Why Are They So Rabid?

Reader Evelina Anville says a propos of my post on Girl Scouts and their vilification by the Catholic Church:

On the one hand, the Catholic Church is one of the major churches in the US (and the world); and, on the other hand, Girl Scouts is so wholesome and so very “establishment.” So it’s not like some fringe church is rejecting a group of radical feminists. It’s a major church with a great deal of clout rejecting a mainstream group (and, from what I understand,continuing to support the Boy Scouts.) So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am worried what this means in terms of gender and sexual politics when a major Church brands a group that encourages cookie-selling, arts and crafts and camping, as radical or extreme. I agree that it’s the Catholic Church’s right and that the Church shouldn’t be forced to recognize the Girl Scouts or anything. Still, I find the entire thing disturbing.

I agree completely that the Church’s attack on the Girl Scouts is completely out of proportion but I have a different view of what this means. I find that the rejection of such an – as Evelina says – wholesome group and such a vicious backlash against a very non-threatening organization for children signals complete and utter desperation on the Church’s side. They are losing parishioners left and right. There is one scandal after another, they are being slowly squeezed out of contemporary reality, so they flail around like a drowning person.

This is precisely why the Fundamentalists are trying to pass all of these outrageously barbaric measures against contraception and abortion. This is why the Republican primaries have been so bizarre. The Fundamentalist, ultra-religious brand of Conservatism is dying out. These are their final moments, and they know it extremely well. This is the very last opportunity they have to signal their presence. They are so rabid because they are scared. I have a feeling that even among Conservatives there is a growing dissatisfaction with how the Conservative movement has been overrun with shrill religious fanatics, which does great damage to the rational, intelligent Conservatism.

I believe that soon the prolonged agony of fanatisicm will be over. Religious people will give up on trying to make the secular society follow their rules and bow down to their beliefs because very very soon this will become completely untenable. And then, finally, the reasonable, non-fanatical representatives of Conservatism will recover their movement and we will start seeing productive interactions between Liberals and Conservatives.

As stressful and depressing as it is to observe the current developments in the war against secularism, feminism, human rights and choice, the reality that they obscure is very hopeful and positive. The more rabid the fanatics get, the greater is the desperation that they are communicating by their acts.

16 thoughts on “Why Are They So Rabid?

  1. That makes me feel better. I’ve been quite depressed at the s**tstorm of fanatical religious blathering, misogyny, and racism that seems to have taken over the conservative side of things.

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    1. It depresses me, too, so whenever I hear of a new development, I imagine the diseased, ugly body of fanaticism wriggling in the throes of agony on its death bed.

      The hatred of fanatics has made me pompous. 🙂

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  2. Well other than the fact that I realize that I need to proofread better, I am very flattered by this post. 🙂 Overall, I tend to get a bit pessimistic about this kind of thing. So it’s good to read your take on it. I hope you are right!

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  3. Don’t make the mistake of expecting the USA to go the way of most European countries, where regular churchgoers are uncommon.

    Fundamentalism is a defense against the emotional stresses of modern life. For many men and women, the changing cultural expectations towards more equal division of labor are hard to navigate. Fundamentalism supports the old gender relationship by providing rules about family structure, hierarchy, dress, dating and marriage.

    Highly mobile USAans also have to create some social structures, some identity, that doesn’t depend solely on physical neighborhoods. Churches are social nucleation points. Many of the megachurches provide singles groups, teen groups, interest clubs (motorcyclists for God), exercise facilities, Starbucks inside the church complex.

    Conservative dissatisfaction with the Religious Right can be summed up as: Get back in your place as low-level campaign workers and voters. The real policy decisions for this party are to be made by the fiscal and commercial side of the party, and they aren’t willing to lose elections and thus dollars.

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    1. “Don’t make the mistake of expecting the USA to go the way of most European countries, where regular churchgoers are uncommon.”

      – They used to be extremely common in Europe. Spain, for example, went from a fascist Catholic dictatorship that was a lot more oppressive and powerful than religion currently is in the US to a state of complete popular indifference to religion and an instant weakening of religious institutions in an extremely short period of time after the death of Franco.

      “Fundamentalism is a defense against the emotional stresses of modern life. For many men and women, the changing cultural expectations towards more equal division of labor are hard to navigate. Fundamentalism supports the old gender relationship by providing rules about family structure, hierarchy, dress, dating and marriage.”

      – You are absolutely right. But people who are traumatized by modernity will be getting fewer and fewer.

      “Highly mobile USAans also have to create some social structures, some identity, that doesn’t depend solely on physical neighborhoods. Churches are social nucleation points. Many of the megachurches provide singles groups, teen groups, interest clubs (motorcyclists for God), exercise facilities, Starbucks inside the church complex.”

      – Again, you are absolutely right. But there is an extremely powerful alternative nowadays: the Internet. I bring my community of blog readers with me wherever I go. They are right in my pocket on my cell phone when I travel. 🙂 Who needs church when you have something like that?

      What a great comment, this one. Maybe I should start awarding prizes for the comment of the week. (I mean NancyP’s comment, not my own 🙂 ).

