Why Christian Fundamentalism Is Still a Big Deal in U.S. Politics, And How It Got That Way

Photo of Senator Ted Cruz by flickr user Michael Vadon via Creative Commons
Photo of Senator Ted Cruz by flickr user Michael Vadon via Creative Commons

When Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy this spring he urged conservative voters to claim their power—”I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison ‘we demand our liberty.’” This rhetorical move, in which conservative Christians are cast as both oppressed minority and a latent majority, is a timeworn trope. But recognizing this language and how it works is key to understanding the way fundamentalist religion operates in politics.

superchurch
Superchurch: The Rhetoric and Politics of American Fundamentalism
Jonathan J. Edwards
Michigan State University Press, April 2015

In a fascinating study,  Superchurch: The Rhetoric and Politics of American Fundamentalism, Jonathan J. Edwards examines the ways fundamentalists have engaged the public square since the early 20th century from the early days of separation to the rise of the modern megachurch. RD’s Eric C. Miller spoke with Edwards about the meaning of “fundamentalism,” the rise of the megachurch, and how to read Ted Cruz.

Eric Miller: What prompted you to write a book about fundamentalism? For starters, it’s a pretty slippery term.

Jonathan J. Edwards: This project started out at Northwestern University as a dissertation proposal on the political influence of American megachurches, but I discovered pretty quickly that, in and of themselves, megachurches were not nearly as interesting (or unique) as they seemed at first. What did interest me was a narrative tension that kept popping up in my research between local churches and a constructed “enemy,” variously described in terms of ecumenical federation, superchurch confederacy, a world church, and secular humanism.

As I studied further, it became clear that, while some authors had fixated on some of the more public aspects of this tension (e.g., the Moral Majority vs. secular humanism in the late 1970s), no one had studied its roots and evolution in depth. That became the focus of my eventual dissertation project and ultimately this book. By focusing on how the tension evolved, I’m able to provide more comprehensive (and hopefully more persuasive) explanations for the relationships that exist between the religious beliefs and political demands of Christian conservatives.

As for the word fundamentalism, “slippery” is a pretty good way to describe it. For practical purposes, there are two relevant definitions. On the one hand, fundamentalism refers to a specific movement within Protestant Christianity, which coalesced around a set of inter-church disputes in the early twentieth century. For my work, that definition includes groups who call themselves “fundamentalists,” but it also includes contemporary Christian evangelicals who would reject the label but who are—knowingly or not—party to the same disputes and tensions.

On the other hand, fundamentalism has become a kind of catch-all term for describing movements or orientations that are both politically significant and militantly irrational.

Basically, it’s a word we use to denigrate perspectives and people we don’t like.

Usually this second definition is linked with religion—as when people talk about Islamic fundamentalism—but not always. For example, you’ll see authors who write about market fundamentalism or political fundamentalism. All this is confusing, and that’s part of the reason many authors choose to save themselves the trouble and avoid the term altogether.

Despite the difficulties that the term presents, however, the concept of fundamentalism is important to me for a couple of reasons.

First, it more clearly highlights the stakes for many Christian conservatives who enter into politics. When fundamentalists and evangelicals rally against abortion or same-sex marriage, for example, it’s not primarily about their right to stand on a street corner and preach good news to the unconverted. It’s about their right to authoritatively define the fundamentals of truth and public morality, based on an authoritative interpretation of an authoritative Bible.

The truth-demands of fundamentalism stand in sharp contrast to notions like compromise and pluralism, and that’s a contrast that a term like “evangelical” doesn’t quite capture.

Second, perhaps in part because of its slipperiness, the term can help us to think broadly about the disputes and tensions that each and every one of us have to navigate as we struggle to communicate with, live with, and govern with one another.

As democratic citizens we all have to ask ourselves: What is fundamental? And who decides?

In a deliberative democracy, compromise is a value, but for hardliners it is often viewed as a character flaw. Many of us think of fundamentalists as people who can’t be reasoned with, which is a problem for democratic politics. But you reassert fundamentalism as a “church movement” first and foremost, representing localism against “superchurch” ecumenism. How does that translate to politics?

It’s important to understand, as I argue in the book, that fundamentalism is a paradox. Fundamentalists describe themselves as both marginalized and a majority. They speak of national revival and theocratic dominion, but both are always deferred. They celebrate local victories while announcing imminent national destruction. This paradox is rhetorical—meaning that it’s constructed in and through language. I’m a student of rhetoric and, in this book, I’m not particularly interested in whether fundamentalists “really” represent localism or really speak as an oppressed minority. What’s important is that they say they do, and this paradoxical claim drives and justifies political action.

In the book, “superchurch” is one of the words that speaks to this paradox in fundamentalist rhetoric. There was a big push for Protestant unity in the immediate aftermath of World War I, and many of the early fundamentalist leaders denounced ecumenical organizations like the Federal Council of Churches and the Interchurch World Movement as elements in a “super church confederacy” that would eliminate denominational distinctions and eventually destroy “Bible-believing” churches altogether.

There was a kernel of truth in these arguments; some ecumenical leaders were pushing, for example, to consolidate under-staffed rural churches by merging congregations from different denominations. But this kernel of truth became part of a much larger narrative in which national religious and political leaders were joining together to crush local churches and outlaw fundamentalist belief. This narrative, in turn, has continued in different guises over the past century—linked with apocalyptic fears of communism, secularism, environmentalism, socialism, and so forth.

The flip-side of this narrative, however, was that of churches that resisted. Magazines published anecdotes about local pastors who stood up to ecumenicists and local churches that broke away from their corrupted denominations. Fundamentalist publications began celebrating large, independent churches as islands of local resistance. By the 1960s, pastors like Jerry Falwell had begun arguing that local, “superaggressive” churches could “capture” their communities for Christ, reform local politics to reflect fundamentalist authority, and become media centers for global evangelism. These fundamentalist “superchurches” would eventually provide the foundation for national political organizations like the Moral Majority in the late 1970s.

Of course, even as fundamentalists have become more nationally visible and politically active, the paradox remains. Just a couple of months ago, for example, when Senator Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president at Falwell’s Liberty University, he encouraged Christian conservative voters to think of themselves as both an oppressed minority and an untapped majority. He described the federal government as a monolithic and mischievous force that crushes the dreams of small business owners, the relationships between individuals and doctors, the rights of parents, and the freedom of religious believers. At the same time, he spoke of “millions of courageous conservatives” and “born again Christians” whose votes could restore an idealized constitutionalism and drive the big-government bureaucrats out of the American temple.

Part of my goal in Superchurch is to help us better understand the history and context behind arguments like Cruz’s, so we can develop a better sense of how and why they continue to resonate with so many fundamentalist and evangelical voters.

The link between Liberty and Cruz is interesting, since it comes at a time when both the church and the GOP are pretty unpopular with young people – or so the polls tell us. In your view, can this unpopularity be in any way attributed to the rise of fundamentalist superchurches?

That’s a good question. Throughout the twentieth century, there have been disputes between and among fundamentalist and evangelical communities. Often those disputes are generational and come down to questions about fundamental values and the proper relationship between believers and outsiders.

In the last chapter of the book, I turn from the fundamentalist superchurches represented by leaders like Jerry Falwell to the evangelical megachurch movement that was most prominent in the 1990s and early 2000s. Megachurches like Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago are designed to attract young people, and they’ve worked hard to present themselves as anti-fundamentalist in a number of ways. They appeal to individual experiences of spirituality over rigid doctrinal statements. They use words like “seekers” rather than talking about lost or damned souls. They also tend to avoid rigid political platforms.

