Here in the UK, we’re often inclined to think that Christian Fundamentalism is something which happens in the US, whereas the Church in this country is all tea and cake with the woolly-minded but good natured vicar. That stereotype is not without foundation, but the attitudes of many Christians in this country are changing.
While the UK has an established religion, the Church of England, an attitude of tolerance has been prevalent for some time and even the now abolished blasphemy law has not been used since 1925. The taboo among most people in Britain seems to be to express any strong opinions on religion one way of the other. Lately however, I think opinions are polarising.
I recently spotted this Channel 4, Dispatches documentary on Christian Fundamentalism in the UK via The T.R.A.S.H. BIN website. The programme can be found in several sections on the T.R.A.S.H. website. It makes quite alarming viewing. For the most part, the interviewer allows the people he’s recording to speak for themselves and they do so eagerly. Only when he questions their motives and beliefs more deeply do they start to stammer, turn off their microphones or ask that the camera be stopped.
I’m sure the moderate, reasonable UK Christians I tend to meet will protest that they don’t think like this and that these bigots and that anyone so full of hatred has totally misunderstood the Bible. But the fundamentalists would probably claim the opposite.
From a humanistic perspective it’s easy to choose between these two outlooks. I’d rather have Rowan Williams living next door to me than any of the Christians featured. A moderate and tolerant society is obviously better for everyone to live in. However, if you limit yourself to theological and Biblical reasoning it’s hard to give any good reasons to choose one attitude over the other. The Bible contains plenty of hatred and intolerance which is less often quoted than “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Take for example, what Deutronomy 13 (KJV) has to say about prophets who suggest worshipping other gods:
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death;
Before you cry “context”, please read the rest of the chapter.
So I can see where the Fundamentalists get their inspiration and their Biblical beliefs should serve as an example of why the Bible is not much use as a moral guide. No more so than any other anachronistic work of fiction, anyway.