Religious Fundamentalism and Its Effect on Society

Published 03 Mar 2017

1. Introduction

This paper seeks to discuss liberal interpretations of the Scripture (Bible, Koran, Torah, etc.) that have been used to support prejudice, justify slavery, sexism, war, ban textbooks and deny the rights of gays and lesbians. This paper takes the position that fundamentalism is a form of oppression that is driven by the need for a man to control and manipulate for power and that this goes against the true meaning of the Scriptures. The existence of 10 commandments throughout most Scriptures could provide evidence of existence of religious fundamentalism among significant religions.

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2. Analysis and Discussion

Although it may be argued that a great number of experts and analysts refer to the rise of Islamic terrorism as a new phenomenon, to be more deadly and more simple-minded than the more traditional terrorism associated with separatist and nationalist movements, still others may term the Islamists as if they are some inexplicable and incomprehensible people with suicidal tendencies as the same people make no demands and take no credit for their acts of terror (Mattil, n.d.).

Mattil (n.d.) however noted the lack of monopoly of the Islamist behavior when he pointed out the surprising similarities between Islamic, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists. He argued that religious fundamentalists often share some common traits and motivations with secular dissidents engaged in political violence. He inferred as result that perhaps the most alarming situation is the convergence of fundamentalist interests and the potential for a global holy war.

As this paper takes the position that fundamentalism is a form of oppression that is driven by the need for a man to control and manipulate for power, this paper believed these religious fundamentalists must be motivated by common emotion which is behind that manipulative need for power. Such emotion is called fear.Winston Churchill has warned that people have not to fear but fear itselg. These words appear to match with sweeping political accuracy with what is happening now. Mattil (n.d.) argued that fear was the only motivating factor behind political violence as fear comes out as the reason given by people why they have, kill or die for a cause.

Mattil (n.d.) further argued that religious fundamentalists get united by their fears.He explained that whether these fundamentalists are Christians, Muslims or Jews, fear is the common denominator. As to what they actually fear varies. It could be fear of change or modernization and loss of influence. The same people may also fear the young will abandon the churches, mosques and synagogues for physical and material gratification. In other aspects fear could extend to fearing the influence of mass media, and its ability to undermine the young with different form of entertaining arts in the form of song, dance, fashion, alcohol , drugs, sex and even freedom itself. In short there is fear about the loss of control in the future about the members of their group.
These fears are believed to be common among traditionalist Muslims as they are with traditionalist Jews and Christians. Thus one could hear the same concerns about moral decay, decadence, and the influence of the wicked. It is this area of people’s lives that there are indeed evils taught to them by their religious leaders. Since fears resonate loudest among those people who are poor or are lacking hope due to frustration from political and economic systems which they could hardly understand or control, religion will provide the meaning and it assures them hope if not materially at least for future salvation.
Thus it should not be surprising for the observant-type of people to understand that fear does make connection for the many nationalist, separatist and independence movements as hey end up in political violence. Mattil (n.d.) believed that although experts, academics and analysts hypothesize about a multitude of causal effects that will produce violence, the thing that is not seen yet could completely explain things is that fear is the underlying motivator.

Mattil (n.d.) further argued that core characteristics of social beings which include common values, religion, culture, language, and tradition for them to survive and prosper as group create the bonding when they fear something especially loss of survival. In these people’s attempt to change the situation, they could do many things like exaggerating the threats so that bonding gets harder and more meaningful to move them under a common cause, which will finally end up with their religion which gets twisted when people have no other hope but their beliefs. Mattil (n.d.) cited as examples the case of Northern Ireland conflict where both sides fear changes that will erode their nationality, language or culture or with it their economic opportunity. He noted similar motivations in Palestine and Israel and among the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

What then is the connection of group of people fearing something with religious fundamentalism? Fundamentalism gets born as these groups fearing many things will have to unify themselves under a common solution or a divine truth.Mattil (n.d.) then argued that a movement cannot willfully and openly admit its fears for doing so would mean admitting weakness and despair. The result instead was to develop a positive political or theological proposition and agenda. Thus one could now see the creation of religious fundamentalism as driven by fear, under a unique version of a revealed Truth for each religion to see the reason for complete participation. Since truths cannot be temporal, thus the belief must inerrant. God’s word becomes the perfect way to justify the proposition. Thus the Bible, the Koran and Torah could have similarities under the proposition. Hence parts if not all of the Ten Commandments from the Book of Exodus could have similar or equivalent version in the Koran (Arshed, 2003) and the Torah. This fear necessitates an enemy which could be the devil, rival church, religious liberals, God-denying communists, or some other incarnation of evil. The resulting irrational religious anger demands a target, hence the need for an enemy (Spong, 1992).

Because of the fear of eternal damnation that has characterized believers of religious fundamentalism, the true meaning of the Scriptures which is brotherhood to all men is sacrificed at the altar of the need to manipulate and control others for the sake of trying to preserve or prevent the evolution of human intellect into higher realms of spirituality.
The newly discovered truth as far as these religious groups are concerned is that they need to justify many things for their survival. The first one is that religious fundamentalism has justified slavery. The bible was used to justify owning slaves and biblical writings were resorted to promote and justify the slavery institution (Mathza, 2007).

The second instance is that religious fundamentalism has justified sexism. Since sexism may be taken to mean any discriminatory or abusive behavior against the opposite sex the fact the women is equated to evil because they are not allowed to assume major part of church activities. Women would also be blamed if the men have done something wrong because of strong religious belief that only women are evil (Spong, 1992). On this basis it could be inferred that religion was created by men and those women are to remain as subjects of men in religion. This is evident in the Catholic faith were women cannot become priest. If these women want to serve in their faith they just become nuns but they will obey priest because that is what religion has taught them. This is glaring evidence that sexism is justified by religious fundamentalism.

As to justification of war, the attack of terrorists as done by members of Islamic world, it could be argued that the religious fundamentalism is the culprit. On the other hand if the attack of the US on Iraq is considered a war, then religious fundamentalism has indeed justified war hiding under the wardrobe of political democracy.
Religious fundamentalism has justified banning of textbooks. For some Islamic countries which ban the bible, the same countries may be considered to have banned text books also related to biblical literature.

Religious fundamentalism has justified denial of the rights of gays and lesbian in a number of occasions. To cite proof Kiliç and Uncu (1998) asserted homosexuality is prohibited with Islamic law. They authors cited the basis for such practice under the Koran which talks about the tribe of Lur, in which men had sex with men. In that event these men having sex with their kind are punished for the transgression by way of Allah sending stones that had rained down on them from the sky. By such teachings, Turkish children are brought to have religious faith that lesbians and gay men are sinners. This is the reason why homosexuality is seen as threat to the family and by extension to society as a whole (Kiliç and Uncu, 1998).

3. Conclusion

This paper has demonstrated clearly that religious fundamentalism is a form of oppression that is driven by the need for a man to control and manipulate for power and which is basically rooted in fear. It was in seeking the solution towards the truth that religious fundamentalism was born but this paper believes that the same is still against the true spirit of Scriptures because the deeper meaning of which is charity and brotherhood to all then regardless of religious affiliation. Until religious groups practicing fundamentalism will see this reality, the manipulation for power is bound to continue.


  • Arshed (2003), Islam Supports Bible’s TEN Commandments, {www document} URL,, Accessed April 30, 2008
  • Kiliç and Uncu (1998), Turkey Country Report
  • Mathza (2007) Extreme Islamic Fundamentalism
  • Mattil, James (n.d.) What in the Name of God? Religious Fundamentalism, Fear & Terrorism
  • Spong (1992),Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Harper One
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