Fundamentally… different.

17 06 2014

The rise of social media is great. Every man, woman and child has an opinion on every meme, photo, funny dolphin video or clickbait propaganda that hits the digital world. I am not, however, naive enough to think that I am in the minority that sees a trend towards both bland and blind acceptance of some idealistic middle ground in terms of holding belief. Some ‘like’ everything, even when they don’t or when they have ‘liked’ polar opposite statements you might have (ok, somewhat-sneakily-in-purely-a-sociological-ethnographic-research-kind-of-way) posted weeks apart.. So what am I getting at?

It seems that one evil we are all keen to agree on is that of ‘Fundamentalism’.

Now, I know that those that know me will shudder with the hypocrisy of leaving that hanging sentence above as a paragraph when I know better, right? Shocking, but it was intentional. There is this perpetuated myth that ALL fundamentalism is bad because a) it causes more wars than anything else, blah, blah, b) it lacks tolerance and why can’t we all just be brothers and c) you don’t fancy a paradigm shifting wardrobe change or the effort/embarrassment required having too much hair, too little hair or just plain silly hair.

One thing which is just plain wrong (not ‘opinion’ wrong or ‘moral’ wrong but ‘statistically’ wrong) is that all (religious) fundamentalists are the same. It simply isn’t true.

This is not to say that there are fundamentalists of most belief systems (not just religious ones, by the way) who carry out atrocious acts. Many who not only hold the view that Fundamentalism is the root of many kinds of evil and lean to the left politically are quick to drag out the chestnut of Abortion Clinic Violence as evidence of widespread fanatical violence. Actually, over the last 23 years in the USA, with a population now over 318, 000, 000 only 8 people who were employees of abortion clinics have died, in six incidents. Three of these perpetrators had any clear links at all with Christian Churches and two of these were declared to have pervasive mental illness prevalent. The last one, the notorious Eric Robert Rudolph, infamous for not just an abortion clinic murder but the tragic Atlanta games Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996 confesses that he is not really aligned much at all with the ‘Born Again Christians’ and that he ‘much prefers Nietzsche to the Bible’.


pro life irony


Now the US outstrips all other nations for this type of terrorism.

So what about other ‘fundamentalists’? Firstly, shall we get to some kind of understanding of what this means. Whilst introduced to our language from the USA, its origins were particularly grounded in Protestant Christianity, from sects that believed the literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly as it related to Genesis and Creation. Following Islamic sectarian violence and the rise of modern Islamist terrorism, it has been applied also to other religious beliefs as well.


islam violence


Of course, it is difficult to choose a time from which to start recording Islamist attacks and those specifically which may be considered terrorism, so let us just consider those attacks claimed by Islamic jihadist groups in precisely the same period of time that we considered the horrific acts of senseless violence on abortion clinics above. The total figure to date of fatalies from 1990 to 2014 is



Yep. 4047 deaths. 809 000 % more deaths caused by Muslim Fundamentalists compared with less than 8 which in any way may be linked to “right-wing Christian fundamentalism”. Now there are some who peddle the myth that “religious fundamentalism” has “caused most of the wars in history, or, it’s fat brother “Christianity has caused…”. The simple fact is that the term religious fundamentalism at it applies to those who believe the document of their faith in an orthodox fashion is relatively new, less than 120 years. Furthermore, the adoption of that term to those of the Islamic faith is also on the basis that those who practice “extreme Islam” actually follow what they believe to be the literal word of Allah, their God.

Now, this is quite problematic for the old chestnut trotted out above. You see, we have the following issues:

1. Not a single one of the many hundreds of wars recorded in ancient documents prior to the death of Christ were caused by ‘Christians’, nor by Islamic fundamentalists, for that matter (given that Islam is generally regarded to have taken root in 610 AD).

