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 The following is a brief overview of religious fundamentalism, Part One.  Go to Part Two.

















Religious fundamentalism is a 20th-21st century phenomenon, with roots reaching back to 19th century religious reactions against modern science.  Fundamentalism today is primarily expressed in a militant (and sometimes bloody) opposition to "liberalism" (as found in both secular culture and religious circles).  Religious fundamentalisms, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or otherwise, share essentially the same primary characteristics as expressed in the concept of "enclave" (separation from the sinful world, demands for personal and social purity, adherence to a strict literal interpretation of a holy text, and loyalty to authoritarian religious leaders; see The Fundamentalism Project below).

In America, the Religious Right (comprised of a variety of religio-political organizations and leaders of religious groups, both Christian and other faiths) is the primary expression of Fundamentalism.  The Religious Right claims that America was once a Christian nation, and that the concept of separation of church and state is a myth.  Although both of these claims are wrong (unless one counts the theocratic state governments of colonial America, under which Baptists were harshly persecuted), the ultimate goal of American Fundamentalism (the Religious Right) is the dissolution of democratic government in favor of a theocracy (although not all followers of the Religious Right are in agreement with this agenda).

In the Middle East, Islamic Fundamentalism (of which the Taliban are the most well-known) finds expression in many countries, sometimes evidencing itself in terrorist activity.  The ultimate goal of Islamic fundamentalism is the reinforcement of current Middle East theocracies, and the spread of Islamic theocracies to other nations.  Although theocracy is viewed favorably by many Muslims (fundamentalist or otherwise), most Muslims do not condone terrorism.

In short, Fundamentalism is about total control ... strict control of those within the conclave, and seeking to forcefully extend that control to those outside the enclave as a way of enlarging the "faith" community.

A FEW QUOTES FROM CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS that speak to the theme of "control"
"We were here first. You don't take our shared common values and say they are biased and bigoted ... We are the keepers of what is right and what is wrong." (San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 1993) Lou Sheldon, Founder and President of the Traditional Values Coalition

"... we will have a major [Bible] translation we can control." (Baptist Press) Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the eve of the release of the new Holman Christian Standard Bible

"I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" (Jerry Falwell, America Can Be Saved, 1979 pp. 52-53).

Continue to Part 2