April 19, 2005

It's fundy time!

Echidne waxes poetic on the occasion of the election of a new pope, some fundy Catholic asshole from German.

He says nothing about the scenarios people hold about values in general. I can think of at least three: Some (including old Ratz) believe that there is one single framework of values, given to everyone by some superhuman being (not Echidne, though). Others believe that every society has its own value frameworks and that those outside that society cannot evaluate them meaningfully. This would be the relativist viewpoint. Yet another theory argues that there are certain almost universally held values but their actual manifestations differ in different societies because of historical reasons and reasons of weighing the basic values differently. This one Ratzinger ignores in his homily, perhaps, because it requires thought to understand and apply. Obviously, it is the one I follow!

None of these three lines up exactly with what I think, but I am rather inclined towards something like #3 these days.

Ratz is a fundamentalist. The problem with religious fundamentalism for me is twofold: First, I don't believe that divinities wrote the holy books in the first place. I believe that they were written by religious people of their time and place and that they largely reflect the values of those societies. So what Ratz tells me is to live my life according to the values that nomadic shepherds had two thousand years ago.

Second, fundamentalists have a lot of trouble ranking the messages in their holy books, and ranked they must be if they are to make sense in actual decision-making. Is the condemnation of usury more important than, say, the ban on wearing wool and linen at the same time? What about all the pro-poor statements in the Bible? Should they take precedence over the few statements which advocate killing the witches or subjugating the women or murdering the gays? Questions, questions...

In reality, all fundamentalists take the bits they like and magnify them while ignoring the other bits. This is value relativism, of course.

These are the two points I have with fundamentalism, too. Some of you may know I have a particular lady friend who I'm rather partial to, yet is also an evangelical Christian with some conservative leanings. We've had some very angry and upsetting conversations about religion in this vein. Usually I was angry, and she got upset; sometimes I'm not so nice.

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