Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fundamentalist Trapped In Reality

It's a day of Sullivan posts, sans Gilbert and Sullivan music sadly. In this post obviously the topic is Gov. Palin, her fundamentalism and fundamentalist religion in general. Sullivan is responding to the comments of a reader arguing that you cannot understand the thinking of Gov. Palin without prefacing it with an understanding of her religious background. This, of course, is true but a subject Sullivan has dealt with in his year-old book The Conservative Soul.
For Sullivan, it's not so much that figures like Gov. Palin or President Bush willfully ignore reality but their fundamentalist beliefs (such as the inerrancy of the Bible) force contradictions within the Bible itself and emperical reality that doesn't jive with the divine text into a sort of non-existence within their psyche. The only problem is reality and contradictions have a habit of continuing to intrude in one's life (such as President Bush's perception of the Iraq War and the reality on the ground). Contrary to what you might think, the schizophrenic mentality it takes to maintain the convictions of fundamentalism are not necessarily overriden by reality. With the case of Gov. Palin one sees a woman so steeped within the fundamentalist psyche that, even if you pierce through her perceptions, whatever information is conveyed is ultimately an abberation devil-derived, or further evidence of their correctness. Either way, further discussion of the topic is no longer needed. Hence the "lalalalala" attitude comes so naturally to fundamentalists while appearing freakishly psychotic to everyone else.
Even when ultimately defeated, either by a superior ideology or obsolesence through time, fundamentalists not only refuse to recognize the defeat, they claim a faltering of the faith, a conspiracy of sinners or even a Job-like test they must endure. Reality has influence over the minds of fundamentalists; it serves as a reminder of why they must maintain their faith and a confirmation of their own righteousness. Trying to sway the fundamentalist psyche is akin to deprogramming Manchurian candidates or women lost in abusive relationships. It is possible, but the break from one perceptual reality to another is traumatizing in its own right. Better to ease the fundamentalist psyche out through marginalization and natural shifts in generational thinking. It took nearly four decades to reach this point in the culture war of America but I'm optimistic that moving away from it will happen quickly--say a decade or less. At least that's what I hope.