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Charles Attempts to Understand the Fundamentalist Mind

god and knowledge

Several months back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Charles asked:

I know you are probably going to slam me for asking this, but it really is something I have noticed time and time and time again across my nearly 63 years of life—and I am at a bit of a loss to understand it. So, here goes:

Why do Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals believe that the sole purpose of communications media (books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television shows, blogs, etc.) is to “teach me how I should live my life” in this world. All of my semi-fundie aunts are dead now, but they grew up in rural Tennessee in the period 1910-1930. In later years, (1930s onward), they would scrape up enough money to go to a movie, and they would go with the apparent notion that Joan Crawford will today on the movie screen “teach me how I should live my life if I move to the city.”

Whenever a fundie wants to banish a book from the public library, ban a movie, or whatever, the excuse is always something along the lines of: “Well, I’m afraid this book (or this movie) is going to teach people wrong things about…”

I gotta be honest with you Bruce. I think these people are just plain nuts. For example, I saw a DVD of the movie “Lucy” recently. At no time did I insert it into the DVD player, kick back in my easy chair, and say, “Scarlett is gonna teach me how I should live my life with this movie.” If I pick up the newest Superman comic book, I never say, “Superman is going to teach me a lesson on how I should live my life.”

I am a professional anthropologist. Human culture and society are my business, but this one is a little hard to understand. On occasion, I have wondered if this is a uniquely American disease of the mind with religious roots. For example, when the first pioneers pushed westward across the Appalachian Mountains into Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the Bible was often the only book they owned. It was viewed as a book whose primary purpose was to “teach them how they should live their lives.” Historically, is it possible that they uncritically transferred this notion to every form of communications media that arrived on the scene?

Even nowadays, you can here fundies say, “I don’t like that short story because it does not teach a good moral lesson.” I just want to say back, “Well, maybe the author did not want to teach you a good moral lesson because he was just writing a story that he wanted to tell.”

What goes on in the minds of these people?

Here’s what I know for sure, the Christian fundamentalist operates from six presuppositions:

  • Their God, as revealed through the Bible, creation, and conscience,  is the one true God
  • The Bible is God’s divine revelation to humanity and contains everything necessary for life and godliness
  • Every person is a sinner in need of salvation
  • There is eternal life beyond the grave
  • Heaven/eternal kingdom of God is where Christians will spend eternity and hell/lake of fire is where non-Christians will spend eternity
  • This life is preparation for eternal life after death

Because Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, it becomes the foundation for how they view the world and live their lives (in theory anyway). This thinking permeates every aspect of their lives. It is not uncommon for Evangelicals to label themselves as “people of the book.” The Bible becomes a written oracle that speaks infallibly pertaining to life and godliness. It becomes THE truth above all others. Throw in the notion that the Holy Spirit lives inside Evangelicals as their teacher and guide, and is it any surprise that Evangelicals think the way they do?

Everything in the Evangelicals’ lives is filtered through the pages of the Bible. When they see something in the media that lines up with their beliefs, this is viewed as God giving them a life lesson or reinforcing their beliefs. Since most Evangelicals think homosexuality is a sin, they can turn to Romans 1, 2 and see that their view of the world is going to hell in a hand basket is affirmed by the Bible and recent events such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the persecution of Christian wedding cake bakers.

Evangelicals often equate the smallest of things to God. From finding their keys to discovering a $20 bill in a pair of pants, every unexpected “blessing” is a sure sign of the truthfulness of the Bible. These “God sightings” are proof that they are on the right track and that their beliefs are true. So, when a Tim Tebow or some other sports star praises Jesus, they see the star’s words as an affirmation of their beliefs. Same goes for utterances about God at the Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, and other show-biz award shows. Never mind that many of the singers are praising God for songs that promote debauchery and sin. All that matters is that they thanked God or their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Woo Hoo! Another God sighting!!

Evangelicals are also obsessed with eschatology. Always on the lookout for Jesus coming to rapture them away, they look for signs of his soon return (even though they are commanded not to do so). Again, this kind of thinking leads them to “see” God and signs everywhere they look. From RFID chips being the mark of the beast to mathematical formulas that predict the exact date of the rapture, Evangelicals seek out “evidence” for their eschatological beliefs. In doing so, they overlook the obvious; first century Christian expected the second coming of Jesus in their lifetime, yet here we are 2,000 years later, no Jesus. Perhaps Jesus likes his digs in heaven and is not coming back or his body lies silent in an unmarked grave outside of Jerusalem.

Evangelicals also believe God speaks to them, either through the Bible or through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. When a person has God speaking directly to him, it is possible to see almost anything as a lesson or message from God. Spend some time on the CHARISMA website and you will come away thinking that Evangelicalism is actually an insane asylum. No belief is so far-fetched that it cannot be attributed to God. Years ago, a woman stood up in one of the churches I pastored and told a story about God appearing to her. A devout Evangelical Christian, she said God came in the night and spoke to her. Wanting to make sure it was God and not the devil, she asked for a sign. All of a sudden, she saw a blue light and she knew it was God. I thought then, as I do now, that she was confusing a blue light special at K-Mart with a visitation from God. (Note also the number of Republican candidates for President who say the Christian God TOLD them to run.)

