Religious fundamentalism is a focus on differences between members of society on the basis of their subscription or non subscription to a particular faith. It leads to discrimination and divides people into righteous and unrighteous dichotomies. Furthermore, non believers are often the target of blame when problems arise in society. Johnstone (206) affirms that religious fundamentalists reject secularization and insist on adherence to traditional practice.
Fundamentalism is existent in almost all religions of the world. In Islam, it is manifested when followers oppose writings in books, articles or speeches that criticize the Islamic faith.
A case in point was the depiction of Prophet Mohamed in a French newspaper. This sparked riots and violence across various Islamic nations around the world despite the fact that the cartoon was not maliciously motivated. Additionally, several political groups in Islamic nations, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt and Iraq, regard political extremism as a central part of their lives.
For instance, the Muslim Brotherhood is just one of the numerous institutions that has brought Islamic fundamentalism back into the political sphere of a Muslim nation. As a consequence, these nations reject consumerism, feminism and several other tenets of the modern era. It is not uncommon to see loggings, mutilations, and female mistreatment in the public sphere within these fundamentalist nations (Coreno 335).
In the Christian faith, Protestant fundamentalism stemmed from an early twentieth century publication designed to outline the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Its purpose was to unite American Protestants by clarifying the beliefs that were non-negotiable in their faith.
In modern times, Protestant fundamentalism takes the form of reaffirming literal interpretations and applications of the bible. This school of thought moves away from institutional Christianity and the use of sacraments. Instead, it advocates conversion and intimate spiritual experiences. Just like the Islamic fundamentalists mentioned above, Christian fundamentals are also politically conservative. However, their brand of conservatism started in the late nineteenth century.
First, a number of them were worried about the effect of science on their followers as the latter phenomenon challenged the Bible’s central claim to truth. In line with this issue was the development of Darwinism, which questioned the authenticity of the Christian creation story.
Furthermore, sociological theories like Marxism claimed that Christianity pacified the masses to protect elitist interests. Johnstone (212) explains that the fundamentalists responded by focusing on traditional Christian messages rather than on the social aspect. In essence, they were reacting to the disenfranchisement of religion.
Evangelical groups now manifest their fundamentalist inclinations through the political sphere, education (in the form of primary and secondary schools), as well as their publications. Several schools are either funded or run by Christian fundamentals. These groups often endorse political parties that support their conservative beliefs. Some of them may lobby against laws that they perceive as secular. Examples include abortion and legalization of gay marriage.
In essence, all fundamentalist groups, regardless of which religion they subscribe to, have certain characteristics in common. First, they emerge out of a need to defend religious tradition. Usually, modernization may manifest in one form or another, and thus could be perceived as an attack against the church.
Besides this trait, religious fundamentalism is also selective in nature. It will use an aspect of modernity as well as religion to delineate itself from conventional religion. Cases in point include the use of the internet to spread Islamic fundamentalist teaching and opposition of American
Protestants to abortion. Fundamentalists also perceive the world dualistically, in that it is either evil or righteous. Another trait is their propensity towards absolutism. Members must accept their main texts (e.g. Bible or Torah) as accurate and unquestionable. Finally, these schools of thought often have a messianic promise. They assure their followers that they will be rewarded in the end times for their suffering (Emerson & Hartman 130).
Coreno, Timothy. “Fundamentalism as a class culture.” Sociol. Relig, Journal 63(2002): 335–60. Print.
Emerson, Michael & Hartman. David. “The rise of religious fundamentalism.” American Rev. Sociol. 32(2006): 127-144. Print.