Friday, October 16, 2009

On Ideological Fundamentalism

I've had my fair share of encounters with the polarities of rigid absolutism and objectivism on one side, and flexible relativism and subjectivism on the other, and have eventually come to see the light that lets all flowers bloom. While it's not a popular position to take among the followers of one tradition or the other, I haven't heard the likes of the following statement I came across yesterday even from religious fundamentalists, at least not in so many words.

"I recognize the evil in your foundation and your arguments are saturated with it - and it must be denounced vehemently because it is a cancer out there."
No doubt, relativism can strike an annoying chord in the ears of those who would rather believe their model of understanding is a de facto theory of everything, both in the realm of religious dialogue as with anything else featuring strong ideological convictions. That it is annoying is rather an understatement, for it's downright threatening, inasmuch as it suggests the possibility of tearing down the precious walls of absolute opinion built and maintained by generations of adherents.

The above citation becomes doubly curious over the fact that it was addressed to yours truly in a discussion that had absolutely nothing to do with poking the holy cows of any flavor of religious fundamentalism, but rather in the course of an attempt to discuss a purely secular (and not even political) theme with a person sporting a long academic background. A world where ideologies are juxtapositioned in such a radically condemning fashion is a world gone sad and sour

I suppose ambivalence can be threatening, but really it is only from a state of ambivalence that something truly new can evolve. Rigid ideologies, even while they may serve a purpose, are almost invariably antithetical to the progress and evolution of human understanding, shunning as they do the prospects for discovering solutions outside the established framework. All the while, doubt remains one of the most powerful tools at our disposal in our quest for knowledge and understanding.

This idolatry of human mental constructions is perhaps the single most devolutive force in the history of mankind with a long and devastating track record of stifling, oppressing and persecuting those discontent with available solutions, seeking to cross over the establishment to the undiscovered land. The problem started with Adam and Eve grabbing a fruit off the tree of forbidden knowledge and receiving a due punishment, and has really only grown worse ever since.

Related: Metaphysical Relativism - On Choosing Friends and Mythologies


Mr. Ananda said...

To clarify the closing sentence:

Genesis 3.21: "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

This may well be the first documented incident of a religious establishment (God) seeking to restrict the boundaries of human knowledge to within acceptable parameters. Restricted knowledge comes with a price tag.

shiva said...

That part of the Bible is not about restriction of knowledge, it's an allegory meant to teach about the relation between the reality of the human condition (disease, old age, pain, death) vis-a-vis an impotent Godhead. Why do we exist in the world of suffering and death if the absolute truth is that there is an impotent being who can change that?

Every religion tries to answer that basic conundrum. In the Hebrew tradition which you mention, the fault or cause of suffering is given over to humanity. By having Adam disobey God, God is forced to kick him and Eve out of paradise and into our world of suffering and death. Christians tend to take that section of the Bible literally and believe or teach that we suffer because of Adam's "original sin."

It's really a metaphor trying to explain human suffering. The "fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil" refers to knowing why there is good and evil in our world -- if God truly exists and is all-good. Shouldn't there just be good and no evil or suffering?

Therefore the Hebrews tried to reason that it wasn't God's fault, it was disobedience towards God which causes suffering or evil.

Mr. Ananda said...

I'm sure that part of the Bible can be read in any number of ways, your (common) reading as valid as the other one in the end.

The story of Adam and Eve certainly works as an allegory to explain human suffering, but it also is quite reminiscent of some of the Puranic lore and for example Indra getting his nerves wrecked over people trying to ascend to among the gods and take his seat, when you take God and his intentions as the focus, and if you go for a more literal reading of the story.

Mr. Ananda ∴ μ α ω λ said...

Also read: Relativist Revealed as Embodiment of Evil (DP)

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