Intellectual laziness thrives on ambiguous words. And “fundamentalism” may quite possibly be the plushest linguistic hammock on offer right now. Media outlets are notorious for trading on the word’s elastic and emotive qualities. This pattern holds even when the Boston Globe trots out a religious scholar of Harvey Cox’s stature to tell its readers “Why Fundamentalism Will Fail.”
Cox starts out arguing precisely enough, noting several of the “fundamental” tenets from which fundamentalism received its name. He deems the crown jewel of these to be the literal inerrancy of scripture, even in “matters of geology, paleontology and secular history.” Fair enough.
Fundamentalism, however, quickly overgrows this rather precise definition, becoming instead a shapeless placeholder in the culture wars. Read the rest of this entry »