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The first part of the following is my personal observations from Christian groups I have belonged to with a large number of fundamentalists and articles in a fundamentalist newsletter I use to get. They are not statistically rigorous.
I am a Christian who has "moderate" beliefs in things like "Theistic Evolution" (The version taught in most main line Seminaries).
The second part is based on more academic observations.

According to Lionel Caplan, Studies in Religious Fundamentalism (1987):
Fundamentalism has come to identify conservative evangelicals inside the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as the charismatic sects which comprise what is now the fastest-moving current within the Christian world. In the American setting, it no longer exemplifies the hill-billy element in rural or small-town Protestantism, as it did half a century ago.

The recent fundamentalist movement has been/is lead by people like Pat Robertson (Christian Coalition and The 700 Club) and Ralph Reed (Christian Coalition), Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell (Moral majority) and to some extent evangelicals like Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ) and James Dobson (Focus on the Family).

I couldn't find reliable estimates for the number of fundamental christians, partially I expect, because of the loose definition of fundamental. According to an article on the 2000 primaries: "In Michigan, fundamentalist Christians are far less of a force than in South Carolina. About 13 to 17 percent of the population considers itself part of the Christian right, compared to more than a third in South Carolina.

In a 2004 CPANDA (Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive Princeton University) study 19% described themselves as fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.

The German Partei Bibeltreuer Christen (PBC) estimated 20 to 30 percent of Americans can be described as fundamental Christians.


Some common fundamentalist positions:

Politics:
Fundamentalists tend to be republican. According to a 2007 Iowa poll of likely caucus participants, slightly more than one-half of those in the Republican group consider themselves "born-again" or fundamentalist Christians. In the Democratic camp, 20 percent consider themselves fundamentalist Christians.

This is reflected in the politics of abortion, gay rights, environmental issues and more.
See:
Religion and Politics
Famous Trials and Supreme Court Decisions

Science:
Fundamentalists tend to distrust scientists. The predominant issue is Evolution & Creation, but there are also issues like genetic engineering (e.g. stem-cell research).
Many if not most fundamentalists do not, or did not several years ago, believe in global warming.
They point to verses like [Genesis 8:22], "As long as the earth endures, ... cold and heat, ..., will never cease." to show that it is a natural cycle and not influenced by man.
However, some are coming around; On his Aug. 3, 2006 "700 Club" television show, Pat Robertson said: "It (an unusually warm Aug.) is the most convincing evidence of global warming I've run into in a long time." Story at BeliefNet. [Actually the less than 1° average change at lower latitudes would not be detectible].

They use examples like atheist Carl Segan to show scientists are against religion. Actually scientists are more than 4:1 people of faith. See scientists of faith.

The Environment in general (conservation, clean air & water, etc):

Forty-five senators and 186 representatives in 2003 earned 80- to 100-percent approval ratings from the nation's three most influential Christian right advocacy groups -- the Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Research Council. Many of those same lawmakers also got flunking grades - less than 10 percent, on average - from the League of Conservation Voters last year.
Grist.org explains it as follows:
"Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return."

Others use [Genesis 1:29-30],

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
as justification.

At Home:
Fundamentalists believe in strict discipline and obedience in a family hierarchy with the man in charge.
Women should be subservient to men. [Ephesians 5:22-24].

Most fundamentalists support corporal (spanking, etc.) punishment of children in school and at home.
See: Protestant Fundamentalism and Support of Corporal Punishment.

At school:
Fundamentalists believe that the separation of church and state should not preclude pryers in school or the teaching of creationism or intelligent design along with evolution which would be presented as a theory not fact. See Evolution & Creation.

They also believe in corporal punishment to maintain discipline.

Divorce:
Other studies show fundamentalists have a higher divorce rate than the average Christian and the average American. The cause-effect relationship of this is unclear:
1. It could be the trauma of divorce pushes people to fundamentalism.
2. It could be there is something in fundamentalist beliefs (e.g. women should be subservient to men. [Ephesians 5:22-24]) that leads to divorce.
3. It could be some common personality or social trait of individuals leads to both.
However, Brooks[1] says "They score highly on subjective measures of marital happiness."

In my view, fundamentalists are overly concerned about fighting people with a different worldview (Muslims, socialists [e.g. progressive political issues such as universal healthcare, welfare], homosexuals, pro-choicers, scientists [paleontologists, evolutionary biologists, stem cell researchers, climate researchers, ...], environmentalists ...).

One explanation is the need for enemies is evolutionary. Primitive tribes which survived were those who could slay their enemies; Xenophobia is a natural outcome.
The tension in our species between selfishness and altruism, has been explained by evolutionary scientists as a kin selection; People will sacrifice themselves for the survival of their kin (relatives with the same genes). In his book "The Social Conquest of Earth", 2012, Edward O. Wilson, expands this to espouse group selection.
Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, Wilson presents explains the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the EarthÕs biosphere.
He says, " Group selection shapes instincts that tend to make individuals altruistic toward one another (but not towards members of other groups). Individual selection is responsible for much of what we call sin, while group selection is responsible for the great part of virtue. Together they have created the conflict between the poorer and better angels of our nature."

