Camps" for all age groups.

And, most "Christians" are required to give at least - AT LEAST -10% of their incomes to the church - this is called 'tithing' or tithes. This is taken very seriously and is considered a fundamental act of faith and commitment and is a doctrinal requirement for true "membership" in the church. Tithing is considered to be the very minimum amount. It is considered to be "The Lords". Its not really "yours" anyway. It is NOT considered voluntary. On top of that "Good" christians are expected to give additional amounts in 'offerings'.

This activity is not limited to those groups that might be considered 'cults' by the casual observer. These scheduling and financial commitments are pretty much the norm for the mainstream "Christian" churches. I am referring here to Methodists, Baptists, Nazarenes, Churches of God, Assemblies of God. Of course there are many many smaller sub-sects of these more mainstream protestant fundamentalist groups.
Posted on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - 5:47 am:   

"Churches" - and the organizations that run them or which they run, depending on your point of view - pay no taxes.

This means that really huge propaganda machines that excercise billions of dollars in assets pay no taxes.

So everything from Trinity Broadcasting Network, the 700 Club, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Bob Jones University pay ZERO TAXES on vast amounts of revenue they generate and control.

There is a LOT of money out there in these organizations. They own broadcasting media, radio stations, TV station, Colleges and Universities, publishing houses, finance companies, and distribution networks - all under the umbrella of "tax-free" organizations.

My point is this: If the progressive liberals, the left, the Democratic National Convention, etc., have any expectation of waging an effective campaign against these people they need to have an accurate understanding of the extensive and well-organized resources of the zealots they are trying to deal with.

I think the 2004 Kerry campaign did not understand this. As rational, fact oriented thinking people that most liberals seem to be, they probably thought that a rational comparison of qualifications and accomplishments would be sufficent to demonstrate who the best person for job would be.

They completely failed to account for the zealotry of the fundamentalist.

Posted on Saturday, November 20, 2004 - 10:58 am:   

Religious fundamentalism is dangerous. In America we like to ridicule "Islamic Fundamentalists" as backward, whacked out, cultists that have all sorts of irrational and illogical beliefs and customs that make them somehow inferior to those of "enlightened Christian Faith". The Corporate media in the US has done a fairly good job of convincing people, ( at least in the "Red" states) that to be Muslim means that you "Hate Americans" and you are already a radical with terrorist potential. Of course tens of millions of people around the globe are faithful Muslims and 99.999% of them are peaceful, hardworking, intelligent people who want to raise their children, go to work, and have a nice life without bothering anyone. There are also many doctrinal variations of Islam, which like Protestantism, leads to rather different interpretations of the same basic source material.

On the other hand, for Christian fundamentalists one of the fundamental tenets is "proselytizing" or "spreading the gospel". This is the notion that basically everyone else except you is going to hell and its your job to convert them - one way or the other. This gave us the Crusades, Columbus, Pizzaro, Imperial expansionism in general, The Salem Witch Trials, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, John Ashcroft and George Bush, etc. Basically, fundamentalism is marked by intolerance and a world-view based on ideology rather than reason, research, or facts.

Fundamentalism is a detriment to civil society, is a destabilizing influence in the world, and seriously jeopardizes the future of mankind. The first reason for this is that fundamentalism is a convenient way for individuals to absolve them selves of any personal responsibility for society, their community, or the world.

Fundamentalist Christian really believe that God is coming back one day soon bringing about the end of the world. This of course will put an end to all this silly squabbling about such trivialities as poverty, disease, international conflicts, social injustice, racism, hunger, pollution, depletion of natural resources, and so forth.

Since the they really believe this is going to be happening quite soon, it is fairly easy to see why they aren't really too worried about the future or figuring out how the diverse communities of the world can successfully co-exist. In their view, we are all sort of just hanging around the platform until the train gets here. This is sort of just a 'practice life' and although there are certain rules and expectations, this corporeal life is really just a dress rehearsal for the afterlife.

Fundamentalists also believe that everything - EVERYTHING - "is all part of Gods Plan", that although humans are spiritually "free agents" that somehow everything that happens in the world, the universe, everything, no matter what, is all part of "Gods Plan" and that means that "we" cant possibly comprehend it all anyway. They really do believe this. Racism, Auschwitz, Jeffery Dahmer, the fence that fell down in your back yard, the flat tire you had on the way to work, all of it - is all part of some divine pre-determined plan. Infinitely variable, Infinitely detailed, infinite in scope, and therefore beyond the scope of human understanding. Faith versus reason. Ideology versus information.

