Michal Ann McArthur
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Understanding World Religious Fundamentalisms, Part 2: What is Religious Fundamentalism?

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Religious fundamentalism is characterized by four main ideas, whether the adherents are Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, or Jews.

Religious fundamentalism teaches that human reasoning must be subservient to faith. Therefore, all religious fundamentalisms reject secular modernity because modernity makes human reason based on science the ultimate authority for truth. Each religious fundamentalism has its own body of beliefs/tradition considered by its adherents to be true and not open to debate. Doubt and questioning of the faith are not encouraged. The truth of the dogma is not open to scientific investigation or indeed, to any judgment by the human mind. Human thought is judged by the book (or body of dogma); the book is not judged by human thought. It is a given that any idea that is contrary to the accepted dogma is false. An idea may appear to be true to the human mind, but religious fundamentalism views the human mind as fallen, darkened by sin, and not to be trusted.

Religious fundamentalism is exclusivist. Each religion makes the claim that its particular dogma is the only truth and that salvation is found exclusively within its religious system. Only those who accept a particular religion’s set of fundamental beliefs and practices are acceptable to God.

Religious fundamentalism teaches that the holy writings of its religion should be interpreted literally.

Religious fundamentalism builds its present religious vision by looking to the past. Fundamentalists use a process of “selective retrieval” (5), or a process of choosing some constituent aspects of their history while ignoring others, to identify in their tradition a pure religion which they use to define their present religious vision (6).

5. Martin E. Marty, “The Future of World Fundamentalisms.” Published in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 142, No. 3, September 1998. Web. 26 June 2013.

6. Tyler Roberts, Skeptics and Believers: Religious Debate in the Western Intellectual Tradition (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2009), 104.

< Part 1Part 3 >

Part 1: Introduction to Religious Fundamentalism
Part 2: What is Religious Fundamentalism?
Part 3: Christian Fundamentalism in Philosophical Perspective
Part 4: Doctrinal Distinctives of Protestant Christian Fundamentalism
Part 5: Christian Fundamentalism and Choking on a Camel