2. Wars between 1 AD and AD 1880 cannot have said to be ’caused’ by any kind of Christian Fundamentalism. Certainly any scholars who propose this would be in the minority, primarily because it is very hard to justify that many people at all throughout Europe (or any other continent, for that matter) held ‘fundamentalist’ beliefs, ie: they actually believed what was literally written in the text. indeed, this is particularly hard to justify, since Martin Luther in the Reformation itself based much of his opposition to the Catholic church in the 16th century on the very basis that the actions of church routinely did not reflect the instructions, doctrine and commands written in the Bible, including many of those from Jesus himself. Thus, any crusades cannot be considered to be the responsibility of ‘fundamentalist’ Christianity. At the time, populations in Europe were eclipsed by those in Asia, Africa, Asia and the Americas, most of which had never heard of Christianity and all of which have scores to hundreds of wars in recorded history, none of which were remotely related to Christianity.

3. Since 1880, we have witnessed some of the most brutal and fatal wars in the history of mankind. Indeed, the First World War, often called the ‘Great War’ alone, was responsible for over 16 000 000 deaths. It is simply not supported in any literature that any type of fundamentalism was a trigger, cause or catalyst for this or any other major war, conflict skirmish or stern words in the 20th and 21st centuries this far!

gas masks

Indeed, even ongoing terrorism between ‘Protestant ‘and ‘Catholic’ sectarian violence and terrorism, widespread in Northern Ireland from the 1960s to 1990s in particular cannot be framed in terms of fundamentalist beliefs. Rather, most commentators agree that the issue has nothing to do with the tenets of religious faith. Instead, the ‘colour’ of faith provided a convenient division of political geography: those aligned to the “Church (and country) of England” and those aligned to traditional Irish Catholicism. Tribalism at its ugliest.


Irish violence


So, ok, it seems that human beings addicted to power and the acquisition of resources has most likely led to more wars than anything, and not the belief in the literal texts of a religious faith. Maybe this is one sweeping statement that ought to be put firmly back in the cupboard of ignorance?

So, can you have ‘fundamentalism’ that is not necessarily ‘religious’? It appears so. Certainly deists have no monopoly on fanaticism. There are many organisations of people who are so one eyed to manifesto or principle that they are willing to risk life, limb, incrimination and humiliation of themselves and their targets.

Environmental Fundamentalism has been steadily on the rise since the late 1970s and organisations such as Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, Earth Liberation Front (ELF) , People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have been responsible for over 2000 acts of ecoterrorism since 1980. Indeed, the FBI considers Ecoterrorism a real and present threat in the United States:


