At the core of the debate between fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists is a problem over the definition of truth.
I am not a moral relativist by any stretch, and I do believe in such a thing as absolute truth. There are such things as facts, things which either happened or did not, and much stuff which can be proven to a scientific certainty. People such as “deconstructionists” who assert that there is no such thing as the truth sicken me.
They also sicken almost all reasonable people. So why the hell are they so often presented as the only alternative to fundamentalism? Clearly, they are not.
And why are fundamentalists so often presented as the only “Christians” in the country, or the world? I know it is easy to give the squeaky wheel the grease, but is this fair?
Fundamentalists assert that the only absolute truth is whatever particular version of it that they assert comes from God. Each particular fundamentalist group — whether the various Christian varieties, Muslims, Hindus, etc., claims to know this as absolute fact, and they assert that their truth is written in books which were either directly inspired by God or dictated by him. The problem is that there are too many competing branches of fundamentalist truth — and simple logic dictates that they cannot all be right. Otherwise, truth really would be a relative thing — to be determined by the adherents of each particular philosophy thereof.
Certain fundamentalists would hate me for saying this, but the insistence by so many groups that only their group knows the truth gives ammo to the advocates of moral relativism and those in the deconstructionist camp.
Yet those who do not see religious texts as absolute truths, but see the fundamentalist assertion of truth as one form of religious opinion — why, these people are then painted as moral relativists, and on top of that, are told that they are not “real” Christians — even though some of them might believe in God and attend church. Predictably, this leads to name-calling.
I have tried to argue logically with fundamentalists, and gotten nowhere because of this stumbling block over the definition of truth. (An interesting analysis of this problem can be found here.) I don’t even waste my time arguing with those true moral relativists (often known as “deconstructionists”) who dispute the idea of truth, because there is no basis even for rational discussion. After all, if there is no truth, there is nothing to debate, and really, no reason to discuss anything. A bumpersticker I saw in Berkeley summed it up rather nicely: “WORDS ARE NOT TRUTH.” (OK, fine; no words for him!)
The biggest enemies of the fundamentalists are not radical secular atheist deconstructionists. Likewise, the biggest enemies of the latter are not the fundamentalists.
These two opposites agree on the real enemy. The real enemy are ordinary “fuzzy” Christians, and ordinary, more or less secular, live-and-let-live agnostic types — the kind of people who believe in God but don’t think the Bible is literally true, or maybe believe in God but aren’t completely sure of anything else. (Maybe even people who think they are atheists but aren’t really sure of that!) They want these people to be afraid to speak, and they want them out of the debate.
“Christian” has become a dirty word, and the fundamentalists share the deconstructionists’ delight in that fact. Sure, they’ll write books and cry crocodile tears, but they love the fact that ordinary people are afraid to call themselves Christians.
Even agnostics have become afraid to state their honest belief in things like truth, or good versus evil. That is because they are told by fundamentalists that without God there is no truth, and by deconstructionists that there is no truth at all, or good and evil.
Note the ironic agreement by deconstructionists and fundamentalists:
The majority disagrees, but you’d never know it….