What Is Fundamentalism in Religion?
What Is Fundamentalism?
I get asked quite often what I mean by fundamentalism, which is a bit of a surprise to me given how many of the people I knew growing up self-identified as fundamentalists.
After meeting more people around the World, though, it seems that even more people are familiar with the term evangelical, which is interesting because it is one I rarely heard in all of the congregations I attended.
I can remember 3 times in my life I heard that word used from the pulpit, but most of the people I knew were proud fundamentalists. Today, more people identify as “conservative,” overall, believing that means good family values, but we won’t get into that in this article.
Instead, I want to just focus on the term fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is defined as a form of religion that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.
It also includes strict adherence to the basic principles of ANY subject or discipline. I like to remind people of this second part because I have personally met MANY fundamentalists on different paths and in different disciplines, including fundamentalist Wiccans, Pagans, yoga practitioners, and Vegans.
Basically, if you believe and espouse any dogmatic principle as it being the only “right” way, you are being fundamentalist.
Anytime you are trying to control others and what they believe, you are practicing fundamentalism. Any time you believe that you are BETTER than someone else because your way is more right, you are practicing fundamentalism.
This can include something like believing that you are better than everyone because you don’t watch television, in fact you don’t even OWN a tv, and you’re sure to let everyone know all about that on Facebook.
Similarly, believing that spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation (which Jesus did), or reading Tarot cards (which is no different than Bibliomancy and referring to Scripture) should not be done because they are “evil,” is also practicing fundamentalism through self-righteous judgement and condemnation.
It doesn’t matter WHY you believe what you do – whether you think it’s better for the planet or that witches can only be “true” witches if their tradition was passed down to them, or if you believe that the Truth you follow is found in a book that is the literal, inerrant Word of God. In Christianity, fundamentalist beliefs include:
- You MUST believe in Jesus as your personal Savior or you are going to Hell. There is NO OTHER WAY to get to Heaven.
- LGBT people are going to Hell (this is the ultimate Hate Speech)
- The Bible is the literal Word of God, and everything that it says happened just as it says.
- There is no other Holy Book than the Bible and no other True Religion than Christianity.
Fundamentalist beliefs are not just bad on a personal level, they are extremely dangerous and have wrecked the World’s economy and communities.
Fundamentalism has been used to start more wars, oppress more people, and kill more millions than any other belief in the history of the world.
When a group of people believes that their way is the only right way, they use those beliefs to justify EVERYTHING they do – including invading others’ lands, converting people, oppressing women and people of color, perpetuating slavery, and setting their men in power so they can control everyone and, of course, profit off of others.
Then they continue to perpetuate these beliefs by marketing them to the masses through religion. Everything set up in our current system is based on fundamentalist beliefs. This includes laws, especially around:
- birth control and access to birth control and health care for women
- restricting abortions, even if they are life-saving for the mother (which should not even be a factor in the decision)
- who can marry and restrictions on the gender between people who love one another
- taxes, giving extreme exemptions to religious congregations, even the ones that illegally preach about politics (which is EVERY. Single. Church I have ever attended except for the Unitarian Universalist ones)
- how much money we spend on war and military efforts, as opposed to education, health care, and infrastructure
- banning books and controlling access to education, science, logic, and facts
There are many other examples, but when we are supposed to have separation between Church and State in this country, NONE of these things should be happening.
We should NEVER have laws restricting anyone’s basic human rights and freedoms. Yet we do, and it’s all in the name of fundamentalism.