What I am up to!

So I think as of September 1st my life will officially start. I thought I’d write a post about what I’m up to now and what I’m planning for this year.

So firstly I have a Job working at http://www.heidmar.com. This is a shipping company that is part-owned by Morgan Stanley. I currently have a low-level IT Job in their UK office in London. This includes doing basic stuff such as fixing printers and installing new machines and general office admin but also some more advanced stuff working with Microsoft Sharepoint. Every month I will work for one week (so 5 days) which will be fantastic as most of the stuff I absolutely need to do there is fairly mindless. You need someone with some IT knowledge to, for example, upgrade a computer to Windows 7 but once I’m started I have to pretty much repeat the same stuff over and over. Whilst the stuff that I will end up doing a bit off, (Sharepoint) will be more mentally taxing, this helps me work on what I will be doing for the next 3 weeks a month back in Manchester (So yes I will be commuting!)

The Tribes Online

I will be starting a company that will build a website building package for Churches. Currently most church website are like “Online Brochures”. They tell you largely static simple one-way information such as the service times, the location and who works in a church. They will sometimes be pretty and sometimes look ugly (Which is usually the only measure of a “good” website) in a similar way to brochures. The power of the internet is not in publishing but in communication. E-mail is by far the most successful Internet technology and wikipedia is much more succesful then the old Encyclopaedia Britannica. Wikipedia provides a community that can collaborate to build content, whereas the old Encyclopaedia merely published information. I want to provide churches with the tools to build a website that harnesses the power of the Internet for internal church communication.

Throughout this year I will be learning how dynamic websites are built and laying the foundations of our company for a friend of mine called Robert Mumford to join me next year when he has finished his computer science degree at Manchester.

What will this include?

I will be building up this blurb so this is just my first draft! However we’ll provide many tools to help connect a church internally. Throughout the weeks I will blog about these features in more detail.

  • Website building package:- We won’t build websites for people. We will build a piece of software that allows people to easily set up their own websites without too much technical knowledge. This is similar to wordpress.com and we will be building on top of a package called Drupal. This package is great because it is really easy to build on top of and modify. There are a bunch of well-known websites that use it including bbc, whitehouse.gov and htb.
  • Totally free:- This software is “Free and Open-source Software” (FOSS). This means not only will it cost no money to download and use but users of our software can also see all the code. This means geeky members of churches that know how to program can help get involved by developing the solutions to their church problems themselves and then submit that code back to us so that it becomes part of the package. This means that if our software becomes succesful there is a potential for hundreds of people to be involved in making this great. The rest of the community call this “Free as in Beer and Free as in Speech”. The Google Android phones are based on linux, this is an example of software that is FOSS.
  • Dynamic:- The big issue I have with churches is that the content is one way. We want to build software that allows churches to communicate with each other more effectively. So obvious ideas include allowing people to ask questions and comment on all the sermons that are posted up? Or maybe have online prayer? Or maybe having a youth group where people can all write their own apologetics like with CARM?
  • Communities:- Dynamic websites like Facebook help communities to form. However churches already have a community… it’s the church! This software is aimed at helping connect people already within the church to other people within their own real-life community.
  • Collaborative:- This word is what Microsoft Share point is aiming at. Getting people to work together on things. We want to build tools to help volunteers and staff to work together on projects effectively. This means church members could collaborate and work together creating fantastic youth weekend-aways or we can enable multiple staff members to collaborate easily on one contact database? Or Church-wide calendar that helps all the staff know what is going on?
  • Company:- The software is free. But I think that many churches will not have the time to set up and maintain their own website. They might not have a technically minded congregation member to manage basic things like setting up a webserver, or maybe they do have one but that person just doesn’t want to give up their free time doing what they do throughout the week. For those people (and others) we’ll set up a company where people can host their sites with us or pay for support contracts on maybe a monthly basis. This should fund the development of the product. It is a similar model to that of Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) and Acquia that is behind Drupal.

Here are some examples of features we might implement.

