Religious Fundamentalism

February 2009 • Volume 3, Issue 2
Does it lead to intolerance and violence?
By Brian Beary

Introduction

Evangelical Christians from Brazil are baptized in the Jordan River in Israel, where more than 7,000 evangelical pilgrims traveled last October to show their support for the Jewish state.  Fundamentalist Christians' support for Israel has aggravated U.S. relations with the Muslim world.  (AFP/Getty Images/Gali Tibbon)
Evangelical Christians from Brazil are baptized in the Jordan River in Israel, where more than 7,000 evangelical pilgrims traveled last October to show their support for the Jewish state. Fundamentalist Christians' support for Israel has aggravated U.S. relations with the Muslim world. (AFP/Getty Images/Gali Tibbon)

People around the world are embracing fundamentalism, a belief in the literal interpretation of holy texts and, among the more hard-line groups, the desire to replace secular law with religious law. At the same time, deadly attacks by religious extremists in India, Uganda, Somalia and Nigeria are on the rise — and not just among Muslims. Meanwhile, political Islamism — which seeks to install Islamic law via the ballot box — is increasing in places like Morocco and in Muslim communities in Europe. Christian evangelicalism and Pentacostalism — the denominations from which fundamentalism derives — also are flourishing in Latin America, Africa, Central Asia and the United States. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists are blamed for exacerbating instability in the Middle East and beyond by establishing and expanding settlements on Palestinian lands. And intolerance is growing among Hindus in India, leading to deadly attacks against Christians and others. As experts debate what is causing the spread of fundamentalism, others question whether fundamentalists should have a greater voice in government.

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