Blasphemy day

Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow (America’s Evolutionary Evangelists) have published a new, as always excellent, podcast. Among other things, they talk about Blasphemy Day and ways of relating to religious fundamentalists.

There are many ways to relate to fundamentalists, and as usual, these are all mirrors for ourselves. We can find it here, in our own daily lives and right here & now.

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Flavors of fundamentalism

There are many ways of being fundamentalist. We can be religious fundamentalists, of course. We can be atheist fundamentalists, taking the no-God story as true and not acknowledging that it all depends on the images we have of God (if we see God and reality as interchangeable terms, then atheism makes less sense!), and that we really don’t know. And we can even be science fundamentalists, taking current models from science as the gospel truth, not recognizing that these too will be obsolete at some point in the future.

Also, we can be anti-fundamentalist fundamentalist which I am familiar with from myself. I sometimes notice a reaction to fundamentalism of different flavors, and that is of course another brand of fundamentalism. I am not receptive to the validity and gifts of fundamentalism, and not free to shift between a wider range of stories about fundamentalism and apply the one that seems most helpful in the situation.

Any time I take any story as true, even if it is as an underlying assumption such as stores about the world (life is….) and what I am (an object in the world, content of experience), I become a fundamentalist. I filter experience as if it is true. I act as if it is true. And I can’t help it, as long as I take those stories as true.

The most common form of fundamentalist isn’t of the religious type. It is the fundamentalism of taking ourselves as content of experience, as an object within content of experience – whether it is an image of a human self, or an image of a doer or observer or any other image.

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Defenders of the one true dharma

When I occasionally read Buddhist or integral blogs, one thing that sometimes comes up is Buddhist fundamentalism, a defense of the One True Dharma.

As so often, it is easy to see it in others. A story is taken as true, other viewpoints are made wrong, and there may be the usual signs of taking a story as true, especially if it is challenged: a closed view, closed heart, emotional reactivity, compulsion. (The content of the story can be anything, for instance making Asian cultural baggage in teachings wrong, having a bone to pick about the approaches or terminology of related traditions such as advaita, taking a model or map as true and ignoring that reality will always show up outside of any map, relate to the green value meme as an ugly bogeyman hiding under the bed.)

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Having all the answers

Fundamentalists of any stripes tend to think they have the answers. And they do, in their own mind.

Fundamentalism is not only found in religion, politics and at times science, but also in the apparently small things in life: My wife shouldn’t leave dishes around the house. The neighbor’s dog shouldn’t chase our cat. They shouldn’t use noisy leaf blowers. And fundamentalism is also found in our more basic beliefs: I need to live up to an image. There is a doer and observer here.

I find I sometimes am a fundamentalist. I feel I have the answers, and if I don’t I can come up with some. I take myself as a doer and observer, and act as if it is true. 

When I go into fundamentalism, I am in trouble. I take a lie as truth and I am in opposition to reality. 

And when I take them as questions, with receptivity and curiosity, there is a more open landscape again. There is more room for natural intelligence to work, to recognize stories as tools only of temporary and practical value, and use the stories that seem most helpful in the current situation. 

And this applies to the topic of this post as well…. Do I take this as true? Do I take (see, feel, live) it as a question? What happens when I do one or the other, or a mix of both?

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In writing the previous post, I was reminded of how we are all fundamentalists.

What we usually recognize as fundamentalism is the crude form of taking certain religious or political views as absolutely true and beyond what can be questioned.

But fundamentalism happens in other contexts too. Whenever we take something as absolutely true and beyond what can be questioned, it is fundamentalism. In those cases, we become the bearded fundamentalist guy ready to do just about anything to protect our belief, or rather what we know to be true.

It can take many forms. I may believe in aliens and UFOs, rigidly hold onto it and interpret lots of different things within that context. I may take as absolutely true the official view produced by science today, and that anything that doesn’t fit doesn’t exist. Or that the democrats have it right, and the republicans wrong. Or that nothing Israel does should be questioned. Or that getting the US out of Iraq justifies any means. Or that my kids should do their homework. Or my partner shouldn’t cheat. Or that the tea I bought should have been warm. That my computer shouldn’t break down in the middle of this important work project. That my idea of how to do this particular task is the best one. That I shouldn’t have stubbed my toe. That I am an I with an Other.

Any idea, no matter how apparently small or mundane, can become the seed of fundamentalism. If we take it as absolutely true, as something not to question for whatever reason, we have the dynamics of fundamentalism right away. There is the perception of right and wrong, true and false, of ideas being somehow solid and substantial and reflecting something inherent in the world, and of being justified in acting to protect our ideas and making the world conform to the shoulds in our ideas. We are typically willing to break quite a few eggs to make that particular omelet.

Most of us see this to a certain extent. There is nothing new here. In fact, it is a pretty banal insight.

But what is not banal is where it stops for us. What am I willing to question, and what am I not willing to question? Where is that boundary? What ideas do I use to justify not questioning certain areas of life? What do I fear would happen if I did sincerely question it? What is more likely to happen?

We could sit down and make a list of what we typically see as outside of what can be questioned. Or we could just let life bring it up for us. Whenever there is a sense of something being off, there is a pointer right there to a belief we have not yet sincerely and thoroughly investigated.

We can also explore the dynamics of fundamentalism through voice dialog or the Big Mind process. What function does it serve? How does it help the self? What does it ask of the self? How does the self relate to it? Does the self sometimes become blindly identified with it? What happens then? What would be more helpful? How can the self recognize it more easily when it happens?

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