Monday, May 16, 2005

We Should Reject All Fundamentalism

Today, the Wall Street Journal reprints an editorial from September of 1984 that argues the secular left is just as fundamentalist in their beliefs as is the religious right. The main evidence is that true-blue liberals always consider their opinions to be morally superior. This attitude, The Journal argued then and is apparently re-arguing today, is leading many to leave the left in favor for the right. The conclusion:
If some liberals are now afraid that certain Christian fundamentalists will reintroduce new forms of intolerance and excessive religious zeal into American political life, perhaps we should concede the possibility that they know what they're talking about. But they might also meditate on…why there has been an apparent rightward shift in political sentiment in the U.S. It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their own minds about which pose the greater threat to their own private and public values.

What’s amazing about this editorial is that, for 20 years now, major, respected media like The Journal have been presenting a false dichotomy to the American people—as if we have no choice but the extremes.

How about this: how about we reject the moral superiority of both the left and the right? Morality is a very important component to public debate. But no side should claim to have a monopoly on morality or feel justified in labeling their opponents as immoral. For the sake of real progress, debate must be much more robust than just a face-off between two immovable sides entrenched in their own sense of righteousness.

The Journal is correct in labeling the hard left as fundamentalist. But they are flat-out wrong in pretending that the only other choice is the hard right. We should reject all fundamentalism in favor of the open dialogue and intellectual vitality on which the founders built this nation.


At 10:56 AM, Blogger Jonathan C said...

Ah, sweet words of reason in an otherwise insane world.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Tom - doubts and all said...

I agree because I agree with the Indepundit,s first posting below:

Who Do You Think You Are

I am a liberal. I believe in keeping an open mind, and treating all people with compassion, respect and tolerance.

I am a conservative. I believe that Judeo-Christian values form the cornerstone of our society, and I practice the virtues of integrity, civility and personal responsibility.

I am a libertarian. I believe in limited government, free minds and free markets.

I am a progressive, because there is always room for improvement.

I am an environmentalist. I long for cleaner communities, clean air and clean water. I believe our natural treasures should be protected.

I am a capitalist. I believe that ambition, competition, and innovation can provide the answers to some of our greatest challenges.

I am a Republican, because my Governor is a Democrat, and I choose to exercise my right to vote and select his opponent in the General Election.

I am a Democrat - To be more precise, I will change my registration next year so that I may participate in the 2004 Presidential Primary.

I am an Independent. I am a free agent, split-ticket voter. I recognize that political parties exist for the benefit of politicians, not the people.

I am an American.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger ~Mark said...

This is very intriguing, but before I can give an intelligent response I ask: What does the word "fundamental" mean to you?

I'm not trying to set up anything, I have just come to realize that folks often misunderstand what others are getting at due to differeng views of even a single term.


At 6:27 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I would define fundamentalism as a rigid orthodoxy that refuses to change its beliefs for any reason. Fundamentalism is a static belief system, one that requires adherents to believe unquestioningly in a pre-set system and ignore all opposition, no matter how valid. It's usually religious or morality based but it can be doctrinal (i.e. communism). And it can be narrow (say on one subject, like tax cuts) or very broad (like radical Islam).

This is different from just partisanship which I see as more of a device of political hegemony (and intellectual laziness).

I think that fundamentalism is directly opposed to American democracy. Our founders were intellectually vital men, continuously willing to hear out the other side and find common ground. They disagreed bitterly on many, many issues, but they based their beliefs and their arguments in reasoned thought and understood the power of a good compromise. Fundamentalism rejects or just ignores reason. But our system is based on the assumption that it will be run by men and women of reason. That, in fact, Americans are people who can be reasoned with. It's hard to make the system work and it's hard to have progress without reasoned thought.

At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These debates and the American peoples forbearance prove what a wonderful country this is. Jesus was killed by fundamentalists and our sins.


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