Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fundamentalism's Unwritten Rules

Stuff Fundies Like recently shared a meme about unwritten rules in fundamentalism, which hit the nail on the head. Among Protestant fundamentalists, at least, unwritten rules abound for distinguishing the righteous from the unrighteous.

More times that I can count, fundamentalists assured me that all I had to do in order to be saved was to accept Jesus as my personal savior. They conveniently left out the fine print, which is required for believers to be considered truly saved in their camp. When one observes fundamentalists, the fine print quickly comes into focus:

(1) Thou shall tithe AT LEAST 10% of ones' gross income to the church, regardless of whether one is struggling with poverty, and regardless of whether the church is transparent about its finances.

(2) Thou shall adopt an anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood stance, no matter how much evidence shows that reproductive health services help women.

(3) Thou shall adopt an anti-LGBTQ stance and support efforts to deny rights to the LGBTQ community.

(4) Thou shall resist church-state separation, no matter how fair or reasonable the wall of separation.

(5) Thou shall vote Republican, no matter how disastrous or unreasonable their policies.

(6) Thou shall support patriarchy. If female, thou shall submit to one's husband, no matter how foolish, selfish, or abusive his behavior. If male, thou shall lord over one's wife as a parent lords over a child. If bitterness and passive-aggression seep into one's marriage, thou shall not blame this patriarchal arrangement.

(7) Thou shall marry and have children, regardless of whether one wants to or can afford to do so.

(8) Thou shall defer to the pastor in all things.

(9) Thou shall circle the wagons around any Christian authority figure accused of illegal or unethical behavior, no matter how much suffering this inflicts on his victims.

(10) Thou shall adopt an inerrant interpretation of the Bible, no matter how abhorrent or antediluvian some of its passages may be. Thou shall ignore the passages that are incompatible with 21st century American life.

(11) Thou shall suppress one's natural feelings and faculties, including but not limited to doubt, critical thinking, sense of fairness, sexual desire, and anger.

(12) Thou shall adopt new fundamentalist language, including thought-terminating cliches and weasel words. Use of the Lord's name in vain, profanity, or the words "luck" or "magic" are grave sins deserving furious condemnation.

(13) If female, thou shall adopt arbitrary modesty standards, lest one be blamed for leading men astray. Thou shall cover up from head to toe and refrain from wearing pants.

(14) Thou shall ostracize those who will not join you. Thou shall fear and hate anyone outside of the fundamentalist bubble, thinly veiling one's disdain in language of "love". Thou shall act catty and passive-aggressive toward non-believers, apostates, and the "wrong" types of Christians if they refuse to join you.

(15) Thou shall despise nuance. Thou shall divide reality into black-and-white categories (saved vs. unsaved, Christians vs. "the world", masculine vs. feminine) and refuse to countenance shades of gray.

(16) Thou shall not respect the boundaries of others, especially when proselytizing.

(17) If Charismatic or Apostolic, thou shall speak in tongues, pray loudly and ostentatiously, and spout vague prophesies, lest the others question your faith.

I have no patience for high-pressure sales pitches that leave out the fine print. If fundamentalist Christians are going to proselytize, they should at least be honest about these unwritten rules of their faith.


  1. If one thinks of religion as a "point of view" that someone is trying to convince you of, all this looks merely arbitrary and unreasonable, and the fact that they are not upfront about it seems dishonest. If you accept religion as a mental parasite which, like biological parasites, has been honed over a long period of adaptation into exactly what it needs to be to (a) spread most effectively from brain to brain, and (b) establish firm control over those brains it has infected, then all these characteristics, and the fact that persons out to spread the virus try to lure you into a commitment without making the less attractive parts of the bargain apparent up front, make perfect sense. They are the traits of a tried and successful mind parasite.

    I really believe a religion is exactly that, a kind of non-material parasitic infection whose natural host organism is human brains and which has evolved to modify its hosts' behavior so as to spread the infection, as many parasites do.

    1. Infidel -- I think that, on some level, fundamentalists realize that all these unwritten rules appear onerous to outsiders, and so they leave them out when proselytizing. Then, when someone converts, they pile on the unwritten rules because the person is already committed. It's deeply dishonest, and they know that on some level.

      The mind-parasite theory sounds like Dawkin's idea of religion as a mind-virus. I confess, it's hard to argue against it when I see how fundamentalists behave.

    2. @Infidel753: Very well said, it is certainly parasitic and dishonest. I think the only reason they do this is that they know there is no way they would get people into the churches if they did not lie about the downright immoral and irrational positions they take.

      @Ahab: This list is better than the big ten and more relevant. :p

    3. This is an excellent list and so, so true! I'm so glad those days are in the past for me and fading in my memory. Life is so much freer and more pleasant with a non-fundamentalist mindset.

    4. Christian -- It's also the one that most fundamentalist Christians actually obey, whether they admit it or not.

      Michelle -- Fundamentalism is suffocating. When you escaped from it, you opened yourself up to a full, happy life.

  2. Yes, this business about the "fine print" of fundamentalism is very true, I've found. It certainly reveals the absurdity of one of the premises of Pascal's Wager ie that believing in God, just to be on the safe side, has no costs associated with it.

    Stuff Fundies Like is a bit of a funny site, I've found. While I agree with a lot of the stuff I've seen on it, a lot of the commenters still seem to be stuck in a rather fundamentalist mindset (at least, that was the case when I used to read the blog religiously (heh), about four years ago now). For example, I remember in one post, the blogger was (rightly) criticizing one of those vocal proselytizers who go around with megaphones and big signs saying that pretty much everyone except them is bound for hell, and one of the regular commenters expressing the repugnant view that "we all deserve hell". It made me wonder what their issue with the preacher condemned in the OP was - that they were at least honest about the repellent beliefs they held, and didn't attempt to sugarcoat them with flowery language?

    1. Zosimus -- Pascal's Wager is ridiculous, and I'm surprised that evangelicals still use the wager as a proselytization tool when they should know better.

      I think the most extreme fundamentalists make their brethren uncomfortable because they don't sugar-coat their beliefs. They give the show away.


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