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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
"Ballard, Terry Prof." <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Dec 2004 13:58:17 -0500
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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I'm not sure what went wrong, but let's try again with the message I
meant to send:

I think there is a good possibility that modern Americans have debased
the term "Fundamentalism." When I was a teenager I joined the Southern
Baptist Church, and was encouraged to read the entire New Testament. It
didn't take long for me to notice huge differences between what I was
reading and the religion that was coming down from the pulpit every
Sunday, which was dominated by a generous helping of Southern U.S.
cultural attitudes, and a carefully selected helping of a few Biblical
verses that furthered their agenda. This (and my career as a Baptist)
culminated in an informal survey one Sunday - the question was posed:
"How many of you would walk out of the church if a black family walked
in?" More than half of the people raised their hands. Even though you'd
be hard pressed to find a justification for this in the Bible, people
like this are labelled "Fundamentalists."

If one were truly a fundamentalist, one might emulate the culture and
attitudes of the Christians in the first few centuries. This is
documented in a book that Twain knew very well - "The History of
European Morals" by WIlliam Lecky (Paine wrote that Twain's copy had
many notes in the margins). Lecky describes a society where Christians
must perform substantial penance if they go off to war because it
violates the Christian ban on killing. This may seem somewhat shocking
in an era when Christians in airplanes will drop a 500 pound bomb in a
residential neighborhood because they have reliable intelligence that
Saddam Hussein was hiding out there (he wasn't). Looking out at America,
I don't see much evidence of these true fundamentalists, but maybe I'm
not looking hard enough.

Let's have Mark Twain weigh in on this in a quote from the Mysterious

"They all did their best--to kill being the chiefest ambition of the
human race and the earliest incident in its history-- but only the
Christian civilization has scored a triumph to be proud of. Two or three
centuries from now it will be recognized that all the competent killers
are Christians; then the pagan world will go to school to the
Christian--not to acquire his religion, but his guns."

     ^   The world is suffering from fundamentalism, and from people
scriptures literally and not figuratively.  Letters from Earth can speak
to this, but more likely, it could caused the outbreak of WWIII, by
reaction to the work from the ranks of fundamentalists world around.
Salmon Rushdie suffered banishment from his satirizing of the Koran, in
his book Satanic Verses, because of a bounty put on his head by the
followers of Khomeini, who condemned the book as blasphemy against Islam
& Mohammad.  And if MT were alive today, he would probably suffer a
similar fate from the likes of fundamentalists world around because of
Letters from Earth.

Terry Ballard
Quinnipiac University