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When pedestrians carry nut poles
A protest in Duraz, Bahrain against an anti-Islamic film. The banner (in Arabic) reads: "The Islamic nation will not tolerate with those who offend its sanctities"
Preach to the choir
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Crux of the matter
Speak of the devil
An act of faith
The fundamentalists have taken the fun out of the mental.
Ken KeseyWikipedia[1]

Fundamentalism is a term used to describe religious movements that reject modernism (particularly scientific thought and secularism), that claim to find all truth, including science, history, and psychology, in their sectarian scriptures, and that often try to impose some degree of religious law on all citizens of any government they are able to control. The type speciesWikipedia is the Christian Fundamentalism of the 1920s, which is a reaction against Darwin's theory of evolution; by extension, the term is applied to Haredi JudaismWikipedia and Wahhabism in Islam. In more abstract terms, it can refer to any movement to recapture an ideological "purity" within a religion, especially an Abrahamic religion, that supposedly has been lost by mainstream adherents of the religion at large. Note that this definition would also apply to liberal Christians who seek a Sermon-on-the-Mount purity by engaging in works of charity. Fundamentalists often assert the primacy of their own idiosyncratic interpretation of religious texts over centuries of acquired knowledge and practice. This has the advantage of making great insights and profound wisdomWikipedia available to all believers, but puts them at odds not only with the secular world and members of other religions, but also with their own brethren who find meaning in the modern world.

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) ran out of steam in the mid-1930s, but the emphasis on 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).

Fundamentalism is generally not fun at all, but is usually quite mental — duh.


The problem is that moderates of all faiths are committed to reinterpreting or ignoring outright the most dangerous and absurd parts of their scripture, and this commitment is precisely what makes them moderates. But it also requires some degree of intellectual dishonesty because moderates can't acknowledge that their moderation comes from outside the faith. The doors leading out of scriptural literalism simply do not open from the inside.

In the 21st century, the moderate's commitment to rationality, human rights, gender equality, and every other modern value, values that are potentially universal for human beings, comes from the last 1000 years of human progress, much of which was accomplished in spite of religion, not because of it. So when moderates claim to find their modern ethical commitments within scripture, it looks like an exercise in self-deception. The truth is that most of our modern values are antithetical to the specific teachings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And where we do find these values expressed in our holy books, they are almost never best expressed there.

Moderates seem unwilling to grapple with the fact that all scriptures contain an extraordinary amount of stupidity and barbarism, that can always be rediscovered and made wholly anew by fundamentalists, and there's no principle of moderation internal to the faith that prevents this. These fundamentalist readings are, almost by definition, more complete and consistent, and therefore more honest. The fundamentalist picks up the book and says, "Ok, I'm just going to read every word of this and do my best to understand what god wants from me — I'll leave my personal biases completely out of it." Conversely, every moderate seems to believe that his interpretation and selective reading of scripture is more accurate than god's literal words.
Sam Harris, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue[2]:65

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 aggressive and/or 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 comes and goes with nothing out of the ordinary happening, 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.


The name "fundamentalism" is derived from the The Fundamentals, a series of pamphlets published anonymously in 1910 by Lyman Stuart, founder of Union Oil.[3] The movement started among conservative Presbyterian theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary. 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".[4]:687 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, as fundament is also synonymous with asshole.[5] Similarity to "fund a mental" is largely coincidental.

The five fundamentals of Christian fundamentalism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Fundamentalist Christianity
  1. Inerrency 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, even when it contradicts itself, which it doesn't really, because… we said so, ok?
  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, and, tellingly, differs from one congregation to another. Also, it is hard to treat a text as the literal word of God when that text is a translation from a dead language.
  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. The ethical implications of substituting guilt, like the questionable ethics of original sin, are studiously ignored.
  5. The bodily resurrection of Jesus, the imminent personal return of Jesus Christ, and after (optionally) True Believers™ being whisked away to Heaven suffering for unbelievers first and later after Judgement Day Hell for the latter. 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.

Jewish fundamentalism[edit]

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

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. The year 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,[6] 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. Attacks on LGBT Israelis at times have occurred.

There are also, however, Jewish fundamentalists that oppose the current Zionism movement — the Neturei Karta, for example — based on the doctrine that God must give approval to retake the Promised Land first, since them losing control of it was apparently a punishment from God. Some of these go so far as supporting Palestinian terrorists.

Islamic fundamentalism[edit]

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.[7][8] Apostasy, the renouncing of one's faith, is regarded as an insult to Allah and can also be punishable by death.


