They are suicidal murderers. They are close-minded homophobes. They are psychopathic terrorists, imperialist missionaries, treasonous Imams, and hypocritical pastors. They are stone age rabble, and backwards southern hill billies. They are fundamentalist Muslims and Christians. But who are they? Are the common characterizations made of them accurate? Or are these just baseless stereotypes? Are they inhumane monsters, incapable of rational thought and human empathy? Or do they have a legitimate fear of a growing and intractable secular machine? Do they have values? Do they value their own lives, their families’ lives? What is so cherished about their inherited cultural constructs, that makes them tepid to step into the secular machine? Why do they fear us? Can we have a conversation with them?
It is distressing that much of the conversation secular society has with the growing population of fundamentalist believers serves only to marginalize, and even segregate the fundamentalist out of secular society. Even in this very article, I am forced to use divisive “us vs. them” language to merely express these issues.
Take the example of Creationism. Creationists are regularly regarded as ignorant and deceptive liars. The trouble is, these characterizations are accurate to many of the leaders of this movement. They are liars. They do deceive the uneducated. They do use political schemes to infiltrate public education. And in some cases, are outright criminals (Kent Hovind). But look at the effect secular society creates by invocating the associative fallacy to the rank and file lay Creationists. How can the lay Creationist even desire conversation with a secular society that regards him as untermensch? Perhaps the only way to assuage the fundamentalists’ fear of us, is to dissipate our own fear of them, and finally begin to try to converse with them.