Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Definite Fideism!

Posted by dsc01 on November 26, 2010

First of all, screw you, spell-check! “Fideism” is a word! This started as a response to Paulo’s comment on the “Evolutionary Metaphysics” entry, but then I realized my verbosity was turning my comment into a full-length take-down of Josh Thompson’s “MAN UP,” on his blog, the Outpost. You can find it here.

I think we’ve arrived at a point where fideism is the only alternative to ignorance, for fundamentalists.

If you do a little research, you quickly realize that mountains of evidence tell us that, even if they are in doubt, the origins of life bare little resemblance to what is described in the Bible.

One can only go so long dismissing scientific findings as being the intentional distortions of anti-theistic scientists.

The one thing fundamentalists have on their side (which Josh exploits in this blog) is that they have “unchanging Truth.” Of course, the intellectual dishonesty, there, is massive, but that is their claim–that God’s Truth never changes.

The nature of scientific inquiry is such that the scientist is free to (and should) change his mind as often as new evidence casts doubt on prior hypotheses. “Unchanging Truth” has little value (it only puts the cart ahead of the horse), and the possibility is always open that everything we know about the workings of the universe is not true.

Of course, that’s not a problem. The universe is very complex. What we know about it tells us that there is much more that we do not know and that we are almost certainly wrong–at least in some small way–about almost everything.

But Christians can make that a problem. They’ve got a long history of training their own to be unable to think logically. After all, “Jesus offers us eternal security,” is considered a valid argument for why we should believe in him.

So it’s no surprise that Josh says, “‘Being open to believing anything,’ sounds a lot like fear-based paralysis to me,” and challenges us to “man up” and pick a side.

Of course, he undermines his own position by quoting Rush and their assertion that refusing to choose is a choice. Josh assumes that this is passive, that fence-sitters are indecisive cowards, but it can be an active choice and a brave one, at that.

After all, definite answers are comforting. If sober analysis of the facts, independent of what one wants to be true, indicate that we don’t know what is going on for certain and likely never will, then why shouldn’t one choose to believe just that?

Now, the excerpt he quotes does sort of offer us a stupid dichotomy: either there is some kind of guiding force in the universe, or it’s all random and pointless, so we should remain open to both possibilities. It seems like the author is an agnostic who is afraid to go atheist because (s)he thinks that everything becomes meaningless without the possibility of a God. But who knows?

Anyway, Josh resorts, ultimately, to the odd doublethink that necessarily characterizes fundamentalist philosophy. Unless one chooses to believe in God, he says, “the most proudly open mind in the world is actually already blindly biased.” How does this work? Well, it doesn’t need to make sense, does it? Because faith is independent of reason, and these kinds of crazy non sequitors are like Escher’s impossible stairs to Christians–nonsensical but awesome (and God is awesome and makes the impossible possible, so whatever–proof!).

I suppose that the conclusion to all of this is that we can’t really hope to communicate with fundamentalists in a way that they will understand. Many of us went to school with Josh, and we probably agreed with him when we did. For me, moving away from fundamentalism was a long process, and Josh has spent that time getting deeper into it.

Even though we can’t reach him, I hope that the debate finds its way to those who, like we did, are moving away (or at least open to it).  I think that they’ll realize that our side is the reasonable one, we are not cowards, and disbelief can finally offer the happiness that we were always told Christ would bring, even though he never did.

14 Responses to “Definite Fideism!”

  1. Paulo said

    Thanks, dsc01. I was hoping somebody would know the word. Some definitions:

  2. Ann said

    I had never heard of the word before yesterday. Read up on it while hanging out with my fundamentalist parents. lol! dsc, this entry is great! Very thoroughly wrapped up–you read my mind! lol!

  3. Jesus said

    Based on looks alone, I’m going to guess this is Lazer’s brother–obviously, sloppy and lazy thinking (with enough of an ego to avoid feeling shame at making preposterous and unsupported statements) runs in the family. It was hard for me to read what he wrote, because the entry is just so poorly argued. Frankly, a guy like Josh is a lost cause. If he thinks he is using reason and making a thing I like to call an “argument,” then he needs a lot more education than he currently has to work with in his head. But enough of the criticism of his intellect and on to what he wrote: I think what is most annoying is his total lack of understanding when it comes to Evolution. He refers to “evolutionary chance” — whatever that is — and doesn’t bother differentiating between genetic drift and natural selection. Basically, Josh doesn’t understand Evolution and just heard someone (or read an apologist) say that accepting the evidence that supports the discoveries of science is a form of faith. Since he heard it, he believes it–and he’s going to do his best to get his little think-engine warmed up to show us the circuitous, bramble-covered path that led him there. It’s tough, because he never walked a path of reason or logic before, and he is clearly has no idea what it means to support an assertion with reasons and evidence; that’s typical of most evangelicals.

    His argument should really read like this:
    1) People with evidence-based or testable paradigms for understanding the world say that they are different from believers, because they only assert their acceptance of testable hypotheses.
    2) “Chance” is a scary word, and if you believe in it (even when you have evidence to support a testable hypothesis) you believe in it the same way a Christian believes in God with no evidence.
    3) Ergo, I’m a man because I have hairy balls and read a work of apologetics that equated “chance” with “evolution” and “accepting facts discovered through the application of the scientific method” with “faith.” Now grow some of your own hairy hooligans for hay-seuss, ye wicked sinners!”


    • dsc01 said

      Yeah, he’s Lazer’s brother. I would have thought that you knew him, but my memory is a little hazy on when which kids older than me went to ICA. I was young, after all.

