Hubris is always the downfall of the villain in Disney cartoons and B-movies. You know: the bad guy could get away with his life if he’d just let the hero save him at the precipice, but he won’t let go of the Holy Grail in order to grab the hero’s hand and escape the chasm of terror. Pride goeth before the fall. So down he goes. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaa….
But is hubris also a possible route to downfall in the real world? Amanda Marcotte thinks so. She writes a pretty long piece that, restated, makes the following argument, sort of:
1. Religious fundamentalists have gotten cocky and — ditching a live-and-let-live standard, the polite strategic agreement between different religious belief systems that it will be deemed rude (offensive, even!) to question the veracity of any religious belief system — have been simultaneously attacking the secular church-state system and other religions head-on:
a) demanding that everybody talk about Christmas and nobody talk about any other December holidays;
b) demanding that images, ideas and expressions offensive to their fundamentalist sensibility be censored;
c) demanding that governments install monuments to Christianity on federal property;
d) demanding that schools ditch teaching of evolution and teach a creationism that fits with Christianity instead.
2. However, the response of religious fundamentalists to criticisms of their attempts to dominate American politics, economy and society is to appeal to the very standard they’ve ditched. “Oh, How Rude,” they bleat, “we are offended that you would Bash our religion! Oh, the Offense! Ouchie, we bleed! Stop hitting Baby Jesus!” They depend on people to habitually cling to the Question Not Religious Belief agreement, to habitually sense that yes, it is wrong to criticize fundamentalists because they’re religious, and you Just Don’t Critique Religion.
3. Of course, this is hugely hypocritical, and because people are not complete sheep-like morons, they notice the glaring inconsistency after the fifth time the fundamentalists have beaten them over the head with it. Once people notice the hypocrisy, they respond to the hypocrisy by trying to resolve it in one of two ways. One response is to call fundamentalists rude for being pushy about their own religious standards. Another response is to question why it is that you Just Don’t Critique Religious Belief, since clearly the fundamentalists are doing just that. Maybe it is OK to question religious belief. In fact, maybe it’s a good idea!
4. As a result of the fundamentalists’ hubris, more and more people are deciding that it is an OK thing, and maybe even a good thing, and maybe even a necessary thing, to question and critique religious beliefs — to subject them to critique in the way Americans already subject all other ideas not called “religious” to critique.
5. Thanks to the fundamentalists’ hubris, look for more and more Americans to reject religion over the decades to come.
It’s an interesting idea, and it’s worthwhile to read Marcotte’s expression of it.