discussion 1

Activity 1: Discussion and Written Assignment—Fundamentalisms


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Fundamentalism in religious traditions reflects a literal interpretation of sacred texts and sometimes contributes to violence toward those who do not accept the fundamentalist perspective. Scholars of sacred text often debate how the text should be interpreted. Many acknowledge the importance of understanding the context of the text in order to render an interpretation that reflects an accurate meaning for contemporary times. There are those who say that fundamentalism is a commitment to traditional beliefs within a religious tradition; yet, there are multiple viewpoints even among those who share some core teachings.


As you examine the readings, how do you evaluate the concept of fundamentalism? There are many forms of religious fundamentalism, such as Joel Osteen and his message of the “prosperity gospel” or militant evangelical Christians who target abortion clinics or those fundamentalists who simply love God with a firm belief that values and laws should not change. Explore the complexity of fundamentalism within different religions. In what way does fundamentalism rely on fear to motivate behavior and belief? For example, the idea that in the United States the founding fathers were the ideal men with a perfect wisdom for the creation of a nation and any social change is a threat to the future of the country. Or, the use of apocalyptic end-time fear to encourage people to finance a particular religious group for the sake of personal salvation.


Post your initial thoughts about the topic of fundamentalism. Then, be prepared to discuss the positive and negative arguments that represent the debate about fundamentalism.
Activity 2: Discussion—Fundamentalism in the Context of Religion and Politics


Charismatic leaders in fundamentalist movements are often in the public media. There are also national fundamentalist expressions such as Hindu Nationalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish Orthodoxy, and Islamic militancy. There are examples in many religious traditions such as Rev. Jerry Falwell and Randall Terry, Rabbi Kook the Elder, and Ayatollah Khamenei. Among those who are considered fundamentalist leaders, there is the use of religion to construct ideologies and organize movements. In Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East, Scott Appleby writes, “What we mean by fundamentalism, in other words, is the blending of traditional religion and its politicized, ideological defense.” There is also the belief in absolute good and absolute evil that allows the fundamentalist believer to feel justified in eliminating the person who is perceived as evil.


Identify a fundamentalist leader and explain the leader’s role in promoting conflict and violence. There are many examples such as David Koresh in Waco, TX, or Gush Emunim in Israel, or the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. As you examine this issue, consider several different religious traditions to see that fundamentalist violence exists among various religious beliefs.


Post to the Forum your thoughts about the role of charismatic leaders and violence in fundamentalist movements.

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