Throw all these things in a bag and shake them up and what you end up with is a Christian version of McCarthyism. Everywhere Evangelicals look they see their God. When they pray for Grandma and she gets better they think God did it. When God doesn’t answer their prayer and Grandma dies? It’s God’s will. Either way, everything traces back to God. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

god said it

Understanding this explains why their thinking drives you nuts. As a man of science, you value evidence and facts. While you are still a believer, you do not check your brain at the door and ignorantly view the world as the Evangelical does. Evangelicals will likely say that they too value evidence and facts, but their evidence is the Bible, not what can be understood through reason, healthy skepticism, and the scientific method. When confronted with a challenge to their beliefs, the Bible and faith always win.

This is why I do not get into arguments and lengthy discussions with Evangelicals. The path always leads back to faith and THE BIBLE SAYS!  Once the Evangelical appeals to faith, there is no hope of a meaningful discussion. Just today, an Evangelical preacher “proved” to me that Jesus resurrected from the dead. How?  He quoted the Bible. In his mind, God said it and that settles it.



  1. Avatar
    James Rice

    Hey Bruce, I am a man “of the book.” I am a man of faith. My entire life is governed by my faith in an unseen God. Hebrews 11: 6 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My entire life falls under the authority of the Word of God. No surprise there! And because my life is governed by God’s Word, I live a holy and godly life. However, on the hand, your life is governed by an unseen force too. You have a system of beliefs and behaviors that govern your life too. You choose not to believe in the God “of the book.” You reject Him and reject all restraints to godly living. You have declared an all out war against “the book.” I will say this, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:8) Long after your heart has stopped beating and they have placed your body six feet under, the Word of God will go on. Men before you have tried to stop God’s Word and failed. What makes you any better than they? Your unbelief will not make void His Word! I will by faith stand by His promises, rather than draw back into perdition. I caution you to be careful, because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. There will be a day of reckoning and judgment by that man whom God hath appointed to be judge. And on that day, you WILL bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Not my words, but the words of Holy Scripture! The day of grace is swiftly drawing to a close, i call upon all that read my words to humble yourselves and call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

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      Tell me James, is there some special reason that you believe the Christian bible and not the Qu’ran?

      And why choose the God of Abraham; why not Zeus or Thor?

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      Oh my goodness, Mr. Rice! You have been indwelt with the exact voice of my older brother. He has taken you over and he will not let you go…. I am so sorry. I had no idea he had that kind of power, to actually take someone else’s voice and utterly crush it under his own. I don’t know what to say except I truly apologize for what he has done to you….

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      John Arthur

      Hi James,

      Have you actually read the whole bible through? If so, how can you say that it is the Word of God? There is much recorded immorality said to be expressed by Yahweh which flatly contradicts most of the teaching of Jesus in much of the synoptic gospels.

      God is said to have expressly told Joshua to exterminate the Canaanites (men, women,little children and babies) by the sword and then burn their cities to the ground. Joshua and his troops enthusiastically did this. This barbarism was said to be justified by attributing their actions to a command of their god. Why mercilessly slaughter little children and babies? This is grossly immoral.

      Jesus commanded his disciples to love their enemies, not kill them. How can Jesus’ attitude and actions towards little children be reconciled with OT barbarism? How can the jihadi Jesus of the book of revelation be reconciled with the pacifist jesus of the Sermon on the Mount or the Sermon on the plain? I submit that it is impossible.

      The bible is not a divine book but a very human one with all its contradictions and errors.


      John Arthur

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    Uh oh. I’m going to guess someone hasn’t read any other posts before leaving a comment. If I’m wrong, then someone is quite hard headed.

    I’m sorry, James. Most of here don’t subscribe to evangelical beliefs about the Bible as the highest authority, therefore your words don’t scare us. You might be afraid to fall into the hands of an living God; but, how do you know that you believe in the right one? The teachings of Jesus and Paul disregard and contradict the teachings of Jehovah and Elohim. So, which God are you afraid of? How do you know you picked the right one?

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    As an Evangelical, whenever something resonated with me, I thought it was some kind of message from God. If it was something Christian (Bible, books, songs) that was clearly the case, but when it was something not-Christian (or even worldly) it was still a sign of God seeing everything and being able to use everything, even ‘bad’ things. So basically God couldn’t lose…

    Now something resonates with me simply because it does. Because I agree with it, or feel something similar. It has nothing to do with anything divine, but simply with my preferences and where I’m at.

    It is very freeing to not live in the end-times anymore 🙂 To not anticipate the destruction of the world at any given moment, or the rapture, leaving your non-religious friends to deal with all the misery that is expected… Just thinking of all the times that technology or politics or what not was scrutinized and declared a clear sign of the end, makes my head spin.

    My grandfather expected the rapture in his lifetime, believed in it since he was a child and got to be nearly 90 as did his brother; my parents have believed it for most of their lives as well (still do). I think it is an understandable longing to escape death. The idea of not having to die can be very appealing after all.

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