Racists erroneously believe that there is proof one race is superior to another. Fundamentalists erroneously believe that there is proof one religion is superior to another.
Thus there’s a natural affinity between fundamentalism and racism. This is one reason, among many, why fundamentalism in any form—Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, whatever—can’t be tolerated by tolerant people.
On my other weblog, HinesSight, I recently wrote about the danger of “Religious right on a crusade.” Now, many people would accuse me of overreacting to the attempts by Christian fundamentalists to take control of the political, educational, and judicial systems in the United States.
“Why don’t you just let those on the religious right do what they want and focus on your own spiritual path?” goes the argument. I can understand this point of view, but I can’t accept it.
I try to be a tolerant person. However, it’s extremely difficult for me to be tolerant of intolerance. That’s when I become an extremist—when I see that someone else’s basic human rights are being attacked by an intolerant “ism” such as racism or fundamentalism.
There are clear connections between the two. This study found a positive correlation between fundamentalism, authoritarianism, homosexual discrimination, and racism, noting that “Results support the previous research of the fundamentalism-authoritarianism-racism relationship.”
So toleration of fundamentalist faith-based religions is dangerous. For anyone who blindly believes that his or her religion is superior to all others will find it easy to blindly believe that his or her race (or sex, country, sexual orientation, etc.) is superior to all others.
As I noted in my afore-mentioned other post on this subject, fundamentalism is inherently opposed to reason. So scientific facts aren’t going to convince a closed-minded fundamentalist that races and religions are much more similar than they are different, and that there is no basis for considering that one race or religion is superior to any other.
Fundamentalism is based on faith. Thus faith is the root of prejudice and intolerance, as Sam Harris persuasively argues in his book “The End of Faith.” Faith isn’t a positive thing. It’s horribly negative, responsible for countless instances of killings, tortures, hatred, discrimination, and such.
Fundamentalist extremism is kept afloat by an ocean of faith. Eliminate the faith and the extremism would be left high and dry. For example, the August 8/15 issue of The New Yorker quotes a Marine lieutenant general:
“This is no more a war on terrorism than the Second World War was a war on submarines. The decisive terrain in this war is the vast majority of people who are not directly involved but whose support, willing or coerced, is necessary to insurgent operations around the world.”
If this is true of the Muslim people who tolerate Muslim extremists, it is equally true of the Christian people who tolerate Christian extremists. The intolerant fundamentalist religious right in the United States is being supported by the passive tolerance of what likely is a majority of Christians who are opposed to Christian theology being forced down the throats of unbelievers.
Just as the Ku Klux Klan remained a powerful force until the broader culture disowned racial intolerance, religious intolerance will be with us until believers of all faiths say to the extremists among them “We won’t put up with this any longer.”
I hope that day is coming soon. I fear that it is a long way off.