Rick Warren on Colbert

I want to read The Purpose-Driven Life. I have wanted to do so for some time now, for a variety of reasons. I don’t expect to enjoy the book, and I don’t anticipate getting around to it until after I’ve read the bulk of the book it’s based on, but I’ll do it at some point.

Anyway, its author, pastor Rick Warren, was just on The Colbert Report, talking about that book. Now, I’m not sure why you’d be on a talk show circuit talking about a five-year-old book, but I guess the writers’ strike has left them bereft of interviewees.

What struck me as interesting enough to blog about was when Colbert asked Warren if he was a fundamentalist. Warren replied in the negative, saying a fundamentalist was “someone who stopped listening,” apparently to other people. I paused a moment, knowing the inevitable was coming: “there are fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Jews, fundamentalist atheists, and fundamentalist secularists.” Thanks, Rick, good to see you don’t disappoint, and good to see that Blake’s Law works so well. Now, the idea of there being such a thing as a “fundamentalist atheist” or “fundamentalist secularist” has been covered by better writers than myself, so I won’t really address that idiocy.

He went on to describe fundamentalism as an attitude, more or less one that shuts out outside information and criticism. He also said that he believes every word in the Bible is inerrant.

Now, here’s where I take a bit of umbrage: technically, using his definition of fundamentalism, pastor Warren is correct. There are absolutely some atheists and secularists who have stopped listening, who have shut themselves off from critical ideas and whatnot. I haven’t met too many, but I’ve met a few, and I suspect that I know what some of them have read. The problem is that his definition of fundamentalism isn’t the definition of fundamentalism. Sure, if we’re going to play Humpty Dumpty with words, we can have fundamentalist atheists and round squares and feline dogs, as long as I redefine “round” and “feline” accordingly.

No, Rick, the definition of “fundamentalism” is “A religious movement, which orig. became active among various Protestant bodies in the United States after the war of 1914-1918, based on strict adherence to certain tenets (e.g. the literal inerrancy of Scripture) held to be fundamental to the Christian faith; the beliefs of this movement; opp. liberalism and modernism.” More generally, such as when the term is applied to more than just a certain sect of Protestant Christians, (as Greta Christina pointed out in one of the links above) “a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.”

Gosh Rick, when you use the real definition of “fundamentalism,” it sounds like there can’t be fundamentalist atheists or secularists, since there’s no fundamental set of tenets to which to strictly adhere. It also sounds like “believing that every word of the Bible is inerrant” is awfully close to real fundamentalism. Funny how that works out.

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