Enlightenment Fundamentalism

On the 8th season premiere of Family Guy titled “Road to the Multiverse”, characters Brian and Stewie, both voiced by outspoken atheist and series creator Seth McFarlane, visit several alternate realities, including an advanced utopian world where it is said Christianity never existed, resulting in an absence of the Dark Ages.  While the show has always been more renowned for its potty and fart jokes than its relevant social commentary, this below-the-belt jab at Christianity reflects an increasing trend in the atheistic revision of world history.  Christianity alone is the scapegoat for the pejoratively-named Middle Ages, and it is assumed that atheism would have advanced and saved humanity if only people had listened to reason.  Non-Christian societies, even atheist ones, are not equally held accountable for their lack of progress, which ironically, is often lagging behind Christian society.

Although Family Guy is a humorous cartoon, this myth is actually taken seriously by many people today.  The “new” atheism of Richard Dawkins has proven to be more than simply non-religious, but specifically anti-Christian.  They like to think of themselves as “enlightened” although they don’t actually mean this term in the spiritual sense that it suggests.  Their enlightenment is derived not from nonviolent Buddhism, but from the 18th century Age of Reason which led to the bloody Reign of Terror.  What this reveals is that the new atheism is purely a product of Western Civilization, and holds a revisionary concept of its history.  After all, the atheist is quick to point out the violent histories of religions, but will rarely acknowledge or even admit the violence in the history of atheism.  LIke 19th century Reconstructionist heretics, such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, who avoid having to explain the dark periods in Christian history by simply rejecting it, so the new atheist has created their own historical reconstruction ignorant of actual history.  One such example is how atheists frequently quote Marx’s famous “religion is the opiate of the masses”, while ignoring the application of this credo that brought  the human rights violations of Stalin’s anti-religious purges in Soviet Russia.  And just as these proto-fundamentalist splinters of Christianity paved the way for 20th century fundamentalism, so now the new atheists have become Enlightenment Fundamentalists.

The Enlightenment Fundamentalist holds Christianity responsible for impeding all social, scientific, and intellectual progress, even though in most cases the reverse is actually true.  They commonly believe that religion is the only reason for opposition to abortion, while ignoring that anti-religious governments like Communist Romania had the most hostile policies against abortion in history.  Still, like many of their pet causes, they focus disproportionate time and energy to promote abortion in countries where it’s already legal.  Listening only to the modern atheist, one would be led to believe that gay rights had already been championed everywhere else in the world except for Christian-majority nations.  The reality, however, is that gay rights were pioneered almost exclusively in Judeo-Christian countries.  Predominately Hindu India only just decriminalized homosexuality in 2009.  Israel is the only non-Muslim nation in the Middle East, and also the only one where sodomy is not illegal, while its Muslim neighbors all have severe penalties including death and dismemberment.  Even the largest atheist nation, China, has harsher anti-gay policies than the “moral majority” United States.  Russia was fairly tolerant of homosexuality while they had religious freedom, but when Stalin came to power he purged religion and also imposed anti-sodomy laws that stayed on the books until 1993, repealed only after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  While gay rights advocates celebrate the repeal of DADT in the US, mostly nonreligious and atheist South Korea still punishes gays in the military for “mutual rape” with one year prison sentences.  If the Enlightenment Fundamentalist insists Christianity is holding back human progress, one should ask them why the atheists are still trailing behind the Christians.