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    2. I don’t know about “USAans,” whatever those are, but Americans who belong to fundamentalist churches aren’t all one monolithic block of people that you can categorize like that. For example, various evangelical denominations have made large inroads into the Hispanic population both in the United States and in other countries in Central and South America. These Protestant movements threaten the Catholic Church a lot more than the Girl Scouts do. The reasons why Hispanics are turning away from the Catholic Church are many and various, but I’ve met former Catholics who went fundie and it was always to do with how they felt the Catholic Church kept them separated from God. It had nothing to do with structure or supporting “old gender relationships” — these former Catholics were women who owned their own businesses — or “identity” or any of those things. Everyone I have spoken to who was a member of a fundamentalist Christian church, whatever they had been before, told me it was to get closer to God and to save their souls. Straightening out problems in their lives, yeah, that was part of it, but it was what was supposed to flow from getting right from God — it wasn’t the other way around, behave nice and maybe God will be your friend.

      Of course, I haven’t spoken to every fundie on Earth, but I do have the internet at my fingertips and I can read their testimonies, as well as those of Catholics who feel that belonging to their church and following its ways *is* getting them closer to God. My point is the problem isn’t so much religion or religious people as it is people who a) are hypocrites (and Jesus himself warned against such so it isn’t like this is a big surprise), b) ignorant of their own religion’s rules (such as, that woman who was rude to the Girl Scout selling cookies — again, Jesus told his followers not to do stuff like that), and/or c) have simply lost perspective.

      I’ll just end this with reminding everyone I’m not at all religious, but stereotypes suck, and there’s no excuse for them in this day and age when so many people are on the internet so we don’t have to depend on cultural myths and tropes any more.

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      1. “Of course, I haven’t spoken to every fundie on Earth, but I do have the internet at my fingertips and I can read their testimonies, as well as those of Catholics who feel that belonging to their church and following its ways *is* getting them closer to God.”

        – Of course, nobody wakes up and tells themselves, “Today I will be a hateful fanatic and I will promote the enslavement of women and plunge the country into the depths of barbarity.” A person who isn’t suffering from a severe mental illness would not be able to live with this explanation for their behavior. I have no doubt that both Bush and Santorum, for example, are completely sincere in their belief that they are trying to get closer to God with their actions. The greatest capacity of human beings is the one to rationalize and prettify horrible actions they commit. This is why I don’t trust any of such testimonies.

        I want to remind everybody that I am religious and this is one of the reasons why I hate religious fanatics of all kinds.

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      2. I wasn’t talking about religious fanatics — I was basically addressing NancyP’s generalizations about people who belong to fundamentalist churches. By the way, Bush isn’t a fundamentalist — he belongs to the United Methodist Church, which is not a fundamentalist denomination, though it is evangelical. The idea of Methodist fanatics amuses me because I was raised in the Methodist church. For years I thought that the purpose of being a good Christian was to be able to wear an itchy dress and white gloves in an un-airconditioned church on a hot Sunday without complaining. And Bush was raised in the Episcopal Church, which is really not the place to find raving religious fanatics. I had a best friend in elementary school whose father was an Episcopal priest. He was great fun and swore like a truck driver.

        I think the whole thing with Bush and Christianity was in part his doing, because when he decided to stop drinking, as a lot of Christians do, he upped the worship part of his life. And also ever since Jimmy Carter was president religion has become “fashionable.” We didn’t used to care very much what religion our presidents were. Then Carter came along, and at about the same time religion on tv went big time. Now we can’t turn around without getting hit in the face with some yapping about the president’s religion. And I don’t really blame Carter or Christians — I blame the news media, who glommed onto this big time when before the religion column was usually a little entry in a back page of the newspapers next to recipes and other housewife stuff.

        Anyway, religious fanatics everywhere are to be denounced, but that doesn’t mean people who tell you they joined a certain church to get closer to God are lying or delusional and really wanted to just be mean and crazy. I put fanatics under my “c” category — they have lost perspective, or perhaps never had it. It doesn’t have to be a religion — I’ve known some very fanatical atheists.

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    3. Don’t make the mistake of expecting the USA to go the way of most European countries, where regular churchgoers are uncommon.

      OK, but those who lecture American progressives on the perils of Euro-envy should also be careful what they wish for. A lot of us (a veritable plethora of us) might be conservative if religious conservatism weren’t part of political conservatism (or political liberalism, as it’s called in Europe). Seriously. But religious conservatives as low-level campaign workers and voters for the right still reflects badly on the right, from where I sit. It’s unfair, but in politics, you’re judged not just by the company you keep, but also by the company that keeps you.

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    1. Good article. Thank you, Evelina!

      The following part is the best: “A 10-year-old girl offering to sell cookies in Reston around midday on Jan. 14 was stunned and upset when an adult neighbor responded by denouncing abortion. “When the woman answered the door, she looked at my daughter and said, ‘We don’t support Girl Scouts because they support abortion, which kills babies,’ ” recalled Kim Douglas, who’s been a troop leader as well as a Scout parent for four years.”

      These people are SO doomed. This little girl will grow up and forever remember idiots who, instead of buying cookies, ranted at her about abortion.

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  4. I wish I could be as optimistic as you… I have a deep-seated belief in human stupidity and malice. I fear that fanaticism of all stripes will only get worse (it always gets exacerbated by financial crises, as history teaches us) and we will lose a lot of the social advances gained over the past several decades.

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  5. Looks like the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts have become proxies in the culture war. Obviously both organizations brought it on themselves, but that’s not a bad thing if they did it for conscientious reasons. I’m no pacifist when it comes to culture wars, and am definitely siding with the girls.

    In the chocolate wars (i.e. fundraising via intense salescrittership), my allegiances might be otherwise, but not by much.

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