The current wave of revelations concerning child abuse by Catholic priests and the subsequent cover-ups by the Church hierarchy is, predictably, turning into a field day for atheists.


When we believe something in a moderate, as opposed to a fundamentalist, way, we tend to think of it as subject to contestation, to correction by further or better knowledge, to discussion and interpretation. When we believe something in a fundamentalist way, in contrast, we think of it as ultimate and unchanging, never subject to further interpretation or discussion.


José María asked: Do "fundamentalism" and "moderation" take on the same "connotations" (to use your word) when the "doctrinaire faithful" are seen as existing within a so-called "pre-political" realm (they are thus gathered as an "ecclesia" proper) as they do when the "state" makes its appearance as "the" overarching and all-encompassing form of community?


Jonathan Mayhew's response to my post last week challenged me to be more specific about how ways of believing can be different, as opposed to merely being cases of believing different propositions. He argued that without such evidence, the new atheist contention that moderates ultimately aid and abet fundamentalists remains strong.


A key issue in the debate around atheism concerns what happens at a cognitive level when we say we believe something.


Used to describe a particular variant of religious belief, the concept of fundamentalism has its origins in relatively recent US Protestantism, where it was positively connoted by those who identified as fundamentalist in reaction to liberal theology and biblical criticism.


An uncertain faith is the title of the manuscript I am currently working on. It refers to an alternate definition of faith to that used by atheists to dismiss religious believers, namely, belief without evidence.


William Egginton's picture
William Egginton
William Egginton is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches on Spanish and Latin American literature, literary theory, and the relation between literature and philosophy. He is the author of How the World Became a Stage (2003), Perversity and Ethics (2006), A Wrinkle in History (2007), The Philosopher's Desire (2007), The Theater of Truth (2010), and In Defense of Religious Moderation (2011). He is also co-editor with Mike Sandbothe of The Pragmatic Turn in Philosophy (2004), translator of Lisa Block de Behar's Borges, the Passion of an Endless Quotation (2003, 2nd edition 2014), and co-editor with David E. Johnson of Thinking With Borges (2009). His most recent book is The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered In the Modern World (2016).