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Fundamentalism *LINK*

Name: Fundamentalism

Birth Place: The United States

Year Founded: Concept coined in 1920

Sacred or Revered Texts: :
The Bible is the sacred text of the Christian Fundamentalists. Indeed, if there is one single thing which binds Fundamentalists together, it is their insistence that the Bible is to be understood as literally true. Further, Fundamentalists see themselves as the guardians of the truth, usually to the exclusion of others' interpretation of the Bible. Fundamentalism in other faith traditions similarly proclaims guardianship of truth.

Lawrence defines fundamentalism as "the affirmation of religious authority as holistic and absolute, admitting of neither criticism nor reduction; it is expressed through the collective demand that specific creedal and ethical dictates derived from scripture be publicly recognized and legally enforced ."

1) Fundamentalists are advocates of a minority viewpoint. They see themselves as a righteous remnant. Even when they are numerically a majority, they perceive themselves as a minority. 2) They are oppositional and confrontational towards both secularists and "wayward" religious followers.
3) They are secondary level male elites led invariably by charismatic males.
4) Fundamentalists generate their own technical vocabulary.
5) Fundamentalism has historical antecedents, but no ideological precursor.

Family resemblances [in all religions]include:

1. religious idealism as basis for personal and communal identity;
2. fundamentalists understand truth to be revealed and unified;
3. it is intentionally scandalous, (similar to Lawrence's point about language -- outsiders cannot understand it);
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 led by males;

The organizational characteristics include:

1. an elect or chosen membership;
2. sharp group boundaries;
3. charismatic authoritarian leaders; and
4. mandated behavioral requirements.

As the Fundamentalism Project makes clear, in every corner of the world and in every major faith tradition, there are groups identified by some as fundamentalists. Hadden and Shupe argue that fundamentalism is an attempt to draw upon a religious tradition to cope with and reshape an already changing world. The question arises: What changes are so world wide that a reactive movement like fundamentalism can be found anywhere in the world? The answer, according to Hadden and Shupe, is globalization. The range of religious responses to globalization explains fundamentalism's global presence.

I edited this so it would be shorter.
Here is the link:


Created by: Steven Jones
PhD Student in Sociology,
University of Virginia
Spring, 1998
Last modified: 07/16/01

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