Fundamentalism refers to a belief in, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life. The term fundamentalism was originally coined to describe a narrowly defined set of beliefs that developed into a movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century, and that had its roots in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of that time. Until 1950, there was no entry for fundamentalism in the Oxford English Dictionary;the derivative fundamentalist was added only in its second 1989 edition.The term fundamentalist has since been generalized to mean strong adherence to any set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity, but has by and large retained religious connotations. The collective use of the term fundamentalist to describe non-Christian movements has offended some Christians who desire to retain the original definition In addition, some writers, editors, and scholars believe that calling Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists "fundamentalists" makes very little sense. Fundamentalism is often used as a pejorative term, particularly when combined with other epithets (as in the phrase "Muslim fundamentalists" and "right-wing fundamentalists
Fundamentalism as a movement arose in the United States, starting among conservative Presbyterian academics and theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations during and immediately following the First World War. The movement's purpose was to reaffirm orthodox Protestant Christianity and zealously defend it against the challenges of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, and other "-isms" which it regarded as harmful to Christianity.
The term "fundamentalism" has its roots in the Niagara Bible Conference (1878–1897) which defined those things that were fundamental to belief. The term was also used to describe "The Fundamentals", a collection of twelve books on five subjects published in 1910 by Milton and Lyman Steward This series of essays came to be representative of the "Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy" which appeared late in the 19th century within the Protestant churches of the United States, and continued in earnest through the 1920s. The first formulation of American fundamentalist beliefs can be traced to the Niagara Bible Conference and, in 1910, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church which distilled these into what became known as the "five fundamentals":
The virgin birth of Christ.
The belief that Christ's death was the atonement for sin.
The bodily resurrection of Christ.
The historical reality of Christ's miracles.
The Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80 marked a major turning point in the use of the term "fundamentalism". The media, in an attempt to explain the ideology of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution to a Western audience which had little familiarity with Islam, came to describe it as a "fundamentalist version of Islam" by way of analogy to the Christian fundamentalist movement in the U.S. Thus was born the term "Islamic fundamentalist", which would come to be one of the most common usages of the term in the following years. The term "fundamentalist" can also refer to other groups such as the Irish Republican Army (a radical political movement loosely associated with the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland).
The fundamentalist phenomenon
The pattern of the conflict between Fundamentalism and Modernism in Protestant Christianity has parallels in other religious communities, and in its use as a description of these corresponding aspects in otherwise diverse religious movements the term "fundamentalist" has become more than only a term either of self-description or of derogatory contempt. Fundamentalism is therefore a movement through which the adherents attempt to rescue religious identity from absorption into modern, Western culture, where this absorption appears to the enclave to have made irreversible progress in the wider religious community, necessitating the assertion of a separate identity based upon the fundamental or founding principles of the religion.
This formation of a separate identity is deemed necessary on account of a perception that the religious community has surrendered its ability to define itself in religious terms. The "fundamentals" of the religion have been jettisoned by neglect, lost through compromise and inattention, so that the general religious community's explanation of itself appears to the separatist to be in terms that are completely alien and fundamentally hostile to the religion itself.
Some fundamentalist movements, therefore, claim to be founded upon the same religious principles as the larger group, but the fundamentalists more self-consciously attempt to build an entire approach to the modern world based on strict fidelity to those principles, to preserve a distinctness both of doctrine and of life.
For religious fundamentalists, sacred scripture is considered the authentic and authoritative word of their religion's god or gods. This does not necessarily require that all portions of scripture be interpreted literally rather than allegorically or metaphorically - for example, see the distinction in Christian thought between Biblical infallibility, Biblical inerrancy and Biblical literalism. Fundamentalist beliefs depend on the twin doctrines that their god or gods articulated their will clearly to prophets, and that followers also have an accurate and reliable record of that revelation.
