Saturday, September 23, 2006

Enlightenment Fundamentalism

From a brilliant post:

What is Enlightenment fundamentalism? It is, like religious fundamentalism, a simplistic notion that some particular text or body of texts has been written and that’s it—our lives are occasions to enact the wisdom contained in those texts, to live in the truth. It is a refusal to perceive either knowledge or faith as living and evolving through time and responding to circumstance. The Enlightenment fundamentalist, fully as armored in his self-identity as any creationist, cannot understand why an atheist and secular humanist like, say, me refuses to condemn protesting Muslim populations and instead insists on the responsibility of European right-wing demagogues who want to provoke violence to advance their own agenda. It’s not because I disbelieve in Enlightenment principles of free speech and the critique of religion, but because I am circumspect about the historical circumstances and power relations obtaining in individual events, because I—or any non-fundamentalist adherent of Enlightenment—do not immediately identify with powerful people and institutions that falsely claim to represent freedom, liberality or pluralism.


This isn’t a common problem, Enlightenment fundamentalism. It tends to afflict well-paid academics or other cultural workers. Often the religious fundamentalist turns to his rigid faith to justify his poverty and lack of choices, but the Enlightenment fundamentalist embraces his iron doctrines to justify his wealth and privilege. If religious fundamentalism still functions in some way, at least among the people, as the heart of a heartless world, Enlightenment fundamentalism is the narrow cunning of that world.
- Read the whole thing at Maxims & Reflections.

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