If you walk through the multiple parking lots at Willow Creek, you can spot bumper stickers that span the political spectrum, and megachurch pastors have advised both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Of course, all of this exists on a spectrum. Some megachurches are much more explicitly conservative (or liberal) than others, and factors like location, denominational commitments, and the ethnic makeup of a congregation play big roles. But, beginning in the late 1980s, the general trend in megachurches seemed to be a shift toward a more accommodating and less rigid approach to both doctrine and politics.

In looking at these churches, I’m most interested in how they balance accommodation with a desire to maintain fundamental beliefs and distinctions related to the inerrancy of the Bible, the uniqueness of Christianity among religions, the reality of hell, and doctrines about sexuality, marriage, gender norms, economic values, and so forth.

For many megachurches, there’s an irresolvable tension between “taking the Bible seriously” on the one hand and not appearing rigidly fundamentalist or conservative on the other. Some seem to square this circle more effectively than others—usually by incorporating lots of programmatic variety and appealing to individual judgment—but it’s a continual process of negotiation.

So, back to some of the polls you mentioned. There seems to be pretty good evidence that a lot of younger people are losing interest in packaged and branded institutions. If I had to frame it in terms of the language I use in this book, I’d say that “the local” is back in vogue. Many younger people are moving out of the planned suburbs where megachurches thrived and back toward urban centers. They seem more interested in local food, mobile technologies, and their ecological footprints. The GOP is in trouble, but there’s evidence that the Democrats are too. Support for both civil and economic libertarianism appears to be on the rise among younger voters, while “organized religion” and “big government” are increasingly troubled terms. When megachurches first emerged, they claimed to stand against a rigid, politically problematic, and overly doctrinal fundamentalism. Whatever comes next will claim to stand against the visibly concentrated wealth and packaged programs of the megachurches.

None of this spells the death of fundamentalism, but it does mean that the fundamentalism of the next few decades will look different than it did ten or twenty years ago. Some of the doctrines, and certainly the methods and approaches will have to change. Indeed, some changes are already evident. For example, Robert Glenn Howard, in his excellent book Digital Jesus, demonstrates how definitions of both fundamentalism and the church have been altered by the influence of internet-based conceptions of community.

I expect more of that to continue, and I suspect that the success or failure of the new fundamentalism will depend on how successfully they can create new versions of the old, paradoxical narratives of local communities and local resistance.

I wonder if you could say a bit more about those next few decades. Having traced this history from the early 20th century to the early 21st, can you make any predictions about where fundamentalism is headed in the future? 

Predictions are always difficult but, beyond what I have already said, I’m willing to make a couple of broad claims.

First, fundamentalism is not going away. Whether we define it narrowly as a Protestant sectarian movement or more broadly as religious or religiously-tinged radicalism, it’s quite clear that fundamentalist disruptions will continue. Throughout much of the twentieth century, one of the guiding assumptions of political theory was that more economically and infrastructurally advanced countries would inevitably become more secular. Today, researchers tend to recognize that the situation is more complex. As global connectivity increases, religious belief continues to wield tremendous influence.

Religious voices and images flood public media; political leaders seek out religious audiences and institutions; and religious leaders enjoy growing political influence around the world. Many religious beliefs and communities are easily adaptable to European or American-style secular politics, but others are not. As scholars, students, and citizens, we have a responsibility to take serious account of religious fundamentalisms and fundamentalist arguments as we collectively determine what the limits, exclusions, and fundamentals of our collective politics can and should be.

Second, fundamentalism is and will remain strongest at the level of local politics. National candidates and organizations inevitably generate the most press, but if you want to understand fundamentalist politics, look at local school board elections, local fights over the public display of religious memorials, local pastors who challenge IRS rules against endorsing political candidates, and the religious exemption claims of local business owners. A few of these struggles make national headlines—the recent firestorm over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act comes immediately to mind—but most do not. Nevertheless, they are the essence of fundamentalist political engagement.

