Threat of Fundamentalism (All Varieties)

According to Calvin R. Petersen, retired psychologist living in SLC, fundamentalism of all varieties (including conservative Mormonism) presents a great danger (sltrib, 25 Feb 2012):

Fundamentalism in all its permutations is a reactionary response to modernity and rapid social change.  Believers are God’s elect, restoring past virtues to a world sliding toward apocalypse in sin and error.  Literal, absolute truth defines a political agenda that brooks no compromise.  Knowledge and critical thinking are replaced by dogma, stereotypes and conspiracy theories.  More than an affiliation, it is a contagious pathology of thought.

Petersen goes on to discuss the impact of fundamentalism on science.

The destructive impact . . . [is] evidenced by greater organized opposition to teaching evolution in public schools.  Remember, this is the beginning of the 21st century, not the 20th.  Consistently, American belief in evolution (at about 39 percent) is lower than in every European nation except Turkey.

Peterson notes, with some irony, that:

. . . at church-affiliated universities, the theory is now a cornerstone of the life sciences, including at BYU, SMU, TCU, Baylor and Notre Dame. . .

Mormons are not exempt from biblical literalism and anti-science politics.  It is estimated that less than half of the Mormon population believes in the theory of organic evolution.  If the Church is to stay relevent in the 21st century, this situation needs to turn around.

On a similar note, Sunstone (December 2011) quotes an Elder Stephen L. Richards’ April 1932 General Conference address:

I believe it to be a generally accepted position in our church that no man’s standing is affected by the views which he may honestly hold with reference to the beginning of man’s life on the earth and the organization of the universe, or the processes employed in the working of the miracles of the Bible. . . .

I have said these things because I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear cigarettes, cards, and other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion.  Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past. . .

So aparently things have changed little since 1932.

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