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1 In Protestantism, religious movement that arose among conservative members of various Protestant denominations early in the 20th cent., with the object of maintaining traditional interpretations of the Bible and of the doctrines of the Christian faith in the face of Darwinian evolutionevolution,
concept that embodies the belief that existing animals and plants developed by a process of gradual, continuous change from previously existing forms. This theory, also known as descent with modification, constitutes organic evolution.
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, secularism, and the emergence of liberal theology.

A group protesting "modernist" tendencies in the churches circulated a 12-volume publication called The Fundamentals (1909–12), in which five points of doctrine were set forth as fundamental: the Virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus, the infallibility of the Scriptures, the substitutional atonement, and the physical second coming of Christ. The debate between fundamentalists and modernists was most acute among the Baptists and the Presbyterians but also arose within other denominations. In a highly publicized case, the so-called Monkey Trial (1925), the fundamentalist leader William Jennings BryanBryan, William Jennings
, 1860–1925, American political leader, b. Salem, Ill. Although the nation consistently rejected him for the presidency, it eventually adopted many of the reforms he urged—the graduated federal income tax, popular election of senators, woman
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 won Tennessee's case against J. T. Scopes, for teaching evolution in the public schools (see Scopes trialScopes trial,
Tennessee legal case involving the teaching of evolution in public schools. A statute was passed (Mar., 1925) in Tennessee that prohibited the teaching in public schools of theories contrary to accepted interpretation of the biblical account of human creation.
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). Other attempts, however, by fundamentalists in the 1920s to rid the churches of modernism and the schools of evolution failed.

By the 1930s many fundamentalists began to withdraw into independent churches and splinter denominations, and fundamentalism became identified in the public mind with anti-intellectualism and extremism. Many fundamentalists rejected this image, and a movement was begun in the late 1940s to present their position in both a more scholarly and popular way. This movement, known as neoevangelicalism (or, more simply, evangelicalism), sought a wider following from the major denominations through its various schools, youth programs, publications, and radio broadcasts. The separatists saw these efforts as compromising fundamentalist views and sought to disassociate themselves from these religious institutions and such well-known evangelical fundamentalists as Billy GrahamGraham, Billy
(William Franklin Graham) , 1918–2018, American evangelist, b. Charlotte, N.C., grad. Wheaton College (B.A., 1943). Graham was ordained a minister in the Southern Baptist Church (1939), was the pastor of a Chicago church (his first and last pastorate), and in
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Since the late 1970s fundamentalists have embraced electoral and legislative politics and the "electronic church" in their fight against perceived threats to traditional religious values: so-called secular humanism, Communism, feminism, legalized abortion, homosexuality, and the ban on school prayer. They have continued to oppose the teaching of evolution in the schools or have sought to have creationismcreationism
or creation science,
belief in the biblical account of the creation of the world as described in Genesis, a characteristic especially of fundamentalist Protestantism (see fundamentalism). Advocates of creationism have campaigned to have it taught in U.S.
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 or intelligent designintelligent design,
theory that some complex biological structures and other aspects of nature show evidence of having been designed by an intelligence. Such biological structures are said to have intricate components that are so highly interdependent and so essential to a
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 taught as well. In recent years some fundamentalists have also attacked the teaching of scientific theories on the origins of the universe (see cosmologycosmology,
area of science that aims at a comprehensive theory of the structure and evolution of the entire physical universe. Modern Cosmological Theories
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). Those Americans who describe themselves as fundamentalists (approximately 25% of the U.S. population) have become a political bloc in their own right. During the 1980s they made up a large portion of the new Christian right that helped put Ronald Reagan into the White House, and early in the 21st cent. they aided significantly in the election of George W. Bush to the presidency. The Moral Majority, founded by the fundamentalist Baptist pastor Jerry FalwellFalwell, Jerry Lamon
, 1933–2007, American fundamentalist Baptist pastor, b. Lynchburg, Va. A popular preacher and founder of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Falwell began (1968) airing his services on television on a program that was later named "The Old-Time
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 in 1979, was the most visible example of this new trend in the 1980s; the most prominent current group is the Christian Coalition, headed by Pat RobertsonRobertson, Pat
(Marion Gordon Robertson), 1930–, American evangelist and politician, b. Lexington, Va. The son of U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson, he is a graduate of Yale Law School and an ordained Southern Baptist minister.
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. Moderate fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals continue to forge new alliances, for example in the Southern Baptist Convention, to wield political and denominational control.


See N. Furniss, The Fundamentalist Controversy, 1918–1931 (1954, repr. 1963); L. Gasper, The Fundamentalist Movement, 1930–1956 (1963); E. R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism (1970); M. Ellingsen, The Evangelical Movement (1988); W. H. Capps, The New Religious Right (1990); J. B. Flippen, Jimmy Carter, the Politics of Family, and the Rise of the Religious Right (2011).

