While you might think that fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Jews and fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Hindus would have nothing in common and would, indeed, despise each other, you might be wrong. All fundamentalism shares common characteristics: an adherence to specific text and teachings, a belief that they are literally true, a focus on received wisdom – that is, all knowledge descends from a divine source, and so on.
But what really unites them is a hatred of change which in the modern world represents a hatred of progress. Certainly fundamentalists embrace the benefits of modern science while preferring not to know how it works. In fact in some cases they would argue that it doesn’t matter how it works – it is only a gift of God and he works in mysterious ways.
Fundamentalists always look to the past – not the real past, of course, but a convenient past that always has a mystical quality and that supports the social and political status quo. Hence, the universal disempowerment of women.
You see this in politics as well. When Fox News commentators wonder or more likely pronounce what the Founding Fathers wanted or meant, they don’t care what they actually wanted or meant. Rather they attempt to selectively turn certain words and phrases into some sort of frozen edict – wisdom translated directly from the past to the present without interpretation. They of course totally ignore their own twisted interpretation.
Because, of course, one of the other things they hate is complexity. The idea that everything isn’t black and white turns their guts to water and makes their hands shake. It makes them want to reach for their guns. Which, perhaps, is why their emotional range is limited to fear and anger.
Not surprisingly, they have devised ways to avoid complexity. One study of fundamentalists found that on average, they have only read 17% of their sacred text. It may be a different 17% from sect to sect but this narrow reading ensures they avoid contradiction and, most importantly, anything that might disturb the smooth course of their thinking.
Fundamentalists want everything to remain the way it was – they want to return the world to its original state. Barring that, they want to blow up the modern world and all its complex, change-embracing ways.
Progressives are hardly perfect and they are frequently in doubt. In fact, some of us embrace doubt as the only rational way to approach the world. If we refuse to doubt, then what do we have to think about? Unlike our fundamentalist brethren – and to a lesser extent our conservative colleagues—progressives are less concerned with where we’ve been than we are with where we are going.
We seldom want to destroy the world – we’re too interested in how it’s all going to turn out.
And that’s ten minutes.