Fundamentalism as a Destroyer of Cultures
by Roy Brown
I just received a magazine covering Amerind art, and buried inside was a story about a Navaho who abandoned his native religion to become a born-again fundamentalist, and in the process, violated the Navaho taboo of rendering human images by carving statues in wood. And he has the effrontery to remain on the reservation.
He has been so brainwashed by these fundamentalist beliefs that he fails to see that he has destroyed his own religious conviction and actually, if tribal leaders wanted to get sticky about it, they could throw him out of the tribe for his apostasy.
Ever since the Baptists and Methodists of the nineteenth century went abroad to share their gospel, they have succeeded in destroying every culture they have come in contact with. Look at Hawaii, where the native rituals are now shown merely as tourist attractions. And observe the mission schools here in our own land, where Indians were taught that their pagan ways must be forgotten, and that their Great Spirit was purely a myth (as is another Great Spirit worshipped by the Baptists and others).
An African has said, "When the missionary came he had the Bible and we had the land; now we have the Bible and he has the land." That pretty well sums up the fact that capitalism follows the Bible-thumper and destroys not only the culture, but the economic basis of the country.
Look at the countries that have resisted the blandishments of Christianity: they are prospering and seem to have no qualms about the fact that they are overshadowing this "Christian" nation in trade, and even exporting their religious ideas.
China has no trouble with three religions, and, in fact, the Roman Catholic Church even admitted that the serenity in the religions of the Chinese sometimes converted missionaries of the Catholic Church. For this reason, the terms of Catholic missionaries in China are short, and they are forced to incorporate Oriental views into their own teachings. And the Muslim countries ain't doing bad either.
Since the nuclear blasts in India and Pakistan, it would seem that Western fundamentalism has had a deleterious effect on those countries, leading them back to barbarism instead of on the road to peace and prosperity that is embedded in the ancient and traditional religions that they are in the process of abandoning.
To refer back to the Indian Arts magazine and give it a pat on the back: Indian Arts features native works in all media - music, literature, painting, jewelry, pottery, etc. - that show the artists are attempting to bring back the basic religious beliefs of the past; and the man mentioned earlier is an anomaly and is despised by the true believers, and it shows in their remarks on their own works.
There was also an article in the latest Smithsonian about a woman photographer in Mexico who devoted herself to showing the decay in local traditions through their being corrupted by the Catholic Church. She felt her country ended up with a blend of both, becoming utterly ridiculous.
We have to look no further than our own backyard to see that the fundamentalists are at work trying to undermine our own culture, by destroying our right to think, see, and read, and claiming that ideas contrary to their warped views are causing the downfall of our nation.
They even tried to legislate this by attempting to add an amendment to the Constitution which would have, in effect, outlawed every religion except Christianity, and allowed religious organizations a place at the public trough.
In debate, the fundamentalists' opponents constantly brought up the fact that there happened to be people with no belief in a deity, and that they happened to be citizens also. While freethinkers were not mentioned by name in the debate, but classed with nonbelievers, it was interesting to note that they mentioned Taoism several times and stated that Taoists did not believe in a god, and were entitled to worship as they pleased.
The intolerance of the religious right was brought out in a letter where the sponsor of an amendment to put the religion section of the First Amendment in a separate amendment and/or send the bill back for reconsideration was called all sorts of derogatory names for even making such a suggestion.
It will be interesting to see whether the religious right actually goes through with the threat to work for the defeat of those who opposed the amendment, considering that 37 Republicans voted for its defeat. If the threat is carried out, it will mean that control of Congress will once again pass into Democratic hands.
In Alabama we have a law-and-order group of fundamentalists crying about the decay of respect for the laws, and at the same time telling people that it is all right to violate the separation of church and state decisions by openly defying Judge DeMent's orders, and holding what amounted to prayer meetings at graduation exercises. Who is undermining our culture? It sure as hell ain't the New Agers and Witches.
It is going to be interesting to see what happens at the Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City this summer where two intolerant beliefs clash head-on. The Baptists have already declared they are going to be actively proselytizing among the Mormons.
Editor's Note: Though the Baptists canvassed door-to-door for new recruits during their convention in Salt Lake City, there was no violence reported, and the Baptists claimed to have won some converts. The biggest news was that the Baptists issued a declaration that wives are to be subservient to their husbands, as the Bible
Roy L. Brown is a member of the Alabama Freethought Association. The following article is reprinted from the July 1998 issue of the organization's newsletter
The Alabama Freethinker.