Since a religion's scripture is considered the word of its god or gods, fundamentalists believe that no person is right to change it or disagree with it. Within that though, there are many differences between different fundamentalists. For example, many Christian fundamentalists believe in free will, that every person is able to make their own choices, but with consequence. The appeal of this point of view is its simplicity: every person can do what they like, as much as they are able, but their god or gods will bring those who disobey without repentance ("turning away from sin") to justice. This is made clear by the commands of Jesus in the New Testament concerning any kind of revenge ("Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord" for one). The Judaist belief is similar, but they do not believe that it is wrong to take vengeance. The fundamentalist insistence on strict observation of religious laws may lead to an accusation of legalism in addition to exclusivism in the interpretation of metaphysical beliefs.
The Japanese Nichiren sect of Buddhism, which believes that other forms of Buddhism are heretical, is also sometimes labelled fundamentalist. However, Nichiren Buddhism contains influences from Shintō and a strong nationalistic streak.
The 14th Dalai Lama has agreed that there exist also extremists and fundamentalists in Buddhism, arguing that fundamentalists are not even able to pick up the idea of a possible dialogue. The Dalai Lama has thusfar refused to engage in dialogue with Dorje Shugden practitioners, a justification cited by the Western Shugden Society for their recent protests. For example, the Dalai Lama has never responded to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's open letter that was sent to him in 1997. In an interview in 2005 the Dalai Lama referred to radical Dorje Shugden followers who, according to him, "were strongly suspected of having killed a lama who was very dear to me, the director of the School of Tibetan Dialectics in Dharamsala, and two monks, translators who were playing an important role in interpreting with the Chinese." He states that "These same people have beaten up and threatened other Tibetans in the name of their vision, which I would define as Buddhist integralism." In 2007 Interpol issued red notices to China for extraditing Lobsang Chodak and Tenzin Chozin, who are accused of the "ritualistic killing" of those three monks. A decade ago, in 1997, at the height of the Dorje Shugden controversy, Robert Thurman claimed: "It would not be unfair to call Shugdens the Taliban of Tibetan Buddhism," referring to the Muslim extremists of Afghanistan. This characterization was repeated in other newspapers in 2002 when reporting about death threats against the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, northern India. In September 2008, the Western Shugden Society wrote an open letter, challenging Thurman to justify his 10-year-old claim: "You should show your evidence publicly through the internet before 25th October 2008. If your evidence does not appear by this date then we will conclude that you have lied publicly and are misleading people." As of November 2008, there has been no response by Thurman on his website.
New Kadampa Tradition
The alleged connection between NKT and radical Indian and Nepali Shugden groups was strongly rejected by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (aka NKT), arguing: "The NKT is completely independent from Shugden groups in India..." and "This really is a false accusation against innocent people. We have never done anything wrong. We simply practise our own religion, as passed down through many generations,"[ In an open letter to the Washington Times he stated "In October 1998 we decided to completely stop being involved in this Shugden issue ... everyone knows the NKT and myself completely stopped being involved in this Shugden issue at all levels. I can guarantee that the NKT and myself have never performed inappropriate actions and will never do so in the future, this is our determination. We simply concentrate on the flourishing of holy Buddhadharma throughout the world - we have no other aim. I hope people gradually understand our true nature and function." The editor of the Washington Times article retracted the claim about the relationship between Shugden groups from India and Nepal and the British-based New Kadampa Tradition. David Kay argued in his doctoral research that the New Kadampa Tradition fit into the criteria of Robert Lifton’s definition of the fundamentalist self. However, most scholars do not agree with this characterization. Inken Prohl expresses hesitation over Kay's use of the word fundamentalist in regards to the NKT because of "the vague and, at the same time, extremely political implications of this term." Likewise, Paul Williams prefers the word traditionalist over fundamentalist in describing the NKT and other Dorje Shugden followers. Reacting to the charge that the NKT is a 'fundamentalist movement,' Robert Bluck said, "Again a balanced approach is needed here: the practitioner’s confident belief may appear as dogmatism to an unsympathetic observer."
