A Counter Wedge?

The line to draw is between the enlightened and fundamentalists.

Posted Jan 04, 2012

I am sympathetic to the Dave Niose's recent post criticizing Cee Lo Green for changing the words in Lennon's Imagine from "and no religion, too" to "and all religion's true". It was sacrilege and the problematic ironies Niose notes regarding the change are real. But I also cringed slightly. This is because the conflict focuses the flash point of debate between secular humanists and moderate (and postmodern?) religious interpretations, when, politically, the real line in the sand needs to be drawn between reasonable people and religious fundamentalism.

In the final chapter of my book I argue that "there exists a great and problematic divide" between modern academic knowledge and anti-intellectual religious fundamentalism. This divide must be remedied if we are to disentangle the current political morass called the "culture wars" and build a pathway toward a healthy and positive America grounded in a solid foundation of understanding.

An excellent article in The New York Times, The Evangelical Rejection of Reason, makes precisely the point I do. Deeply religious, the authors argue that Christian faith and spirituality need not be disconnected from modern scientific knowledge. However, literal religious fundamentalism, which, as the authors note, is "defined by a simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism that most of the Republican candidates have embraced", is in fact diametrically opposed to scientific understanding writ large.

In the mid-1990s, Philip Johnson spearheaded "the Wedge", which attempted to position the construct of Intelligent Design between Young Earth Creationism (as seen, for example, in Answers in Genesis) and secular scientific knowledge in a way that aligned the religious against the secular. The wedge was a very successful strategy. And, sometimes, the writings of the new atheists feed right into it. The first and most important line to draw, however, is not between the religious and the secular. It is the line between the enlightened and the anti-intellectual fundamentalists. The Times op-ed piece by Giberson and Stevens points the way toward a counter wedge. Secular individuals like myself can be broadly aligned with the sophisticated Evangelicalism laid out by the authors (and shared by many of my friends). Together, we must join forces and cure America of the "intellectual disaster" that is religious fundamentalism.