This allows fundamentalists to absolve themselves of personal responsibility for the state of the world or even the responsibility to be informed about issues, ask questions, and try to understand. Because God is coming back one day soon, it really doesn't matter if we cut all the trees, pollute the oceans, melt the ice caps, or allow millions of people to die in the third world so 20% of us can continue to consume 80% of the worlds resources.

"Faith" versus reason is probably the single most insidious tenet of fundamentalism because it stifles intellectual curiosity.. It says that all things are black or white. Good or Evil. All things are either "of God" or "of Satan". There is no middle ground. Intellectual curiosity and fundamentalism are diametrically opposed. Intellectual curiosity suggests that the world is about infinite variations, shades of grey, subtle and nuanced. There are more states of existence than "For us, or against us", Good or Evil.

The "modern" Christian churches have moderated this dogma somewhat in recent years in order that that they appear more tolerant and moderate, but the basic underlying belief is intact. One of the first "bible stories" one learns in "Sunday School" is the story of Creation. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eve plucks fruit from the tree of "knowledge of good and evil". In other words, knowledge itself is cast early on as a basic threat.

That brings us to the second reason that fundamentalism is a threat to mankind. Fundamentalism cannot coexist with Intellectual curiosity except as a means to "further glorify God". In the modern age science has brought a continually refined understanding of the physical world. Fundamentalism has resisted the expansion of knowledge based on intellectual curiosity at every opportunity. The world used to be the center of the universe until Copernicus suggested otherwise. The Church declared Galileo a lunatic and a heretic for supporting the work of Copernicus. The earth used to be flat and the fundamentalist catholic church fought with those that taught otherwise. Cholera, Typhus, Black Plague, were all due to either the "sins" of man or a curse from God until science discovered bacteria and micro-biology. When the information becomes too overwhelming fundamentalism responds by embracing the knowledge as "another demonstration of gods infinite power".

However,any knowledge that compromises the existing tenets of "Faith" must be attacked and resisted at all costs. In the modern world we are still arguing about stem cells, products of conception, women's rights, and creationism.

Further, because "Faith" is the basic tenet of the religious fundamentalist agenda, the very act of questioning anything is basically sinful. This means that questioning the tenets or doctrine of the church is forbidden. It means that questioning the actions of all people in positions of leadership that profess to be "Christians" is forbidden. Leaders that profess to be "Christians" are given a pass because they are "Doing Gods work".

Fundamentalists say they want to better the world. The fact is they want to remake it to suit their narrow vision of it. They use "Faith" to avoid having to do the difficult work of learning how things really work, learning about people with different beliefs than their own, learning about different cultures, learning about different religions. Fundamentalism has always been anathema to knowledge and reason. Fundamentalism is still struggling to deny science.

Posted on Saturday, November 20, 2004 - 10:39 pm:   

Fundamentalists believe Hell is a very real place and the Devil is a real entity, a very real actor in the world. Fear of the Devil and Hell are always present.

As a child I knew that Hell was a real place,that Satan was very actively pursuing my immortal soul and that it was very likely that I would "burn in Hell" for having "impure thoughts", for cursing, for getting angry at my parents, or for thinking "blasphemous" thoughts. I can distinctly remember thinking that I was going to hell for thinking about things that "you arent supposed to think about," - like how was the universe really created? Where did god come from? Was there a god at all? How can God be everywhere all at once like they tell us in Sunday School? Why didn't the animals on Noahs Ark eat each other? Why would God let really bad things happen?...and all the other things that occur to a pre-teenage boy.

I remember being frightened that I couldn't stop thinking about things, that I was being "used by Satan" because I couldn't stop thinking blasphemous" thoughts. The pervasive belief that "Hell" was a very real place and that "The Devil" was on a 24 x 7 mission to trick me out of my eternal soul was constant and very real.

Eventually I would become resigned to the fact that I was basically "beyond redemption" or somehow pathologically unable to control my thoughts "like other people", either way the end result was the same. As I matured, I managed to push most of the guilt and fear into the background and largely move past the conditioning and managed to form my own belief system and my own world view.

