Who Are The Fundamentalists?

by Professor Jack

We’ve all seen fundamentalism, right? Here are some of the more common features:

A paranoid, defensive, self-referencing style; a We-They worldview; the coining of an exclusivist language of values; the reinterpretation of common words; a general humorlessness and disinclination to irony and ambiguity; focus on a singular theme or subject.

Repression of traditional social graces; the turning of all human encounter into occasion for argument or conversion; a palpable  triumphalism and presumption of righteousness; the dogmatizing of all natural and social phenomena.

Ridicule and mockery as a style of public discourse; perfection of the put-down and the write-off.

A priori rejection of the possibility of one’s own failure or epistemological error.

Recognition, either implicit or explicit, of one paramount sacrament as the embodiment of the most holy.

Puritanical tastes and preferences; the exclusion of cognitive or methodological neutrality; proliferation of taboos and prohibited expressions amongst the initiated.

Polarization, the rendering of every person as either for or against oneself; the elimination of common grace; a division of reality into a large zone of the forbidden and a small redoubt of one’s own virtue.

An anti-intellectualism disguised as the scientific approach; the cherry-picking of studies and texts that support one’s own point of view; a constant appeal to certain “theories” and “sacred texts;” the rejection of countervailing evidence as mere bias or guile.

Taking refuge in conspiracy and third-way epistemologies; denial of the moral value of one’s opponents; an exegesis of history to make one’s own cause inevitable.

A schismatic impulse that increases with internal debate; excommunication of former allies; consummation of hatred towards those once closest to one’s own views; ever more explicit identification of heretics and deviants; ascription of moral absolutes to one’s enemies (not simply wrong, but evil; not merely mistaken, but sick).

Philosophical and pragmatic Manichaeism, where nature and history are interpreted as a cosmic struggle between (your) god and (their) devil; and yourself as one of the chosen few.

Philosopher Eric Hoffer called such people True Believers. Richard Hofstader once called them Christians. Many today call them Salafist Muslims. Increasingly, I call them Democrats.