Sunday, 11 April 2004

Easter Opinion

Today in the Observer, Will Hutton has a column titled
Heed not the fanatics
Only by rebutting fundamentalism in all its forms can we stop ourselves being plunged into a new Dark Age

Today, more than two million Protestants and Catholics will attend church to celebrate Easter, a resilient band but millions fewer than just 50 years ago. The great fathers of sociology - Weber, Marx, Durkheim - all believed that industrialisation, wealth and democracy would lead to the development of a massively secular society. Religion and its myths, the linchpin of dirt-poor traditional society, would evaporate before detraditionalising modernity.
They were right about Europe but wrong about almost everywhere else. Protestant evangelism in the United States and Islamic fundamentalism are the two fastest-growing religions on the planet; even Hindu and Buddhist fundamentalism are on the increase. Only Europe has moved in the direction the classic sociologists predicted. A mere third of Europeans report that they think that life is worth living because God exists. In the US, 61 per cent do, a proportion matched, although we don’t have reliable evidence, within Islam. In those broad religiously inclined majorities, fundamentalists find it easier to recruit.
But why? Why is rich Europe secular and rich America religious? And are there any clues in the answer to that riddle to the rise in religious fundamentalism, one of the most pernicious and hateful phenomena in human association, ranking with political fundamentalism of Right and Left in its destructive and poisonous influence.
Whether it is the perpetrators of the Madrid atrocity or Franklin Graham, evangelical son of evangelist Billy Graham, calling Islam a ‘wicked religion’, fervent fundamentalist religiosity breeds violence, intolerance and sexism. The sacred texts of Christianity and Islam may plead love, mutual respect and peace; their fundamentalist followers observe these doctrines in the breach.

Doug LeBlanc has commented on Hutton’s article, here at GetReligion. This is part of a series of posts there all titled Creeping Fundamentalism. This one is the first that ventures outside America for its source material. From a European perspective, Hutton’s comments about American Christian fundamentalism seem quite mild to me, but evidently it looks different from over there.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 11 April 2004 at 6:50 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion