Photo by Edwin Kagin

Fundamentally Aware

 

Bringing America’s Own Religious Extremism to the Forefront

August 20, 2003

Volume 1, Number 10

 

Read recently published reviews of The Fundamentals of Extremism

 

 

 

 

“A blockbuster

exposé of the activities of the

Religious Right,”

says JOHN SHELBY SPONG best-selling author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism

 

Click image for details or visit your favorite online bookseller.

 

“I have just read this brilliant book from start to finish, almost without a break, and I am stunned and horrified by what I have learned,” says RICHARD DAWKINS author of Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fundamentals of Extremism is now listed in  

The New York Review of Books’ The Reader's Catalog (online continuously updated version) “an annotated selection of some 40,000 of the most interesting and informative books in print today. Carefully selected by a distinguished group of writers, scholars, and critics, it is, in essence, their collective ‘Dream Library.’ ”

 

From the publisher

 

 

Welcome to issue 10 of Fundamentally Aware. If you’re not yet a subscriber to my complimentary e-newsletter, be sure to sign up. You’ll find details in the lower left column.

 

My book tour is now fully underway.  Find events in your area.

 

The relationship between fundamentalism and authoritarianism has been known for some time, but when columnist George Will was quoted in a recent analysis of these studies, the conservative-authoritarian got all in a tizzy.  Read about fundamentalism and authoritarianism in an excerpt and in my column below.

 

As always, please feel free to share your comments with me.

 

Kimberly Blaker

 

KimberlyBlaker@chartermi.net

 

 

Contents

 

 

  1.  Fundamentalism and Authoritarianism

 

  2. Politically Incorrect

 

  3. George Will, Catholic Nuns, and the Ramifications of Authoritarian-Conservatives

 

  4.  The Proof is in the Studies

 

Fundamentalism and Authoritarianism

 

The following is excerpted from Chapter 2: The Gathering Storm by Edwin F. Kagin  in The Fundamentals of Extremism.

 

Authoritarianism, the practice of requiring blind obedience, has been widely recognized by scholars as another common feature among fundamentalists. One can certainly be fundamentalist without being authoritarian and vice versa. And it is uncertain whether authoritarians mask as fundamentalists or fundamentalism leads to an authoritarian personality. Regardless, there is a high incidence of the two traits combined. This is seen as women and children have few, if any rights in many fundamentalist homes, based on a literal reading of the Bible in which men have all authority. God, identified in the Bible as male, issues the laws, and men interpret and enforce them. All civilized societies recognize the need for rules. Yet, Christian fundamentalists believe the rules they impose have been handed down from God and obedience to such rules must be maintained. Their authoritarian personality helps explain why fundamentalists believe society must conform to their rigid views. At the same time, the nature of authoritarianism assists in understanding some of the personality traits common to fundamentalists.

 

Gary Leak and Brandy Randall in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (1995) found that those who score high on the Rightwing Authoritarianism scale have several tendencies. They are likely “to aggress against unpopular or unconventional groups, feel morally superior and self-righteous,” and “possess a mean-spiritedness that is coupled with vindictiveness.”[i] They often take “‘secret pleasure’ when others experience misfortune and appear prejudiced toward out-groups.”[ii] These negative traits are commonly seen in fundamentalists and will be revealed in the following chapters. They can be better understood and more appropriately dealt with by recognizing this connection.

 

Read more on the authoritarian style of fundamentalists discussed throughout The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America.

 

Politically Incorrect

“You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.”

--An Al Capone line often quoted by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, according to Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, March 24, 2003

 

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Fundamentally Aware

Published by

Kimberly Blaker

 

Editor/coauthor

The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America

 

 

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KimberlyBlaker@

chartermi.net

 

 

 

 

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George Will, Catholic Nuns, and the Ramifications of Authoritarian-Conservatives

Sociologists and psychologists have long studied the social and psychological needs, personality styles, and ramifications of conservatives and fundamentalists. Numerous empirical studies link conservatism and fundamentalism to an authoritarian personality style, and in turn, to many other unfavorable characteristics.  This is visible not only in Islamic fundamentalist societies where Muslim states wield oft unreasonable and oppressive authority over human thought, behavior, and being, but in conservative or fundamentalist Catholic and Christian homes and churches in America.

 

When a recent analysis by scholars John T. Jost, et al. was published in Psychological Bulletin, a publication of the American Psychological Association on the findings of several decades of studies, conservative political columnist George Will attempted in mid-August, rather unsuccessfully, to counter the well-substantiated findings in a sarcastic rebuttal.

 

Sorry George, despite your understandably desirous effort, the facts remain: conservatives do score higher in authoritarianism and ultimately, prejudice, punitiveness, rigidity, dogmatism, ethnocentrism, sexual repression, and tendencies of both submissiveness to authority figures and aggressiveness toward the subjugated.  So the study of these correlations is justifiable if the rest of us desire to understand you and your cohorts and, more importantly, to alleviate the very real problems that result.

 

As early as 1946, an investigation by Eugene Hartley, found when college students evaluated 35 groups of nationalities (even some that didn’t really exist), those who detested one group held similar feelings toward others. This is hardly surprising today given the vast studies that have since supported this reality. For example, two 1985 studies (Bierly and Wiegel & Howes) revealed that persons that were prejudiced against African-Americans, women, gays, the elderly, or ethnic minorities, tended to be prejudiced toward many or all of those groups.

 

Fundamentalists and conservatives, typically authoritarian, were, and perhaps continue to be, dominated by a spouse, parent, government, church or priest.  In turn, the dominated commands authority over others.  This fact is established by sociological and psychological theory and goes something like this: an authoritarian government or church unreasonably dominates its constituents or congregation; out of anger, resentment, and need for empowerment, the males (white, in our case) categorize and exclude certain groups, such as women and other races, who the white males unleash their anger upon and reign power over; the subjugated women and other races must in turn release their frustrations and empower themselves by punitively subjugating those even lower in status—often children; and the cycle continues.

 

A perfect example of this is seen in the new film The Magdalene Sisters, which has been hailed by those moderate and liberal Catholics who acknowledge and want to correct previous and prevent future wrongdoings. As could be expected it is also highly criticized by fundamentalist Catholics who continue to wield authority over others and desire such dirty secrets, and those it continues to subjugate, to remain under lock and key.

 

The Magdalene Sisters exposes church-run laundries that imprisoned and physically, sexually, and emotionally abused approximately 30,000 Irish women—a scene not much different from the reprehensible treatment of women by Islamic fundamentalists.  The Catholic girl’s crimes?  According to Andy Seiler in USA Today, “Fathers could condemn their daughters to the laundries as virtual slaves if they flirted, had a baby out of wedlock or were raped.” Director Peter Mullan explains that the film “points the finger at people within the Catholic Church who abused their authority.” 

 

The central issue is authoritarianism—an unbending, unrealistic, punitive form of control that requires blind obedience by others.

 

The problem for authoritarians that remains, however, is that there will always be some, and hopefully most, who will rebel.  Here enters religion, or more specifically, fundamentalism.  To reign such power, a forceful tool is required to keep subjects from uprising lest the control-seekers themselves risk losing their source of empowerment. What better tool than an omnipotent, omniscient, punitive, sexist, racist, sexually oppressive, judgmental, and manipulative God that requires complete obedience to his, as opposed to man’s, laws.

 

 

Kimberly Blaker is editor and coauthor of The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America . Visit http://www.NewBostonBooks.com for details.  Read previously published columns of The Wall™ at http://www.thewall-onchurchandstate/com © 2003, Kimberly Blaker

 

 

The Proof is in the Studies

 

Visit these links to for various studies that have been conducted on fundamentalism and conservatism and the relationship to authoritarianism and prejudice:

 

http://www.psichi.org/pubs/articles/article_237.asp

 

http://faculty.wm.edu/lakirk/laythe2.html

 

http://www.psychology.eku.edu/FALKENBE/PSY397/Chapter8/

 

http://anitraweb.org/activism/fundamentalism/psychology.html




[i]  Gary Leak and Brandy Randall in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (1995) quoted in Michael Franklin and Marian Hetherly, “How Fundamentalism Affects Society,” in The Humanist, 1 September 1997 , 26.

[ii] Leak, Journal.


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