We’re all fundamentalists in some way. I find it quite contradictory that Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the like criticize others for being fundamentalists when they themselves are so adamant about their atheistic worldviews.
Dawkins spends a fair amount of time criticizing the extremist views of some religious people. He talks about Christians that kill abortion doctors. He talks about Muslims that kill people that have converted from Islam to Christianity (or other religions). And we’re all aware of the many “fundamentalist preachers” in the US and throughout the world that discriminate against homosexuality, women and other differences that they claim somehow make people unequal.
This is one area where I have to agree with Dawkins. I agree that fundamentalist views are problematic. They divide us. They split us into factions. These divisions work against all of us. There is no community spirit in division. That being said, we’re not all going to agree on everything. Human nature doesn’t make this possible. We all have different opinions. We all like different things. We don’t all like the same movies, the same food, the same music or the same books.
So, why does that mean that we all have to like the same worldview?
But, does that mean that we should impose our opinions on other people? I’d argue no, but then I’m bound to be called a fundamentalist by someone that disagrees with me. And there’s the rub… we’re all fundamentalists in some way, shape or form. Does this make us wrong? No. What is right and wrong when you’re debating ideas that have competing evidence? There’s a whole lot of grey in those discussions.
For a lot of years, I loved to live in the black and white of right and wrong. I didn’t function well with shades of grey. Structure and rules provide comfort and stability. But I eventually realized that each of us look at things through different sets of eyes. I see things as a middle aged white male living in a middle class neighbourhood after growing up in a blue collar family. There are plenty of other perspectives though. Factors that influence our perspectives include gender, cultural background, colour, age, education level, geographical location, etc. All of these things will impact our views, our values, our opinions and our prejudices (whether real or perceived).
Trying to view things as others see them is a worthwhile exercise, as it allows us to understand each other better. Give it a try. Juggle some of the factors that I mentioned above. Imagine how you’d perceive the following situations:
- Money if you are rich versus poor
- Food if you are hungry versus well fed
- Sex if you are loved versus abused
- etc. – the list could go on and on
So my question here is: What makes religion any different? Why can’t we all have differing worldviews? What’s wrong with understanding and connecting with God in different ways?
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