Christian fundamentalists see the Bible (both the Old Testament and the New Testament) as infallible and historically accurate.It is important to distinguish between the "literalist" and "Fundamentalist" groups within the Christian community. Literalists, as the name indicates, hold that the Bible should be taken literally in every part. It would appear that there is no significant Christian denomination which is "literalist" in the sense that they believe that the Bible contains no figurative or poetic language. As the term is commonly used, "literalists" are those Christians who are more inclined to believe that portions of scripture (most particularly parts of the Book of Revelation) which most Christians read in a figurative way are in fact intended to be read in a literal way.Many Christian Fundamentalists, on the other hand, are for the most part content to hold that the Bible should be taken literally only where there is no indication to the contrary. As William Jennings Bryan put it, in response to Clarence Darrow's questioning during the Scopes Trial ."I believe that everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there; some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: 'Ye are the salt of the earth.' I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving Ebba's people."Still, the tendency toward a literal reading of the Bible is criticized by mainline Protestant scholars and others. According to anthropologist Lionel Caplan,"In the Protestant milieu of the USA, fundamentalism crystallized in response to liberals' eagerness to bring Christianity into the post-Darwinian world by questioning the scientific and historical accuracy of the scripture. Subsequently, the scourge of evolution was linked with socialism, and during the Cold War period, with communism. This unholy trinity came to be regarded as a sinister, atheistic threat to Christian America...Bruce suggests that to understand the success of the Moral Majority, an alliance between the conservative forces of the New Right and the fundamentalist wings on the mainly Southern Baptist Churches, we have to appreciate these fears, as well as the impact of a host of unwelcome changes - in attitudes to 'morality', family, civil and women's rights, and so on - which have, in the wake of economic transformations since the Second World War, penetrated especially the previously insular social and cultural world of the American South."
The term fundamentalist has historically referred specifically to members of the various Protestant denominations who subscribed to the five "fundamentals", rather than fundamentalists forming an independent denomination. This wider movement of Fundamentalist Christianity has since broken up into various movements which are better described in other terms. Early "fundamentalists" included J. Gresham Machen and B.B. Warfield, men who would not be considered "Fundamentalists" today.Over time the term came to be associated with a particular segment of Evangelical Protestantism, who distinguished themselves by their separatist approach toward modernity, toward aspects of the culture which they feel typify the modern world, and toward other Christians who did not similarly separate themselves.Because of the prevalence of dispensational eschatology, some fundamentalistsvehemently support the modern nation of Israel, believing the Jews to have significance in God's purposes parallel to the Christian churches, and a special role to play at the end of the world.
The term fundamentalist is difficult to apply unambiguously, especially when applied to groups outside the USA, which are typically far less dogmatic. Many self-described Fundamentalists would include Jerry Falwell in their company, but would not embrace Pat Robertson as a fundamentalist because of his espousal of charismatic teachings. Fundamentalist institutions include Pensacola Christian College, and Bob Jones University, but classically Fundamentalist schools such as Fuller Theological Seminary and Biola University no longer describe themselves as Fundamentalist, although in the broad sense described by this article they are fundamentalist (better, Evangelical) in their perspective. (The forerunner to Biola U. - the Bible Institute of Los Angeles - was founded under the financial patronage of Lyman Stewart, with his brother Milton, underwrote the publication of a series of 12 books jointly entitled The Fundamentals between 1909 and 1920.)
Hinduism, being a conglomerate of religious traditions, contains a very diverse range of philosophical viewpoints and is generally considered as being doctrinally tolerant of varieties of both Hindu and non-Hindu beliefs.