  • Pretty publishing tools – So people with no IT skills can edit the pages the are responsible for in a similar fashion to Microsoft Word.
  • Online Address Books – Can be built into a tool that will manage the congregation generally.
  • Rota organisation – Band Rotas, Choirs or even Teas and Cofees
  • Event management – Including pretty looking Calendars, both random events and things like Sunday Services.
  • Resource Libraries – Sermons, Videos, Articles or Bible Studies
  • An Internal Church focus- It would be easy to advertise ourselves as “The Facebook for Churches” but really we’re not aiming for that. We’re more the Microsoft Sharepoint for churches, which is much less catchy! Facebook is powerful because everyone is on it. We don’t want to do this nor need to. There already exists mychurch.org or ukchristians.net and online versions of specific features of our future software. For example, you can easily go online and find “Prayer Wall” websites and watch people pray. Our software though is about empowering an individual church. We want to take a community of human beings that already exist and help use technology to build those real-life relationships. Our software will help people already praying with each other to connect more easily, regularly and closely. We will not be satisfied if we just build clever technology, these solutions need to grow the church in real-life. We’re here to supplement and encourage, not replace the church!

How will I go about achieving this?

  • Software  – We’ll be working on Drupal
  • A Wiki / Community – It is easy to get excited by technology that looks good but serves no real purpose. So we want to make sure that our software is built by starting with problems that exist within the church already and trying to solve it with technology. If a paper phone book does the job we don’t want to replace it just for the sake of it but solve internal church problems that have not been currently solved. So to do this I want to create a wiki, this will allow people with no technical skills to be involved in designing and developing the solutions in plain-english, so programmers can turn those ideas into a reality. Then we want to use this wiki to provide documentation so people with very little IT skill will be able to use our software effectively.
  • A Company – The software will be called “The Tribes” and the company will be “TheTribesOnline.com” handling the commercial side of things whilst .org will handle the free side of things.

So back to my life

Sorry if this is a bit of a mess. I’m still working on the best method of communicating these ideas! So I’ll go back to talking about me. The reason why I’m particularly excited by this work set up is because I have enough money to live on provided by my Heidmar Job so I can focus quite heavily on the church stuff for some time to come. However, these jobs also compliment each other fantastically. Whereas Heidmar will exclusively use Microsoft products that churches probably can’t afford and I will be using free opensource software. Many of the concepts that I am trying to get into the church are there in Heidmar. Heidmar will require their websites to look good, be intuitive to use and have good documentation. Heidmar need a website that helps facilitate good collaboration. So although a feature of Sharepoint (such integration with Outlook) will not be ported into my Church work, answers to questions such as “What does a user want to see on their homepage?” are useful to both.

I’ve had my first week of working on this stuff. For now I’m mainly learning lots (including how to programm a little!) but its been fun so far.

“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Someone disliked my usage of this verse so I thought I’d explain it. I could be horribly wrong about all this but I do think the bible allows the classic question of “Does that mean I could kill someone and get to heaven” to answer in the positive. I do think answers like “Yeah but you have to be truly repentant” are not good enough whilst I do think that if a Christian continues to murder that is a sign that he knows nothing of Jesus (and probably won’t be in heaven). Here it is:

My understanding is that Paul, throughout his writings and most clearly seen in Romans. Is attempting to do 3 different things. 1) Explain the extent to which Sin is involved with us, 2) Explain the hopelessness trying to do things about sin 3) Explain the fullness with which Jesus’ death has dealt with sin and 4) Explain what living in Grace is actually like.

(Then James goes further I think and says that 4 is a good indicator if someone has understood 3, and so we have “justification by faith alone”, whilst also having “faith without works is dead”)

I see the end of romans 5 and beginning of Romans 6 a perfect example of this:

20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The beauty of his argument is that when asked “Should we carry on sinning to make God look better”. He doesn’t reply, no because you need to be truly sorry to be forgiven or anything like that. He is just like “No! Thats obviously ridiculous!”

I’ve always likened a sinner to like being someone who is starving and hungry but doesn’t understand how to handle the situation. God is offering us food, some of us take it and some of us are anorexic. But if you’re happily eating the food why on earth would you want to go back to starving yourself?

And the Bible is very clear that some things are sin no matter how you try to explain it away.