“In 2008 the Federal Bureau of Investigation said eco-terrorists represented “one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats in the U.S. today” citing the sheer volume of their crimes (over 2,000 since 1979); the huge economic impact (losses of more than $110 million since 1979); the wide range of victims (from international corporations to lumber companies to animal testing facilities to genetic research firms); and their increasingly violent rhetoric and tactics (one recent communiqué sent to a California product testing company said: “You might be able to protect your buildings, but can you protect the homes of every employee?”).”
In fact, given the sheer number of incidents which involve destruction of property, significant acts of Arson, sabotage of equipment used to log, harvest or facilities in which animal testing is carried out, you are more likely to be the victim of an ecoterrorism attack than one caused by religious extremists. There is, however, one main difference at present: Islamic terrorist attacks like those experienced in New York, Bali, Pakistan, Egypt and London are less likely but far more fatal when they do occur.
What is disturbing, however, is any manifesto which subjugates the horror of violence or death to some other goal, cause or principle. With the rise of Eco-groups described above, all of these have been in the past and continue to be dominated politically by those in the extreme left and, as the left is wont to be, dominated by uncompromising dogma. Ecoterrorists hold to tenets of “deep ecology” which espouse fundamentalist beliefs such as the importance of ‘Biocentrism”, which is a belief that man is only one of a great multitude of species on the planet. As such, the life of a human is no more or less important than any other organism and the death of a human for the cause of the planet no worse than the death of a seal, a whale or a forest. Another common motivation of “deep ecologists” is the return to a natural or ‘pre-industrialised’ state, some believe, by whatever means necessary. These are fundamentalist beliefs held by many millions of people who have shown their will to act in line with such beliefs. Is this something we ought to be worried about? Perhaps.
The rise of such fundamentalism was primarily on a wave of baby boomer activism in the 1960s to 1970s which saw a collection of issues rise to prominence in western culture including (but not limited to) Anti-war Sentiment, Environmentalism, Communist sympathy and Anti-Israel sentiment (largely a reaction to staunch Republican support for the nation of Israel). All of these causes have one thing in common: reaction to ‘establishment’. In this sense, any collective organisation of people which was a political party, religious organisation, a military organisation or corporation which opposed the positions described above was automatically granted suspicion and, often, became a conveniently visible enemy from which to fight a “David and Goliath” style battle and such movements sought to occupy what appeared to be, at least in their own eyes, the moral high ground. From this position, the objective was always clear: Frustrate, Intimidate, Repudiate and, if at all possible, Annihilate.
Given this history, it is hardly surprising therefore that the modus operandi of such groups has been spectacularly successful and no matter which guise this ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ appears, the principles, as well as the practices are remarkably similar. This fundamentalism is widespread and yet is not vilified anywhere near the degree that, say, Christian Fundamentalism is slandered because such activists own the game. Social media has replaced the ‘magic marker placards’ but make no mistake, the propaganda is as deliberate and targeted as it was for communist nations in the early 20th century, they control the airwaves.
Consider the relative lack of criticism on social media of the atrocious acts of Islamists all over the world, the caution with with the British media phrase their stories, walk on egg shells in their schools and turn themselves inside out to point out that ‘very few muslims are extremists’. Media outlets online, by broadcast or by print media in English-speaking nations take great care not to malign Mohammed, let alone Allah. When the odd cartoonists do slip through the cracks and poke fun at such figures, hundreds of arson attacks, violence, death threats and the destruction of property follows. What happens when Richard Dawkins makes a mockery of the Christ whom more than a third of the planet follow? When Christian schools have the ‘audacity’ to suggest that Creationism ought to be taught alongside Evolution and face widespread scorn, where are the demonstrations and flag-burning afterwards? When atheists challenge the presence of Christian Chaplains in schools in the High Courts, where are the acts of civil disobedience amongst that ‘dangerous’ (and illusory) ‘religious right’ that apparently exists in every English-speaking nation? Hmm. Most likely at home watching telly with their slippers on or carrying out some shocking subversion such as a mid-week Bible study over a coffee and a biscuit. Yep, this is about as radical as your average fundamentalist Christian will get.
I would ever go so far as to venture that if you took a random-sample of such ‘fundamentalist Christians’ you would be several hundreds of times more likely to find a ‘Fundamentalist Christian’ who has provided a meal for a family undergoing a new pregnancy/natural disaster/cancer treatment, or having cooked a sausage at a fund-raiser, or mowed the lawn of someone who couldn’t or given large sums of money to any number of (not necessarily ‘Christian’) charities than ever holding a molotof cocktail, stone or placard in a public rally. It is simply an unsupportable myth that Christians who believe their Bibles are any more dangerous that a rabbit holding a water gun.
So why is that? How could that be? How can such uncompromising beliefs NOT be violent, aggressive or intimidating in their expression? Simple. The founder of these beliefs and the doctrinal manifesto to which such believers subscribe does not support such actions. Yes, this ‘dangerous dogma’ suggests that ‘we should love our neighbours as ourselves'(Mark 12:30-31), that ‘human life is precious'(Exodus 20:13), that ‘we should do good to those who harm us'(Luke 6:28) and that we should ‘look after the garden’ (Genesis 2:15) that we have been given.
So, I trust that it is as obvious to you as it is to me that there are many, many kinds of ‘Fundamentalism’ that exist in our (global) society at present and that not all are equally a threat to our peace, safety, well-being and economy. Not all can be tarred with the one brush and just because one might have an old (hippy) axe to grind about the ‘establishment’ as far as it relates to those who regularly attend churches. Perhaps it behooves us not to toss out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to those who believe that they ought to live out their lives as their founder did, one Christ, Jesus. Could it be that some ‘fundamentalists’ just don’t fit that stereotype about ‘smashing the world’ to achieve their cause.
It’s just worth a thought. That’s all I suggest.