Silver-level articleFundamentalism

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Fundamentalists are to Christianity what paint-by-numbers is to art.
—Robin Tyler

Fundamentalism is a movement to recapture an ideological "purity" within a religion, that supposedly has been lost by mainstream adherents of the religion at large. Fundamentalists often assert the primacy of their own idiosyncratic interpretation of religious texts over centuries of acquired knowledge and practice. This puts them at odds not only with the secular world and members of other religions, but also with their less zealous brethren.

Though the term has been applied to anyone within any religion desiring to go back to the so-called fundamentals of the religion, the term originally applied to a more formal movement within Protestant Christianity in the 1920s that emphasized a literal reading of the Bible and a more militant approach to Christianity. The formal movement (often represented with a capital F) ended in the mid 1930s, but the ideas about literalism, inerrancy, and exceptionalism, have permeated many different denominations within Christianity, giving rise to local churches within the larger body, who self-identify as "fundamental churches."

Fundamentalists are sometimes referred to pejoratively as "fundies."

Fundamentalist Christian groups can be pentecostal and/or otherwise pietistic (doctrinally focused on one's personal relationship with God).

Contents

[edit] Introduction

Fundamentalist rhetoric is frequently apocalyptic in order to provide their crusade with a driving theological imperative. Typically: the world has become decadent and corrupt; their co-religionists have become tainted by it; and [insert deity of choice] is but a short time away from unleashing its loving Wrath (of DOOM!) upon the whole sorry mess. Only those who attain their stipulated degree of "purity" will be saved. In more extreme cases, only the 'elect', or those chosen before birth for salvation, have the opportunity for salvation, and those less fortunate, no matter how saintly, are doomed to damnation by a fickle and capricious deity.

Although such rhetoric may serve to recruit wavering co-religionists to the cause, it also serves as a natural limiting factor on how successful fundamentalist thought can be outside of these circles. Put simply, the majority of people respond very poorly to such a relentlessly negative message. That they then champion 1000+ year old texts over the explanatory width and depth of modern science leaves the widespread acceptance of fundamentalist thought utterly hamstrung. After said date of apocalyptic fury, you'd expect for there to be apologies to those who believed. Instead, however, a new date is often set. This can get boring and lead to de-conversions after the fifth time someone has given away all their worldly goods in anticipation of the apocalypse. Thus fundamentalism is often doing harm to its own cause.

[edit] Etymology

The name "fundamentalism" is derived from the The Fundamentals, a series of pamphlets published between 1910 and 1915. Fundament (the foundation or basis of something) + al; Middle English (also denoting the base of a building, or the founding of a building or institution), from Old French fondement, from Latin fundamentum, from fundare, "to found."[1] In fact, fundament shares a root with foundation, thus meaning "base," "underpinning," or "support." However, it also has a connotation of "bottom," sharing the same informal meaning, which suggests an entirely different way to interpret "fundamental." Similarity to "fund a mental" is largely coincidental.

[edit] The five fundamentals of Christian fundamentalism

See the main article on this topic: Fundamentalist Christianity
  1. Infallibility of the Bible. The fundamentalist views the Bible as a divinely-inspired work authored by men acting under the direction of God, and as such is entirely error-free.
  2. Biblical literalism. Biblical literalism is an approach to Biblical interpretation; literalists hold that the meaning of the text is given by the plain meaning of the author(s). Only those passages which are clearly allegorical or symbolic ought to be understood as allegory or symbolism. That said, discerning which passages are clearly allegorical is exceedingly difficult.
  3. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Fundamentalists hold this against encroaching materialism which denies the supernatural.
  4. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Christ inserts his own perfect record, in place of ours, into the divine retributive mechanism.
  5. The bodily resurrection of Jesus and the imminent personal return of Jesus Christ. This fundamental is held in opposition to those who say Jesus appeared to Peter as a spirit, or that He will return only in a symbolic sense.

[edit] Jewish fundamentalism

The term Jewish fundamentalism may refer to militant religious Zionism, or Ashkenazi or Sephardic Haredi Judaism. It may also refer to the more extreme elements within the settler movement, like Meir Kahane[wp].

It has recently taken the form of attempting to get public buses segregated by gender, with women having to sit in the back of the bus. 2013 also saw the start of ethnic bus segregation in Israel, but that may not have to do with Jewish religious fundamentalism.

Sometimes, Jewish fundamentalism gets violent, such as pogroms against Palestinians by settlers in the West Bank (or Gaza, back in the day), or Judaism-inspired terrorism in the West Bank, in the case of the Bat Ayin Underground, or like when violent, somewhat arsonist, demonstrations took place in recent years within Israel proper to protest the Israeli government getting more serious about preventing parents from using corporal punishment.