Although related, Hinduism and Hindutva are different. Hinduism is a religion while Hindutva is a political ideology. . Some sections of the leftists and opponents of Hindutva, use the term "Hindu Taliban" to describe the supporters of the Hindutva movement. Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize-winning Indian sociologist and cultural and political critic Ashis Nandy argued "Hindutva will be the end of Hinduism." Islamic views
Muslims believe that their religion was revealed by God (Allah in Arabic) to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, the final Prophet delivered by God. However, the Muslims brand of conservatism which is generally termed Islamic fundamentalism encompasses all the following:It describes the beliefs of traditional Muslims that they should restrict themselves to literal interpretations of their sacred texts, the Qur'an and Hadith. This may describe the private religious attitudes of individuals and have no relationship with larger social groups.It describes a variety of religious movements and political parties in Muslim communities.As opposed to the above two usages, in the West "Islamic fundamentalism" is most often used to describe Muslim individuals and groups which advocate Islamism, a political ideology calling for the replacement of state secular laws with Islamic law.In all the above cases, Islamic fundamentalism represents a conservative religious belief, as opposed to liberal movements within Islam.
Most Jewish denominations believe that the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible or Old Testament) cannot be understood literally or alone, but rather needs to be read in conjunction with additional material known as the Oral Torah; this material is contained in the Mishnah, Talmud, Gemara and Midrash. While the Tanakh is not read in a literal fashion, Orthodox Judaism does view the text itself as divine, infallible, and transmitted essentially without change, and places great import in the specific words and letters of the Torah. As well, adherents of Orthodox Judaism, especially Haredi Judaism, see the Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash as divine and infallible in content, if not in specific wording. Hasidic Jews frequently ascribe infallibility to their Rebbe's interpretation of the traditional sources of truth.
Fundamentalists believe their cause to have grave and even cosmic importance. They see themselves as protecting not only a distinctive doctrine, but also a vital principle, and a way of life and of salvation. Community, comprehensively centered upon a clearly defined religious way of life in all of its aspects, is the promise of fundamentalist movements, and it therefore appeals to those adherents of religion who find little that is distinctive, or authentically vital in their previous religious identity.
The fundamentalist "wall of virtue", which protects their identity, is erected against not only other religions, but also against the modernized, nominal version of their own religion. In Christianity, fundamentalists can be known as "born again" and "Bible-believing" Protestants, as opposed to "mainline", "liberal", "modernist" Protestants. In Islam there are jama'at ((religious) enclaves with connotations of close fellowship) fundamentalists self-consciously engaged in jihad (struggle) against the Western culture that suppresses authentic Islam (submission) and the God-given (Shari'ah) way of life. In Judaism fundamentalists are Haredi "Torah-true" Jews. There are fundamentalist equivalents in Hinduism and other world religions. These groups insist on a sharp boundary between themselves and the faithful adherents of other religions, and finally between a "sacred" view of life and the "secular" world and "nominal religion". Fundamentalists direct their critiques toward and draw most of their converts from the larger community of their religion, by attempting to convince them that they are not experiencing the authentic version of their professed religion.
Many scholars see most forms of fundamentalism as having similar traits. This is especially obvious if modernity, secularism or an atheistic perspective is adopted as the norm, against which these varieties of traditionalism or supernaturalism are compared. From such a perspective, Peter Huff wrote in the International Journal on World Peace:
"According to Antoun, fundamentalists in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, despite their doctrinal and practical differences, are united by a common worldview which anchors all of life in the authority of the sacred and a shared ethos that expresses itself through outrage at the pace and extent of modern secularization."
Some refer to any literal-minded philosophy with pretense of being the sole source of objective truth as fundamentalist, regardless of whether it is usually called a religion. For instance, theologian Alister McGrath has compared Richard Dawkins' atheism to religious fundamentalism, and the Archbishop of Wales has criticized "atheistic fundamentalism" more broadly. Others, including the blogger Austin Cline of atheism.about.com, argue that fundamentalist atheism does not exist, because it cannot exist on the grounds that atheism has no fundamental doctrines, and that fundamentalism is not a personality type. On the Canadian talk show The Bigger Picture, the biologist Richard Dawkins said that his critics mistook passion for fundamentalism. He has also stated that, unlike religious fundamentalists, he would willingly change his mind if new evidence challenged his current position.
