One of my friends this evening accused me of ragging on a certain religious/social organization more than any other as my go-to example group of damaging social fundamentalism.
I operate under an “Only intolerant to Intolerance”, pluralistic mindset. Thus decidedly voicing my opinion against fundamentalist everywhere comes up a fair bit. The question that was posed was, “isn’t it hypocritical for you to always be bringing up your dislike for group X?”
My answer was “No” for the following reason. I don’t actually dislike people in group X. What I dislike is doctrine X (codified so we can all agree what the base text actually says), and that the text is largely adhered to by it’s group, and that the text is a fundamentalist doctrine.
Now in every time, in every religion, there are fundamentalist sects. This is what I fight against in all of its expressions. However when speaking to people, I tend to give my audience context based on their cultural background.
For White people in the US, you can typically say the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses and these connote the respective doctrine that everyone is aware of. Similarly, amongst Jews I use Hassids or the Ultra-Orthodox. Pretty much everyone these days knows about al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Fewer know about the storied history of the Tamil Tigers or Shiv Sena. Fewer still know of Buddhist fundamentalist sects in both Japan and Tibet*.
Maybe Mormons get a bad wrap in general for FLDS compounds in Texas. And maybe Ultra-Orthodox Jews get a bad wrap because of Yigal Amir. But if of all of the injustices in the world you only know about al-Qaeda, then this is the example I am going to rant to you about. It is not that I disagree with the others any less.
It is fine, well, and good to condemn fundamentalism in general, but without concrete examples of what such belief systems do to people, it is much harder to make the case for the importance of acceptance and pluralism.
Perhaps I should be more general when speaking on such a sensitive topic, rather than trying to relate to my audience’s specific experiences. If you repeatedly use the same example with the same audience it comes off the wrong way (ie hypocritical), even if you use different examples with different people.
So am I a flaming bigot or in a subtle conundrum or somewhere in between? Thoughts?
* Obviously, I believe in people’s right to practice the faith of their choice and raise their children in the manner that they see fit. What I want people to desperately understand is what happens if their children don’t fit the mold they as parents have prescribed for them. I have seen loving families torn apart by this sad conundrum. The naive romantic in me never wants to see this happen again.