Fundamentalism is the demand for a strict adherence to specific theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology, combined with a vigorous attack on outside threats to their religious culture. The term usually has a religious connotation indicating unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.
Islamic fundamentalism is a completely reactionary ideology that seeks to turn the wheel of history backward to establish theocratic dictatorships. The basis of support for radical Islamic fundamentalism cannot be discovered in the religious doctrine, and the Taliban's sharia law has nothing in common with Afghan culture. Most Afghan Muslims belong to the Hanafi school of thought, the most tolerant denomination of Sunni Islam.
One of the key features of Christian ultra-fundamentalism is that all other worldviews are seen as enemies to be extinguished or at least stopped from spreading (Marzano 1993/1994). There is no secular worldview that holds a similar position, with the possible exception of extreme communism. But other ultra-fundamentalist religious movements also seek the annihilation of opposing worldviews; some of these groups, such as Islamic ultra-fundamentalists, seek to physically extinguish those of other religions or cultures, or even members of their own religion who are deemed not orthodox enough.
The five "fundamentals" of Christian belief that were enumerated in a series of 12 paperback volumes containing scholarly essays on the Bible that appeared between 1910 and 1915, entitled The Fundamentals. Those included: biblical inerrancy, the divinity of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the belief that Jesus died to redeem humankind, and an expectation of the Second Coming – or physical return – of Jesus Christ to initiate his thousand-year rule of the Earth, which came to be known as the Millennium. Additionally, fundamentalists show a strong emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible; a strong hostility to modern theology and to the methods, results and implications of modern critical study of the Bible; and an assurance that those who do not share their religious viewpoint are not really "true Christians"
In the Third World, these massive and rapid changes and dislocations are occurring in the context of domination and exploitation by foreign imperialists—and this is associated with “local” ruling classes which are economically and politically dependent on and subordinate to imperialism, and are broadly seen as the corrupt agents of an alien power, who also promote the “decadent culture of the West.” This, in the short run, can strengthen the hand of fundamentalist religious forces and leaders who frame opposition to the “corruption” and “Western decadence” of the local ruling classes, and the imperialists to which they are beholden, in terms of returning to, and enforcing with a vengeance, traditional relations, customs, ideas and values which themselves are rooted in the past and embody extreme forms of exploitation and oppression.
The first and most basic distinguishing feature of fundamentalist movements is that they are reactive. Fundamentalists believe that their religion is under mortal threat from the secularism of the modern world, and they are fighting back. They may resist in different ways, but they are all essentially oppositional; they have to have an enemy.
The meaning fundamentalists derive from their religious beliefs is what allows them to persevere in an inhospitable culture: It creates a way for them to interpret the world, as well as themselves in relation to the world. This meaning system encompasses all of life and is strongly felt, for it deals with issues of eternal importance. The primary criterion for understanding fundamentalism is its insistence that all of life be understood in relation to the text.
Religious fundamentalists of various religions have three common central beliefs: (a) they must return to the basics of their faith, (b) there is in an absolute standard of truth (e.g., the Bible, the Torah, or the Quran) that is contested by evil, and (c) they have a special relationship to their deity and are assisting their deity in the fulﬁllment of God’s purpose for humanity (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992; Johnstone, 1997). Religious fundamentalism differs from other fundamentalisms with rigidly held ideologies, such as market fundamentalism for example, in that it is an overarching belief system that regulates not only religious thoughts but all conceptions; it is in essence, a “meta-belief” or worldview.
Religious fundamentalism describes an authoritarian set of beliefs that identify one set of religious teachings as the fundamental truth that is “opposed by forces of evil which must be vigorously fought." Altermeyer and Hunsberger (1992) found that individuals who are high in religious fundamentalism are more receptive to traditional norms and values as well as more accepting of aggression toward people who violate these norms.
The term fundamentalism is currently used to distinguish between those who interpret scriptures literally and those who believe in a subjective interpretation of the scriptures. The term has no utility if there is no inherent conflict between literal interpretations of a scripture on the one hand and logic, science, anthropology, archeology and history on the other hand. The term is also of no value if a particular tradition has hundreds of scriptures like the Hindus, Budhists and other Dharmic Traditions.
Religious fundamentalism is a response to the threat of the diversity of identities that exist at any given time, in any given place. While purporting to address social, cultural or economic inequalities between communities, religious fundamentalism in actual fact seeks to impose a new hegemonic order. In order to assist this project, religious fundamentalism invokes mythical memories of a perfect age where religious principles were followed to the book and all was well with the world; it relies on the constant creation of a set of enemies who were/are responsible for all that went wrong with this perfect world.