Definition of Religious Fundamentalism

1. They (fundamentalists) are counter-modernist. 

 It (fundamentalism) manifests itself as an attempt by “besieged believers” to find their refuge in arming themselves with an identity that is rooted in a past golden age. And this identity is acted out in an attempt to restore that “golden past”.

2. They (fundamentalists) are “generally assertive, clamorous, and often violent”.

3. They are “the Chosen”, “the Elect”, “the Saved”.

4. Public marks of distinction are needed to maintain their sense of superiority and distinctive identity.

Not only for the purpose of maintaining that distinctive identity, but also as “part of the narcissistic struggle to be considered unique and special.” (p.30)  Skullcaps, turbans, hijab, crosses, skin markings, circumcision, initiations, baptisms, rituals, food taboos, holy times, etc etc.  The point is to “be separate” so where there are similar groups the slight differences are exaggerated — the heretic being more of a threat than the infidel!

5. There is only one true religion and one correct way of life; and these must be defended against inroads from other religions and secularism.

Religious pluralism is a problem for the fundamentalist. The fundamentalist, whether Christian, Judaistic or Islamic, will accept all but only into one exclusive “truth”. Narcissism feeds on differences, and these differences are accentuated, intensified. Since there is only one true way, it is under constant threat. The world is thus a place of persecution. A place where there is a black and white, a Manichaean struggle between absolutes, good and evil, truth and error, God and Satan. There is no middle ground. “You are with us or against us.”

6. There is an inerrant holy book, prophet or charismatic leader to whom literal obedience is mandatory.

7. Law and authority come from God.

Even civic law must derive from the holy books. “God’s law always trumps human law.”

8. Female sexuality must be controlled and clear impassable boundaries must be established between men and women.

Sexuality is controlled within the structure of the patriarchal family. Women are subordinated in marriage, reproduction, abortion, ordination, access to or emphasis on education. Female sexuality is associated strongly with “animalism” and pollution — giving rise to taboos on certain sexual practices. (p.32)  “The control of female sexuality is sometimes linked with the fear of emasculation and homosexuality.” The fear of men being led to become like women is expressed in Islamic and Christian writings.

9. Sexual behaviour is a major concern of all fundamentalists — Christian, Jewish, Islamic — without exception. Especially the fear of and opposition to homosexuality.

10. Fundamentalism and nationalism converge.

The moral life according to the will of God can only be fully lived in a society of fellow-practitioners of the belief. This can only be achieved through God’s rule — through the national executive and legislature itself. Hence the importance of bringing about a government that will prioritize the right morals and right culture for the nation — relegating other (economic) functions to a secondary place.

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