I have come to the conclusion that the Christian fundamentalists, also known as the religious right, are the most evil people in the world. Others (such as those of various Islamic terrorist groups) were considered, but after due consideration, the Christians won… hands down. In fact it was no contest. However, in order to support my assertion that those of the religious right are such a nasty crew, it is necessary that I clarify what I believe it means to be evil.
The minimal test of evil is, of course, one of awareness, an intent, an abject willingness to be malicious, a willingness to go out of one’s way to harm others, a lack of concern for the welfare of another person, an unwillingness to place one’s self into that of another’s shoes, a grudging reluctance to acknowledge the pain one may have caused another. Such is bad, but not as bad as having slipped to the point of having become psychically blind, effectively unable to face up to what one has done. Such is more depraved since it represents a loss of integrity, an existential unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s behavior.
And, of course, worst of all are those who go to the extreme of regarding themselves to be shining examples, paragons of how to live a good and decent life, while having chosen to disregard the fact that they have lived life in such a despicable manner. And as we will see, the Christian fundamentalists seem to exemplify such folks at the apogee of evil, the nadir of civilized life, in that they preach to the world while yet living the life of a barbarian!
All of the great religions of the world indicate that we should strive to treat others as we would like for them to treat us, in essence suggesting that we follow the Golden Rule. However, considering this the gold standard for how we ought to live our lives, it is quite clear that Christian fundamentalists have missed the mark!
Regardless of all the wonderful things they have claimed to have done for the world, it is apparent that the fundamentalists have been unable to live up to the most minimal standards for that of a decent life, almost as if they have gone out of their way to “cast a speck out of their neighbor’s eye, while refusing to recognize the enormity of the plank in that of their own.” With no apology, nor even a hint of remorse, they continue on their way running roughshod over others, with little or no concern for how their victims might feel. Rather than caring for others, disregard and disrespect has become that which defines them as a people.
However, in order to understand the Christian fundamentalist, we must first take a look at what they believe. What is it that these folks, as fundamentalists, hold to be fundamental? What is it that they insist one must do in order to be saved? The answer is threefold: First, in order to be a Christian, a person must believe that the Bible (the holy scriptures) is the one and only infallible, truly inerrant, source of truth, and that the holy books of all other religions are of demonic origin; Secondly, one must believe in an afterlife, that every human being will end up in either Heaven or Hell.
And finally, it is essential that one understand that in order to go to Heaven he must accept Jesus Christ (the one and only Son of God) as his own personal savior, otherwise, and without exception, regardless of how good a life he may have lived, he will be sent to the agonizing fires of an eternally burning Hell. That is their doctrine . . that is what they believe to be The Truth of God.
Although not necessarily a fundamental, but as a result of their contention that the Bible indicates that all authority is given (and therefore inspired) by God, fundamentalists have been led to believe that it is unpatriotic, and therefore unchristian, to question the divine right of what our country has found it necessary to do, regardless of how heinous.
That is why Christian fundamentalists have, by choice, chosen to disregard the fact that “From 1945 to 2003, the United States attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements fighting against intolerable systems. In the process, the U.S. bombed some 25 countries, caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair.” (William Blum, Killing Hope).
Thus, there is little doubt that if a Christian fundamentalist was forced to face the fact of what her country has done, she would have little choice but to reject her faith in God. For how would it be possible for one to believe in a God that chose to bless a country that has done such terrible things? It is such that seems to account for the fundamentalist’s tendency to have approached the world in such an indiscreet manner. While having regarded themselves as having been among the few who know the truth, they have broached the world with eyes, as well as a mind, that has been, out of necessity, “kept wide shut!”
Fundamentalist Christianity got its start in authority, that one the early years of the twentieth century by having rebelled against two competing historical movements, one a rather humanistic movement known as The Social Gospel (a belief that a Christian’s primary responsibility is one of love, peace, and social justice), and the other a loosely coordinated group of scholastics known for their interest in that of Higher Criticism (a belief that the Bible can be understood only if allowed to undergo a process of rational examination, scientific investigation, and historical analysis).
However, the spark that ignited the fire, that is burning yet to this day, was that of the John Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee in which reason, in the form of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, was pitted against the faith of Christian fundamentalists who believed that “man,” along with all other things, was created by God in six calendar days according to a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible.
Thus, for the past one hundred years, fundamentalists have been locked in battle with those suggesting that faith in God can be a rational matter, that it is important for one’s faith to make sense, that being a Christian involves nothing more than a sincere desire to live one’s life like that of Jesus, that one live one’s life honoring Jesus’ mandate that we love God, our neighbor, as well as that of our enemy.
First on the fundamentalist’s agenda was their use of the Bible to make the case for racial separation, that blacks and whites should remain “unto that of their own kind,” that black folks and white folks should not mix, that people would be better off if they remained apart. And in looking back at how blacks were treated in earlier years, fundamentalists seemed to have had no problem with the fact that black people, as chattel, had been auctioned off as livestock.
