Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs. However, fundamentalism has come to be applied to a tendency among certain groups - mainly, although not exclusively, in religion - that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established "fundamentals" and their accepted interpretation within the group often results from this tendency.
Depending upon the context, the label "fundamentalism" can be a pejorative rather than a neutral characterization, similar to the ways that calling political perspectives "right-wing" or "left-wing" can have negative connotations.
Buddhist fundamentalism has targeted other religious and ethnic groups, as in Myanmar. A Buddhist-dominated country, Myanmar has seen tensions between Muslim minorities and the Buddhist majority, especially during the 2013 Burma anti-Muslim riots (alleged[by whom?] to have been instigated by hardline groups such as the 969 Movement.) and in actions associated with the Rohingya genocide (2016 onwards).
Buddhist fundamentalism also features in Sri Lanka. Buddhist-dominated Sri Lanka has seen recent tensions between Muslim minorities and the Buddhist majority, especially during the 2014 anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka and in the course of the 2018 anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka, allegedly instigated by hardline groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena.
Historic and contemporary examples of Buddhist fundamentalism occur in each of the three main branches of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. In Japan, a prominent example has been the practice among some members of the Mahayana Nichiren sect of shakubuku -- a method of proselytizing involving strident condemnation of other sects as deficient or evil.
Christian fundamentalism has been defined by George Marsden as the demand for a strict adherence to certain theological doctrines, in reaction against Modernist theology. The term was originally coined by its supporters to describe what they claimed were five specific classic theological beliefs of Christianity, and that developed into a Christian fundamentalist movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Fundamentalism as a movement arose in the United States, starting among conservative Presbyterian theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 19th century. It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations around 1910 to 1920. The movement's purpose was to reaffirm key theological tenets and defend them against the challenges of liberal theology and higher criticism.
The concept of "fundamentalism" has roots in the Niagara Bible Conferences that were held annually between 1878 and 1897. During those conferences, the tenets considered fundamental to Christian belief were identified.
"Fundamentalism" was prefigured by The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth, a collection of twelve pamphlets published between 1910 and 1915, by brothers Milton and Lyman Stewart. It is widely considered to be the foundation of modern Christian fundamentalism.
In 1910, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church identified what became known as the five fundamentals:
In 1920, the word "fundamentalist" was first used in print by Curtis Lee Laws, editor of "The Watchman Examiner," a Baptist newspaper. Laws proposed that those Christians who were fighting for the fundamentals of the faith should be called "fundamentalists."
Theological conservatives who rallied around the five fundamentals came to be known as "fundamentalists". They rejected the existence of commonalities with theologically related religious traditions, such as the grouping of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism into one Abrahamic family of religions. By contrast, while Evangelical groups (such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) typically agree with the "fundamentals" as they are expressed in The Fundamentals, they are often willing to participate in events with religious groups which do not hold to the essential doctrines.
Scholars identify several politically active Hindu movements as part of the "Hindu fundamentalist family."
Fundamentalism within Islam goes back to the 7th century to the time of the Kharijites. From their essentially political position, they developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to Takfir, whereby they declared other Muslims to be unbelievers and therefore deemed them worthy of death.
The Shia and Sunni religious conflicts since the 7th century created an opening for radical ideologues, such as Ali Shariati (1933-77), to merge social revolution with Islamic fundamentalism, as exemplified by the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Islamic fundamentalism has appeared in many countries; the Wahhabi version is promoted worldwide and financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan.
The Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80 marked a major turning point in the use of the term "fundamentalism". The media, in an attempt to explain the ideology of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution to a Western audience described it as a "fundamentalist version of Islam" by way of analogy to the Christian fundamentalist movement in the U.S. Thus was born the term Islamic fundamentalist, which became a common use of the term in following years.
Jewish fundamentalism has been used to characterize militant religious Zionism, and both Ashkenazi and Sephardic versions of Haredi Judaism. Ian S Lustik has characterized Jewish fundamentalism as "an ultranationalist, eschatologically based, irredentist ideology."
Political usage of the term "fundamentalism" has been criticized. It has been used by political groups to berate opponents, using the term flexibly depending on their political interests. According to Judith Nagata, a professor of Asia Research Institute in the National University of Singapore, "The Afghan mujahiddin, locked in combat with the Soviet enemy in the 1980s, could be praised as 'freedom fighters' by their American backers at the time, while the present Taliban, viewed, among other things, as protectors of American enemy Osama bin Laden, are unequivocally 'fundamentalist'."
