Fellow atheists! We have truth on our side, and science as a powerful tool. The other side is full of lunatic ideas and stupidity; they cripple our country with their corruption of education and denialism. We are unstoppable. We shall be eventually be victorious.
So, wait, if their ideas are so plainly bogus and repressive, why do people still join fundie churches and throw money at charismatic con artists? Are they crazy or stupid? No, maybe not — maybe it’s because atheists aren’t recognizing some important aspects of the human condition.
A few years ago one of my friends had a birthday party, and he invited all the homeschool families he knew to his party. It may seem odd to an outsider to have young children at his 20th birthday party, but it was not the least bit weird to me (parties with my family are the same way; there were as many kids under 13 at my 18th birthday party as there were teens). But after an entire evening of playing board games with people of all ages, washing dishes together, and praying for each other, one of my public school friends (the only person who had attended public school at the party) said to me, “That was so much fun. I never experienced this in my life.” She explained that she never had an evening playing board games with children of all ages. In fact, she never went to someone’s house and had them pray for her either. It was foreign to her, but she liked it.
Fundamentalism offers that kind of community. Yes, the community creates pain and breaks sometimes, but it’s still community that often attracts people to fundamentalism. I was looking through photos of my teen years earlier this week, and every photo of me has a child in the picture. Our community valued children.
The other end of fundamentalism has been a lot of pain: a lot of guilt over purity culture, a lot of culture shock, a lot of shame from never living up to expectations. The purity culture and anti-feminist culture let me down. It didn’t keep its promise. In the end, it didn’t make us closer together as a family, and it didn’t make us better than secular families. I’m not defending fundamentalism, except to say this.
Quit saying fundies are just crazy-no-brainers while secularists are enlightened and free thinkers.
Fundamentalist ideas are crazy-no-brainers, but sane, intelligent, ordinary people sign up for them all the time. Maybe we ought to pay a little more attention to the rational reasons people follow irrational ideas.
That bit about every photo from her teen years including children in it struck me as significant…and you don’t have to be fundamentalist to have that. I grew up in a great big messy extended family with swarms of cousins and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents, and religion hardly ever came up (except maybe with some eyerolling at a couple of wacky branches of the family that went Mormon and John Birch), so it can be a secular experience. But my own kids got far less of that, constantly getting ripped up and moved to strange distant cities at the commands of the peripatetic academic life style.
We’d like to believe that the triumph of secularism is inevitable — how can we fail when we’re going up against such nutty ideas? — but maybe it isn’t, if we neglect social and community and family ideals and pander only to nerdy asocial guys in tech.
We really need to wake up to the reasons normal people find value in weird religions.