Fundamentalism may be a good thing
About twenty years ago, there was a movement in Computer Science to try to apply a mathematical concept known as Fuzzy Set Membership, or in more common parlance, Fuzzy Logic. It stemmed from the fact that while computers are really good at regular boolean logic, they are terrible at situations where there is a gray area. For example, you tell a computer, if the temperature reaches 75 degrees, turn off the heater. If the temperature reaches 65 degrees, turn on the heater. But if you tell the computer, when the temperature gets too cold turn on the heat, and vice versa, they are not able to interpret this simple rule that even a child could follow.
Something analogous happened to our religion. I don't know how to tease it out, but somewhere we have lost the ability to apply common sense. G-d stopped talking to us a while back, so we don't know exactly how we should live our lives. If you go back to the sources, to the first time when people tried to figure it out, to the Tannaim of old, you will see it in their conversations, the disagreements, the arguments, the conflicting opinions, the desparate attempts to recollect forgotten traditions.
The concept of a fence around the Torah makes sense. As soon as one starts living a Halachic lifestyle, one begins to see the wisdom of this approach. However, like anything else, it can be taken to to level of absurdity. The absurdity develops gradually, accreting over the centuries, and exarcerbated by the fact that at each opportunity to get back to the core, we burden ourselves more. At some point, we need to be able to trust ourselves to say that we know that as much as we are not sure of exactly what G-d wants us to do, it probably isn't THIS.
A (now seemingly defunct blog Meanderations) blew my mind when the young woman(?) writing the blog turned off comments lest she be unwittingly engaged in conversations with men. Once again, at some level there is something to the fact that frivolous conversations between members of the opposite sex can lead to undesirable outcomes (whoa, I've turned into a Victorian schoolmarm), but is it really necessary to avoid all conversation so as to not risk doing something immoral? Do we not have the ability to control ourselves and use sound judgement?
On another blog, Tobie mentions the fact the the purpose of the Seder, to tell the story, is these days so masked that it is almost impossible to discern.
So, oftentimes, the corner of the JBlogosphere that I frequent bashes the so called fundamentalists. But I would argue that they are not fundamentalists in many respects. The true fundmentalists would not be afraid to remove the crud that has grown on our beloved Judaism over the centuries and allow the beauty to sparkle and shine once again.