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what is conservative about fundamentalist religion?
Posted: 29 March 2013 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]
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It’s always puzzled me that in the US fundamentalist Christians can get away with calling themselves ‘conservative’. These people say they have a magic book that’s completely without error and that has the answers to all of their problems in life. What’s more, they believe in miracles, healing, prayer, the trinity, the virgin birth, and all sorts of other bizarre things. They are taking a very radical leap of faith, and their position is extremely risky intellectually. When I was growing up in the UK, such people would have been described as extremists or radicals, and certainly not as conservatives. A conservative would be someone who takes stories about gods and spirits and miracles with a very large pinch of salt. In other words, a true conservative would be a skeptic. So how can fundamentalists still get away with calling themselves conservative? And why don’t skeptics call them out on this more often? I’ve heard people like Michael Shermer mention this point a couple of time before, but I think this should actually be the main argumentative strategy to use against fundamentalists. Show them just how ‘out there’ they are, and show that the real conservatives and pragmatists are the skeptics. Their position is safe, boring and sensible.

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Posted: 29 March 2013 07:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Dom1978 - 29 March 2013 06:39 PM

It’s always puzzled me that in the US fundamentalist Christians can get away with calling themselves ‘conservative’. These people say they have a magic book that’s completely without error and that has the answers to all of their problems in life. What’s more, they believe in miracles, healing, prayer, the trinity, the virgin birth, and all sorts of other bizarre things. They are taking a very radical leap of faith, and their position is extremely risky intellectually. When I was growing up in the UK, such people would have been described as extremists or radicals, and certainly not as conservatives. A conservative would be someone who takes stories about gods and spirits and miracles with a very large pinch of salt. In other words, a true conservative would be a skeptic. So how can fundamentalists still get away with calling themselves conservative? And why don’t skeptics call them out on this more often? I’ve heard people like Michael Shermer mention this point a couple of time before, but I think this should actually be the main argumentative strategy to use against fundamentalists. Show them just how ‘out there’ they are, and show that the real conservatives and pragmatists are the skeptics. Their position is safe, boring and sensible.

You’re right, but “conservatives” usually equate conservatism with tradition.  If people have taken a certain position or believed something to be true for generations, if not longer, they take the position that it must be right, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented.  They aren’t so much safe, boring and sensible.  Their minds have been cast in concrete. 

LL

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Posted: 29 March 2013 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think it would help if we can define what a conservative is in terms that everybody can agree on and I don’t think you can. A conservative in for example….Russia….would be an old hardline Communist. A conservative in the USA would be a very different breed of cat. Seems to me that the only real hallmark of anybody who could be called “conservative” is that such people are happy with the status quo, no matter what is is, and are extremely resistant to any sort of change.

Beyond that, all bets are off!

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Posted: 29 March 2013 09:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 29 March 2013 09:13 PM

I think it would help if we can define what a conservative is in terms that everybody can agree on and I don’t think you can. A conservative in for example….Russia….would be an old hardline Communist. A conservative in the USA would be a very different breed of cat. Seems to me that the only real hallmark of anybody who could be called “conservative” is that such people are happy with the status quo, no matter what is is, and are extremely resistant to any sort of change.

Beyond that, all bets are off!

Yeah, I agree. It’s such a slippery concept. Here in China the word is pretty much unusable, because it could mean Maoist, Confucian, Buddhist, free marketeer, pro-democracy activist, anti-democracy government official, or any number of other things. So we have to use other terms to express our precise meaning.   

Still, in western thought, I do think there’s some kind of core. A conservative is someone who believes that old traditions and institutions have stood the test of time and therefore must have some kind of wisdom. They would always say ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. They’re also anti-utopian, and they’re often anti-intellectual. They’re suspicious of clever people who come along claiming to have new answers to all our old problems. This is why a conservative will support the church. It’s proven it’s worth over the years and it delivers the goods. Conservatives are very pragmatic and realistic, and they’re also pretty pessimistic about human nature. We just have to muddle along as best we can and try to use what works.   

