Faces of Fundamentalism
Fundamentalism is normally thought of in religious terms but it is easily applied to any set of beliefs that are rigidly adhered to and not open to examination or challenge.
In the religious context the word once referred to the unquestioned acceptance of five fundamental dogmas:
- The inerrancy of scriptures
- The virgin birth
- Christ’s death as the atonement of sins
- The bodily resurrection of Christ
- Christ’s miracles
An unwavering attachment to the five dogmas defined Christian fundamentalists and set them apart from everyone else. Similarly, Islamic fundamentalists and others claimed ownership of God’s absolute truth and defined all others as non-believers, heretics and infidels.
While fundamentalism as a belief system was not so named until early in the twentieth century the pretense to the sole source of objective truth has no doubt always been part of the human condition. Indeed religious wars have been fought for centuries over undeniable truths and in all likelihood cavemen beat on each other over the nature of the sun or some such thing.
There is a strong temptation for those who are not religious fundamentalists to put themselves on an intellectual or moral pedestal but this self aggrandizement may be unwarranted. Secular fundamentalism abounds in many who feel above such things and it’s not always attached to a firmly held belief. Sometimes a cause or a relationship can produce unquestioned loyalties or stubborn resistance to reasonable analysis.
Sometimes loyalty to a political party can take on many of the characteristics of religious fundamentalism where party beliefs are accepted because of the party, rather than the party being accepted because of its core beliefs. It’s like voting for your team’s shortstop to be on the all-star team for no other reason than he is on your team.
Blind acceptance of free market fundamentals as the only way to have a well ordered economy will never be reexamined by true free market fundamentalists. Anthropomorphic carbon dioxide will never be challenged as the cause of global warming by some environmental fundamentalists. Fundamentalist’s dogma abounds in discussions of gun control, abortion, same sex marriage, public employee unions, environmentalism, church/state separation, affirmative action and so on.
Whether we like to admit it or not we are nearly all dogmatic fundamentalists of one stripe or another and we would all grow intellectually and morally if we would take the time to reexamine our beliefs and stereotypes.