Fundamentalism and Fear or: Why We Fight so Hard

Something that, to me, has always been axiomatic is that hate is a type of fear. It blinds us to opposing or even parallel but differing view points, it causes extreme emotional reactions, and it often renders us irrational. Hate is very powerful, indeed, and I am frequently struck by its casual use in every day conversation. “Oh, I hate that….” seems to be said rather frequently. The word “hate” is extremely powerful; like “love” it shouldn’t be used lightly.

After studying fundamentalism and speaking with a number of fundamentalists, I have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of them confuse the emotion they attach to their belief. They do not love. They hate. It is not love for their god, but hatred for anything different or new that drives their zeal. This is what differentiates the fundamentalist from the believer. And I say this because, while I’ve been able to have rational, intelligent conversations with believers, conversations with fundamentalists invariably result in circular arguments and knee jerk, emotional responses. And what it comes down to is fear.

Fear’s a normal response to change. The problem is when we give in to that fear, reason goes out the window, and we allow our emotions to make our decisions. This is dangerous on several levels. We fail to see that change isn’t necessarily a bad  thing;  that regardless of what the change means, it represents growth. Every time something changes, we learn something new. And change doesn’t automatically mean that everything that came before is now null and void.

Hmmm….example. My grandparents were born in Italy. The word tradition means something to my family. It represents everything that it means to be Italian.  Every Sunday, my mom, my aunt, my cousin and I would all gather in my grandmother’s kitchen and we’d make dinner together. Then we’d all sit around at the big table with the rest of the family and talk and laugh and eat. It’s one of my happiest memories from my childhood. Now, my grandmother died about 7 years ago. My aunt, my cousins, siblings and I have all moved out of the area. But I still carry on the tradition of Sunday dinner with my husband and children, and the joy of cooking for people I love which my grandmother instilled in me is still there. It’s morphed some, is all. It’s still tradition. It’s my translation of it. It isn’t necessary to lose the tradition while still adapting to change.

But fundamentalism doesn’t recognize that any good can come from change. It’s so afraid of what MAY happen, it can’t allow any deviation at all. And that is its fatal flaw. Because change is inevitable. It’s one of the few things we can count on.