The Problem

Excerpts from an interview with Truthdig columnist and author Chris Hedges in The Sun Magazine (Dec. 2008), “Moral Combat: Chris Hedges on War, Faith, and Fundamentalism."

I Don't Believe in Athiests Fundamentalism can be found within either a secular or a religious framework. It’s a binary worldview that divides the world into us and them, good and evil, right and wrong. It’s a belief that you and those who subscribe to your ideology have found the absolute truth, which must be accepted by everyone, and those who won’t accept it must be silenced or eradicated. Fundamentalism is an abdication of our moral responsibility to make difficult decisions, because within a fundamentalist movement people are told what to do. They don’t believe in a plurality of truths or ways of being. Fundamentalism is anti-intellectual, because it discourages investigation of other cultures, histories, and belief systems.

...Fundamentalism is a form of tribalism. There’s a great comfort in it, because it discourages self-criticism and self-reflection. Retreating into tribal groups is a way to revert to a childlike state of security, rather than live as an adult and struggle with ambiguity.

...I think that those who remain open to other realities must always cope with anxiety. That is the pain of being fully human. The only other choice is to live in an authoritarian system — either religious or secular — where moral choice is made for you, because you are told what is moral and what is immoral.

...Communism, fascism, religious fanaticism, neocon utopianism in Iraq — there are all sorts of ideologies that can motivate people to kill. Religion is just one. Like political ideologies, theological systems are a human creation. God is a human concept, a flawed attempt by human beings to acknowledge, cope with, and explain the infinite, which is the only reality.

...Like art, [religion] is an attempt at wisdom, which doesn’t come from knowledge. You can memorize as many sutras, verses, and prayers as you want, but it will never make you wise. Religion and art are both ways of grappling with those non-rational forces of love, beauty, truth, grief, and meaning that make one a whole individual. The problem is not religion. The problem is the human heart. And the new atheists don’t get that. People will always find reasons to act inhumanely, whether it’s religion, or nationalism, or “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” or the workers’ paradise.