One particular passage impressed me so much that I wanted to share it. Fundamentalism has to block out information and outside influences in order to thrive.
"A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers. It is why Quiverfull moms home-school their kids with carefully screened textbooks. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist Uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does!)In other words, fundamentalism feeds on ignorance and insularity. Fortunately, the Internet is undermining both.
Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.
Tech-savvy mega-churches may have Twitter missionaries, and Calvinist cuties may make viral videos about how Jesus worship isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship, but that doesn’t change the facts: the free flow of information is really, really bad for the product they are selling."
The internet's threat to fundamentalism came up previously in a 2011 talk by Christian apologist Josh McDowell. Addressing an audience in Asheville, NC, McDowell lamented that the information available through the internet has led to widespread skepticism, having leveled the playing field for different belief systems. McDowell's strategy for confronting this new reality was for parents to model their Christian faith and prepare themselves to answer their children's questions about religion. Still, what if the ocean of online information about science, history, and alternative faiths provides more satisfying and sound answers?
The wealth of online information will not undermine all people's fundamentalism, however. Fundamentalists are adept at screening out information and viewpoints that they disapprove of, so it is a simple matter for them to avoid Internet content that would challenge their beliefs. Willful ignorance persists, even in the computer age.
Fortunately, there will always be fundamentalists whose curiosity exceeds their insularity, and fundamentalists' students and children who do not share their willful ignorance. For these people, the internet offers enough information to make them reexamine their assumptions. That may bode well for the future.