East and West:
From Conservative
Protestants to the
War on Terror
A Cultural Construction]

"Varieties of the Religious 'Right,'"
syllabus by
Frank Flinn)

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Defining Fundamentalism
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Course Description (2004)

Fundamentalist Christian. Islamic fundamentalist.
Jewish fundamentalist. Fundamentalist Zoroastrian.
Hindu fundamentalist. Fundamentalist Catholicism.
Fundamentalist feminist. Fundamentalist anthropologist.
Market fundamentalism. All these usages are attested.
Why call someone a fundamentalist? Who call themselves
fundamentalists? Should we all stop using the word?
This is a course on the historical roots of religious
fundamentalism, how it has changed over time, and
contemporary understandings and misunderstandings
of the term, from conservative Anglo-American
Protestantism to the "War on Terror."


Course Description (2002)

"Fundamentalist" and "fundamentalism," are terms that are
often misunderstood and even abused, even as many
proudly call themselves "Fundamentalist." This is a course
on the historical roots of religious fundamentalism, how it has
changed over time, and contemporary understandings and
misunderstandings of the term. The first half of this course
introduces the "Fundamentalism" movement in conservative
Anglo-American Protestantism, and examines Fundamentalism in
the context of the history of Christianity, science and culture.
Students will also examine the comparative use of the term,
"fundamentalism," as applied to Islam, Judaism, and recently,
Hinduism and other world religions. We will address questions
such as: Why have conservatives of some religions, e.g.
Jainism and Catholicism, so far generally escaped this
designation? Is there really such a thing as "fundamentalism,"
or is this a modernist Protestant stereotype of conservative
Protestants, reified and applied to the other religious
traditions of the world? Should we all stop using this
highly charged word, or does it, if carefully defined,
have heuristic value as a comparative terrm?


Defining Fundamentalism

"[Fundamentalism is]...a tendency, a habit of mind, found within
religious communities... which manifests itself as a strategy, or
set of strategies, by which beleaguered believers attempt to
preserve their distinctive identity as a people or group. Feeling
this identity to be at risk in the contemporary era, they fortify it by
a selective retrieval of doctrines, beliefs, and practices from a
sacred past. These retrieved 'fundamentals' are refined, modified,
and sanctioned in a spirit of shrewd pragmatism; they are to
serve as a bulwark against the encroachment of outsiders who
threaten to draw the believers into a syncretistic, areligious, or
irreligious cultural milieu. Moreover, these fundamentals are
accompanied in the new religious portfolio by unprecedented
claims and doctrinal innovations. By the strength of these
innovations and the new supporting doctrines, the retrieved
and updated fundamentals are meant to regain the same
charismatic intensity today by which they originally forged
communal identity from the formative revelatory religious
experiences long ago."
--Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, pg. 835.

"Fundamentalism does not refer so much to a set of dogmatic
beliefs, to a creed, or to a literal adherence to a sacred text
considered infallible. Rather, more broadly it refers to an
orientation to the world, both cognitive and affective.
The affective, or emotional, orientation indicates outrage
and protest against (and also fear of) change and against
a certain ideological orientation, the orientation of modernism."
--Richard Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalism, pg. 3.

"[Fundamentalism is]...a style of political participation
characterized by unusually close and direct links between
one's fundamental beliefs and political behavior designed
to effect radical social change."
--Ian Lustick, quoted in Richard Antoun,
Understanding Fundamentalism, pg. 24.


"No Better Term Could Be Found..."

"Let it be said at the outset that the directors of the project
have assured all authors herein that in this introduction,
and in all that follows, they will make it emphatically clear
that 'fundamentalism' is not always the first choice--, or even
a congenial choice at all--, for some of the movements here
discussed. Most of the essayists take some pains to say why
they are uneasy with the term, and they say so often, with
evident awareness that some of their colleagues who specialize
in the same topics will criticize their assent to use the term.
We have asked them to keep their apologies brief..."
--Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, pg. viii


"Fundamentalism is an Embattled Term..."

