Is Religious Fundamentalism always Totalitarian and Prone to Violence?
Fundamentalism is “a belief in returning to the literal meanings of scriptural texts. Fundamentalism may arise as a response to modernization and rationalization, insisting on faith-based answers, and defending tradition by using traditional grounds.” Fundamentalists believe that their view is only one true view of the world which leaves no room for ambiguity and that this is the true correct belief (Giddens, 2009). Fundamentalist ideas are ideas based on what is thought to be the one ‘essential truth’. Throughout fundamentalism, there are different strains of thought with regards how to approach the true life. One is Passive, where its members withdraw into their own small communities and share it with only a few on the outside when necessary. The other is Active, which focuses on bringing opposition to the entire modern world until they have their way. There are also different families of fundamentalisms in the world. Examples of these would be Islamic fundamentalism and The Christian Right movements. Fundamentalism shares throughout the different religions a common rejection of ‘liberal attitudes’. The attitudes rejected are those of morality, the lifestyle of the people and politics of the nation. Instead what are believed in are the traditional values of social order and morality, along with old-fashioned nationalism (Adams, 1993).
“Religious fundamentalism may be heavily politicized and, conversely, it can adopt some of the characteristics of totalitarian ideologies” (Freeden, 2003). Fundamentalism is a main feature of the modern world. With it being a reaction to the secularization of the globe, as a moral protest to the modern values, it cannot be ignored. Several key characteristics of fundamentalism can be identified. It seems that the most serious of these characteristics being that religion and politics are seen as inseparable by its followers. They see the divide in government and religion as letting go of a country’s identity and inviting evil and corruption into the state. Militancy also plays a role in the summation of fundamentalism. The fundamentalists seem to have a heightened or extreme commitment to their cause in securing their core values and beliefs. They very much have an “Us versus Them” mentality to their identity. They also have a Manichean worldview and thus have an excuse to make the ends justify the means. Sometimes they have claimed that illegal actions are justified because they are supposedly supported by divine law. Christian fundamentalists were the first to use television as a media weapon. It was used to promote their doctrines to a wide media using a single charismatic leader at a time. Islamic fundamentalists fighting off the Russian forces in Chechnya designed and used websites to put forward their views and doctrines (Giddens, 2009). Another key feature is that of fundamentalist impulse. It is often seen to be taken directly from sacred texts. Often it is by a key charismatic leader in the service of political goals over an issue at the time. Anti-modernism has been seen to be a key characteristic of fundamentalism. They blame the decline and decay around the modern world on being amoral and straying from the basic religious teachings. There is a wide element of conservatism in the fundamentalist approach. However, it does differ from conservatism at several points. Both are strident and passionate, but the fundamentalists seem to be more populist and egalitarian than the conservatives.
Fundamentalism conveys the idea of a religious-political movement or project, rather than just the asserting literal truth of their sacred texts. The Iranian cleric and political leader, Alatollah Khomeini (1900-89), claimed that “politics is religion”. If politics, in effect, is religion, this implies that religious principles are not restricted only to a person’s private life. They are seen as...
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