Why start a page such as this with a flashing warning sign?  

Well, to get your attention . . .

     . . . and to let you know up front that where you go from here deserves careful consideration.
Ok, so what's the deal?
    The deal is this.  I am a recovering Christian fundamentalist.  Nobody helped me to see my way out of fundamentalism, it's something I did for myself and it wasn't pleasant. 
     The reasons for this page are twofold.  On one hand, I find it a helpful means of processing my experience within the fundie mindset. It is also my attempt to help YOU avoid being sucked into Christian fundamentalism.  Perhaps that isn't an issue with you, and that's a good thing.  Please read this anyway.  We all have known, currently know, and will likely know people who matter to us who are in the clutches of this movement, and the better educated you are, the better. 
      Do I have an axe to grind?  Yes.  Don't let this color your view of what is written here though.  Why?  Because the axe I wish to grind is the axe of
objectivity. (Irony's a bitch, ain't it?)
    There are a great number of websites out there that deal with fundie issues in depth and with a deep scholarly approach.  I don't intend this page to be ranked among them; I'm not going for a Masters thesis here.   My goal is to keep it short, simple, and mildly entertaining in the process, while remaining accurate and truthful.  Having said that . . .
What do I mean when I say "fundamentalist"?
    There is a prevailing stereotype of what a fundie is.   Short tempered, intolerant, narrow minded, Bible beating, defensive, opinionated and largely ignorant of anything outside of fundamentalist culture.  But is this stereotype entirely true?
      Like any stereotype, this one depends on outward appearances for it's support.  Granted, many people actually do fit the stereotypical description above.  Further, for some it really does go beyond skin deep; some fundies are very bitter people using religion as a means of validating their predujuices.  (Whether the predjudiecs influenced their religion or vise versa is a matter of concern.)
     Yet the fact is, of course, that many people who are fundamentalists are not so outwardly (or even inwardly) hostile.  This is relevant to the topic, because I'm not going to define "fundamentalist" along the lines of merely hateful or intolerant religious groups.

     The underlying premise behind Christian fundamentalism is that the
the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word Of God (henceforth "WOG").  Yet even this is too broad a brush to paint with.  I know many people who believe the Bible to be inspired, infallible, and inerrant, yet they are not fundamentalist in their worldview.
    For my purpose, I define fundamentalist as somebody who takes the WOG premise and runs off the end of the (flat?) earth with it, using it as the final authority in all areas of life without question, to the exclusion of all other forms of knowledge.
"The Statement of Faith does not exhaust the extent of our faith.  The Bible itself is the sole and final source of all that we believe.  We do believe, however, that the foregoing Statement of Faith accurately represents the teaching of the Bible and, therefore, is binding upon all members."
(PROPS TO BEREAN BAPTIST CHRUCH OF WIGGINS MISSISSIPPI FOR THE ABOVE.  GOOD WORK, GANG!!)  Do you think they'll ever discover  I'm linked to them? <eg>
    At it's core, fundamentalism has a reasonable philosophy:  If we grant that the Bible is indeed the infallible, inerranrt Word Of God, then it makes perfect sense to give it any amount of authority it claims to have.
      Fair enough. 