I was fortunate that my mother was a liberal. Not a liberal in the political sense, but a liberal in the sense that she appreciated intellectual curiosity. She didn't have the opportunity or the freedom to fully enjoy it for herself due to many factors, my father mostly, but she didn't try to stifle it in me either. She taught me to read quite well by the time I started kindergarten. She introduced me to the public library. I had a library card in early grade school. I read all the "classics" by 6th grade including, mostly unbeknownst to my father, a great deal of science fiction. I was drawn to Heinlein, Bradbury, Andre Norton, Arthur Clarke, and Issac Asimov. In many ways these authors were my intellectual salvation. Through them I saw that there were many ways to look at God, the universe, mankind, that maybe religion might not really have all the answers.
Posted on Saturday, November 27, 2004 - 6:53 pm:   

Possible / future and/or suggested topics:

- Fundamentalists believe in a "literal" interpretation of the Bible.
- The Bible is not just a book. It is the "Word of God". Literally.
- The early, relentless, pervasive brainwashing of fundamentalists.
- Reinforcement of ideology as truth in a 'closed' system
- Manipulation of facts to conform to ideological views.
- The sense of entitlement, superiority, and "Mandate" of fundamentalists.
- The rationalization that very evil manipulative people are doing "Gods Work"
- Salvation and redemption.
- Guilt as primary motivation, second only to fear.
- Living "apart from the world"
- The peer pressure of religious experience as an adolescent.
- The sense of "us" versus "them" pervades all topics.
- The phrase - "someday you will have to stand up and be counted"
- Human disease and suffering as Divine Retribution - part of "Gods Plan"
- The impact of fundamentalism on "popular" culture.
- "Televangelism"
- Rich white people, SUVs, Big Houses, Large Families , and Consumption.

- Because everything is all part of "God Plan", it makes sense to the fundamentalists that HIV is Gods retribution for "sinful" behavior.

- Because "Christians" are gods chosen people, it makes sense that God would want them to be wealthy, powerful, and in possession of all the material things that successful people can accumulate. When reminded that Jesus Christ explicitly warned against the pursuit of worldly rewards, most wealthy fundamentalists respond with something along the lines of "in order to successfully minister to society we need to be able to interact and communicate effectively with society." And, "God wants his people to be successful, and happy."

- Because everyone else in the world is really going to a real Hell, and it is their job to "bring everyone to Christ" it makes perfect sense that a Nation of fundamentalists should evangelize the rest of the world - with force if necessary. And historically it usually is necessary because the heathens typically have their own religious beliefs, moral values, societal values and culture. But the fundamentalist understands that these values and beliefs are intrinsically wrong, sinful and inferior and the practitioners must be converted in order to save their eternal souls from damnation and suffering in the fires of Hell.

Posted on Monday, November 29, 2004 - 10:04 pm:   

The key challenge I think is trying to talk about this stuff in an analytical way, in a way that is constructive, in a way that invites discussion. In fact its really difficult to do that I think. In fact, it seems to be really easy to alienate people with this discussion, and that is really not the goal I'm trying to achieve here.

Talking about a persons most closely held personal beliefs and values is a little risky. It is inherently a very sensitive subject to many people,

It is really not my desire or intention to attempt to "correct" or "change" anyones beliefs. For one thing, it is a basic characteristic of fundamentalism to avoid critical analysis of ones basic beliefs. In fact to do so is basically considered "blasphemy" - one of the most profound sins. It is not really possible for a "true Christian" to engage in really honest self-analysis, so I would never make the mistake of attempting to do that.

On the other hand I do think that there are people - progressive liberals, the "Blue State" voting block maybe - who really haven't been exposed to the fundamentalist worldview in any intellectual way. As a progressive liberal from a fundamentalist background, I think it might be useful to provide some insight into this worldview .

It is also a way to further explore my own worldview, entertain some critical analysis if I'm lucky, and maybe help further some dialogue that might otherwise not have taken place.

Ideally I would like to engage others who have gained some objectivity on the subject and solicit their input,anecdotes,analysis,and opinion to add to this.
Posted on Thursday, December 02, 2004 - 6:07 am:   

Someone sent me me this article "Confessions of a Very Good Girl" by Carlene Bauer - published in Elle magazine.
( ction_id=36&page_number=1&magind=3811)

I thought it was a well written piece so I have referenced it here.

Powellm (Powellm)
Username: Powellm

Registered: 12-2003
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 5:06 am:   

Religiosity in Goverment has given the world an unending stream of violence, inhumanity, intolerance, and adherence to mythology and ignorance.

A world-view dominated by the basic belief that this world is simply a dress-rehearsal for eternity is one that fosters a disregard for civil society. Who cares if we use up all the oil, cut down all the trees, and strip away the ozone layer if God is coming back soon anyway? Or in the case of Islam, ( as pointed out by Harris) if I blow myself up in the cause of Jihad I'll be rewarded in the afterlife.