See the main article on this topic: 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.

Catholic fundamentalism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Traditionalist Catholicism

Characteristics of fundamentalists[edit]

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[9]
  1. Religious idealism is the basis for both personal and communal identity alike.
  2. Fundamentalists understand "perfect truth" to exist, revealed and unified.
  3. It is intentionally scandalous: outsiders cannot understand it and will always be outsiders. (This also means they see things just in black and white ("Us VS Them") with no greys in the middle.)
  4. Fundamentalists envision themselves as central to a grand cosmic struggle, and any criticism of either them or their worldview is seen as persecution.
  5. They seize on historical moments and reinterpret them in light of this cosmic struggle.
  6. They systematically demonize and simplify all positions that aren't their own.
  7. They are nostalgic about theocratic rule from the past, and are reactionary.
  8. Fundamentalists are highly selective in what parts of their tradition and heritage are stressed, whether they are aware of this or not (and they're probably not, since they often criticize the moderately religious for doing the exact same thing in the name of modernity, conventional morality, sanity, and actually having a life).
  9. They are primarily led by a narrow demographic (e.g., old, white males or at least just old males). Likewise, claims of them having converted in adulthood, leaving behind a sinful life as drug addicts, criminals, etc., are also common (whether those claims are actually true or not is another topic), as are those about them having discovered the True version™ of their religion, being often also against "organized religion" (assuming they call it such way, that is.)
  10. They envy modernist cultural hegemony and try to overturn the distribution of power;[10]
  11. Their "logic" is so different from normal logic that they almost 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.

Religious fundamentalism and education[edit]

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 and/or a good dose of apologetics, 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.

This can even be extended outside education, to other businesses that cater just to members of a faith such as for example lawyers for Jehovah's Witnesses only and those that are announced at religious media (to the point the latter often seem to exist mostly to promote such businesses and/or products for such people), as well as their entertainment.

The world of fundies[edit]

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 à 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/Meditation and the like/Halloween/Occult-fearing hysterical creeps and loonies who claim at the very least to practice the latter (ie, Tarot readings, witchcraft, even going Pagan, etc) open the door for demonic possession, spiritual warfare practitioners who believe they're fighting Satan's forces 24 hours per day, pro-lifers who are against any kind of abortion, homophobes, people who claim not to be religious and consider religion to be anything but good, anti-vaxxers, End Times fearmongers, believers in the New World Order and other related conspiracy theories with of course the Book of Revelation well mixed in, people who see militant atheists striving to abolish Christianity around every corner, anti-science loonies, people who rant that they're mocked and insulted because they're Christians thus pacifists, and those who insult them would not attempt the same stunt at the gates of a Mosque despite such people claiming the Muslims are Satanists, God-fearing creeps who consider Catholicism to basically be Paganism in disguise and/or the Whore of Babylon using as proof long-debunked bullshit up to claiming worship of Mary and the Saints is witchcraft despite saying they see Catholics as Christians™ too, professional liars, supporters of Israel for their own interests, and finally those who consider any criticism of them to be persecution.

Atheist fundamentalism?[edit]

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. Antitheism is closer to fundamentalism, but doesn't fully qualify unless it spirals over the edge into absolute loathing of the very concept of religion and all who subscribe to it (much as religious fundamentalists loathe atheists and adherents of all religions other than their own).[note 1]

External links[edit]


  1. The fundamentalists have taken the fun out of the mental. purportedly by Ken Kesey, Brainy Quote.
  2. Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue by Sam Harris (2015) Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674088700
  3. The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 by Ernest R. Sandeen (1970) University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226734676
  4. The New Oxford American Dictionary (2001) Oxford University Press. ISBN 019511227X
  5. Fundament Synonyms.
  6. "Fundamentalist Judaism and Jewish Terrorism" by Vexen Crabtree (2016) The Human Truth Foundation.
  7. "Saudi court ups punishment for gang-rape victim". CNN.
  8. "Rape under a fundamentalist regime"
  9. Bush Like Me: Ten weeks undercover in the grass roots of the Republican Party by Matt Taibbi (Posted Oct 06, 2004 12:00 AM) Rolling Stone.
  10. These were taken from here (post #94) based on the work of Martin Marty. A better reference would be appreciated.


  1. To be fair, people like that who want religion to be destroyed and all religious people to die in agony do exist (just look on Reddit if you don't believe us), but they're not as common as fundies like to think they are.