I’m not trying to explain away sin. For example Jesus equates lust with adultery and the bible says adultery is worthy of death. Now I don’t know how pure your mind is, but I have met many married men who have looked at pornography during their marriage at least once, although even that doesn’t describe what that verse is trying to do because pornography is just an action. You have have lustful thoughts then any defender of justice OUGHT to stone you. That is just how the way the world is organised.

The thing that I think is dangerous, is to forget that and instead suggest “The wages of sin are to be apologetic”. They are not the wages of sin are death, no amount of repenting will change that.

God’s grace does not give us a license to sin

What God’s grace does does is wipes away our sin so that we literally are no longer seen as having sinned. And that happened all at the cross.

What I think Paul is saying (In the all things are permissible passage and in the romans passage). Is not telling you to actually go ahead and do the sin. But is trying to explain the spirit in which Christians are supposed to live their lives.

Put another way – your comment leads to a once-saved-always-saved-no-matter-what philosophy. And that will only lead a person to eventually reject God since “God already forgave me”.

If you know Jesus, why would you reject him? (Also whilst I do not agree with many parts of that quotation. If it were true what would be the problem with a “philosophy” that allows people to reject God since “God already forgave them”? Are you referring to heaven and hell here?)


Put Simply what seems to be happening is this: Brice seems to be saying:
Because I am a Christian, I must not have sex before marriage
This I think is fine for Brice personally. If it helps him to not have sex. However, I don’t think it is entirely true and for that reasons 1) I think when temptation gets bigger Satan can use this lie against you and 2) It will be ineffectual at talking to the girlfriend.

Instead I think it is important to ask the question “Why does the bible talk about sex being between 2 people”? The Goal is to be in a position where you can say
Because I am a Christian, I do not have to have sex before marriage?

Jesus does not tell us not to sin, he enables us not to sin. (Cause actually deep down no one really wants to sin they just don’t know how to deal with it http://www.biblegateway.com/pa…)

Why is philosophy important?

So recently at a event on personal identity some philosophers essentially told us in answer to the question “Did I exist yesturday?” and more generally “Who am I”, that I am Me and that is is unanalysable any further (definitely oversimplifying things here!). Also in my tutorials for Metaphysics people (including me!) have certainly felt some of the contemporary questions of metaphysics are so pointless they are not worth asking let alone answering. However I don’t think this is true, I think philosophy is important and so I will rant:

  • It’s important because the world has the potential to be destroyed through climate change and a lack of bees and no one really has any idea how to evaluate or deal with this
  • Its important because we don’t have any Nuclear power plants
  • Its important because the government is ignoring scientists on drugs and speed cameras whilst listening to pop psycologists on lilly allen and no one know who why or what to listen to
  • The media is building fear and conspiracy theory to a large degree and we need to know how to combat that
  • Its important because of Richard Dawkins!
  • Its important because Richard Dawkins is building an army of scientifically minded philosophically engaged politically active young people and they are going to be important. (What next?)
  • Its important because philosophy has failed to bring about the world peace we were promised and murder is still wrong.
  • Its important because religion is growing in importance in our world, rather then dying out and people are still stuck arguing Hume’s argument and attacking the Onological argument
  • Its important because China, its philosophy and its influence is growing and the west still have no idea of how to embrace it.

So I believe these are all important aspects of our world and include philosophy.Why?

Because everyone does philosophy!

Every single one of those points has people somewhere sitting around and thinking, they are then going on and writing and sometimes their writing is in newspapers, sometimes it is in academic journals, sometimes it is behind closed doors or within organisations. But the thoughts and writing continue and as long as that is happening philosophy is happening even if people don’t like calling it that. Because it is definitely happening and impacting us anyway, we need to know what it is, we need to talk about it.

And it starts in metaphysics, it starts in epistemology. Talking about Tibs and Tibbles, about universals, about how we know things, about protocal sentences leads into the philosophy of science. Which leads into why people dislike evolution and climate change, it leads into Nuclear power and its implications, it leads into morality and how to deal with china. It tells us that murder is wrong and lets atheists and theists talk about thing. And it turns the Richard Dawkins people from an angry rabble into a well-informed powerful people.

Category: Christian Thought -> Cause it is!

