Fundamentalism in the broader sense
Characteristics of Fundamentalism: the Findings of Four Scholars
The phenomenon of Fundamentalism has been discussed by scholars of religion, sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, and, with less exactitude, by journalists and others. There is no generally accepted list of the characteristics of fundamentalism, but there is enough agreement between experts to permit the formulation of a model that most would accept. Before attempting such a formulation, we will review lists prepared by Marty, Nagata, Antoun, and Lifton, looking for similarities as well as differences.
In an early article on fundamentalism, the scholar of religion Martin E. Marty (1988: 20-23) lists nine things fundamentalists are not, and twelve things they are. The positive list is as follows:
(1) Fundamentalists always act in reaction to a perceived threat.
(2) Fundamentalists engage in “selective retrieval” of what they perceive to be the essentials (fundamentals) of their beliefs.
(3) Fundamentalists set rigid boundaries, using their “fundamentals” to attract some and alienate others.
(4) Fundamentalists are always exclusivist, casting out those who do not accept their dictates.
(5) It follows that fundamentalists are oppositional, seeing themselves as the children of God and the others as children of the Devil. This justifies radical action.
(6) Fundamentalists have absolutist beliefs, with no room for pluralism, variety or complexity.
(7) Fundamentalists are authoritative, never engaging in discussion with those whom they condemn.
(8) Fundamentalists are anti-evolutionary; they see no possibility of development in the teachings they claim to defend.
(9) Fundamentalists are antipermissive, taking a puritanical stand against perceived moral relativism.
(10) Fundamentalists are literalist: the sacred texts have only one possible meaning.
(11) Fundamentalists see themselves as actors in a sacred drama, the forces of light against the forces of darkness.
(12) Fundamentalists are teleological, seeing themselves as the guardians of the great cosmic purpose.
Marty’s list is comprehensive but suffers from some repetition (points 3 to 5 might be reduced to a single point; points 5 and 11 are more or less the same). Nevertheless it provides a good starting point.
Judith Nagata, an anthropologist, looks at fundamentalism as a social phenomenon observable in many fields besides religion. A brief list of its characteristics in an essay of 2001 (481), includes the following characteristics, most of which also are found in Marty:
(1) Fundamentalism is a quest for certainty, exclusiveness and clear boundaries.
(2) Fundamentalism must identify, and demonize, an “Other”.
(3) The fundamentalist has a fixed, anti-relativist mind set, opposed to all ambiguity or complexity.
Nagata also points out that most fundamentalists are attached “to a set of irreducible beliefs or a theology that forestalls further questions.”
Another anthropologist, Richard T. Antoun (2001: 1-2) lists five “compelling themes” that characterize the fundamentalist orientation:
(1) a quest for certainty;
(2) a search for authenticity, totalism and activism;
(3) the need of certainty, resulting in a literalist approach to scripture;
(4) selective modernization;
(5) the centering of a mythic past in the present.
All of these points are also touched on by Marty, Nagata or both.
The psychologist Robert Jay Lifton has never written a book on fundamentalism per se, but his famous work Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, first published in 1961 and reprinted in 1989, is often consulted by those interested in the fundamentalist mind set. In chapter 11 of this book (extracts available at this site) Lifton lists eight methods used by “totalistic” thinkers to enforce uniformity of belief and action. These are:
(1) Milieu control: exclusion of any form of communication not in agreement with the totalistic environment.
(2) Mystical manipulation: provoking patterns of thought and experience in such a way that they appear to be natural and spontaneous.
(3) The demand for purity: presenting the world in black-and-white terms in order to compel members of the community to conform to the group ideology.
(4) The cult of confession: compelling community members to own up to infringements of the group’s arbitrary rules in order to enforce control.
(5) The “sacred science”: presenting the group's ideology, as interpreted by the totalizing agency, as ultimate Truth, beyond any question or dispute.
(6) Loading the language: using obscure and manipulative language in order to stifle discussion; a notable example is the use of “thought-terminating clichés”.
(7) Doctrine over person: subordination of the experiences of individual members of the community to the totalizing environment.
(8) The dispensing of existence: claiming the right to decide who has the right to exist and who does not.
Some of Lifton’s “methods”, such as the cult of confession, seem to have more to do with specific regimes he focused on, such as that of Communist China of the fifties, than with totalistic communities in general. But his model clearly applies very well to fundamentalism as described by Marty, Nagata and others, and we will refer to it as needed in what follows. For more on Lifton, see this section.
Cognitive Disorder of Progressives
(Blog Update 2009: Rewritten by Gaghdad Bob to true DSM-V format and then modified a bit by myself See farther down the page for my original format Home) Progressive Personality Disorder
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob
DSM-IV 301.95 PROGRESSIVE PERSONALITY DISORDERA. The following is based on a perceptive post by someone named John Moore, which I found through a link to a link on Dr. Sanity's grand rounds of the psychosphere. It looks as if it were hastily composed in a manic burst of inspiration, but it's so accurate that it deserves wider dissemination. I've taken the liberty of cleaning it up, editing it, adding a number of criteria, and putting it in the actual format of the DSM (the diagnostic manual for mental health practitioners).