In his 1975, book "Sociobiology", popularized the idea that social behavior derives from genes.

I maintain that groups in developed countries today are no longer tribes who live together and provide for the common defense, but groups defined by social and ethical ideals, the haves and have-nots, conservatives and liberals, ...

However, in "Fundamentalists are just like us", at NewScientist.com Michael Brooks says No.
"Studies show no general inclination towards prejudice, at least in areas where people's behavior does not conflict with their moral values." "They score highly on subjective measures of marital happiness (see divorce below), optimism and self-control, and have a low incidence of depression and anxiety. ...They belong to the much larger group of people that psychologists class as "intrinsically" religious: they absorb a creed, believe it is the right thing to believe, and do their utmost to work out its implications in their lives", he says.

Sara Savage, who researches the psychology of religion at the University of Cambridge says: Secular western culture doesn't provide a "grand narrative" to participate in. It offers multiple options for making sense of the world around us - a mess that most human minds struggle to deal with.

Scott Atran, who studies group dynamics at the University of Michigan, says: "They are nice people. I certainly find very little hatred; they act out of love," he says.
"It's mostly small group dynamics rather than personal psychology or indoctrination," he says.
Because fundamentalist groups are at odds the dominant culture, maintaining the group's fundamentalist world view demands isolation from that culture. The first casualty is tolerance of diversity.

Part of the answer lies in fundamentalists' need to bolster group identity by reframing their beliefs in the terms of the dominant culture. In a secular, scientific culture, Savage points out, a certain level of evidence is generally required in order for knowledge to count and for individuals to act on it. Fundamentalists respond by attempting to "prove" their core beliefs: they "science-up" their faith, framing it in a way that they think ought to make sense to a scientific culture. Their claims then become, in their eyes at least, as valid as science's claims. No wonder scientists find fundamentalists' claims so infuriating: they are operating on patently false credentials.

According to James Barr, professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of a number of books critical of Christian fundamentalism, these false credentials have produced a "deep intellectual self-distrust" that shows itself in an insatiable craving for intellectual credibility.
According to Barr, fundamentalists have failed to gain intellectual acceptance even within mainstream Christian scholarship. Because the fundamentalists come to the Bible with a partisan agenda, they are unable to offer any striking insights. As a result, fundamentalist biblical scholarship is "sterile", he says. Fundamentalist Christianity is widely considered as irrelevant to modern theology as it is to modern science.


Christian groups/people wich promote intolerance.

American Family Association (AFA) founder, Donald Wildmon, has suggested that obscene content on television and in the movies is largely due to the media being controlled by Jews.
AFA is a pro-family organization which operates nearly 200 radio stations across the country under the American Family Radio (AFR) banner.
Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the AFA and host of the "Focal Point" radio program on American Family Radio (AFR) Talk. He has claimed that homosexuality gave us Aldolph Hitler and "homosexuals, as a group, are the single greatest perpetrators of hate crimes outside of the Muslim religion."
He also said, "President Obama "nurtures this hatred for the United States of America, and, I believe, nurtures a hatred for the white man."

The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-gay group. In a 1999 FRC pamphlet they stated "One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets of a new sexual order.'"

After 9-11, evangelist, Jerry Falwell, an evangelical fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor, said on Rev. Pat Robertson's "700 Club" that America probably got what we deserve; The ACLU, pagans, Abortionists, Feminists, Gays, Lesbians and the People for the American Way helped make the world trade center attacks happen.

On the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks controversial Florida pastor, Terry Jones, dubbed the day International Burn a Koran Day. He was severely criticized by religious and political leaders and eventually baked down.


The Christian Patriot movement promotes various interpretations of history and law with the common theme that the federal government has turned against the ideas of liberty and individual rights behind the American Revolution, and America's Christian heritage. It grew during the 1990s after the Ruby Ridge incident and the Waco Siege and maintained ties with the militia movement.
After 2000, the original movement became defunct and the term Christian Patriot was increasingly adopted by conservative Christians self-identifying themselves as patriots.
He recently said that welfare had "destroyed the African American family" and was incentivizing black "people who rut like rabbits".


Mitch Albom's book "Tuesdays with Morrie" talks about life's lessons learned from his former college professor who was dying with Lou Gehrig's disease.
Morrie says: "The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves."

Fundamentalism is a way people can see themselves as better with God on their side.

I recently saw a PBS special about Chimpanzees which pointed out that Chimps and Humans are the only two species who systematically gang up (wars, terrorism) to kill members of their own species.

In "The Faith Instinct", Nicholas Wade says "Societies whose members embraced such beliefs (God(s) closely follow events in the world and can be swayed by prayer, sacrifice and appropriate rituals) would have been more cohesive and united in attaining difficult goals, wheather in peace or in warfare."

