Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fundamentalism Analyzed

Walter A. Davis has an excellent, if heavily Freudian, analysis of fundamentalism. As a recent fundamentalist escapee, I can vouch for what he describes, even if I don't agree with the explanation. Quotes that caught my eye:


Literalism is the first line of defense of a mind that wants to put itself to sleep.... It is the great protection against a world teeming with complexities. Literalism offers a way out, a way to keep the mind fixed and fixated at its first condition. The way: the refusal to comprehend anything that exceeds the limits of the simple declarative sentence. Two reductions thereby feed on one another: the world is reduced to facts and simples; the mind reduced to a permanently blank slate.


Literalism is a cardinal necessity of the fundamentalist because it guarantees the primary psychological need. For a certitude that in its simplicity puts an end to all doubt, even to the possibility of doubt.



Fundamentalism is in love with a single and common story it never tires of telling. This story is the key to the nature of the transformation it celebrates and the absolute split that transformation produces.... There can be no questioning, no doubt. For that would be the sign of only one thing-the voice of Satan and with it the danger of slipping back into those ways of being that one has, through one's conversion, put an end to forever.


Conversion is the flight from that action [taking on responsibility]. The psyche is safely delivered into the hands of abstraction. One was under Satan's power when one did all those terrible things.



Evangelicism offers the fundamentalist the only way to sustain the reborn self: by trying to recreate the experience of one's conversion in others in order to reenact an unending exorcism.... [E]vangelical activity is based on a total lack of respect for the minds of those they are trying to convert.



The world keeps seeping i[n]. There must be a way to be done with it, once and for all. To find what one has craved from the beginning. The end. And a proper end-one that will give sublime expression to the desire that has fed the whole thing. Death. The longing for death transformed into a sublime celebration of death. Life in its complexity demands too much of us. That in a nutshell is the fundamentalist message. Only death can deliver one from the threat life poses. In the depths of its
psyche fundamentalism is ruled by catastrophic anxiety, a self tottering on the brink of a dissolution in which it will fragment imprisoned in a world that will impose all of its terrors and evils upon it. We will fail to understand fundamentalism as long as we resist seeing how close it is to a psychosis.


Sexual Roots of the Fundamentalist Psyche

Fundamentalism fixates on sex not by accident or divine decree but by the exigencies of immediate experience.... Sexual pleasure is the temple of a holiness that neither wants nor needs other worlds so completely has it found fulfillment in this one.... Because it poses a comprehensive threat to the fundamentalist project eros must be poisoned a[s] early as possible.


What Freud struggled to comprehend Roman Catholicism throughout its history has known instinctively and with a thoroughness that enabled it to raise the whole thing to the level of a system based on the most fundamental of recognitions: that working upon human sexuality is the way to attain complete dominance over the psyche. The systematic perfection of that labor depends on a single insight : wounding someone in their "soul" is the way one gains the greatest power over them; and one does it best when one takes what is most open, vulnerable, and loving in a child and exploits it to forge the bonds that will enslave that psyche, perhaps forever.

I've wondered since the days of my Christian high school education why fundamentalists seem completely obsessed with sex; especially their endlessly fantasizing about homosexuals and what they do in bed. Again, I don't buy the heavy-handed Freudianism in his explanations, but his characterization of fundamentalism is spot on.


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