Presuppositional Apologetics and me

So I’ve recently found out about a style of apologetics called Presuppositional Apologetics. Essential these seems to be the style of argument where you suggest that your opponent presupposes the existence of God in their own beliefs about the world. A simple example of this is the Moral Law argument. Your oppoenent suggests that there is an absolute morality and you show that this assumes a moral law giver, namely God.

At least I think thats what it is, i definitely need to read more. Anyway I think I have a kind of similar method of “apologetics” if you can call it that. My method of apologetics seems to be assuming the ressurection of Christ and then assuming he didn’t rise and then arguing what makes sense from those assumptions.

For example in answer to the question, How can a good God cause suffering, isn’t he just horrible? I’d say well this is where we need to have faith in him, he’s making a world that is worth all this suffering. What evidence is there that we should trust him? Jesus, God, suffered and died on the cross  as part of his plan. He is sufferingWITH us not above us and this is why we can trust him when we suffer ourselves.

This is definitely simplified but also requires the dual nature of chirst. If Jesus was just a mere human, then this would be a silly argument. Many have been crucified since Jesus and many have suffered more then that. Also if God just made some random human suffer loads that still makes him seem pretty horrible and doesn’t help the previous answer. Similarly if Jesus on the cross wasn’t fully human, but was like an avatar. Then he doesn’t really know real human suffering, he’s just gone through a facade of suffering but he didn’t really die.

I don’t think this is a conclusive answer to the question of pain and suffering in the world. But it demonstrates this argumentative technique. I answer questions by presupposing other theological truths that eventually lead to the death of Christ on the cross and the rest of the gospel. However, it wouldn’t fully convince an opponent because it relies on the ressurection being true. If you just reply, but I don’t think he did rise then my argument will show how, based on that, one ought to be angry at a God who allows pain and suffering. So this could never “convert” anyone.

However, I think it counts as an apologetic as it still attempts to demonstrate how important the Gospel is, (just not its truth). It shows that the God of Islam would not be worthy of being trusted in this manner, at least shows that this argument could not support Islam.

Anyway, I’m going to continue reading about this but I’ll be interested to see if there is a name for this kind of apologetic. Its a bit wierd, it means I can have many unoffensive arguments that show lots of stuff but feel pathetic as they can never really convince anyone. On the other hand, is it too bad having an argumentative style that requires God at the end to do the convincing directly himself?

Drupal and Vaio P

I think I’m enjoying playing around with the Vaio P. I’ve thought of installing ubuntu and stuff but given up on that. I’m finding firefox with a bunch of plugins to make it look like chrome is working better then chrome.

However unfortunately I’m finding apache can’t quite handle installing drupal on it. I’m using the Acquia Drupal installtion package and then the source code from http://www.usingdrupal.com

I dunno if anyone has some advice on this but my poor vaio is pretty much maxed out at 100% during the install process.

Starting down a new path – Drupal and the church

So, I’m in the middle of doing an essay I really don’t want to do. We’ll see if this is just procrastination talking but I’m starting to feel like doing a Masters is not what I want to be doing. I want get started on the real stuff I always planned to do after the masters, a year earlier.

I really feel there is a gap for good church website building software that is opensource that could compete with the propriety software such as City and churchinsight. I think that software like that is fine and certainly morally defensible from a Christian standpoint. However, Open Source software and the community around drupal is just so much cooler and imo so much powerful in a community like the church.

Once this essay is in I’ll start blogging a bit more with how things are supposed to go.

Why a Super might support the Brights.

Recently I have been involved in a community known as http://www.the-brights.net. They are a group of people who are ‘raising awareness and acceptance for people with a naturalistic worldview’. They claim a naturalistic worldview is anyone who does not accept supernatural and mystical elements and that they are a social action group, not a philosophical group. Therefore you are a bright by self identifying as a bright, and if you call yourself one you can get involved in promoting this worldview.

They are initially very odd! People like me, who do except the supernatural (sort of) are called ‘Supers’. For fun I asked the question ‘Could a fully normal orthodox christian be a bright? For now I thought I should just copy a post I posted on their forum onto my blog. You can check the thread out here.

Here is the original post:

I thought I’d post this as a list of intentions and reasons why other Supers might join me in supporting the Brights. Also you could tell me if these are reasons you’d support.