Evolution and Hate:
My personal opinion is that over our existence as a species the world had gone thru many cycles of feast and famine. (Many attribute the decline of the Mayan culture to famine). Societies who could limit their size so as not to outgrow their resources would have survived. One way to limit your size is for a smaller group to distinguish themselves as better than the rest of the population and drive them out, seizing scare resources for themselves.
At different times in the growth of the U.S. Blacks, Jews, Catholics, Irish and others have been discriminated against.
My, who's a neuroscientist, thinks this dosen't hold water, and he's probably right.

I guess I should feel sorry for them. Their traditional enemies Blacks, Catholics, Jews, ... are now off limits and it is considered politically incorrect to attack them, although many still do.
They are left with gays, Muslims, Illegal Immigrants, and Liberals.

Some practical observations: On several occasions I was involved in when volunteers were needed to help those (other Christians) in need the people who volunteered were the moderates not the fundamentalists.


Violence and Anger:
In addition to religious wars there has been a lot of violence and anger associated with the religious right. A few are:
  • Abortion clinic doctors were murdered in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 2009. Most by Christian fundamentalists.

    e.g. In 1994 Paul Hill, a former Presbyterian minister and leader in Defensive Action assassinated Dr. John Britton, another doctor, and James Barrett, his escort, outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida.
    On May 31, 2009, George Richard Tiller, MD was shot through the eye and killed, by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, as Tiller served as an usher during the Sunday morning service at his church in Wichita.

  • The Army of God has taken responsibility for the bombing of a gay bar and an abortion clinic in Atlanta.
  • Opposition to gun control
  • Support of the KKK in the early 20th century
  •   In his "Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead", Frank Meeink describes how: "The skinheads told me that even though it looked like the black, Asian, and Hispanic "mud" were the ones taking over the world, it was really the Jews who threatened aryan survival." Gays and homeless people were another target of their anger. ... "What the skinheads said made sense, especially after they pointed out verses in the Bible that proved their points."
  • In 2011 Anders Behring Breivik, envisioning himself as a Christian crusader - a member of the Knights Templar (which actually dispanded in 1312), killed 77 (mainly children) at an island retreat in Norway. In his 1,500-page manifesto he cites U.S.-based anti-Muslim activists dozens of times. He intended to jolt Europe into recognizing the threat of multiculturalism.

These organizations and comments by main line personalities (Pat Buchanan said Breivik's views "may be right". Newt Gingrich compared Muslims to Nazis.) may help to justify violence in people who are unbalanced to begin with.

It is the same right wing groups which oppose minorities, who also spread the anti-government rhetoric which has become popular.

In January of 2011 A 22-year-old Tucson man, Jared Lee Loughner, shot nineteen people, six of them fatally, during an open meeting held by U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a jewish democrat.
Although there did not seem to be any direct link between Loughner and right wing groups (some evidence will not come out until a trial), my personal opinion is that all the hate rhetoric couldn't have helped.
Sarah Palin accused the press of manufacturing a "blood libel" to blame her and the right wing for the attacks.

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, who claimed 168 lives, was probably influenced by this anti-government talk also.

In Violence and the Sacred by René Girard, 1972, he links mimetic desire (The deliberate imitation of the behavior of one group of people by another as a factor in social change.), our tendency to marginalize and scapegoat those who are "different," our tendency toward violence, and our experience of ultimate otherness (the sacred).

Girard is a Christian, and has progressed from literary criticism to critical theory to active efforts to promote methods of constructive, peaceful conflict resolution.

See also Is there a link between religious proselytizing and hate crimes? at ReligiousTolerance.org

For or Against - Love vs Hate:
Extremist Moderate
Anti - Abortion Pro - Adoption
Anti-Obama Pro-smaller government
War Peace
Andrea Bocelli said,
"You ask me before of my point of view about religion, and I told you I am very religious. It means that before I fight against something, I try to fight in favour of something. It is not Christian to go against someone. I am in favour of life. And, of course, personally I do not share the idea of being able to interrupt life arbitrarily."

Personality Types:
My guess is that fundamentalists are types like ENFP (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceptive - Can usually find compelling reasons for whatever they want) on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory. James Dobson, evangelical psychologist, is an ENFP.

One reason people take extreme views is to find personal significance.

books - Articles:
Culture Warrior, Bill O'Riley, 2006
"Personality and charismatic experience among adult christians", Francis and Jones, Pastoral Psychology, Vol 45, Num 6, Jan. 1997
Nicholas Wade, The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures,

Links:
Tolerance
Message to Fundamentalists
1. "Fundamentalists are just like us" at NewScientist , 8 Oct., 2005 by Michael Brooks - same as "Fundamentalism - Meeting of minds" (pdf version with images).
Cognitive Dissonance - Self Esteem
Fundamentalist or Fundamental?
Fundamentalism and Authoritarianism at Fundamentally Aware.
Religion and the Environment
Personality and religion: Applying Cattell's model among secondary school pupils by Leslie Francis and Rosamund Bourke, U. of Wales, 2001.
Gay Marriage
The Royal Society of London fights battle royal over creationism, global warming.
scientists of faith.
Evolution & Creation

Return to Fundamentalism.


Last updated 11 May 2012