     It should be pointed out, though, that the above arguement works in favor of any document claiming divine insparation, inerrancy, authority, etc.  In other words, the premise makes equal sense regardless of whether we use the word "Bible", "Q'uran", "The Book Of Mormon", etc.   Knowing this is key, because it then brings out the question that is aimed directly at the heart of Christian fundamentalism -
   Fundamentalism has an interesting epistemology (thereory of knowlege).  Whereas investigation is normally done by starting with facts, forming a theory, testing the theory and then drawing a conclusion, fundamentalist investigation starts with it's conclusions, then seeks to find evidence to support them.
    The starting point of all fundamentalist thinking rests on the beliefs that A.) The Bible is the WOG, and B.) the fundamentalist interpretaion of the Bible is correct.
This quote comes from a fundamentalist church's webpage; it appears after their "Statement of Faith":
    Both of these beliefs are faith based assertions.  Because they are faith based, they are usually then treated as conclusions by the faithful - conclusions that are to be defended at all costs, and not to be seriously questioned.  Fundamentalists gather "evidence", they do not test.
    The result is a worldview that is extremely narrow and suspicious, with very little capacity for new data and with great reliance on faith to appease a human being's natural need to rationally question his/her world.  In other words, you put your mind into a tiny box and resist - through fear and conviction - any intellectual attempt to break out of that box.  The logic of fundamentalism exists within this box of faith and makes no attempt to step outside.  This "thinking inside the box" has some interesting results indeed . . .
-- the only answer you ever need
So what's wrong with thinking "inside the box"?
    There is a formula used by most fundamentalists (and many Evangelicals) regarding the way God answers prayer that serves as an excellent example of what results from thinking inside the box (henceforth "ITB").
  God is said to answer prayer with one of three answers:  "yes", "no", and "not now". That is, when a believer prays his or her prayer will be answered by God one of these three ways.  A practical example of this might be:  Billy's mother in is the hospital with cancer.  Billy prays to God to heal his mom.  One of three things then happens.  1.)  Billy's mom recovers,  2.) Billy's mom loses the battle and dies, or  3.) Billy's mom remains in the same condition.  Whichever happens, God's will is seen as being done.
    What never occurrs to people thinking ITB is that the "yes/no/not now" formula is a conceptual tautology.  No matter what happens, God's will is seen as being done.  In the end, there is no way of really knowing if God had anything to do with the equation, because whatever happenes is already pre-determined, by Billy, as being God's will. If Billy's mom recovers, it was God's will (God answered "yes"). If she dies, it was God's will (God answered "no"). If Billy's mom remains the same, it's God's will ("not now"). 
     Now consider this.  In the everyday world, there are only three possibilities for Billy's mom: either she will recover, die, or remain the same.  There is no fourth option.  As time passes, one of the above three possibilities is going to be made manifest.   Yet, there is no need to suppose that God is active in these processes; the cause/effect framework of cancer,  it's effects on the human body and the efforts of medical science to stop it all march forward without any need for outside help.  With prayer or without prayer, Billy's mom is going to end up either recovered, deceaced, or static.
      How, then, is Billy's mom coming to one of these ends proof that God had anything to do with the process?  For all of Billy's praying, it is already known that one of the three options is going to be reached; all Billy can do is wait to see which one actually happens and then declare it "God's Will".  This, ladies and gents, is an example of
thinking inside the box. Billy assumes, on faith, that God is going to answer his prayers, then when something (anything) happens, it is then assumed that what happened was God's will.  This is about as self-reinforcing as a delusion can get, yet to those ITB it makes perfect sense.  This is just one example of what thinking ITB does to a person's outlook.
The main feature of thinking inside the box is it's circular logic. 
    If I have a ball and I place it inside of a box and close the box, the ball is trapped.  If I shake the box, the ball will roll and bounce inside the box accordingly; but so long as the box is closed, the ball can only stay within the box's confines.  Since the ball is never allowed outside of the closed box, it rolls and bounces over the same areas of space repeatedly.
     The ball, in this case, is an excellent metaphor for reason trapped inside the box of the fundamentalist worldveiw.  Reason, when limited to a small, confinined range of possibilities, retraces the same paths over and over, often starting and ending at the same point.
What else results from thinking ITB?
    Fundamentalists love to speak about the "Truth"  (note the capital "T").  But what do they mean by Truth?
      For the fundamentalist, the Truth includes the two core beliefs we've already mentioned, and then all the arguments and evidence that has been compiled to support them.
    Note:  many fundamentalists will tell you that "Jesus is the Truth", and that believing the Bible to be the WOG is secondary to this.   However, this is a clear case of begging the question.  After all, how does one learn about Jesus, and God's "plan of salvation"?  Through the teaching of the Bible, of course.  If one does not first believe the Bible to be a worthy source of infomation on this matter, then it doesn't make any difference what it says about Jesus  (consider how Christians treat the teaching concerning Jesus in the Quran). To assert that Jesus is the Truth, one must first assume that the Bible is qualified to teach about Jesus in the first place.  Hence, it is belief in the Bible, not in Jesus, that logically must come first. 
    The fundamentalist criteria for Truth is how well any given fact fits ITB.  Facts that fit or can be made to fit are seen as being true.  Facts that cannot be made to fit ITB are either treated with suspicion and hostility or they are ignored outright. 
