The Unlikely Similarity Between Fundamentalists and Atheists

no religionIt seems like atheists and fundamentalists would be at the opposite ends of spectrum of religious belief. But are they?

I was forced to think about mystery and certainty when writing a a chapter for a new book. That’s when it hit me. Atheists and fundamentalists both have a fondness for certainty and tend to reject mystery.

Atheists reject that which cannot be empirically proven and seems irrational.

Fundamentalists have things figured out, including God. Their beliefs are systemized into a theology that they defend against all detractors. They reject that which does not align with their mental grid of beliefs.

One is certain there is no God, and can tell you why point-by-point. The other is certain there is a God (“and this is what he is like,”) and can tell why point-by-point.

I don’t intend to demean those who come to either conclusion, though, it seems far-fetched to think we can figure God out, or think we can understand everything about him.

fundamentalistsOn the other hand, it would be pretty weird if someone blindly accepted everything without trying to make sense of things. Such a person would be gullible, and susceptible to being led astray by cultish, charismatic personalities. I have known people like this.

Most of us accept, at least, some mystery in their beliefs. We are not purists, but blend together what we can understand with some things we don’t understand. In some sense, that makes us “cafeteria Christians,” picking and choosing what we believe and how we believe.

While many Christians would oppose a “pick and chose” type of faith, they, in fact, practice it. Evangelicals give greater weight to some scriptures over others, and ignore some biblical practices that seem outdated (or inconvenient.)

Atheists surely must just shrug their shoulders on occasion, unable to explain, but willing to accept some of the peculiarities of life.

So, there are very few purists.

Taking the discussion one step further, I am convinced that no two people believe exactly alike. We make our own decisions, based on our own understanding and experiences. (The Calvinists must be hating me about now.)

I think that means there are a few essentials we hang onto, and long list of things in the mystery column. Does that make us heretics? No. That makes honest people of faith who have neither turned off our brains, or our imaginations.


Photos Credits: Jeff RuaneSaraware.  Creative Commons.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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One Comment

  1. “Atheists and fundamentalists each tend to read the Bible in the same wooden, overly literalistic manner. The difference is that atheists reject what they read in that manner, while fundamentalists believe it.”

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