Just as Christian fundamentalists emerged by idealizing local churches as temples and fortresses against oppressive denominations, today they idealize small towns, schools, and businesses as fortresses against an ongoing national and global slide toward anti-Christian secularism. For non-fundamentalists and particularly for those who study fundamentalism, the challenge moving forward is to pay more attention to the complexity of these local communities and debates.

Ultimately, I didn’t arrive at the end of this project with an optimistic sense that we are all going to start getting along anytime soon.

I think, for example, that fundamentalist arguments regarding issues like same-sex marriage will largely dissipate over the next few decades, but debates over issues like national boundaries, environmental regulations, religious minorities, fetal identity, economic redistribution, and so forth will continue and even intensify. Fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists will both continue to evolve, of course, but, short of a fundamentalist-style apocalypse or a (to my mind) highly undesirable shift away from the messiness of pluralism and democracy, I don’t anticipate the divisions going away.

That said I do hope that, as we learn more, we can argue better and find more ways to create effective debate and build effective consensus with one another.

  • Jim Reed

    debates over issues like national boundaries, environmental regulations, religious minorities, fetal identity, economic redistribution, and so forth will continue and even intensify.

    That is because we as humans must somehow resolve these kinds of issues. God is not going to be involved in any of that, it is up to us. There is your answer. Those looking to God will not get anywhere in the long run, They will eventually lose every battle they fight to those who see these as human responsibility.

  • seashell

    Part of my goal in Superchurch is to help us better understand the history and context behind arguments like Cruz’s, so we can develop a better sense of how and why they continue to resonate with so many fundamentalist and evangelical voters.

    This. It totally stumps me and has sent me on a months long search for the reasons my fellow citizens and I have two totally different views on how government should work. As an atheist, I naively thought that should God exist, he/she would be happy for all people to have access to healthcare, a safety net in hard times and a government that respects and welcomes people, including those from other countries. I knew conservatives might have issues with the above, but I still don’t get why fundamental Christianity is against it.

    Long paragraph short: I bought the book.

  • Jim Reed

    Eventually you get used to it as just the way it is. Christianity has a couple of prime objectives. Of course one is to grow the church and propagate it down to the next generation. Another is to help Christians feel morally superior to others. Passive ways of doing this don’t work fast enough or well enough, so they need more active ways, like laws to make people see their point.

  • apotropoxy

    1. Religion is ritualized denial.
    2. Fundamentalism appeals to those for whom panic persecution are deeply gratifying.
    3. The GOP has, for sundry economic reasons, become a faith based political party.They deny basic science, history, the Constitution.
    Since the Dems have gradually morphed into the GOP of Nixon and Reagan, the Teapublicans are the natural home for the Apocalyptics.

  • NewAndImprovedCM

    A very interesting and thoughtful analysis. I realize I’ve been using “fundamentalism” in a pretty loose way, mostly to refer to Christians who insist on scriptural inerrancy and literalism, along with what that implies for moral dogma. That kind of shorthand unfortunately can all too easily lead to strawman conceptions, obviously an undesirable result, especially when there are all too many real preachments of conservative Christianity that need to be refuted, in my opinion.

  • Jim Reed

    3. After the social changes in the 60s, the church decided to respond by becoming more political. The GOP saw this as a valuable opportunity, and that could be why they became so faith based.

  • seashell

    It seems like sticking to the strict definition of fundamentalism, a movement formed in the early 20th century, misses the true meaning of fundamentalism, which includes scriptural inerrancy and literalism as authoritative Biblical truths. It’s practiced by fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in their personal, social and political spheres. I think the definition should be expanded to include the evangelicals.

  • Jim Reed

    Christianity used to be Christianity, just minor denominational arguments that allowed different denominations to feel they were more right than everybody else. Now that we know Christianity is basically false, it is splitting into two major branches between those who want to try to figure out and deal with contradictions, and those who want to deny there could be any problems.

  • http://twitter.com/cpmondello Corey Mondello

    Conservative ideology is anti-We the People. Fundie Religion is anti-minority anything. Conservative Christianity, therefore, is un-American, always has been, always will be. It is the enemy of America!