In The New Inquisition, Robert Anton Wilson lampoons the members of skeptical organizations like the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP - now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) as fundamentalist materialists, alleging that they dogmatically dismiss any evidence that conflicts with materialism as hallucination or fraud.
In France, the imposition of restrictions on public display of religion has been labeled by some as "Secular Fundamentalism." Intolerance of women wearing the hijab (Islamic headcovering) and political activism by Muslims also has been labeled "secular fundamentalism" by some Muslims in the United States.
The term "fundamentalism" is sometimes self-applied to signify a rather counter-cultural fidelity to some noble, simple, but overlooked principle, as in Economic fundamentalism; but the same term can be used in a critical way. Roderick Hindery first lists positive qualities attributed to political, economic, or other forms of cultural fundamentalism. They include "vitality, enthusiasm, willingness to back up words with actions, and the avoidance of facile compromise." Then, negative aspects are analyzed, such as psychological attitudes, occasionally elitist and pessimistic perspectives, and in some cases literalism.
State atheism is the official rejection of religion in all forms by a government in favor of atheism. When Albania under Enver Hoxha declared itself an atheist state, it was deemed by some to be a kind of fundamentalist atheism and where Stalinism was like the state religion which replaced other religions and political ideologies. Any one practicing a non-Stalinist religion or setting up a different political party would be sent to prison.See also North Korea,
Although fundamentalism is often related to religions, there is a development to focus more and more on philosophy. In a way the philosophical part of religions is set apart. Fundamentalism is not only found in religious beliefs, but also in philosophical base principles that matches with those religious beliefs. An example of this can be found in [Bellevarde] philosophy.
Many criticisms of fundamentalist positions have been offered. One of the most common is that some claims made by a fundamentalist group cannot be proven, and are irrational, demonstrably false, or contrary to scientific evidence. For example, some of these criticisms were famously asserted by Clarence Darrow in the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Sociologist of religion Tex Sample asserts that it is a mistake to refer to a Muslim, Jewish, or Christian Fundamentalist. Rather, a fundamentalist's fundamentalism is their primary concern, over and above other denominational or faith considerations.
A criticism by Elliot N. Dorff: "In order to carry out the fundamentalist program in practice, one would need a perfect understanding of the ancient language of the original text, if indeed the true text can be discerned from among variants. Furthermore, human beings are the ones who transmit this understanding between generations. "Even if one wanted to follow the literal word of God, the need for people first to understand that word necessitates human interpretation. Through that process human fallibility is inextricably mixed into the very meaning of the divine word. As a result, it is impossible to follow the indisputable word of God; one can only achieve a human understanding of God's will."
A criticism of fundamentalism is the claim that fundamentalists are selective in what they believe. For instance, the book of Genesis dictates that when a man's brother dies, he must marry his widowed sister-in-law. Yet fundamentalist Christians do not adhere to this doctrine, despite the fact that it is not contradicted in the New Testament. However, according to New Testament theology, large parts, if not all of the Mosaic Law, are not normative for modern Christians. They may cite passages such Colossians .
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."
Other fundamentalists arguethat only certain parts of the Mosaic Law, parts that rely on universal moral principles, are normative for today. Therefore, in their view, there is no contradiction between such passages in the Old Testament and their belief in biblical infallibility.
Howard Thurman was interviewed in the late 1970s for a BBC feature on religion. He told the interviewer, "I say that creeds, dogmas, and theologies are inventions of the mind. It is the nature of the mind to make sense out of experience, to reduce the conglomerates of experience to units of comprehension which we call principles, or ideologies, or concepts. Religious experience is dynamic, fluid, effervescent, yeasty. But the mind can't handle these so it has to imprison religious experience in some way, get it bottled up. Then, when the experience quiets down, the mind draws a bead on it and extracts concepts, notions, dogmas, so that religious experience can make sense to the mind. Meanwhile religious experience goes on experiencing, so that by the time I get my dogma stated so that I can think about it, the religious experience becomes an object of thought."
