My Love/Hate Relationship with English Fundies
I don't need to go into detail about what I hate about these fundies. Their theology is the same vile combination of psychological abuse, incoherent theories and ignorant claims that we get from Christian fundies all over. What trully confounds me is that the holders of such awful beliefs are some of the greatest people I've met. It's not just that they're 'nice', they're also so alive...
Fellow Brits might be familiar with what I mean. To the rest of you I'll explain further. English evangelicals share the same beliefs as American ones but because of the differences in culture and political climate, there's a large difference in their attitude towards disbelievers. I think that the main difference is as follows:
In America, evangelical Christianity is the status quo in most places so a denial of it is seen as rocking the boat and the Christians are trying to preserve their culture. Therefore, questioning and objecting is scary to them and they try to clamp down on it.
In England, evangelical Christianity is a minority. They want to challenge the status quo. Because of this they want to be questioned. They want to make people think and change their opinions. They want there to be a dialogue in order to find out the truth. If you get into an argument with an English evangelical over their religion then it'll make their day that you weren't apathetic!
This difference might sound small but it makes a world of difference.
Atheists/antagonists are no longer seen as trouble makers up to no good.
It's not a case of "you ought to be listening to us" it's a case of "we'd love it if you came to listen to us." That might sound like a better choice of words, but I'm not talking about 'technical politeness' here. Their genuine attitude towards non-believers is one where they don't make demands or expectations.
Their use of the wager is slightly different too.
It's an anti-apathy measure. It's a "there's no use in just saying 'all religions are true' as our one says there's no sitting on the fence. Either you agree or you disagree and you want to be sure!" kind of wager. Still psychologically abusive as it takes advantage of your honesty about your own fallibity, but not quite as bad as other uses of the wager.
Anyway, you're probably wondering why I made a topic about these guys. The truth is, I think we can learn from these guys in a several ways.
1) What they are attempting to acheive in England is similar to what the RRS are trying to acheive in the Bible belt - the acceptance of a controversial viewpoint.
2) They embody everything that is appealing about theism. As the movement is a growing one, they rely on conversion rather than 'brainwashing from birth'. Freethinking people who thought themselves immune to superstition have found themselves snared.
3) I find their 'spiritual' lifestyles are very impressive. I said earlier that are 'alive'. What I mean is, I've often thought of the characteristics I value most in a personality. Although these guys often score rockbottom for rationality, everything else about them - their attitude towards people, life, their work, their play...
Surely this 'spirituality' doesn't depend entirely on superstition.
Surely there is a way we could come to understand this lifestyle in a way that means we can reap the benefits but in a rational way.
All three points are tied in the following observation:
They have the same uphill struggle that the RRS have, except even worse as they don't even have the rational truth to convince people with. Yet they are persuading intelligent people to put their rationality aside, accept a theology with some horrific ideas in it. These people they convert have to admit that they are miserable worthless sinners who require saving and that if they don't they will burn in hell, that all their non-Christian friends are set to burn in hell and that any friends/family members who died non-Christian are suffering for eternity. So what could possibly be drawing these people in?
They aren't converting people from a rational perspective. I think we all know that accepting Fundy rationality is an exercise in convincing yourself that you're not a naive idiot for going along with this. They aren't converting people from a wishful thinking perspective, as although the promise of eternal bliss is nice, that on it's own wouldn't be enough. What's more there's the burden by the uglier beliefs like eternal damnation and the guilt of your own human nature. So what does convince them?
It is this spirituality I talk about. It is the atmosphere of this Christian community. As much as I abhore their moral theories, their moral practice is impeccable. They are genuinely nice and hospitable people and you can see that although they have to go through challenges and internal struggles, there's a real joy to their faith. They are so driven with a conviction that what they're doing is nice.
Converts aren't buying into the theology. Many will admit straight up that they don't fully understand the theology. They have been overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the people, felt so alive that they're left sure that this theology, whether they understand it or not, is the answer to life.
So how does this affect us?
The main drive people have for accepting the most appalling superstitious beliefs is that they come with this 'spirituality' that they want from life. The general view of the 'faithless' is of those who have denied something because they couldn't understand it, because they weren't open to something new. If we could find a rational approach to spirituality (like Sam Harris is advocating) that could tap into this human need, give us the desired lifestyle, not only would we get all the benefits of religion without the bad, not only would we ourselves master the happy 'spiritual life', we would also take from religion it's final incentive to encourage irrationality.