Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Is the Difference Between You and a Fundamentalist?

Subtitle:  What Do You Know for Certain?

                     "The only truth you can point to is the ever-changing truth
                      of your own experience." - said by the Marquis de Sade in 
                     Peter Weiss's play Marat/Sade

William R recently asked me "What are you certain about?"  After many attempts to answer, I came up with a set of idiosyncratic certainties, for example

#5.  I'm certain about some of my preferences.  For example, in a restaurant, I like to sit in a booth and I like food items to come in baskets.  I like walking and cycling.

I didn't get very far before having to qualify my feelings of certainty:

#6.  I'm not certain of it, but I do prefer to think that human compassion, creativity, and ingenuity are the only things that might redeem us.  I'm certain that I'd rather say "I prefer to think..." to saying "I'm certain" about anything.

William gave me his own list of certainties and I could see that both of us were only certain of things within our own control/experience and neither of us were particularly certain about the world beyond our fingertips.  Will the sun "rise" tomorrow?  Probably, but we were not totally certain.

I asked a physicist friend of mine the same question.  His first answer was that he was certain of nothing, but he later corrected himself saying that he was certain of things in proportion to the evidence available.

On the other hand, a Fundamentalist of any stripe, is certain about quite a lot of things.  Absolutely certain.

On a recent visit to Vancouver, I met with my friend Joe.  He told me that pretty soon he will be getting his Rapture Kit in the mail from his three aunts in the US.  Joe met his aunts for the first time at his father's funeral.  All three aunts were wearing Sarah Palin wristwatches.

What's in your Rapture Kit?" I ventured.

"A lot of stuff." Joe said.  "It's for the whole family.  It comes in a box about as big as a carry-on suitcase.  It includes about six feet of industrial strength rope, three Bibles, a bag of salt, and a passive-aggressive letter."  Joe recited the letter from memory:  "We're sorry you chose not to accept eternal life with Jesus.  There will be rough times ahead as the Rapture is approaching.  The Saved will be vaporized.  Everyone else will suffer on earth for seven years.  If you're lucky, you will survive this period and get to know Jesus and be saved.  But even if you're killed by Satan or his followers, we will still see you in heaven provided you repent and accept Jesus as your saviour.  We are praying for you."

They seem pretty certain about a lot of things.  Are you?

1 comment:

  1. "The fact that fundamentalists are never ironic is to me the highest recommendation for irony that I can imagine."

    Probably true. To be ironic, you need to hold paradoxical opposites in your mind at the same time. Irony requires an awareness of the world's contradictions and uncertainties.