  • Steve Bailey

    The bottom line: American Christian fundamentalism as mirrored in the politicians that espouse it represents a dangerous and life-destroying misapprehension of the Christian Gospel and of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures fundamentalists claim to love so much. Fundamentalism truncates Christianity in a way that makes it unrecognizable, and yet this aberration is blindly embraced by a significant portion of the American population. As a Christian, I’m with you, seashell, American fundamentalist Christianity needs to turn around (ie. in Biblical terms, “repent”) and start living the Gospel of Jesus if it wants to retain a Christian identity. Looking at politicians like Ted Cruz explains the numbers of American who are abandoning their American Christian institutions and heritage. Who would ever want to be like Ted Cruz or admire the values he puts out there?

  • DHFabian

    Whatever fundamentalism is supposed to be, it has become a hard-nosed political tool that “preaches” the direct opposite of what Jesus taught. It honors the accumulation of material wealth, and works to encourage greed and arrogance. It is profoundly judgmental, and seeks to dominate and impose suffering. The greatest sin, I think, is in reinterpretting Christ’s teachings in a way that encourages greed and hatred.

  • DHFabian

    I disagree. These are the people who spent years demonizing the poor, portraying the poor as disgusting beasts, less than human, who are taking advantage of good, hard-working Americans. They demanded an end to poverty relief. Who doesn’t know that not everyone can work (health, etc.), and that there aren’t jobs for all? The US shipped out a massive number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. What do Americans — including Christians — say about those who are left behind, with no means of providing for themselves? What is the church’s response to our poverty crisis?

  • Jim Reed

    The church offers a program of salvation, and the plan is Jesus will solve all those problems you mention when he comes, which might be soon. People can actively participate by voting for programs that will help end times and Jesus come sooner.

  • DHFabian

    How is actual religion “ritualized denial”? Denial of what? The GOP anti-science theology actually contradicts Christianity. Christ encourages us to use the “tools” we were given — our intelligence and ability to reason. Science itself is a creation of God, the means by which humans can better understand the world in which we live.

    As for the Democrats, I actually wish they had morphed into Republican presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and even Reagan, all of whom understood the necessity of a “safety net” to preserve the country as we knew it. Eisenhower looks like an outright lefty compared to today’s liberals! When “beliefs” contradict logic/reality, it’s time to re-examine those beliefs.

  • Jim Reed

    How about Elizabeth Warren? Could she help?

  • DHFabian

    The Bible is supposed to be a tool, a sort of road map for decision-making. Christ placed the highest priority on compassion and empathy, two characteristics that were soundly rejected by Americans since the 1980s. We’re living with the consequences.

  • Jim Reed

    People take the Bible too seriously, and make it out to be the word of God. That always leads to trouble. The only thing that can work is try to do what is right for people and the environment. That answer has to come from us, and not ancient scriptures.

  • DHFabian

    As I understand it, a philosophy that directly contradicts Christ’s teachings is believed to come from Satan. Wealth is considered the greatest virtue in America, while we despise and brutalize the poor. We choose war over the hard work of diplomacy. We elevate competition (at any cost) above cooperation. We’re intensely judgmental, and we judge people according to economic class. It’s not just the politicians who exploit Christianity — this is obviously what the “masses” believe.

  • DHFabian

    The catch is in how the Bible is interpreted. One can “pick and choose” Bible verses to justify his own notions, disregarding the overall message. This is particular striking when it comes to issues of war and poverty.

  • Jim Reed

    A few decades ago the political party of greed and hatred invited Christianity to convert, and they did. It was kind of a shock at the time, but now we can see it all worked out according to plan. I don’t think they can go back. I think Christianity is now permanently in the greed and hatred camp because the worst thing they could do would be to admit it was all a mistake. Where would that leave them?