And so, as I see it, hardcore Christian believers who are certain about all of these crazy doctrines are not conservatives, and likewise free-market fundamentalists who think that the market is the answer to all our problems are not conservatives. The same goes for Marxists. These are extreme positions, and a conservative is never extreme.

[ Edited: 29 March 2013 09:43 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 30 March 2013 12:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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So I guess what I’m trying to say is that it makes perfect sense for an American conservative to support the tried-and-tested institutions, practices, rituals and values of Christianity, rather than trying to throw them away and replace them with some new utopian ideas. All of this is to be expected from the conservative. But to believe all of the things that fundamentalist Christians believe about the Bible and about the world is to go way beyond this conservative position. Indeed, the intelligent conservative will know some church history and will know that great thinkers over the centuries have held many different views about things like the inerrancy of scripture and the nature of God, and so it’s probably best to be safe and conservative here and not take a very strong position either way. To the true conservative, the fired-up fundamentalist will seem like a complete nutcase.

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Posted: 31 March 2013 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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To the true conservative, the fired-up fundamentalist will seem like a complete nutcase.

Beware the No True Scotsman fallacy. See http://atheism.about.com/od/logicalfallacies/a/notruescotsman.htm

In my observation, the only quality which is the hallmark of being a conservative is a desire to defend the status quo….whatever it happens to be.

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Posted: 31 March 2013 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Lois - 29 March 2013 07:29 PM
Dom1978 - 29 March 2013 06:39 PM

It’s always puzzled me that in the US fundamentalist Christians can get away with calling themselves ‘conservative’. These people say they have a magic book that’s completely without error and that has the answers to all of their problems in life. What’s more, they believe in miracles, healing, prayer, the trinity, the virgin birth, and all sorts of other bizarre things. They are taking a very radical leap of faith, and their position is extremely risky intellectually. When I was growing up in the UK, such people would have been described as extremists or radicals, and certainly not as conservatives. A conservative would be someone who takes stories about gods and spirits and miracles with a very large pinch of salt. In other words, a true conservative would be a skeptic. So how can fundamentalists still get away with calling themselves conservative? And why don’t skeptics call them out on this more often? I’ve heard people like Michael Shermer mention this point a couple of time before, but I think this should actually be the main argumentative strategy to use against fundamentalists. Show them just how ‘out there’ they are, and show that the real conservatives and pragmatists are the skeptics. Their position is safe, boring and sensible.

You’re right, but “conservatives” usually equate conservatism with tradition.  If people have taken a certain position or believed something to be true for generations, if not longer, they take the position that it must be right, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented.  They aren’t so much safe, boring and sensible.  Their minds have been cast in concrete. 

LL

 

Lois, the fact that their minds have been cast in concrete doesn’t make them conservative. Consider the following examples: 

1. hardcore scientific materialist - We know for sure that the mind is just the brain and that consciousness cannot exist after the death of the body and brain. Therefore we don’t need to look at near death experiences or ESP. It’s impossible. End of story.   

2. new-age believer - We know that ghosts must be real and acupuncture must be effective, since these things been believed for such a long time in so many different cultures, and so the fact that there’s no good scientific evidence for them is neither here nor there. 

3. libertarian - Capitalism is great and the government is evil. If we had true capitalism with no government intervention, everything would be wonderful. 

4. marxist - Capitalism is evil, and we’ll never have a decent world until we get rid of it. 

Like religious fundamentalists, these people are all true believers. They are dogmatically committed to their ideology, and they’re not interested in looking at the evidence. A conservative, on the other hand, would be safe and cautious, not wanting to look like a fool. Conservatives do feel that religion is good for people, in that people need ritual, discipline and community, but this is a long way from religious fundamentalism, which is a very extreme ideology, just like the four ideologies above.

