Tanveer Ahmed who killed Asad Shah, a Glasgow shopkeeper with a wonderfully ecumenical faith, stated that he did so because his victim was “insulting the Prophet, peace upon him.” This routine prayer of peace for Mohammed and war against anyone who dares to interpret his teaching differently from the speaker, should be of great concern to all religious people, because it articulates a kind of fundamentalism that has besmirched Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and even Buddhism, as well as Islam. Islamic fundamentalism is most similar to the Christian variety in that both rest on complete allegiance to the text of a holy book, which however requires interpretation as any book must. The fundamentalist interpretations of the Noble Qur’an and the Bible are similar in that they are partial, stupid, and utterly authoritarian.
They are partial because they prioritise some parts of the holy book as opposed to others. In the case of Islam, this means prioritising the anger of Allah to the exclusion of his compassion and his mercy, which in turn leads to an unbalanced interpretation of texts about Jihad. In the case of Christianity it means ignoring most of the teaching and example of Jesus.
They are stupid, in that they reject the use of human reason. All arguments must bow to the authoritative word of the holy text. All facts must be ignored if they seem to contradict the holy text. All people must be seen not as they are, but as they are defined in the holy text. All of this involves a complete abandonment of human intelligence and a disciplined commitment to stupidity.
They are authoritarian in that all attempts at different interpretations of the holy text have to be forbidden; only the one, official interpretation, disguised as the literal meaning of the text, is permitted, on pain of expulsion from the religious community, or perhaps, death at its hands.
An open, intelligent, democratic Glaswegian Muslim was killed by a partial, stupid, authoritarian Muslim because he had dared to question the fundamentalist interpretation of his faith. My own experience of hate mail received in the wake of my public support of gay clergy, in which the vilest sexual abuse and threats of extreme violence were often signed,”A CHRISTIAN” taught me that the name of Jesus does not exclude fundamentalist hatred.
It is an urgent task, I think, for all genuine belivers in all religions to call time on all fundamentalisms. Secular societies are responsible for many evils but this one is the responsibility of religion. But how should we tackle it?
The first necessity is to identify it, and for that purpose I would like to offer to the world a cultural product of my native Glasgow: the bampot test. I should explain that “bampot” is a Scots term for a “foolish, worthless fellow,” otherwise called an “eedjit” or “nutter”. The chief characteristic of a fundamentalist bampot is his hatred of facts, especially those that might get in the way of his convictions. So, if you are in the business of electing a Minister, Imam, Rabbi or Guru, the first question prescribed by the bampot test is:
Is every word in our sacred writing equally and literally the word of God which must be believed and obeyed?
If the person answers ,”yes” he or she is a bampot, because he refuses to recognise the fact that all writings are written by fallible human beings.
If you have any doubts about the person’s bampotism, a second question can be asked:
How did the universe come into existence?
If the person tells a story of how it was raised from the deeps by the sacred turtle of the south seas, or fashioned from nothing by the Creator God in one week some four thousand years ago, he or she is a confirmed bampot, because he refuses to recognise the facts about the universe established by the sciences.
Once you have made a firm diagnosis of bampotism, you should refuse to allow the sick person to exercise any authority on your religious community, while gently offering him or her free access to the debampotification course which I have devised and can deliver, under the title:
THE FACTS ARE FRIENDLY; GOD IS IN THE FACTS.
Once fundamentalists are refused employment and deprived of influence over decent believers, that is, once this illness has ceased to confer power, prestige or wealth, it may cease to be endemic to religious communities.
Christian readers may have noticed that my definition of fundamentalism applies mainly to the Reformed Churches with their reverence for the scriptures, while Roman Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches may seem to escape these strictures. Far from it. It’s just that in these cases the place of the Bible is taken by the Ruling Hierarchy of the churches. A Catholic who thinks that the Pope and the Bishops of his church are infallible is just as much a fundamentalist as any bible-basher from Bathgate. He or she is suffering from a bad case of Sancta Ecclesia Bampotissima and requires urgent treatment.
Yes, and as I broaden my thinking on this matter is strikes me that of course there are politicians who cannot see beyond their ideology, celebrities who cannot think beyond the latest fashion, scientists who are unable to contemplate anything that is not susceptible to scientific proof – yes all of these may also be caused by virulent strains of the bampot virus, but as a religious person I have to put my own house in order before I venture outside. As a mere semi-retired Christian minister I cannot be responsible for the near universal bampotoscopy that is required.