American futurist John Renesch expands upon this notion by stating, "For me, fundamentalism is an attempt to comprehend that which cannot be comprehended, to rationalize the unfathomable, “effing” the ineffable. It is similar to trying to measure the immeasurable or the “indefinitely extensive.” It is the human mind doing what it is supposed to do, making sense of things. But some things are ineffable and attempts to make sense of them are fruitless unless one is willing to settle for any explanation just to have one. Again, this goes for business, law, medicine, romance, politics…anything, not just religion."
The Associated Press' AP Stylebook recommends that the term fundamentalist not be used for any group that does not apply the term to itself. Many scholars, however, use the term in the broader descriptive sense to refer to various groups in various religious traditions, and the five-volume study The Fundamentalism Project by Martin Marty, et al, from the University of Chicago takes this approach. ] In popular discussions, the term fundamentalist is frequently used improperly to refer to a broad range of conservative, orthodox, or militiant religious movements.
Christian fundamentalists, who generally consider the term to be pejorative when used to refer to themselves, often object to the placement of themselves and Islamist groups into a single category given that the fundamentals of Christianity are different than the fundamentals of Islam. They feel that characteristics based on the new definition are wrongly projected back onto Christian fundamentalists by their critics.
Many Muslims protest the use of the term when referring to Islamist groups, and object to being placed in the same category as Christian fundamentalists, whom they see as theologically incomplete. Unlike Christian fundamentalist groups, Islamist groups do not use the term fundamentalist to refer to themselves. Shia groups which are often considered fundamentalist in the western world generally are not described that way in the Islamic world.
A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
Often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
Adherence to the theology of this movement.
Fundamentalism is a movement within U.S. Protestantism marked by twin commitments to revivalistic evangelism and to militant defense of traditional Protestant doctrines. By the end of World War I, a loose coalition of conservative Protestants had coalesced into a movement united in defending its evangelistic and missionary endeavors against theological, scientific, and philosophical "modernism." The threatened doctrines had recently been identified in a collaborative twelve-volume series entitled The Fundamentals (1910–1915). Battles over issues—most frequently biblical inerrancy (exemption from error), the virgin birth of Jesus, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, and miracles—soon erupted within several leading denominations, principally among northern Baptists and Presbyterians. Many members separated from their churches to form new denominations committed to defending the fundamentals. Fundamentalists took their campaign into public education, where such organizations as the Anti-Evolution League lobbied state legislatures to prohibit the teaching of evolution in public schools. The former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan led this effort, which culminated in his prosecution of the Dayton, Tennessee, teacher John T. Scopes, for teaching evolution. The Scopes trial of 1925 attracted national attention, and the ridicule of Bryan's views during the trial by the defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow, helped to discredit fundamentalism.
Over the next three decades the Fundamentalists' twin commitments to evangelism and doctrinal purity produced a flurry of activity that escaped much public notice but laid the groundwork for a resurgence in the late 1970s. Evangelists and missionaries began supplementing earlier revival methods with radio programs. Thousands of independent churches formed, many loosely linked in such umbrella organizations as the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. These churches sent missionaries abroad through independent mission boards. Bible colleges and seminaries trained the missionaries. Internecine squabbles (differences from within) over doctrine marked this period. The dispensational premillennialism outlined in the Scofield Reference Bible began to take on the status of another fundamental. Others formalized a doctrine of separation from the world's corruption.Such developments prompted some leaders to forge a new evangelical movement that differed little from fundamentalism in doctrine but sought broader ecclesiastical alliances and new social and intellectual engagement with the modern world. By the late 1960s a set of institutions supported a movement centered in Baptist splinter groups and independent churches. Listener-supported Christian FM radio stations began proliferating across the country. Evangelists began television ministries. This burgeoning network reached an audience far broader than the fundamentalist core, allowing Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals to identify a set of concerns that drew them together.
