By Kenneth Justice
~ “Dude, that’s one damn provocative question!” he said
One of the things I love about hanging out with my Arab American friends is that we can have serious dialogue and debate, asking each other really tough questions and at the end of the day shake hands and not hold grudges against each other.
Not having been to the Middle East I can’t say whether or not that is a cultural trait of Arabs throughout the world or merely an antidotal thing I’ve experienced with my Arab American friends who’ve migrated to the United States.
The older I get the more I’ve noticed that much of American culture gets really defensive when you ask questions or make generalizations aimed at stimulating conversation. My uncle Bob was fond of saying that defensiveness is often the first response whenever someone is proposed a premise that contradicts their belief system.
—-) If I ask challenging questions about Christianity I’m certain to end up on the receiving end of some sharp criticism from readers and Christians
—-) If I ask challenging questions regarding science and scientists (as I did this past week) I’m certain to receive some rather piercing responses regarding the motivations and intentions behind my questions.
The reality is that many of the generalizations and questions I pose do not come from my own ‘personal’ opinion. I try to do my best at keeping as many of my opinions to myself in order to not muddy the water when it comes to intellectual dialogue.
I find it humorous that many conservatives believe I am a far-left liberal and many liberals believe I am a far-right conservative. I suspect these perceptions that people have of me are due to the way in which I ask questions and posit generalizations from all sorts of different perspectives.
The simple fact of the matter is that Western Culture has entered an era where people on all sides of the camp are more likely to be fundamentalist in their beliefs and behavior; and it is this prevailing attitude that I’ve attempted to address time and again in my writing.
In the past ‘fundamentalist’s’ were more or less confined to various religious sects, but as Western Culture became industrialized in the post-enlightenment era; suddenly agnostics, atheists, scientists, and people from all walks of life and philosophy were suddenly “acting fundamentalist” in their beliefs and dialogue.
The late writer and atheist apologist Christopher Hitchens was not merely an atheist, but one could suggest that he was something more akin to a fundamentalist atheist in the same sense that so many Christians and Muslims are fundamentalist.
At the core of fundamentalist behavior is an attitude that presupposes your beliefs are “right” beyond the shadow of the doubt, and if someone questions you or makes generalizations about your beliefs you are quick to become defensive and go on the attack.
Fundamentalist behavior and thinking often involves a strict hierarchal authoritarian structure; this attitude causes people to ostracize and attack any person who questions the status quo,
—-) I question whether or not having 70% of Americans on prescription medication is a good thing and people get pissed off at me
—-) I question whether or not Christianity in the Western World is doing more harm than good and people get pissed off at me
—-) I question whether or not the United States should be meddling in foreign affairs and foreign governments and people write me emails telling me I’m stupid and don’t know history
—-) I question whether or not scientists are making wise choices in their research and I get an email like I did yesterday in which I was told that I was anti-science right winged Christian fundamentalist who believes in fairy tales
I don’t mind getting nasty emails and contentious comments. I’m a big boy and it doesn’t bother me that people mischaracterize my position and beliefs. However, this prevailing attitude people have when their belief systems are questioned reinforces my thought that fundamentalism is alive and well in all walks of life throughout Western Culture.
Am I guilty of asking provocative questions aimed at inciting a certain response; I would NEVER do that!
………………………….ok, maybe just a little.
Back to my cup of coffee which is especially delicious this morning,
Categories: Culture & Society