      We’ve met in person, you know, though you wouldn’t remember. It was over 20 years ago, after all. Maybe you went to school with Josh, too.

      • Jesus said

        Dsc01, I actually do remember you. I dated someone who was faintly related to you–and all the rest of you incestuous folks from a-certain-denomination. 🙂 I remember seeing you playing (a wee bit wildly) on the commissary steps and was told that you were a rough kid, because you watched too much of a show called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yup, nasty gossipy Christian missionaries even slander little kids. Nice, eh? I could smell the stench of Evangelical Christianity the most at ICA. That one denomination, one that forced parents to neglect their kids and ship them off to boarding schools during the most formative years of life, is an especially nasty one to me. Give me a nasty, abusive, gossiping, back-stabbing person at ICA, and I’ll give you a member of the C&…

        • dsc01 said

          Interestingly, though I was obsessed with the Ninja Turtles, I had no access to the show. It wasn’t popular yet when I was in America, so I had no episodes on video. Action figures, comics, and other peripheral merchandise were the entire basis of my fascination.

          I remember now who you dated. She wasn’t related to me, back then. I was always getting slandered as a child. It probably made me a bit narcissistic, that these adults thought that my clueless child-self was somehow important in the cosmic opera that is the world of the evangelical crusader.

          • Jesus said

            Nope, the person I dated was already related. You’re thinking of someone else. Aren’t these anonymous discussions confusing? Haha!

          • JN said

            You did get a bad wrap. Most of us weren’t bad kids. We just had vivid imaginations and found ICA a little binding.

            I too think Bobbin’ Jesus dated a future in-law of Dsc’s, but maybe he got around more than I thought.

            • Jesus said

              Sigh, Jesus gets so tired of the doubters. Why won’t you guys just believe in what I say? For the record, Jesus (yes, I’m referring to myself in the 3rd person, as all great historical figures are wont to do) was briefly an adjunct member of a ruthless gossiping family of barely sane and totally dysfunctional fuck ups, who all seemed to be in a battle to keep up false appearances and talk shit about everyone else to make themselves feel more holy than they really were. Go ahead and ask around in C&MA circles in a certain Southern region of the U.S. to see the hackles raise when my name comes up. You doubters are thinking of another ex of mine. JN is right though, Jesus didn’t get around much. I only dated three women aside from my wife: the church.

    • Jesus said

      That section of Evolutionary Metaphysics that Josh quotes is making me have much deeper suspicions about who created that “book.” The quote sets up a false dichotomy (with other false-dichomoty babies being spawned by each one), it gives the 2nd one a Social Darwinist bent that you don’t need to jump to as a conclusion, and the language used to describe the two possibilities is mildly negative (as opposed to neutral). I really need to read the thing in its entirety, but I wonder if the author isn’t hidden to disguise some connection to a specific mode of thought that would instantly cause a bunch of people to not read the thing. Hell, the word “Metaphysics” in the title is enough to make me put it a little lower on my list of priorities. 🙂

      Fideism is interesting. I had never heard that term before. As I was reading about it on Wikipedia, I could hear echoes of all the arguments I have ever had with Christians. I especially saw Angry Calvinist’s argument-by-numbers when reading the Calvinist section. It was also interesting to see that Josh was reading a work of Existentialist Christian apologetics. Dsc01, I think you’re dead on when you say that “fideism is the only alternative to ignorance, for fundamentalists.” I’ve touched on a similar idea on this blog, when I noted that Evangelicals seem to have fully embraced a major part of post-modern thought: knowledge exists, but should appear in brackets. The Evangelicals I’ve argued with grasp onto the relativism aspect of this thought and take it to an extreme. It allows them to say: “Since all knowledge is in brackets, then all “truths” are of equal value. Our truth that God exists is just as valid of an assertion that gravity holds our solar system together.”

      Unfortunately, Evangelicals — since they are solely trying to support their one belief — never try this claim out in other imaginary scenarios, so they can’t see the ridiculousness of it. For instance, now I get to say: “My truth that women have penises, not vaginas, is just as valid a truth as your assertion that God exists.” By the way, I make this same point whenever I get that relativist/postmodern argument, and Christians ALWAYS fail to see what is wrong with the argument. Inevitably, this leads to my Lewis Black imitation and ad hominem attack on the person’s ability to use the gray matter between his ears. I always try to keep things simple with Christians, and they always try to gum up the argument with theory and concepts unrelated to the main argument–just look at Josh’s argument for a case study on this. He also refuses to define any of his terms, which is really quite useful for him. Yuck, his argumentative “proofs” are making me feel polluted–I need to go read some student papers, since I at least taught them how to analyze and construct something–fucking Christian colleges are a huge rip-off! What do you get in return for one, I’d like to know?

      • Ann said

        Suspended if you miss too many chapels! You must attend chapel to balance out the “education” you receive from your Christian profs.

        • Jesus said

          Ann, funny and true at the same time. Almost all of the profs in the humanities were the liberal Christian types. What I heard in class and what was presented to us in chapel services were centuries apart.

      • Paulo said

        “Fideism is interesting. I had never heard that term before…”

        I had heard the term in connection with Bayle and Voltaire. Those 18th century French literature classes finally paid off, I guess…

        • dsc01 said

          Wikipedia paid off for me. I’m no ignoramus, but I can’t say that I knew the definition “fideism,” just off of the top of my head. I did assume that it had something to do with faith, given the obvious Latin root, there, but that was as much as I knew before I consulted the Interwebz.

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