I also agree with people like Karen Armstrong that religious fundamentalism is a very modern phenomenon. It is a reaction against modernity. In fact, many of the things believed by fundamentalist Christians and Muslims today weren’t believed by the majority of Christians and Muslims throughout history. Do you really think most Christians throughout history believed that the main point of the Bible is that we should all have a personal relationship with our best buddy Jesus? Of course they didn’t.

[ Edited: 31 March 2013 05:37 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 31 March 2013 05:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 31 March 2013 04:44 PM

To the true conservative, the fired-up fundamentalist will seem like a complete nutcase.

Beware the No True Scotsman fallacy. See http://atheism.about.com/od/logicalfallacies/a/notruescotsman.htm

In my observation, the only quality which is the hallmark of being a conservative is a desire to defend the status quo….whatever it happens to be.

People who commit that fallacy usually want to defend a certain position. For example, a (liberal) Christian will say that TRUE Christianity is about helping the poor and making the world a better place, and they say this because this is their position. But I don’t really want to defend conservatism in general. There are some things I like about conservatism, but ultimately the conservative would be unable to criticize institutions like slavery if they had a long history and ‘worked’, and so I am not a conservative. The pessimism about human nature and anti-utopianism are pretty good, though. 

So my definition of ‘conservative’ is something like this: cautious; safe; skeptical about new ideas; trusting what’s worked over the centuries in the real world rather than what some clever person says; against utopian schemes.

[ Edited: 31 March 2013 05:20 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 31 March 2013 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dom1978 - 31 March 2013 05:12 PM
Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 31 March 2013 04:44 PM

To the true conservative, the fired-up fundamentalist will seem like a complete nutcase.

Beware the No True Scotsman fallacy. See http://atheism.about.com/od/logicalfallacies/a/notruescotsman.htm

In my observation, the only quality which is the hallmark of being a conservative is a desire to defend the status quo….whatever it happens to be.

People who commit that fallacy usually want to defend a certain position. For example, a (liberal) Christian will say that TRUE Christianity is about helping the poor and making the world a better place, and they say this because this is their position. But I don’t really want to defend conservatism in general. There are some things I like about conservatism, but ultimately the conservative would be unable to criticize institutions like slavery if they had a long history and ‘worked’, and so I am not a conservative. The pessimism about human nature and anti-utopianism are pretty good, though. 

So my definition of ‘conservative’ is something like this: cautious; safe; skeptical about new ideas; trusting what’s worked over the centuries in the real world rather than what some clever person says; against utopian schemes.

I was talking about the conservative mind set in general, not fundamentalism.  IMO, Fundamemtalists have gone over the edge. They do not think the way most people do.  I wouldn’t confuse them with conservatives, even bough I’m not so interested in conservatives, either, for the most part.  It’s all a matter of degree. When they go past the point of “craziness” (and I allow myself to define that point for myself) I usually back away.  There is no getting through to craziness.

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Posted: 31 March 2013 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dom1978 - 30 March 2013 12:19 AM

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that it makes perfect sense for an American conservative to support the tried-and-tested institutions, practices, rituals and values of Christianity, rather than trying to throw them away and replace them with some new utopian ideas. All of this is to be expected from the conservative. But to believe all of the things that fundamentalist Christians believe about the Bible and about the world is to go way beyond this conservative position. Indeed, the intelligent conservative will know some church history and will know that great thinkers over the centuries have held many different views about things like the inerrancy of scripture and the nature of God, and so it’s probably best to be safe and conservative here and not take a very strong position either way. To the true conservative, the fired-up fundamentalist will seem like a complete nutcase.

