Here is a precise analog to what I think, believe and most of the time feel about religion, dogma and stagnant fundamentalism. Especially in the last several days, what Jim Palmer has shared here has really hits home for me....
1. Fundamentalism The term “fundamentalism” is normally associated with religious extremism. It doesn’t just apply to ultra-conservative, fundy Christians. I’ve discovered there are progressive/liberal Christian fundamentalists, Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanistic fundamentalists, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists, and New Age fundamentalists. What I mean by “fundamentalist” is the insistence that one’s belief system, philosophy, understandings or experiences are superior. Religious fundamentalism often leads to the objectification and demonization of the “unbeliever” but there is also a kinder/gentler fundamentalism that is still in the end … fundamentalism. In my case, I left Christian fundamentalism behind but managed to create a different fundamentalism around whatever my new and improved understanding, concept, experience, or discovery was at the time. Heck, during one season I even became a fundamentalist of love – “It’s about love … dammit!” In other words, each step of my enlightenment became the new “it” or standard that I judged others by. Essentially I poured concrete over my latest epiphany, and it became the new religion. I wasn’t necessarily nasty or belligerent about it but there was a certain insistence, silent pride and arrogance to it.
2. Over-correction You are driving down the street and notice you are about to go off the road into a ditch. Your reaction is to grab the wheel and by over-correcting, you fly across the road and off into the ditch on the other side. By avoiding one ditch, you managed to steer right into another. It’s no secret that any person who feels led astray and betrayed by their religion is likely to become it’s biggest critic. A person lives many years under the oppression of religion. In reaction to this, they over-correct and become an Atheist. There are lots of options between a hideous concept of God and concluding there is no God at all, but when you over-correct you skid by all the stuff in the middle. By the way, please don’t hear me saying that every person’s beliefs are the result of over-correction. I know Atheists who are not guilty of over-correction – they are Atheists because they have done their due diligence and have genuinely concluded that the existence of God is neither possible nor useful. Another example may be someone who doesn’t go to church anymore and has made “institutional church” into the spawn of Satan.
3. Insecurity Insecurity can express itself in a strong need for your beliefs and experiences to be validated by others. How do others validate your beliefs and experiences? By agreeing with or sharing your beliefs and experiences. And so it’s not rocket science to see that people who don’t agree or share in your beliefs and experiences are a threat to your sense of identity. You feel invalidated. It’s very difficult to truly accept and learn from another as long as your need for validation is running the show. What happens is that you begin dividing people up on sides. You want people on “your side” because that makes you feel secure and validated. People on the “other side” are seen as the enemy. Needing to be “right” is often a issue of insecurity and needing validation from others. Trust me, I made a fine art out of this.
4. Laziness I don’t mean for the word to sound as harsh as it might seem. Here’s my point. Most people want a formula or magic bullet. They are not truly willing to do their own due diligence at a soul level, and would prefer someone just give them the answer. They are hoping for a formula that promises that if you do ‘A’ then ‘B’ will happen. Paradox, mystery, ambiguity, abstraction, self-honesty, vulnerability, humility are but a few of the things many people would like to avoid if possible, and would rather just have someone figure things out for them. I come across too many people who have not adequately scrutinized what they believe. It's comfortable to stay with what you know, and not question it. It's also risky. We all make mistakes. Which ones have you made? Yours may be very different from mine. Perhaps in certain cases you didn’t go far enough, or held on to long, or allowed fear to control you. Deconstructing one's faith is often a messy and volatile process. How has it been for you?