1) Dialogue is the best way to get to the truth. The truth is Jesus and that is evangelism.
I think it works with the brights because dialogue is two way.

Personally I think many people would agree that dialogue is one of the best ways to get to the truth. If you take 2 people with opposing views who both think others should think like them, dialogue is fantastic because the same act brings together both their contradictory purposes. If A is right about something and thinks they can convince B, then they would want proper constructive dialogue with B. But if B also thinks they are right about the same thing (with a contradictory view) they would also want that same dialogue with A, for their own purpose. Seeing as they both believe they are right they both will never have a time when they feel it needs to end.

In fact I think dialogue can be fun for the two concerned. The same is true of an atheist and a theist, or a Muslim and a Christian, etc. Real dialogue can be something that they both want.

Now in general the ‘supernaturalism vs naturalism’ public debate has involved things that end dialogue. Many times it descends into rants on why the other side is ‘evil and without morals’ or it turns into merely public shouting and lobbying contests. The fact that many supernaturalists seem intent on ending dialogue and forcing legislation is something I think the brights are against. Well as a Super I’d be against that too.

Does that mean I’ve joined the Brights to subversively try to convince and convert everyone here? Well no, that wouldn’t be dialogue that would be me trying to convince you. Dialogue involves 2 parties listening, learning and ‘convincing’ each other. No, my presence here is not for evangelism to you, but I do believe the Brights does help with ‘evangelism’ towards others. You wouldn’t believe the acceptance for a discussion about Jesus at university since the God Delusion and the atheist buses. I do believe Dawkins’ book will go down in church history as the thing that saved christianity in the UK.

2) There are non-biblical reasons why one would support equality and freedom of speech

I do not believe the bible demands freedom of speech as a political ideal. In fact one thing I love about christianity is that it can work in most political systems and philosophies. A Christian can maintain their integrity in a capitalist system with their charity, but also maintain it in a communist system with their diligence. However the bible is not against freedom of speech nor equality either. So for different reasons as a Super I would still believe strongly in equality and freedom of speech as a political ideal. Though I would not believe some of the things a Bright would believe, I would defend strongly their right to believe it and be accepted for those beliefs. (On a personal level I might talk about why I believe the contradictory beliefs that I do)

3) The brights (and dawkins) bring these discussion into relevance, which encourages dialogue

As I mentioned previously, the importance of encouraging further dialogue. I believe Christianity is true, and therefore if someone attacks its truth I think it should be defended (if it can’t then that is a serious issue). However it is much more difficult to defend against the claim that Christianity is irrelevant. The God delusion and the show ‘the root of all evil’ essentially said “Christianity (or theism) is incredibly important, people should be more aware of its importance because it is both wrong and potentially dangerous/evil”. The second part can be defended against, the first part supports our aims and support our aims it has. So many people are interested in talking with me now and usually it is because that book. (Even my flatmate who was a big evilbible reading socialist anti – theist 16 year old activist, though he doesn’t like the book anymore was literally counting down the days to that book coming out on his calendar).

Now with this point I think it is more the ‘new atheists’ who I would support. I don’t think the brights have quite the same aim as Dawkins with this respect and would be happy if christianity was relegated to irrelevancy. But I think they are similar enough for this point to still stand.

4) The brights (and dawkins) seem to attack the aspects of our religion that need to be attacked (for example blind faith)

This is one which again I don’t think the brights inherently stand for but many of their members probably will. There are bad aspects of our faith. I remember a conversation about calvinism with 2 teenagers. One was engaging with the discussion, whilst the other was finding it hard to keep up and understand the concepts. At the beginning of the conversation he was just saying “I don’t understand”, by the end he started trying to justify himself to make himself feel better and the comments subtlety changed to “I don’t NEED to understand because I just believe”. I could imagine, if he were around different people who thought like him (instead of us) in a little christian clique they would have given each other Christian Kudos. Soon the more crazy ideas that you can adhere to without explanation becomes their definition of ‘more faith’. There is nothing wrong with not fully understanding the things you believe (imo), there is nothing wrong with not being able to rigorously explain and defend your views. But there is something wrong when you use your lack of understanding to claim superiority over someone else.