This is why fundamentalists are so rarely impressed with arguments from science, philosophy, world history, psychology, or even logic.  None of these things are rooted ITB, and are therefore unworthy - in their eyes - of careful consideration. 
    Nonetheless, arguments from outside The Box continue to be made, and every now and then the fundamentalist will seek to neutralize these questions by seeking evidence that supports what he/she already believes. 
      Within fundamentalist culture there is an array of information, the sole purpose of which is providing the true believer with facts that support thinking
ITB.  These are safe, reader freindly works which make no attempt to put forth objective data.  They are for "edifying the saints", "strengthening the Body Of Christ", etc.  In other words, they are for the purpose of reinforcing conclusions that have already been reached - they work from within The Box to support The Box.
    Ask a fundamentalist to tell you from what books his or her information regarding science, philosophy, history, etc. comes from and the answer is always the same: they are books written by fellow fundamentalists.   The VAST majority of what fundies learn about evolution doesn't come from evolutionist authors, but from fundamentalist Creationists.  The same is true of any other major area of intellectual enterprise.  Almost everything the fundamentalist knows regarding anything outside The Box has come to him/her via the writing of other fundamentalists (usually proffessor/preachers tenured at one of the fundamentalist Bible colleges).  The upshot of this, of course, is that the fundamentalist never reads anything that would constitute an intellectual challenge to his/her predetermined beliefs.  To go out and find a book dealing with evolution, philosophy or history as written by an actual evolutionist, philosopher, or historian is rarely - if ever - considered.   To do so would be the equivelent of granting validity to something not in accord with The Box.  This, is turn, is the equivenent of "questioning God", which is the granddaddy of all no-nos.
On more than one occassion I have been asked by fundamentalists, "Who are you to question God?"  The answer, simply, is that I am not questioning "God", I am questioning THEM.  - Javacrucian
    By allowing all contact with ideas and arguments that conflict with fundamentalist dogma to be filtered through the works of fellow fundamentalists, the true believer need never arrive at a point where serious questions will rear their heretical heads.  What the fundamentalist doesn't realize (or perhaps choose to think about) is that by recieving all his or her information second hand, they are missing a great deal of what is being said by those making the origional arguments - and such information is usually of vital importance.
    Given the slightly obtuse nature of the above paragraph, let me give you an example from my personal experience in regard to what I'm talking about.
     There are a number of "Bible Contradictions Solved" style books in print today, almost all written by fundamentalist / evangelical authors.  During my years as a fundie, I was perfectly content to read such books and assume, without testing the assumption, that such books covered pretty much all of the objections to Scripture that had been raised over the centuries (or even just the last century).  Further, because I was in agreement with the author's position from the outset, (we were both thinking
ITB) I saw no need to critically analize any of the solutions being presented.  In time, I came to believe that anyone who attacked the integrity of the Bible was either ignorant or being guided by the Devil. After all, defending the Bible was so easy!
    What a blow it was when, for the first time, I read a book regarding Biblical contradictions as written by a non-Christian.  Contradictions I had never heard of were being presented, and the arguments put forth were of far higher quality than I could have ever guessed they would be.  After years of simplistic and filtered fundamentalist explainations, I was finally being introduced to REAL Biblical criticism.   I was badly shaken by the experience.  Further, when I retreated back to my safe, fundamentalist books,  I discovered to my suprise that many of the contradictions mentioned in the non-Christian's book were not dealt with or even mentioned anywhere within the fundie literature.  It was then that I began to realize just how much of an effect thinking ITB has on fundamentalism as a whole, and the degree to which it had effected me.  I finally understood that the Bible did not live up to the claims I had made about it, and all my faith and prayers couldn't change that.
Remember kids -
doubt is of the Devil!
How else does thinking ITB effect fundamentalists?
    Because fundamentalists refuse to consider any arguments but their own, they are victims of prideful ignorance.  By "ignorance", I mean the sort of sheltered, narrow minded worldview that I spoke of in the last section and also in the quote provided.
      By "prideful" I am referring to the fundamentalist's habit of believing that they are actually well informed on certain given subjects.  A fundie may read "
Scientific Creationism" and believe they understand evolution and/or the scientific method, they may read "The Light And The Glory" and believe they understand American history, they may read "Seven Men Who Rule From The Grave" and believe they understand 20th century philosophy. I was guilty of this myself.
     The pride and the ignorance of fundamentalism go hand in hand; and indeed they feed on each other.  Only a person who's thinking is
ITB would believe that subjects like science, history, or philosophy could be summed up in a handful of books they have happened to read. Yet for them, this comes easily; and leads me to the last trait of fundamentalist thinking we need to look at:  PROJECTING
"While Ron was speaking at a university on the scientific evidence for creation, a student of physics said to him, "I don't care what you say, I'm still going to believe in evolution!" Ron pulled up his shirtsleeve and showed him his wristwatch. Ron said, "You see this watch? I went down to a junkyard and found some rusty, twisted pieces of metal and threw them into a shoebox and began to shake it. I shook it for two weeks, two months, six months, twelve months, and all of a sudden, "bang!" It began to tick off 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day; it tells the day and date all by chance. Amazing!"