"'Fundamentalism' is an embattled term. It arose in the
United States, in about 1920, as a term of self-reference
adopted by a group of Protestant Christians, who rallied
behind a series of pamphlets called 'The Fundamentals,'
(1920-1915). These writings deplored the evils of modernism--,
especially scientific naturalism and 'uncritical' use of higher
criticism of the Bible and perceived lapses in moral values.
They favored returning to 'the fundamentals' of Christian
belief and practice--, eternal pillars of an idealized past.
In time, liberal Christians, and modernists of a more secular
hue, began to use the term, 'fundamentalist,' in a rather
broader sense--, to designate groups they saw as naive
enough o believe they could reverse the course of history,
in favor of a mythic--, (dogmatically and socially homogeneous)--,
Christian past. In the 1980s, this pejorative usage became a
staple in journalistic analyses of political debates about the
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), abortion, and prayer in the
schools, indicating positions articulated by conservative
Christian groups, especially evangelical Protestants. It was
also employed, by extension, to designate the stances of
religious groups around the world, especially Muslims, who
took political action to reject Western secular modernism in
its various forms. The Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 put
the term into wide use for the first time. Before long, it also
came to designate Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and others.
Many people so designated understandably came to resent
the term's superior overtones--, its suggestion of atavism,
and a narrow, rigid mentality. Not without justice, Muslims in
particular have often seen it as cultural imperialism of a
specifically Judeo-Christian variety."
--John Stratton Hawley, quoted in Howland, Courtney W.,
Religious Fundamentalism and the Human Rights of Women, pg. 3


An Upside Down View of the World?

'Why would the MacArthur Foundation pay out several
million dollars to support an international study of religious
fundamentalists?' Surely one important answer, says
[Peter] Berger, is as follows: 'So-called fundamentalism
was assumed to be a strange, difficult to understand
phenomenon; the purpose of the Project was to delve
into this alien world and make it more understandable.'
Berger then continues: 'But here came another question.'
'Who finds this world strange, and to whom must it be made
understandable?' 'The answer to that question was easy--,
people to whom the officials of the MacArthur Foundation
normally talk, such as professors at American elite universities.'
'And with this came the 'Aha! experience.'' 'The concern
that must have led to this Project was based on an
upside-down perception of the world.' 'The notion here
was that so-called fundamentalism--, (which, when all is said
and done, usually refers to any sort of passionate
religious movement)--, is a rare, hard-to-explain thing.'
'But in fact, it is not rare at all--, neither if one looks at history,
nor if one looks around the contemporary world.'
'On the contrary, what is rare, is people who think otherwise.'
--Gerald James Larson, JAAR 65/3, pp. 655-656



Previously Offered:

Spring 2002


Next Offered:

Summer 2004


To Register

Washington University Online Course Catalog

WebSTAC (online course registration)


Time and Place


Summer 2004

ReSt 120 (Q) [U66] Fundamentalisms East and West:
From Conservative Protestants to the War on Terror
-TT--- 5:30 PM - 8:15 PM [
Eads 216]

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Also of Potential Interest

Go to Sociology of Religion Page
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American Popular Culture and Religion Page
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Minorities and Civil Rights Page
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Anth 4242 Social Movements (Professor Bret Gustafson)
[Last taught Autumn 2003]


Bibliographic Resources

Fundamentalisms Observed (Fundamentalisms Project Volume One)
Marty, Martin, and Appleby, R. Scott, eds. 1991. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
BL238 F83 1 Olin Level B Stacks; BL238 F83 1 c. 2 West C General Stacks

Fundamentalisms and Society (Fundamentalisms Project Volume Two)
Marty, Martin, and Appleby, R. Scott, eds. 1993. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
BL238 F83 2 Olin Level B Stacks

Fundamentalisms and the State (Fundamentalisms Project Volume Three)
Marty, Martin, and Appleby, R. Scott, eds., 1993. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
BL238 F83 3 Olin Level B Stacks; L238 F83 3 c. 2 West C General Stacks

Accounting for Fundamentalisms (Fundamentalisms Project Volume Four)
Marty, Martin, and Appleby, R. Scott, eds., 1994. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
BL238 .F83 4 Olin Level B Stacks

Fundamentalism Comprehended (Fundamentalisms Project, Volume Five)
Marty, Martin, and Appleby, R. Scott, eds., 1995. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
BL238 F83 5 Olin Level B Stacks



[Neither I nor anyone else at Washington Univesity necessarily endorses
the views expressed in these websites)


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Bajrang Dal (Warriors of the Hindutva Revolution) [Party of Hanuman]


RSS: "The Sangh": What Is It, and What Is It Not?


Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA)

Kanji Swami Panth (Jain sect)

SAKINA (Washington University Palestinian Advocacy Group)

New Religious Movement Links

Online article by Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), American Institute of Vedic Studies:
"The Myth of the Aryan Invasion"

Critique of David Frawley's article, cited above, by Professor Michael Witzel, Harvard University:
Part One
Part Two

Online article by Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), American Institute of Vedic Studies:
"The Myth of the Hindu Right"

Boston University, Institute on Religion and World Affairs: Tolerance Project

Boston University Cross-National Study of Worldwide Secular Movements

Boston University Seminar on Civl Democratic Islam


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