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Fundamentalism is a religious position typically characterized by a rigid adherence to what are perceived to be the most basic and traditional principles and beliefs of that religion.

The term originated in America as a part of Christianity when The Fundamentals: A Testimony of the Truth was published between 1910 and 1912 - a 12-volume set of books outlining the "fundamental" beliefs which were supposed to be required of all Christians.

The following are "fundamentals of the faith" according to most born again believers:

  • The infallibility and inspiration of Scripture.
  • The virgin birth of Christ and the Deity of Christ.
  • The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for sinners and the blood atonement.
  • The bodily resurrection of Christ and His visible return to earth.
  • A judgment of the saved and lost followed by a literal heaven and a literal hell.

Although fundamentalists like to regard themselves as heirs of original Christianity, this is not an accurate view because fundamentalism has emphasized certain doctrines which were never very important within the Christian tradition and which do not appear to have played any particular role in the early church. Among these new doctrines are dispensationalism, premillanialism and biblical inerrancy.

But the term fundamentalism has not been limited in usage just to Christians. Over time, it has been applied to movements in many other religions as well. The Fundamentalism Project offered these "family resemblances" found in most fundamentalist movements:

  • religious idealism is used as a foundation for personal and communal identity;
  • truth is revealed and unified;
  • fundamentalism is intentionally "scandalous" (i.e., makes dramatic an fundamentals challenges to prevailing norms);
  • members are part of a cosmic struggle;
  • historical events are reinterpreted in light of their cosmic struggle;
  • opposition is demonized (because the opposition is on the opposite side of the cosmic struggle);
  • what parts of their tradition and heritage are stressed are chosen selectively;
  • men almost always control positions of power;
  • the modernist cultural hegemony is envied, eve as they try to overturn it;
  • the erosion of religion and its proper role in society is normally presented as their primary concern;
  • some form of Manicheanism (dualism) is used;
  • absolutism and inerrancy in their sources of revelation is stressed;
  • some form of Millennialism or Messianism is used.

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Related Resources:

What is Christianity?
What are the various Christian groups, denominations, sects and heresies? What are some key concepts in Christian theology? What are some of the most important events in Christian history? All of this and more are covered in the Christianity FAQ.

What is the Philosophy of Religion?
Sometimes confused with theology, the Philosophy of Religion is the philosophical study of religious beliefs, religious doctrines, religious arguments and religious history. The line between theology and the philosophy of religion isn't always sharp, but the primary difference is that theology tends to be apologetical in nature, committed to the defense of particular religious positions, whereas Philosophy of Religion is committed to the investigation of religion itself, rather than the truth of any particular religion.

What is Theism?
What is the difference between monotheism and monolatry? Between pantheism and panentheism? How about between animism and shamanism? Or theism and deism? What the heck is henotheism?

What is Religion?
A system of human beliefs, ideals and practices which is harder to define than it may at first appear. Read more about how dictionaries, scholars and others have tried to define and explain religion.

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