man reading a book

Is Religious Fundamentalism Merely A Failure to Read Well?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

man reading a bookAs someone raised in the Roman Catholic tradition and educated by Jesuits, I have found in my exposure to the Bible to be invaluable in my career as a book critic and literary journalist. The Bible taught me about how to construct a story, about the use of analogy and metaphor, as well as — yes — literary interpretation.

Looking at the Bible as a literary text, one with a possibly unreliable narrator, rather than as the literal word of God, was an exercise imposed by the Jesuits, a religious order that believes doubt and faith go-hand-in-hand and are not mutually exclusive.

This approach, one of acknowledging doubt about the veracity of a narrator, be they God or a literary character from a Nabokovian-novel, I believe allows one to engage a text at a deeper level, to fully explore the nuances of what is being said — and, perhaps more fundamentally, not being said.

Looking at the world today, one can’t help but wonder if religious fundamentalism, that is the interpretation of core religious texts as the unassailable pronouncement of a deity, is at it’s heart a failure of reading, a failure to fully engage a text in its myriad colors and possible interpretations.

And we all know what kinds of horrors this failure to truly engage and interpret, this failure of empathy for the limitations of the written word and its ‘author’ have led to throughout history.

If we each engaged the texts of seemingly ‘opposing’ religions in a similar manner, we might even find ourselves standing on mutual spiritual ground.

Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.