A pervasive pattern of progressive political and inter-personal thought and action, rooted in discredited leftist (neo-Marxist) beliefs, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by at least five of the following (individual must be at least 18 years of age to qualify for the diagnosis of Progressive Personality Disorder, as many of the criteria are age-appropriate for adolescents). This disorder often coexists with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
1. Utopian thinking: A delusional belief that there exist simple, linear, side effect-free solutions to all social problems.
2. Lack of historical knowledge and perspective, and repression of personal memories dissonant with this belief system. For example, the national mood post 9-11, including that of PPD patients, is suppressed in order to avoid conflict with subsequent reversal of beliefs as the PPD delusions were reinstated - hence the downplaying of terrorism as a threat and the obsessive concern for the "rghts" of temporarily feared and hated terrorists. (Note to clinician: please differentiate between mere historical ignorance, e.g., a doctorate in history from an elite university, vs. neurotic or psychotic delusions necessary to sustain these beliefs. )
3. Anthroplastic ideation: The delusion that behavioral conditioning performed by the government or some other collective will cure all behavioral and social problems, rooted in denial of fixed human nature. Implicit in this delusion is the idea that human beings are infinitely malleable and subject to behavioral manipulation leading to perfect control and predictability. Free will, personal conscience, and objective morality are denied, devalued or denigrated.
4. Anti-theistic rebellion: An emotional antagonism to the Judeo-Christian tradition, rooted in an abnormal persistence of adolescent rebellion (may also be related to the need to avoid counter-arguments that would question utopian, anthroplastic ideation). This behavior ranges from a mere antagonism to Christianity to a hatred of all forms of religion. The rejection of religion leads to a deep longing for a substitue religion, or in extreme cases, a messiah. The more Western a religion is, the more it is despised. Thus, these patients may openly accept more primitive pantheistic, neo-pagan, or animist belief systems, such as Wicca or fraudulent "new age" philosophies, e.g., Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, etc.
5. Animist delusion: The belief that mankind is evil and nature is benign. The incidence of this symptom is inversely related to practical knowledge and experience of nature. Collective self-hatred is a feature in this area, paradoxically existing side by side with egomaniacal omniscience, e.g., ability to accurately predict climate 100 years into the future. Typical thinking includes the self-hating belief that mankind is a cancer on earth and that the planet (subjectively felt as a "feeling being") will "retaliate." The animist delusion includes considerable cognitive dissonance, since the typical Progressive Personality is a believer in natural selection, which has resulted in untold suffering and cruelty, mitigated only by mankind's presence.
a. For example, the belief that an eagle egg or four-toed salamander is entitled to more legal protection than a human baby.
6. Environmental spasm: Chaotic, unreasonable, or incoherent episodes of manic activity on behalf of the environment or "mother nature." The delusional nature of this activity is evidenced by misanthropic attacks on works of man, and also by a manic focus on visible or totemic biological objects of little rational value. The patient is typically obsessed only with cute or cuddly creatures, often a displacement of the nurturing urge (often unfulfilled due to abortion).
7. Control obsession: A tendency to strive for excessive control over others through state intrusion. A contemptuous projection of unconscious envy which is subjectively experienced as "compassion." Through the magic of this unconscious mechanism, PPD patients typically want the state to appropriate your wealth while imagining themselves to be generous and "compassionate." Use of state coercion often substitutes for true acts of igenerosity; a low rate of charitable giving is often present.
8. Racist/feminist hypocrisy: Passionate advocacy of government-enforced discrimination based on sex or race, with aggressively proclaimed opposition to policies which are "racist" or "sexist." Obsessive conformity of thought within a racially diverse population. For example, a PPD patient might favor seating a racist on the Supreme Court, so long as the person is of the "correct" race. Often the cognitive dissonance normally associated with such beliefs is rationalized by the delusion that the "oppressed" cannot themselves be racist.
9. Overemotional perception: Excessive concern with how a social action "looks" or "feels," to the exclusion of actual resulting benefits or harm; in particular, any effects beyond the immediate. Resistance to, and denial of, objective evidence proving the adverse consequences of progressive policy. Superficial cognition about most matters of significant import, as the progressive personality relies on the "feel" of issues rather than truly understanding them. Obsession with "fairness" or "social justice" as opposed to what actually works.
10. Sexual dysfunction: Significant anxiety about sexual matters, manifested as:
a. Obsession with sexual and gender roles.
b. Passionate celebration of nontraditional sex roles and preferences.
c. The compulsion to define individuals by their "sexual preference" and to design social policy as if all individuals share the obsession.
d. An inordinate interest in preserving inappropriate, lewd, perverse, or antisocial forms of sexual expression.
e. Fascination with immature or deviant expressions of sexuality; reduction of human sexuality to animal sexuality.
f. The projected belief that the contradictory beliefs are a result of fear (e.g. "homophobia").
e. Obsession with contraception and abortion ("reproductive freedom").
11. Replacement of patriotism with matriotism: Unwillingness to defend country when attacked or threatened, allied with inability to name or recognize evil and General devaluation of the masculine virtues.
12. Cultural and moral relativism: The fervent belief that all cultures are beautiful except one's own, and that it is immoral to judge another's morality unless they are conservative.