  • apotropoxy

    “How is actual religion “ritualized denial”? Denial of what? ”
    _______________

    Denial of the intolerable truth that no gods exist, that we are responsible for our actions, and that the concept of the soul is nothing more than an unconscious wish for immortality.

  • Craptacular

    “When “beliefs” contradict logic/reality, it’s time to re-examine those beliefs.” – DHFabian

    And yet the believers seem to always ask us to re-examine reality when presented with multiple evidence that contradicts the belief. If believers used the same “burden of proof” when examining their own religious beliefs as they demand for science-based claims, there would be very few believers.

  • cmbennett01

    The denominational disputes over minor points of doctrine are not what distinguishes fundamentalism. It is a reaction to what they see as a threat to their world view. That religion can change and adapt to society, slowly over time, is obvious. The most conservative American congregation is no where near Calvin’s Geneva. Modern society, however, is not evolving slowly. As one example, take people’s attitudes towards same-sex marriage and LGBT issues. They have advanced more in the last 5 years than in the previous 500. It is a threat to their world view, and the reaction is not to adapt, it is to reject modern secular society entirely.

  • http://godlessfeminist.wordpress.com/ Jacqueline S. Homan

    “Denial of the intolerable truth that no gods exist”

    This is not something that can be proven one way or the other. You can’t prove a negative.

    We cannot prove the number of elements in what Georg Cantor referred to as power sets, whose elements number to infinity, map bijectively to the original set of natural numbers that generated them. We CAN prove that there is NO one-to-one correspondence between the elements of finite sets and the power sets they generate, which have an infinite number of elements (we call this a cardinality of natural numbers “Aleph-Null” for the set N of all natural numbers—you can use the 5th Peano to slog this out in a PMI proof). Therefore, we cannot prove infinity. Yet, we all believe that infinity exists.

    Do you deny that infinity exists? If so, then you deny the fact that the entire set of all transcendental numbers exists. Which means you also don’t believe in pi or e. Just sayin’. 😀

    On “rational thought”, let me remind everyone here that the late Dr. John Nash, whose “Nash Equilibrium” and work on the Theory of Governing Dynamics mathematically proved that cooperation—NOT rugged individualism and competition—produced much better results for everyone. Dr. Nash received a Nobel prize and the highly coveted Abel prize for his mathematical brilliance. But because he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, he was written off as a nutcase for many years. He may have been crazy, but he was smart and logical enough to see just how deleterious competitive social and economic practices really are.

    They say that there’s a fine line between genius and insanity. John Nash undoubtedly blurred that line with his “beautiful mind.” But what is “sane”, really?

    Is it “sane” that we teach children that they must share their toys with their playmates, to “play nice”, “play fair”, “don’t cheat” and cooperate with others only to then send them off to a school system that is a product of our society where the first lesson they learn is that competition is king, that it is in their best interests if their friends and classmates fail so that they can “win”, and that this is necessary to prepare them for “the real world?”

    What is rational or sane about that?

    Know what Dr. John Nash had to say about rational thought—and this is coming from a world class mathematical genius, mind you—and the definition of sanity?

    He said: “Rational thought imposes a limit on a person’s relation to the cosmos.” He also said that “sanity is a form of conformity”, and that his brilliant mathematical thoughts came from the same place his hallucinations did—his mind—so who was to say what was real and what wasn’t? (You got to admit, he had a point!)

    And what exactly is “sane” about the American middle class set of values and ethos of “we’re willing to help the deserving jobless poor, but none of the jobless poor are deserving?”

    If that’s not insane, then it is extremely sociopathic. And make no mistake about it: Sociopaths are defined as “sane” according to the DSM-V and they are super-rational thinkers, and very manipulative and calculating—calmly and coldly so.

    Point being, it matters not what you believe or disbelieve. To believe in God is just as “rational” as to disbelieve in God. What matters is how those with privilege—regardless of their beliefs (or lack thereof)—stand on their privileges to deliberately deprive entire groups of disprivileged people of basic human and social rights.