The student laughed and said, "Thats impossible!" Ron replied, "You mean to tell me that this watch being created by chance is impossible, yet you tell me that my eyes, which see in 3-D and color, or my brain, which has 120 billion cells and 130 trillion electronic/chemical connections, are just a product of chance?"

We submit to you that it takes far more faith to believe in impersonal chance evolution than it does to believe in a divine Designer, who designed and created this incredible and intricate world we live in."
Let me provide another example of the sort of ignorance that results from thinking ITB.   I took the following directly from a fundamentalist webpage ver batim:
    What I would submit to this author is that it takes more than beating a pitiful strawman of evolutionary theory to make a sound argument.  It is a testimony to fundamentalism's general ignorance of science that this person would make the above argument and actually be serious about it.  Simply put, thinking ITB has deprived this person of sound knowledge of evolution.   The rest of this person's agument is no better informed, I'm afraid, as you may see for yourself by clicking the link above the quote.  Also, for a brief synopsis of what evolution really teaches, click HERE
      For the devout fundamentalist, thinking ITB comes easily.  So easily, in fact, that the believer accepts thinking within a very narrow construct as if it were natural to all human beings.   This leads to the fundamentalist assumption that everyone they meet has they same style of epistemology as they do.  For the fundamentalist, arguing with non-believers is not a matter of open discussion and free inquiry;  instead, it is assumed that the non-believer is already doing all of his or her thinking inside of a Box, just the wrong one!   This is the source of such odd statements as "everybody has to worship something" or "everyone has a god". (That people exist for whom this simply isn't true is quite off the fundie radar).  In the eyes of the true believer, everyone who is not a fundamentalist is doing all his or her thinking inside a Box designed by the Devil, and such a Box comes in as many different forms as there are worldviews.  (It doesn't help matters any that fundies also believe that everyone already knows that they (the fundies) are right, and are just denying it for evil reasons.  "You know I'm right" is a standard position in fundie arguments - another fine example of thinking ITB.)
    More than anything, it was the realization that one's thinking must not necessarily be done in a Box - fundie or otherwise - that led to my escape from fundamentalism.  It also showed me that unless a person can step out of whatever Box they are in (if they happen to be in one), he/she will never be able to judge the valildity of what they believe.
So what's the answer?
    Well, that's the ironic part -
the only answer there is isn't an answer, but a way of asking the questions.
    Rational analysis - logic - is the greatest tool (along with mathmatics) our species has ever discovered.   You will notice I said "tool" and "discovered", not "belief system" and "invented".  That is because logic is not rooted in faith or imagination;  it is a set of timeless, objective rules - the same as mathmatical axioms - by which truth can be determined.   (For a brief intro to basic logic, try Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit).
     Using logic does not presuppose a given outcome to any question; nor does it color the details of the question itself.   Anyone who thinks that adhearing to the rules of logic somehow makes one an atheist, humanist, communist or whatever is woefully mis-informed.  (Interestingly, it is a fact of Western history that several of the great works on logic were written by Christian thinkers.)
    Only by subjecting all parts of an argument to scrutiny can we be sure of it's validity.  The same is true with worldviews and religous beliefs.  As long as there is some premise that is not allowed to be questioned rooted in the heart of a belief system, one can never really know if that belief system is true.  For the fundamentalist, it is the Box - the unquestionable assertion of the Bible as the Word of God and that their's is the correct interpretation thereof - which is the very point needing to be tested the most. 
    Fundamentalism teaches that God is all knowing and all powerfull, and that He is Truth.  If this is really true, then there should be no avenue of inquiry of which the fundamentalist need fear.  (Check out: God - The Evidence).
     Let everyone who reads these words - regardless of their beliefs -  have the courage and honesty to subject
everything to careful examination, including their faith.
Peering into the Box
~ J A V A C R U C I A N ~

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