Dude, fundamentalism in the US started around 200-250 years ago.  It’s not new. Many of these churches here in the US, and there are some in the Uk too, are the tried and tested institutions.
The US was peopled with many other nations religious whack-jobs from the start. There are many scenarios, but lot’s of people fled to the US so they could form churches that suited them.
The other part of the conservative thing here is that political conservatives easily hoodwinked the many christians in this country with xenophobia and propaganda.
So to be proud bigots, and smallminded reactionaries, the fundamentalists and other christians pay with their economic freedom. Religion is the opiate of the masses.
And people use opium to kill the pain.  The pain of being screwed!
Dom if you’ve never spent time in the US, it’s gonna be pretty hard to explain.  You have to live in it to understand it.
Most of Europe ditched these type of dynamics a long time ago. Mostly.
Currently the Republican party is undergoing a large self-examination of itself.  They are finding what many have already known.  These types of dynamics are going to be harder and harder to propagate.  And- they have damaged the nation.

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Posted: 31 March 2013 07:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The thoughts and behaviors people call “conservative” have become bizarre. A few decades ago, conservatism was respectable. It has since become ridiculous. It is as though “conservatives” (many of whom are more radical than conservative) realize that their views are untenable, so they seek out the most outrageous positions because “what’s the difference?” Or maybe they’ve just seen that they can get away with taking ridiculous positions that completely ignore long-term societal needs. Whatever has gone on, it is extremely destructive.

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Posted: 31 March 2013 11:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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VYAZMA - 31 March 2013 07:16 PM
Dom1978 - 30 March 2013 12:19 AM

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that it makes perfect sense for an American conservative to support the tried-and-tested institutions, practices, rituals and values of Christianity, rather than trying to throw them away and replace them with some new utopian ideas. All of this is to be expected from the conservative. But to believe all of the things that fundamentalist Christians believe about the Bible and about the world is to go way beyond this conservative position. Indeed, the intelligent conservative will know some church history and will know that great thinkers over the centuries have held many different views about things like the inerrancy of scripture and the nature of God, and so it’s probably best to be safe and conservative here and not take a very strong position either way. To the true conservative, the fired-up fundamentalist will seem like a complete nutcase.

Dude, fundamentalism in the US started around 200-250 years ago.  It’s not new. Many of these churches here in the US, and there are some in the Uk too, are the tried and tested institutions.
The US was peopled with many other nations religious whack-jobs from the start. There are many scenarios, but lot’s of people fled to the US so they could form churches that suited them.
The other part of the conservative thing here is that political conservatives easily hoodwinked the many christians in this country with xenophobia and propaganda.
So to be proud bigots, and smallminded reactionaries, the fundamentalists and other christians pay with their economic freedom. Religion is the opiate of the masses.
And people use opium to kill the pain.  The pain of being screwed!
Dom if you’ve never spent time in the US, it’s gonna be pretty hard to explain.  You have to live in it to understand it.
Most of Europe ditched these type of dynamics a long time ago. Mostly.
Currently the Republican party is undergoing a large self-examination of itself.  They are finding what many have already known.  These types of dynamics are going to be harder and harder to propagate.  And- they have damaged the nation.

I didn’t say fundamentalism was new. I said it was modern. As sociologists and historians use the word, ‘modernity’ refers to the last few hundred years. So yes, fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon.

And no, I’ve never even visited the US in my life, but that’s not really the point here. I hate Christian fundamentalism as much as anyone, but the question here is whether it really has anything to do with conservatism, understood in the way I’ve defined it here. Christian fundamentalism seems to me to be some kind of weird modern individualistic self-help movement, whose main point is to have a personal relationship with Jesus and accept him as your personal savior in order to avoid going to hell forever. And yet, as Robert Price and others always like to point out, this central idea is nowhere to be found in the Bible itself. It really is a bizarre state of affairs.

[ Edited: 31 March 2013 11:28 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 01 April 2013 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Also, another reason why fundamentalists are better described as extremists than as conservatives is the crazy Catholic bashing you hear from a fair number of fundamentalists. A real conservative would have a great deal of respect for the Catholic church, both for its long history and for the way it tries to promote values like stability, harmony, hierarchy and social cohesion. These things would be much more important than fine points of theology. But not so for the fundamentalist. The fundamentalist seems to think that a literal reading of Genesis is much more important than the long-term good of society. Again, it’s a very extreme and irrational position, and not at all conservative as I understand the word.