2 In other religions. In Islam, the term "fundamentalism" encompasses various modern Muslim leaders, groups, and movements opposed to secularization in Islam and Islamic countries and seeking to reassert traditional beliefs and practices. After the Shiite revolution (1979) led by Ayatollah KhomeiniKhomeini, Ayatollah Ruhollah
, 1900–1989, Iranian Shiite religious leader. Educated in Islam at home and in theological schools, in the 1950s he was designated ayatollah, a supreme religious leader, in the Iranian Shiite community.
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 in Iran, the term was applied to a number of ultra-conservative or militant Islamic movements there and in other countries, such as the Taliban of Afghanistan. There are both ShiiteShiites
[Arab., shiat Ali,=the party of Ali], the second largest branch of Islam, Shiites currently account for 10%–15% of all Muslims. Shiite Islam originated as a political movement supporting Ali (cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam) as the
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 and SunniSunni
[Arab. Sunna,=tradition], from ahl al-sunnah wa-l-jamaa [Arab.,=the people of the custom of the Prophet and community], the largest division of Islam. Sunni Islam is the heir to the early central Islamic state, in its ackowledgement of the legitimacy of the order of
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 fundamentalist leaders and groups, such as the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Muslim BrotherhoodMuslim Brotherhood,
officially Jamiat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun [Arab.,=Society of Muslim Brothers], religious and political organization founded (1928) in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna.
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. The term has also been applied to Hindu nationalist groups in India (see HinduismHinduism
, Western term for the religious beliefs and practices of the vast majority of the people of India. One of the oldest living religions in the world, Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it had no single founder but grew over a period of 4,000 years in
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; Bharatiya Janata partyBharatiya Janata party
[Hindi,=Indian People's party] (BJP), Indian political party that espouses Hindu nationalism. The BJP draws its Hindu nationalist creed from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Self-Service Organization), a group founded in 1925 in opposition to
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The term fundamentalist can be applied to any who read the scriptures of their religion in a literal, non-metaphorical way, as defined by accepted, conservative, orthodox authorities. In the American mind, post-September 11, 2001, the word conjures up two images. The first is the old image of the Protestant Christian fundamentalist—the "Bible-believing, virgin-birth, born-again, second-coming" image. The second and more recent image is that of the Islamic fundamentalist who seeks to attack the United States, calling it a child of Satan.

In one important respect, both images illustrate the same word. If "faith" is understood in terms of accepting a body of facts called religious doctrine (see Faith), then a fundamentalist is one who has accepted his or her tradition's "fundamental" doctrines, as put forth by someone who is considered orthodox.

In the case of Christianity, the term was coined by a series of twelve small books published between 1910 and 1915 under the name The Fundamentals. The committee assembled to put the series together identified five key doctrines they believed to be the essential core beliefs that all Christians were required to accept. Sixty-four authors contributed to the project, B. B. Warfield of Princeton Seminary being the most prominent.

The five fundamentals were said to be:

The virgin birth of Christ Jesus' deity and substitutionary atonement for sin Christ's bodily resurrection His literal second coming The authority and inerrancy of the Bible These booklets defined the kind of Christian orthodoxy that became known as fundamentalism.

Militant Islamics were given the name fundamentalists by the media shortly after their takeover of Iran in the 1970s. When the Qur'an became the law of the land, "Muslim fundamentalist" became a household term. Shi'ite Islam, the primary religion of Iran, has long housed within it a faction that reverenced martyrdom. In Sura 4:95 of the Qur'an, it says, "Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. God hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight."

When "fight" is understood in terms of actual, flesh-and-blood warfare instead of spiritual warfare, when the Qur'an is read literally rather than metaphorically, the term fundamentalist is applied.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an extremely conservative tendency in modern Protestantism, directed against liberal Protestant rationalism, or what the Fundamentalists call modernism. Fundamentalism rejects any criticism of the Bible and preaches the infallibility of Holy Scripture as the “fundament” of Christianity. Fundamentalism demands that all Protestants return to blind faith in the biblical miracles, the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, and Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven.

Fundamentalism flourished chiefly in the southern states of the USA, especially among Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists during the second decade of the 20th century, after the publication and wide distribution between 1910 and 1912 of a series of anonymous pamphlets that stigmatized any sort of criticism or rationalist interpretation of Scripture. In the succeeding decade, Fundamentalism attacked science and opposed its authority over that of the Bible. From 1921 to 1929, Fundamentalists in a number of southern states (Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi) succeeded in having laws adopted that prohibited the teaching of Darwin’s theories on evolution in the public schools. In 1973, Tennessee amended the law to permit the teaching of Darwin’s ideas but only as a hypothesis and along with the biblical version of creation.

In 1948, in order to counterbalance the World Council of Churches, Fundamentalists reorganized the World’s Christian Fundamentalist Association (founded 1919) into the International Council of Christian Churches, comprising 140 Protestant churches from many countries. In the 1970’s, however, the Fundamentalists did not have much influence.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. Christianity (esp among certain Protestant sects) the belief that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired and therefore true
2. Islam a movement favouring strict observance of the teachings of the Koran and Islamic law
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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