And its just plain stupid to approach people outside the church with this kind of misguided arrogance. This is one example of an aspect of some people’s belief that Dawkins challenges well. I would prefer it if these challenges came from within the church, but would still welcome it from outside.

5) I really dislike the way some Christians treat those who want abortions and people who have a homosexuality disposition

Take the Christian Voice in the UK for example.
My belief is this, the bible makes a strong case against sexual impurity. It makes a really big deal about it, it also makes a big deal out of murder. In fact both these things should warrant a stoning. Jesus comes along and changes things a bit, although the stoning is no longer the correct treatment of these issues, he makes them even more difficult to satisfy. Lust constitutes sexual impurity and Anger constitutes murder.

Now politically I think I’d like more education on why sex with one partner is good. However these Christians seemed to have realised that if they tried to fight against sexual promiscuity or serial monogamy they would be fighting a losing battle (the cynical person in me thinks they would probably be fighting against those in their own ranks anyway). So instead of dealing with the issue the bible spends a lot of time dealing with they attack the smaller minor issues that the bible deals with. I might write more later on what I think about the whole abortion debate and maybe homosexuality but the reason why I think they spend so much time on those issues is because venerability.

People with a homosexual disposition have been made venerable by all of our culture. Historically this may be due to religion but presently is not, in England the BNP is very openly homophobic for example so they are easy for christians to attack. And people who have had an abortion or feel a need to are usually fairly venerable about it anyway (from my knowledge) so they are easy to attack. I think these christians target easy wins so they can feel good about themselves. By closing the Jerry Springer show they have fought a ‘win’ for their Lord. I don’t think this kind of protest is inherently wrong. I just think in most specific cases (such as with christian voice) they are just pathetic.

The Brights have their own reasons for opposing organisations like the Christian Voice and the political ‘fundies’ of America and as a Super I have my own reasons for joining arms with you.

6) Doubting and coming to an understanding is essential to maturity (including christian or spiritual maturity). This should be encourage by christians and is welcome from outside the church

I’ve talked before about the ‘ridiculousness of christianity’. I think it is very important that people doubt their beliefs then overcome their doubts. This is true, imo, of almost everything and is especially true of Christianity. If Christians think that the theory of evolution is damaging to children’s faith, by withholding information about it they are killing it, imo. So where as the brights will try and promote naturalism and challenges to supernaturalism for their reasons, I’d support almost all of those challenges for my own.

So there you go. As you can see, I’m not pretending that I’m a Christian and a Bright. I’m definitely a Super! But I think almost all the tenets of the Brights I could support for reasons that I think also push forward the Super’s agenda (Not in contest with the Brights but alongside).

I apologise for the typos, as I read this thread a bunch of times I’m sure I will slowly edit them out.

Don’t touch the Fruit

Genesis 3:2-3

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’

One cool point with this that my study bible came up with, she had already by this point added to God’s command. God told her not to eat the fruit, she added that she is not allowed to touch it. The serpent attempted to add LOADS to God’s command (not eat any fruit) and she rejected that, but the spirit of what the serpent said still lingered. Adding more to God’s rules wasn’t regarded here as going the extra mile, instead it was the first step on the road to sin.

Why I am a Fundamentalist

I’m not really a fundamentalist christian. It’s just interesting the stigma that has been further attached to the word since it was first used. People are now ok with ‘religious people’ but it is fundamentalists and extremists that now cause all the wars around the world. I remember one lecturer arguing against Richard Dawkin’s the God delusion by suggesting that most religious people were not fundamentalists but people who just wanted to get on with their lives and let others do the same. Fundamentalism is associated with 6-day creation, bombing abortion clinics and anti-homosexuality then of course Islam, chauvinism, suicide bombing and the twin towers. 

Between 1910-1915 a short pamphlet was published called ‘The Fundamentals’. These people outlined and argued what they believed were the fundamentals of the christian faith in this pamphlet which was then sent to many churches across America. This was particularly in response to the relativism that was becoming accepted into the church during the post-war era (Further reading here and here). They believed that there were fundamentals to the christian faith that other aspects were derived from. This was opposed to the idea that Christians could believe pretty much whatever they liked and the only thing that made you a christian was that you called yourself one. Since then the word and ideology has become distorted and attacked (sometimes it was their own fault) turning the movement into an anti-reason, anti-intellectual movement that requires a literalistic interpretation of the bible and a radical application from its followers. 