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Posted: 01 April 2013 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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People who commit that fallacy usually want to defend a certain position. For example, a (liberal) Christian will say that TRUE Christianity is about helping the poor and making the world a better place, and they say this because this is their position.

And a lot of nominally conservative Christians will use the much the same argument to support their doing EXACTLY what you think a “true” conservative wouldn’t do. As far as THEY are concerned, all those things you believe a real conservative wouldn’t do are exactly what THEY think a “real” conservative WOULD do or believe.

You can run around in circles like this all day and get nowhere.

So my definition of ‘conservative’ is something like this: cautious; safe; skeptical about new ideas; trusting what’s worked over the centuries in the real world rather than what some clever person says; against utopian schemes.

Unfortunately, that’s not the working definition of conservatives in the United States….at least not in ACTUAL practice.

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Posted: 01 April 2013 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 01 April 2013 09:11 AM

People who commit that fallacy usually want to defend a certain position. For example, a (liberal) Christian will say that TRUE Christianity is about helping the poor and making the world a better place, and they say this because this is their position.

And a lot of nominally conservative Christians will use the much the same argument to support their doing EXACTLY what you think a “true” conservative wouldn’t do. As far as THEY are concerned, all those things you believe a real conservative wouldn’t do are exactly what THEY think a “real” conservative WOULD do or believe.

You can run around in circles like this all day and get nowhere.

So my definition of ‘conservative’ is something like this: cautious; safe; skeptical about new ideas; trusting what’s worked over the centuries in the real world rather than what some clever person says; against utopian schemes.

Unfortunately, that’s not the working definition of conservatives in the United States….at least not in ACTUAL practice.

 

OK, so in the US conservatism no longer has anything to do with being safe, cautious, pragmatic, realistic, or anti-utopian. These people are now a bunch of extremists who think that everyone must be allowed to have their guns regardless of the consequences, and that unrestrained dog-eat-dog capitalism is always the way to go regardless of the consequences. They think that everyone’s damned unless they take the Bible literally and have a personal relationship with Jesus (whatever that means). Moreover, they think that both Catholicism and Islam are evil, even though they share many of the same values and in many ways have a similar vision for society. But still, they’re evil because their beliefs about God and Jesus are a bit different. 

Anyway, in my view, old-fashioned grumpy conservatives in both the US and elsewhere will almost certainly see these people as extremists or radicals and not as conservatives. A great example of conservatism in the traditional sense is that line from Winston Churchill about democracy being the worst form of government apart from all the other ones. This is just what you’d expect to hear from a conservative. The institutions we have are not perfect, but we’re never going to have a perfect world. If we try to replace them with something new we’ll end up with chaos. Human beings are selfish, greedy and cruel, and we need to use whatever we can to keep them in check. Institutions like the family and the church can do this to some extent, and so we need to support them. It’s good for society that people go to church every Sunday and believe in hell, but that doesn’t mean that all the doctrines of the Bible are literally true!

[ Edited: 01 April 2013 05:35 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 01 April 2013 05:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Yeah it has to do with being safe and cautious too.  Sometimes pragmatic.  We have the stiff upper lip, “hanging on in quiet desperation” type conservatism here too.
Conservatism is a label that is trying to be won by a few factions here right now.  The old line conservatism is actually trying to suppress some of the fundy conservatism right now.  The tea baggers claim the old conservatism is not conservative enough..etc etc…
It’s a friggin joke, and it’s holding our nation back.  Maybe the world.
Frankly, I believe the conservative(right wing) values in the US(past 60 or so years at least.) have gone along way of holding the entire planet back.  I’m certain of this. They have done good on occasion, but on balance….

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