These are not beliefs that are conducive to the vialbility of mankind.

The clever thing about fundamentalism is that to question any aspect of the dogma is a cardinal sin. The most important tenet of Faith is the requirement to set aside rationality and "Believe", where there is no rational basis for belief.

Bibliography: ( What I have read in the last 18 months )

"The End of Faith" by Sam Harris 035158/qid=1118200824/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5315 556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

"A Peoples History of the United States" by Howard Zinn 528370/qid=1118206545/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5315 556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

"Under the Banner of Heaven" by JON KRAKAUER 032806/qid=1118206652/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5315 556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

"Banking on Baghdad" by Edwin Black 67186X/qid=1118206846/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5315 556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

"Understanding Islam" by Thomas Lippman 011604/104-5315556-1305545?v=glance

"The Clash of Barbarisms" by Gilbert Achar 670815/qid=1118207988/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl 14/104-5315556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

(Recent article by Achar on elections in Iraq - nID=15&ItemID=6948

"The Clash of Fundamentalisms" By Tariq Ali iq_Ali.htm 84457X/qid=1118235897/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5315 556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

"War Plan Iraq" by Milan Rai

"Bush in Babylon" by Tariq Ali 845835/104-5315556-1305545?v=glance

"Understanding Power" by Noam Chomsky 847032/qid=1118208071/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5315 556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

"Manufacturing Consent" by Edwin S. Herman and Noam Chomsky 714499/ref=pd_sim_b_3/104-5315556-1305545?%5Fencod ing=UTF8&v=glance

"What Liberal Media?" by Eric Alterman 001777/qid=1118208198/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5315 556-1305545?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

"The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception " By: DAVID CORN

"American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush" By: Kevin Phillips

"The Price of Loyalty" By: Ron Suskind

"Unequal Protection" by Thomm Hartmann l

"Betrayal of Trust" by Laurie Garrett

"Hope in the Dark" by Rebecca Solnit

"Savage Dreams" by Rebecca Solnit

"Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell them" by Al Franken

"The Riddle of the Sands" by Erskine Childers

"Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin

"Thinking in Pictures" by Temple Grandin

>>>>>>>> What I am reading at the moment - In progress ( 6/7/2005):

"The coming Plague" by Laurie Garrett

"Bushwhacked" by Molly Ivins

"Two Treatises of Government" by John Locke

>>>>>>>>>>> On hand but haven't started reading yet.

"Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" by John Perkins

Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2005 - 7:13 am:   

Testing the 'post-as-anonymous' feature.
Posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - 8:23 pm:   

I have just finished a couple more books:

"The Exception to the Rulers" by Amy Goodman. Wow. A really amazing reporter, patriot, statesman, and crusader. Thank you Amy Goodman.

"Loves Executioner" by Irvin Yalom
"The Schopenhauer Cure" by Irvin Yalom

I'll probably start "When Nietzsche Wept" by Irvin Yalom this evening. Dr Whitten is a huge fan of Dr Yalom and recommended these books for a number of reasons.
Posted on Friday, December 16, 2005 - 3:15 pm:   

Very interesting observations. I was raised Mormon but haven't been active in a few years. Still mostly believe the fundamentals but don't live the Mormon lifestyle. Anyhow, I'm interested in hearing more on your views of how we really did find ourselves on this planet, what the meaning of all this is.

Also your mention on money in churches - most churches have paid clergy but the Mormon church does not - nobody's getting rich off the church. What other motivation would it have other than the purported truth in that case? Sure the church owns actual companies but those companies pay taxes and are run as actual companies, but within the church nobody is paid.

Just curious to hear your thoughts...
Posted on Friday, May 19, 2006 - 6:12 pm:   

Note: I had to disable posting by "anonymous" user. Sombody posted some pron/spam, maybe I'll re-enable at some point, but not for awhile.
Posted on Friday, May 19, 2006 - 6:36 pm:   

Btw: I have never replied to "Ryan" because his comment looks like some idiot troll rather than someone who is actually interested in thoughtful discourse.
Posted on Thursday, June 01, 2006 - 9:34 pm:   

This board seems to have become a target for either a bot or somebody who thinks its interesting to repeatedly post a bunch of gay pron links, which I then feel compelled to remove. So I have turned the posting function off entirely for now until I figure out what to do next. - Matt

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