Of Apes and Angels:Myth, Morality and Fundamentalism
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
All theories attempting to explain the rise of fundamentalism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries agree that fundamentalism is a problematic and threatening response to a problematic and threatening modernity. This contention can be supported, inasmuch as fundamentalists do indeed seem very much at home in a technological world. However, how much can be extrapolated from this familiarity is highly debatable. To this end, it is vital for any discussion of fundamentalism to first attempt to achieve a clear-eyed view of the modern world.
Such a view, at least that which is achievable, seems to suggest that the modern world is not, in fact, one of heretofore unimaginable horror. The recently uncovered scale of the genocide committed on the native peoples of the Caribbean and both hemispheres of the New World between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example, demonstrates that genocide is not, in any sense, a product of modern ways of thought or even the industrialization of slaughter. Likewise, most of the examples used to prove the contention of a uniquely traumatic modernity, for example, the rise of racism or the Holocaust, are, when considered closely, far less novel and idiosyncratically modern than often considered.
Such a re-evaluation inevitably raises questions about culture, tradition, relativity, universalism, and not least morality, particularly the question of what morality is, where it comes from, and what if any role, does religion play in the formation of morals and ethics. This inevitably feeds back into the question of fundamentalism, most notably in the question of whether the fallen, sinful world against which fundamentalists so often proclaim themselves to be rebelling, is in fact, the world in which we live, or a Manichean world of their own imagining, invented to justify their rebellion.