Then later on, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Christian fundamentalists were at the forefront doing everything they could to prevent black people from achieving civil rights. There is little doubt that The Reverend Martin Luther King, who did so much to enable blacks to take their rightful place in American society, was among those most hated by the fundamentalists for, as it turns out, he was fighting for everything that they in fact were against, the right for black people to be treated as full-fledged human beings.
In addition, and as one might expect, the fundamentalists were right there at the side of the Senator from Wisconsin (Joseph Raymond McCarthy) as he did so much to destroy the lives of so many innocent folks accused of being a communist.
Add to this an assortment of other misdeeds such as: an insistence that the United States of America has been blessed by God enabling fundamentalists to fully support our country’s many wars of aggression (Viet Nam, a multitude of military intrusions into Latin American, the war in Kosovo, the Persian Gulf War of 1991, and, of course, the egregious invasion of Iraq in 2003); an acceptance of the idea that the United States has the right to overthrow any and all governments whose interests are in conflict with that of our nation’s foreign policy; continued attempts to limit civil rights legislation; a desire that women remain in subjection to men; an absolute disdain for the women’s liberation movement (even for a women’s right to be paid the same as a man); a presumption that young people should not be allowed to think for themselves translated into contempt for public school efforts to teach students critical thinking skills (an expressed abhorrence for that of the values clarification program); a belief that corporal punishment, otherwise known as spanking, is a good thing (spare the rod and spoil the child); a belief in the moral virtues of capital punishment (legalized murder by the state); hatred of homosexuals; xenophobically-inspired efforts to keep Mexicans from entering the United States (unless, of course, needed as low wage/slave laborers); a propensity to support republican congressmen so often controlled by the corporate community; a belief that capitalism (an economic system based upon greed) is God’s approved way of doing business; a love affair with guns (as represented by their support for the National Rifle Association); a belief that economic development trumps that of a clean and healthy environment; an ethnocentric tendency to reject anything and everything that is inconsistent with that of the American way of life (e.g., socialism, Islam, and love for one’s enemy); a dogmatic insistence that anyone who happens to disagree with their particular version of truth is wrong, and therefore in danger of going to Hell; and last, but certainly not least, an absolute reluctance to deal with the greatest problem with that of their faith, what I refer to as the vexation of vexations, an insane presumption that a “loving God,” such as theirs, would allow such a huge majority, the bulk of the human race (as many as 94% according to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Map of Lostness), to be condemned to the eternally burning fires of Hell.
So, as a psychologist, I am compelled to ask: what is it that seems to have motivated such people to have become so depraved, to have chosen a style of life so opposed to everything that Jesus taught? What is it that has led fundamentalists to become such a mean-spirited gathering of folks? What is it that such people have in common, that which might serve to explain why they have led such horrid lives?
The riddle of why such folks, who look upon themselves as being so very good while having behaved so terribly bad, can be understood by realizing that fundamentalists suffer from an axiomatic inability to face who they have, in fact, become. In having followed the dictum to be “in” the world, but certainly not “of” the world, they began to set themselves apart, to disengage from the rest of the world, effectively creating an inner sanctum, a world of their own, an imprisoned partition separating them from the rest of humanity. And, of course, all of such in order to protect themselves from being contaminated by an outer world of sin.
Thus in having symbolically reached for the heavens, while yet remaining so deeply mired in a rather cognitively truncated, black and white, world of their own making, they have become unable to even touch the sky. In believing themselves to have become the true remnant of God, the special elect, the keepers of the keys to the kingdom of God, they allowed themselves to have been lulled into worshiping a deity who has turned out to be nothing more than a figment of their own imagination, an extension of their own rather neurotic needs, a red, white, and blue god willingly ready to allay their fears, fill their pockets with gold, and to destroy each and every one of their enemies.
Falling right into line, they began to look upon the neo-conservative leadership of our nation (George Walker Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney, Donald Henry Rumsfeld, et al.) as men inspired by God, men, no doubt, appointed by God to take charge of the world, and to do whatever they might deem to be necessary in order to redeem the world. Consequently, the fundamentalists, supposing themselves to be at war with an, as yet, unsaved world, have become convinced that they can do no wrong as long as they continue to faithfully obey the commands of their hallowed leaders, each and every one a crusader, struggling to restore the once lost kingdom of God… a people crying out for “the blood of the Lamb” to cleanse the world, in perfectly-pitched and four-part harmony, chanting “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ the royal master, leads against the foe, forward into battle, see his banner go!”
Perhaps the foregoing has shed a bit of light on the mystery of how, and, perhaps even, why such a self-righteous group of folks has become so terribly evil… why it is that the Christian fundamentalists have been led to believe they have been set free to do what they may, to live above and beyond the normal restraints of man (a law of the heart requiring that we respect the rights of others), that they, as the faithful followers of the Old Testament’s readily rendered red in tooth and claw claim for the right to extract an “eye for an eye,” have declared for themselves the divine authority to take charge of, to rule, to plunder and pillage, even, if necessary, to bring on Armageddon and all of such in the name of a “thoroughly providential and loving God.”