By the early 1970s, Fundamentalists came to believe that an array of social, judicial, and political forces threatened their beliefs. They began battling this "secular humanism" on several fronts, advocating restoration of prayer and the teaching of creationism in public schools and swelling the ranks of the prolife movement after Roe v. Wade (1973). In the late 1970s Fundamentalists within the Southern Baptist Convention mounted a struggle, ultimately successful, for control of the denomination's seminaries and missions. At the same time, the fundamentalist Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell mobilized a conservative religious coalition that promoted moral reform by supporting conservative candidates for public office. Many political analysts credited Ronald Reagan's presidential victory in 1980 to the support of Falwell's
Falwell disbanded his organization in 1988, but activists continued to exert influence into the mid-1990s. Journalists and students tended to label this post-Falwell coalition as "fundamentalist" and applied the term to antimodernist movements within other religions. Sharp differences, however, continued to distinguish Fundamentalists from Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Indeed, Fundamentalists themselves remained divided—separationists denounced efforts to form common cause with other religious groups, and political moderates criticized alliances of groups such as the Christian Coalition with the Republican Party.
The minister, broadcaster, and one-time presidential candidate Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition in 1989 to promote traditional Christian values in American life. The group won a smashing victory in 1994 when it helped elect enough Republican congresspeople to give that party its first majority in both houses of Congress in four decades. Some of the measures it proposed became part of the Republicans' Contract with America program. The "contract" called for efforts to end federal aid to the arts and humanities, restore school prayer, restrict abortion, limit pornography, and provide tax breaks for parents who send their children to private or religious schools. It also called for a "Personal Responsibility Act" to limit benefits to welfare recipients who bore children out of wedlock. Few of these measures ever made it into law. However, the Christian Coalition's political clout became abundantly clear when President Bill Clinton decided to sign a welfare reform bill called the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act" in 1996.
The late 1990s brought new challenges to the political arm of American Fundamentalism. The Christian Coalition's dynamic director, Ralph Reed, left the organization in 1996 to become a political consultant. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 shifted political discourse away from domestic and moral issues, which had been the Christian Coalition's strong suit, toward domestic security, military intelligence, and foreign relations. In the days after the attacks, Rev. Jerry Falwell attributed the attack on New York City to God's displeasure with homosexuals, abortionists, pagans, and civil libertarians (he later apologized for the comment). Several months later the Christian Coalition's founder, Pat Robertson, resigned from the organization. As a sign of the changed political environment facing Fundamentalists, Ralph Reed joined American Jews in pressuring the government to step up its military support for the beleaguered state of Israel.
At the start of the twenty-first century, Fundamentalists remained caught between the impulse to reform modernity and the impulse to reject and withdraw from it altogether. In some ways, the emergence of a religious marketing among a vast network of Christian publishers and television and radio stations catered to both impulses. A series of novels by Rev. Tim LaHaye depicting the Second Coming of Christ, which sold tens of millions of copies, revealed a deep understanding of a modern world even as it prophesied its destruction. The Fundamentalist movement in America continued to display great resourcefulness in adapting modern communications technology to defend its fundamentals against the modern world's ideas.
Dictionaries define a fundamentalist as 'one who believes in the literal interpretation and the infallibility of the Bible' as if fundamentalism were unique to Christianity alone. This definition may be modified someday, but, the problem of fundamentalism will continue to torment us. Even the rationalists and atheists are not free from its evil influence. The literal interpretation of the purpose of life as suggested by the religious books (pleasing god and striving for heaven etc.) does not appeal to them so they deny any purpose whatsoever.
