Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's a Fundamentalist?

The Inductivist points to Add Health study that measures the difference in property crime rates between religious fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists. The results are as I would have expected, but what grabbed my attention was the way fundamentalism was measured:

White Add Health respondents (sample size = 3,489) were asked, "Do you agree or disagree that the sacred scriptures of your religion are the word of God and are completely without any mistakes?"

This is a far better question than the one the GSS asks for similar purposes: going from memory, "Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God and should be taken literally word for word?" Now, any educated Christian knows perfectly well that the Bible contains an abundance of allegory, metaphor, and analogy, none of which was intended to be taken literally; that's what those words are for. So they pick option two: "the Bible is the inspired word of God that should not be taken literally word for word." Which fuels Half Sigma's assertions that "religious" people are less intelligent. That said, and as Inductivist points out, there may be other evidence for the claim. But the GSS question is a poor way to measure it.

8 comments:

Professor Hale said...

The Bible, as we know it, is the collected works of multiple authors, each writing for a specific purpose. As such, I can believe that the Bible is intended to be read literally. The literal truth is that the author told the allegory, analogy or metaphore to illustrate a literal point he was trying to make. This is not a contradiction.

But the term fundamentalist is normally used as a perjorative to describe anyone who takes Christianity seriously. As long as you are just in it because you were raised that way, but you still have a "mind of your own", you can avoid the label.

Professor Hale said...

MORE HERE

Justin said...

I disagree with the way they attempted to "translate" a fairly common phrase "inspired and inerrant". In order to test for affiliation, you have to use the shibboleths that the affiliated would recognize. The substitution of the paraphrase "completely without any mistakes" is weasle-wordage, designed to minimize the people who would casually identify with the phrase "inspired and inerrant".

Dr. Φ said...

Justin: that's a good point, but "inspired and inerrant" are, to my knowledge, specific to Christianity, whereas the survey is attempting to measure religious orthodoxy in general.

But I still think the question is better than the GSS one.

Dr. Φ said...

Prof Hale: Yeah, it's been a while since I met anyone who self-identified as a fundamentalist.

Jehu said...

I'm perfectly happy with the fundamentalist label. Most people in the fundamentalist category are perfectly aware that the Bible contains metaphor and poetry, as well as passages that are clearly descriptive and not necessarily prescriptive. What they're decidedly against is creatively---Supreme Court style, if you will---interpreting passages that some group is uncomfortable with out of existence, contrary to the plain meaning of the text and the weight of church tradition and practice over the centuries. Many, myself included, will agree that a totally literal interpretation of everything isn't necessarily the best one (only the Holy Spirit can give you a perfect interpretation), but we don't trust most moderns with anything sharper than a Literal Hermeneutic.

Professor Hale said...

The Moslems upjumped inspired and inerrant to "dictated". They believe that even the language is Allah's own perfected vision for human speech. They don't say much about the thousands of Korans that still exist from ancient times that have substantial differences in both the substance and the language. Illiteracy is great for keeping the faithful focused on the near term.

Dr. Φ said...

Jehu: well said. The uneducated hear "not literal" and think it's an invitation to a buffet religion. The educated know better, but have their own agenda.