As a product of Western Civilization, Secular Humanism is in fact a Christian heresy, not dissimilar to how Buddhism is the atheist heresy of Hinduism.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have resentment for their parent ideology, and likewise Enlightenment Fundamentalists have strong resentment towards Christianity.  Also like most heresies, it reaches its conclusions through extreme addition or subtraction of its source.  Its subtractive quality is the reduction of monotheism by one, whereas its additive properties are evidenced in how most of its ideals and virtues are simply Christian principles taken to radical extremes.  Although admittedly in contrast to how it is sometimes practiced, Christianity was a religion founded on logic and reason, and the abuses and hypocrisies often identified with religion by atheists were actually addressed in its Scriptures.  A strength of atheism has been that unlike a religion, it is not a codified belief system with universal expectations; the moral shortcomings of the Soviet Union or the Khmer Rouge don’t reflect on all atheists in the same way that atheists like to hold all of Christianity responsible for equally isolated events like the Inquisition or the Crusades.  However, this lack of uniformity or orthodoxy has also proven to be a weakness that Enlightenment Fundamentalism seeks to remedy.

The Good Book: A Humanist Bible is the latest in an endless stream of publications to try to create an atheistic alternative to the Bible.  Although praised as audacious and unprecedented, in reality it was neither.  Casual browsing reveals that such a book is published about once or twice each year, and the material it includes is not as shocking or telling as the material it deliberately attempts to omit.  In trying to create a book of virtues, wisdom, history, and philosophy sanitized of religious influence, it has demonstrated a level of denial almost comparable to book burning.  While many atheists erroneously believe that Christianity suppresses alternate ideas or opinions, the irony is that these attempts to create an atheist worldview ultimately result in purging any mention of religion just like Stalin did.  All of the contents of the Humanist Bible have existed concurrently with Christianity, some of the authors like Sir Isaac Newton were in fact renowned for their faith, but you wouldn’t know that from reading through the atheists filters.  Christianity has supported secular history and ideas, but it seems the reverse is not the case.  While Enlightenment Fundamentalists have tried to make themselves synonymous with “freethinkers”, they seem more threatened by exposure to conflicting ideas than even the most cloistered monks.  Richard Dawkins goes so far as to suggest religious education of minors is child abuse, and some radicals call for the ban of all religion.

Enlightenment Fundamentalism seems to be becoming the very things atheists have criticized in religions, particularly Christianity.  Rather than supporting a true free market of ideas, it is trying to eradicate all those opposed.  It’s science is absolute, even when unproven.  For instance, Lady Gaga’s song, Born This Way, has become the new accepted theory of sexual orientation; even though science has yet to actually prove it, any dissent is unorthodox.  Steven Levitt’s abortion/crime rate connection in Freakonomics was debunked as statistical manipulation by the Wall Street Journal, yet the pro-choice movement was mostly unaffected, ignoring any science contrary to their pre-determined worldview.  Like some of the religious people they judge, what they choose to believe is more important than actual facts.

But most telling are their interpretive methods of Scripture, which like many Christian heresies, has simply taken bad hermeneutics to the extreme.  The Enlightenment Fundamentalist usually comes to atheistic conclusions not through just ignoring or disbelieving the Scriptures like traditional atheism, but actually going so far as to interpret the Bible more literally than even the most literalist fundamentalist Christians.  The infamous Skeptic’s Annotated Bible is written entirely from a hyper-literalist perspective, which expects its reader to suspend all literary understanding in Scripture.  There really are very few differences in approach to Scripture between an Enlightenment Fundamentalist and a Creationist; both insist the Genesis account of creation must be literal, the Enlightenment Fundamentalist just uses their literalism to dismiss all theism.  But they go even further, interpreting non-narrative works the same as narrative, and overlooking poetic license.  For instance, citing apparent contradictions Gospels apart can be seen as a reasonable attempt to question or discredit scriptural accuracy, but citing consecutive contradictory statements in the same book or passage, such as Proverbs 26:4-5, makes the critic look completely illiterate for failing to recognize an obvious and deliberate poetic device.  Atheists, Mormons, and Christian fundamentalists are actually all descended from the same flawed hermeneutical school of thought, yet ironically Christian fundamentalists and Mormons do have a (marginally) more literary approach to Scripture than Enlightenment Fundamentalists.

Brian and Stewie in “Road to the Multiverse”

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2 responses to “Enlightenment Fundamentalism

  1. Pingback: Modern Snobbery | seerstone

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