Dawkins believes that fundamentalism implies belief  in the face of evidence. To me that seems like a pretty simplistic definition. It assumes scientific statements are the only statements that can be made but if I were to say “Killing is wrong” what kind of evidence could be provided to support that? So lets suggest it’s belief without argument, evidence, reason. Well that’s not really true, the movement started as an argument for these fundamentals. In fact because fundamentalists believe their fundamentals to be true, arguments and reason are encouraged. It can only illuminate the truth of those fundamental beliefs (Admittedly there are anti-intellectuals who do think it best not to discuss their beliefs or ever change their opinion but this is a seperate issue to what is inherent in fundamentlism. There are Christians who are like this, Dawkins actually does do a good job attacking these kinds of people).

But I think people are more fundamentalist then they would like to think. Lets take an fundamentalist organisation that every left-wing, liberal, activist, secular humanist would probably love – amnesty international. It is a truly fantastic organisation that theist and atheist alike can get behind as it campaigns for human rights across the globe. I remember someone telling me that the reason why they would like to boycott the olympics in china is simply because of china’s support of the death penalty. This person believed all countries that support the death penalty should be equally boycotted, such as America. During this conversation a clearly right-wing American who disagreed on this point. They put forward many arguments and stories about incredibly evil people doing evil things and being paid to live in luxury in a prison. None of these arguments mattered. To the original person and amnesty international it is a basic human right to live. There is no human who has the right to take away this right or any other human right. Arguments about the inhumanity of the criminal do not make it more humane for the government to act like the criminal. In fact they merely support their view, that killing is wrong and we shouldn’t do it.

Now I’m pretty sure that many student members of amnesty international would not like to compare their organisation to organisations like the Taliban. But in this manner they are both fundamentalists. It is a fundamental belief that the death penalty is wrong. From this fundamental belief many of the practises and doctrines of the organisation follow. This fundamental belief then continues to influences the way of life of the members. They protest, they campaign and they help those who have had their rights violated. This organisation is even evangelistic and clearly against relativism. The human rights are universal, they apply to everyone even if they disagree. It is as wrong to kill someone in Scandinavia (where anti-death penalty is part of the culture) as it is in china (where it is not). They will do everything they can to make this fundamental belief influence the practises and life of literally everyone.

But this organisation is clearly not evil! Nor is it anti-intellectual. These people will usually have very clear and thought-out reasons why the death penalty is wrong. They will defend their fundamental beliefs and usually they will allow their beliefs to be challenged. They will accept arguments for the death penalty, but with faith that it will be demonstrated incorrect (because the death penalty actually IS wrong). This is not fundamentalism, as in, the exact views of a particular group of people who wrote a book in around 1915 but this is the kind of fundamentalism I would subscribe to as a Christian. I believe that Jesus is God. I believe he died and rose again and that this is not just a fundamental belief of mine. But it is both true and essential to my daily living. It is a fundamental belief from which the day-to-day practises of my life are derived. But it is not against evidence or reason, I’ll welcome challenges and discussion with full belief that eventually it will be universally shown to everyone that these fundamental beliefs are fundamental facts. Not through my personality, not through shere force of argument or manipulation. But simply because it is the truth (relative to everyone). 

Fundamentalism and extremism are inherently against the worldview of some people. Some people are relativist and hate the idea of absolute truth, some people hate extremism, they want conformity. They hate it when anyone deviates from the norm and extremists will always do that by definition. However, they are not inherently evil. Amnesty international are a good organisation, even if they sometimes have faults. Extremism for a Good, Just and Right cause is not evil, even if it is not conformist. In the same way that fire can be used to provide warmth or death, the same way that football provides both entertainment and hooliganism, the same way that religions and idealogies have been behind movements for good and evil, fundamentalism and extremism can be used by good and evil people.

I think maybe the title of this post should have been, “Why you are a fundamentlist” 😛