Before we embark upon the purpose of life, it would be prudent to resolve the old dispute about god's existence. Believers say that god created the universe whereas the atheists say that it has come up by chance. Although logically, devoid of emotion, god and chance convey the same human ignorance about how this beautiful cosmos came about. But, what distinguishes the two, in practice, is the element of purpose. When an atheist discovers a deep purpose in life his chance becomes god. God or chance is, therefore, our choice depending upon our own mental states. We generally oscillate between them before maturity.
Now, for the sake of simplicity and immediacy, let us restrict our discussion to the purpose of human life. And even among us, it would be helpful to bear in mind, the purpose, as a member of species is different from the purpose as an individual. Since each human being is as unique as his/her genes and environment, it is reasonable to accept that his/her purpose as an individual, too, is unique. After these elementary reservations, self-actualization stands out as the general purpose for human life. Even the realization of self or enlightenment is merely the process of self-actualization for some of us.
Coming back to fundamentalism, after the hasty retreat of rationalists from the domain of religion, the priests of every shade were free to misinterpret the purpose of human life to the extent that it became one for all --a blind adherence to a particular creed. This period when religion was a fig leaf for moral fascism is known in history as the Dark Age.
If fundamentalism has been bread and butter for the clergy, it served as a shield against ignominy for the hypocrites who are generally rich and powerful through unfair means. Where religion is only ritual deep, they easily pass off as religious and attain respectability by erecting a place of worship. The simple minded believers have been the victims who, besides being exploited in numerous ways, fought wars against each other, in the name of god and religion, of course.
Thus we see that, due to fundamentalism or literal interpretation of our scriptures, we either deny any purpose to human life or we learn it rote or we only pretend to know it. All these attitudes are harmful for the moral well being of a society. Present moral stupor in the world may be directly attributed to the cumulative effect of unbridled fundamentalism down the ages. Industrialization has only exposed our incapacity to cope with technological and material progress.
A fundamentalist has tunnel vision in that he/she can only see the sins of those he/she hates. There is no concept of applying the same standards fairly to everyone. So while India is castigated ad nauseum as having suppressed and discriminated against its minorities , almost no attention is given to the far more egregious and unapologetic genocide of Hindus in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh and in Kashmir (though if left to her, that would also be a neighboring country). If a few Hindus mirrored the crime of the Kasabs and sailed to Bangladesh to take “revenge” for the government-sanctioned rapes and murders of Hindus by killing innocents in Dhaka would Ms. Roy be so accepting of their motivations as she has been for the Pakistanis? Would she then just make a passing condemnation of Hindu fundamentalists and keep the lion’s share of her wrath for the government of Bangladesh for their treatment of Hindus?
The truth is simple. Terrorism against anyone cannot be justified. Never. Not in any sneaky round about way. Now if only the fundamentalists understood this simple truth.
A fundamentalist finds sinister conspiracies everywhere. According to some, the Mumbai incidents were Zionist-Hindu plots to discredit Muslims. So was 9/11 except there the stupid Hindus were not part of the plan. According to another class of loony fundamentalists, there is a grand conspiracy to alter the demographics of India by Muslims with every member of the community working in perfect synchrony to attain this objective. And according to people like Ms. Roy, most acts of terrorism in India have sinister shadows of government design where the culprits arrested are not the perpetrators, where every act of urban violence is suspected to be a wound intentionally inflicted on the self to further the oppression of minorities. Questions always remain in her mind about every person picked up by the police if they belong to the rank of those she identifies as the “oppressed”. The reason for her eternal skepticism is not difficult to understand. The evil men/the other always lie. The “oppressed” never do.
Fundamentalists are typically hysterical. Not for them sober debate and reasoning. They like the sensationalism, the sweeping generalizations. A fundamentalist will never accept that their hysteria is an inevitable consequence of the fact that what they say often does not stand the test of reason. Which is why they have to take recourse to shrillness of tone and the thumping of chests to transfer the hysteria to the audience.