Gunnar Jauch wrote:
> Dear Tom,
> in my view, there is no need to re-define fundamentalism.
> My Webster gives two versions:
> 1 A strict belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible (or in the
> Koran, I would add.), and
> 2 A movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of
> basic principles.
> I fail to see the meaning of "fundamentalism in a pejorative sense" -- since
> fundamentalism is incompatible with tolerance, this sounds like a pleonasm.
Preliminary note: I won't argue or defend this but give it merely to
provide a framework for what follows. Personally, I find all religion,
fundamentalist or otherwise, quite unacceptable. I see "spirituality" in
general, in fact, as a spoilt solidarity manifesting itself in an
atomized social order. BUT:
Fundamentalism as an ideology may be abstractly incompatible with
tolerance, but it certainly does not follow that fundamentalists as
individuals are always so. Your apparent assumption that practice and/or
personality emerges automatically from abstract principle is simply (and
fortunately) false. Consider, for example, the number of anti-semites
(sometimes quite vicious anti-semites) who could nevertheless truthfully
assert that some of their best friends are Jews. Or consider all the
racists among us who nevertheless keep up a good front of "tolerance,"
thereby making daily experience rather more relaxed than it would be if
everyone acted every moment strictly from principle.
Fortunately most are not even rigorously consistent even in thought.
Keynes, commenting on Hayek's "Principles and Production," wrote: ""It
is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a
remorseless logician can end up in Bedlam."
Fundamentalists do start with a number of mistakes, but fortunately
neither in thought nor practice are millions of them such remorseless
logicians as Hayek. (This applies to Islamic as well as Christian
fundamentalists.) Three times, for example, I had the strange experience
of (fundamentalist) students intensely unhappy because of the conflict
between their liking of me and the class on the one hand and their
theoretical conviction that I was bound for Hell. And despite the almost
unrelieved rabid conservatism of fundamentalist _leaders_, I have known
quite a few individual fundamentalists who (for example) were quite in
favor of "welfare" and even of government-provided health care.