  • apotropoxy

    You: “Point being, it matters not what you believe or disbelieve. To believe in God is just as “rational” as to disbelieve in God…”
    *********
    No, not just as rational. While the proposition is neither provable nor negatable, the degree of acquiescence necessary to believe in something for which no evidence exists is far greater than than its opposite. Occam’s Razor applies.
    ____________________
    You: “What matters is how those with privilege—regardless of their beliefs (or lack thereof)—stand on their privileges to deliberately deprive entire groups of disprivileged people of basic human and social rights.”
    *****
    One’s morality is rooted in biology. Religious justification for atrocities directed at the other is ubiquitous throughout our history.

  • http://godlessfeminist.wordpress.com/ Jacqueline S. Homan

    Horseshit.

  • apotropoxy

    Horseradish

  • Elizabeth Hayes

    Whoa, lady, I’m no mathematician, but I am entirely sympatico. Yes, we live in finitude, but cannot believe there is no such thing as infinity: this is the basis of the belief in God. I’ve been saying this for a long time, but never knew John Nash said it! And the sociopathy of our culture: well deliniated. As a psychiatric survivor, bipolar I, I’ve seen what those psychiatrists have done to those I love, and nearly to me. The psych professions have, excepting very brief moments in time, always been sadistic.

    “Sociopaths are defined as “sane” according to the DSM-V and they are super-rational thinkers.” Exactly. The creme of the crop here in Amerika. Great, great post.

  • Elizabeth Hayes

    Oh please.

  • Jim Reed

    Maybe the Moral Majority was like a dam holding back the waters, and the dam just broke.

  • Jim Reed

    The discussion of proving whether or not God exists is obsolete because now we can prove Jesus is a myth. America is basically a Christian nation, so with no Jesus it doesn’t matter about God.

  • Craptacular

    “It’s not just the politicians who exploit Christianity…” – DHFabian

    Nor were they the first. I think the clergy beat them to it by several millennia.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    The discussion of proving whether or not God exists is obsolete because now we can prove Jesus is a myth

    What does Jesus have anything to do with God? There are other theists out there, a fact you so often conveniently “forget.”

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Another aspect of this I’d like to have seen addressed is the oversized power that fundamentalists have. They aren’t the majority of Christians in the US, yet, for all practical purposes, they speak for America’s Christians, and have a degree of political power their sheer numbers wouldn’t award them. For instance, they now control Congress.

    That cannot have happened without the cooperation and complicity of America’s non-fundamentalist Christians. It would be nice to know how the fundamentalists were able to pull it off, as well as the reasons non-fundamentalist Christians have ceded so much power to them.

  • phatkhat

    I think the ritualized denial is denial of death. Humans are, more than likely, the only animals that comprehend mortality, and since the earliest times have constructed rituals concerning transitioning to the “afterlife”.

  • phatkhat

    The first argument lost me. I went to school well before set theory was taught. (Hell, I did trig with a slide rule, LOL.)

    But the rest is spot on. I would also recommend “No Contest” and other writings from Alfie Kohn on the deleterious effects of competition.

  • phatkhat

    And Deists, who believe in a higher power, but have no doctrine or dogma, and individuals are encouraged to use rational thought.

  • phatkhat

    Blood, (Jesus’?) is thicker than water. They will support other “Christians” above all, even if they don’t agree with them.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Oh yes, I agree there’s a certain amount of “tribalism” or clubishness going on. But still, there are differences between sects, and one would think people have reasons to belong to them. So it still seems odd that such an (apparently) large number of non-fundamentalists would allow fundamentalists to represent their religion and cede political power to them.

  • Jim Reed

    The rich know how to talk to them and tell them what they want to hear to get the vote. At some point you would think they would catch on to this, but the elections just keep clicking by.

  • Jim Reed

    The thing that trumps hate is bigger hate.

  • Jim Reed

    When the people start to see Jesus is a myth, it will become clear just how unimportant the other gods are. We are talking about the future, not the past.