[edit] Islamic fundamentalism

See the main article on this topic: Islamism
2013 Pew Research Poll concerning global Muslims' views of various fundamentalist groups.

Islamic fundamentalists see Sharia (Islamic law based on the verses of the Qur'an) as the cornerstone of their faith. Their primary goal is the establishment of Sharia-governed states. Nations such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia are frequently criticized by human rights advocates for their brutal and illiberal treatment of women, homosexuals, and non-Muslims. An example: for the "crime" of having been raped, a Saudi woman could be severely beaten, perhaps to death, by her own family for bringing dishonor upon the tribe.[2][3] Apostasy, the renouncing of one's faith, is regarded as an insult to Allah and can also be punishable by death.

[edit] Terrorism

Several Sharia-governed states have been accused of supporting terrorist groups. The most notorious example was the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which sheltered Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terror organization, until being toppled by the US government.

[edit] Characteristics of fundamentalists

  1. Religious idealism is basis for personal and communal identity;
  2. Fundamentalists understand truth to be revealed and unified;
  3. It is intentionally scandalous (outsiders cannot understand it and will always be outsiders);
  4. Fundamentalists envision themselves as part of a cosmic struggle;
  5. They seize on historical moments and reinterpret them in light of this cosmic struggle;
  6. They demonize their opposition and are reactionary;
  7. Fundamentalists are selective in what parts of their tradition and heritage they stress;
  8. They are primarily led by a narrow demographic (ie. white males);
  9. They envy modernist cultural hegemony and try to overturn the distribution of power;[4]
  10. Their logic is so different from normal logic, they cannot be argued with. For instance, in an argument over the existence of God, which is supposed to initially assume nothing, fundamentalists assume there is a god and that opposing statements are irrelevant.
The problem not only with fundamentalist Christians but with Republicans in general is not that they act on blind faith, without thinking. The problem is that they are incorrigible doubters with an insatiable appetite for Evidence. What they get off on is not Believing, but in having their beliefs tested. That's why their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people -- and for those confrontations, they are constantly assembling evidence and facts to make their case.


But here's the twist. They are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn't matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swiftboat business), because that guarantees an argument. You're arguing the particulars, where you're right, while they're arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.

Once you grasp this fact, you're a long way to understanding what the Hannitys and Limbaughs figured out long ago: These people will swallow anything you feed them, so long as it leaves them with a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.
Matt Taibbi[5]

[edit] Religious fundamentalism and education

One of the tenets of religious fundamentalism is how easy it is for the "pure" to be spoiled, which leads to a desire for as much of life as possible to be lived outside of mainstream society. Obviously the unrestrained contact with others of different opinions/beliefs is dangerous to the young fundamentalist, and avoiding such opportunities may be achieved by homeschooling, or in whole institutions dedicated to maintaining the purity of the schooled, with the added advantage of captive audiences who are more easily indoctrinated. See Pensacola Christian College and Jesus Camp for prime examples.

[edit] The world of fundies

The world of fundamentalists consists of snake handlers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Moonies, primitive rockin' back 'n forth, eyes rolled back in their heads Southern Baptists, roll-in-the sawdust, babble-in-tongues gibbering Pentecostals, whacked out television and radio "send us yer money Thank Yaw Jesus!" crooked evangelists, weird cults in the desert, beat your kids and wives, vicious word o' the Lord Christian whackos like Jim Bakker, Jim Jones, Bob Larson, Jimmy Swaggart, Peter Popoff, Reverend Ike, prosperity preachers grubbing $20 from little old ladies on Social Security, thieves, frauds and pedophiles, the anti-Semitic remark of the day a la Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, et al., white man's nation, white man's religion, white power preachers, skinheads, Klansmen, white citizen's councils with their whites-only religious schools, backward masking, demons, creationism, black helicopters, commies under every bed, UN is going to invade us, militia-joining, tax-resisting, Harry Potter-fearing hysterical creeps and loonies.

[edit] Atheist fundamentalism?

See the main article on this topic: Atheist fundamentalism

There really is no such thing, since atheism is not a religion and does not have a set of tenets or doctrines. Thus the concept of "fundamentalism" cannot easily be applied to atheism. Nevertheless, terms like "atheist fundamentalist" are often used by critics of atheism to associate prominent and vocal atheists such as Richard Dawkins with the excesses of fundamentalism.

[edit] Notorious fundamentalists

[edit] Insignificant fundamentalists

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. New Oxford American Dictionary
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/11/17/saudi.rape.victim/
  3. http://www.iran-bulletin.org/women/RAPE.html
  4. These were taken from here (post #94) based on the work of Martin Marty. A better reference would be appreciated.
  5. [1]
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