"Fundamentalist" has been used pejoratively to refer to philosophies perceived as literal-minded or carrying a pretense of being the sole source of objective truth, regardless of whether it is usually called a religion. For instance, the Archbishop of Wales has criticized "atheistic fundamentalism" broadly and said "Any kind of fundamentalism, be it Biblical, atheistic or Islamic, is dangerous". He also said, "the new fundamentalism of our age ... leads to the language of expulsion and exclusivity, of extremism and polarisation, and the claim that, because God is on our side, he is not on yours." He claimed it led to situations such as councils calling Christmas "Winterval", schools refusing to put on nativity plays and crosses being removed from chapels. Others have countered that some of these attacks on Christmas are urban legends, not all schools do nativity plays because they choose to perform other traditional plays like A Christmas Carol or The Snow Queen and, because of rising tensions between various religions, opening up public spaces to alternate displays rather than the Nativity scene is an attempt to keep government religion-neutral.
In The New Inquisition, Robert Anton Wilson lampoons the members of skeptical organizations such as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal as fundamentalist materialists, alleging that they dogmatically dismiss any evidence that conflicts with materialism as hallucination or fraud.
In France, during a protestation march against the imposition of restrictions on the wearing of headscarves in state-run schools, a banner labeled the ban as "secular fundamentalism". In the United States, private or cultural intolerance of women wearing the hijab (Islamic headcovering) and political activism by Muslims also has been labeled "secular fundamentalism".
The term "fundamentalism" is sometimes applied to signify a counter-cultural fidelity to a principle or set of principles, as in the pejorative term "market fundamentalism", used to imply exaggerated religious-like faith in the ability of unfettered laissez-faire or free-market capitalist economic views or policies to solve economic and social problems. According to economist John Quiggin, the standard features of "economic fundamentalist rhetoric" are "dogmatic" assertions and the claim that anyone who holds contrary views is not a real economist. Retired professor in religious studies Roderick Hindery lists positive qualities attributed to political, economic, or other forms of cultural fundamentalism, including "vitality, enthusiasm, willingness to back up words with actions, and the avoidance of facile compromise" as well as negative aspects such as psychological attitudes,[which?] occasionally elitist and pessimistic perspectives, and in some cases literalism.
A criticism by Elliot N. Dorff:
In order to carry out the fundamentalist program in practice, one would need a perfect understanding of the ancient language of the original text, if indeed the true text can be discerned from among variants. Furthermore, human beings are the ones who transmit this understanding between generations. Even if one wanted to follow the literal word of God, the need for people first to understand that word necessitates human interpretation. Through that process human fallibility is inextricably mixed into the very meaning of the divine word. As a result, it is impossible to follow the indisputable word of God; one can only achieve a human understanding of God's will.
Howard Thurman was interviewed in the late 1970s for a BBC feature on religion. He told the interviewer:
I say that creeds, dogmas, and theologies are inventions of the mind. It is the nature of the mind to make sense out of experience, to reduce the conglomerates of experience to units of comprehension which we call principles, or ideologies, or concepts. Religious experience is dynamic, fluid, effervescent, yeasty. But the mind can't handle these so it has to imprison religious experience in some way, get it bottled up. Then, when the experience quiets down, the mind draws a bead on it and extracts concepts, notions, dogmas, so that religious experience can make sense to the mind. Meanwhile, religious experience goes on experiencing, so that by the time I get my dogma stated so that I can think about it, the religious experience becomes an object of thought.
The Associated Press' AP Stylebook recommends that the term fundamentalist not be used for any group that does not apply the term to itself. Many scholars have adopted a similar position. Other scholars, however, use the term in the broader descriptive sense to refer to various groups in various religious traditions including those groups that would object to being classified as fundamentalists, such as in the Fundamentalism Project.
Tex Sample asserts that it is a mistake to refer to a Muslim, Jewish, or Christian fundamentalist. Rather, a fundamentalist's fundamentalism is their primary concern, over and above other denominational or faith considerations.
Once considered exclusively a matter of religion, theology, or scriptural correctness, use of the term fundamentalism has recently undergone metaphorical expansion into other domains [...].
[...] the fundamentalism and quest relationships with prejudice are especially meaningful in light of an association with right-wing authoritarianism. [...] In the end, it would seem that it is not religion per se, but rather the ways in which individuals hold their religious beliefs, which are associated with prejudice.
Widely used as a pejorative term to designate one's fanatical opponents - usually religious and/or political - rather than oneself, fundamentalism began in Christian Protestant circles in the eC20. Originally restricted to debates within evangelical ('gospel-based') Protestantism, it is now employed to refer to any person or group that is characterized as unbending, rigorous, intolerant, and militant. The term has two usages, the prior one a positive self-description, which then developed into the later derogatory usage that is now widespread.
Hundreds of years later, Islam again comes to the Sahel, this time with an unstoppable mission mentality and the way paved by money from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan. Foreigners, and also Malians who received scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia, introduce this strict form of Islam, and condemn the sufi's [sic].[verification needed]