by Edward Farley

The Problem of a Theory of Fundamentalism

The term, fundamentalism, initially described a trans-denominational movement among conservative Protestant Christian groups in the United States which, in the first part of the twentieth century, vigorously and publicly defended biblical inerrancy against historical criticism and biblical geology and cosmology against the theory of evolution.1 Subsequent studies of this movement uncovered both complex and long-term roots in nineteenth century pre-millenarianism and resistance to the changing roles of women.2 Since the early twentieth century, the term, fundamentalism, has undergone significant changes of meaning. First, the initial movement (biblicistic and anti-evolution Protestantism) experienced an upsurge after World War II that included denominational takeovers, the successful deployment of radio and television, relatively successful ventures into local and national politics, and, in recent times, the development of large and small independent congregations ("community churches") whose music, entertainment, anti-liturgy and informal worship are especially attractive to young married couples with children.3 Second, in the 1940's and after, Protestant fundamentalism in the United States split into conservative and moderate factions: the former preferring cultural and denominational isolation and anti-historical Biblicism, the latter, centered in the new National Association of Evangelicals and Fuller Seminar, rejecting such isolation and embracing selected elements of "modernism."4 Third, the original funmentalist movement, its pre-history, and its period of upsurge called forth a whole literature of historical, sociological, and even theological studies.5 Fourth, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, and Hindu communities spawned movements which closely resembled American Protestant fundamentalism. Following these developments, the term, fundamentalism, underwent both a narrowing and a broadening.6 The "evangelical" or moderate side of the original movement restricted the term to the far right wing of conservative Protestantism. Because of this restriction, "fundamentalism" migrated from a descriptive historical to a pejorative term for an ossified, hostile, and even fanatical way of being religious. In the last part of the twentieth century, students of world religions appropriated the term to describe aggressively anti-modernist, tradition-preserving movements in many of the world's faiths. Others in turn resisted this broadening on grounds that the term was too loaded with Protestant Christian connotations to apply to other faiths.7 "Islamism" and "Hinduization" thus became the preferred terms to describe these tradition-defending movements. The broadeners have argued that, granting the differences between religions, there does exist a complex of similar behaviors and attitudes in these faiths that justify a common label.8 Behind these similarities is the struggle of all contemporary religious faiths to maintain themselves in a radically secularized world.

The guiding premise of this essay is that fundamentalism is the response of religion to modernity.9 Given that premise, it is anachronistic to apply the term, fundamentalism, to movements, figures, or views in medieval or Reformation Christianity or to pre-modern Judaism or Islam. Neither can the term be applied to contemporary religious groups, Appalachian snake handlers for instance, which have little connection with modernity. To say that fundamentalism is one way (ordinary) religion responds to modernity carries with it a rather daunting problem. Most of the features of fundamentalist movements appear throughout the history of the religions. In order to survive over any period of time, a religion must develop and maintain rituals, narratives, origin-stories, cultic practices, casuistries and taboos, and figures and institutions of authority. Throughout their history, religions have been threatened by political-military and "religious" aggressions from other peoples, by internal heterodoxies, alternative origin-stories, and alternative practices and belief. And the religions have defended themselves against these destabilizing threats by citing their textual authorities, strengthening their institutions, giving their leaders more power, precisely defining their belief commitments, and punishing the heterodox by excommunication, violence, or even death; behaviors which resemble modern fundamentalist movements. Given the similarities between modern fundamentalism and the perennial self-maintaining behaviors of religion, is it possible that fundamentalism, rather than being a distinctive phenomenon, is simply the present-day name for a perennial feature of tradition-maintaining religion? Is fundamentalism traditional religious behavior in a new (modern) setting? Or is it something new and distinctive, a way of being religious never before seen in human history. This is the problem that calls for a theory of fundamentalism, and the task of that theory is to uncover fundamentalism as a new historical phenomenon distinguishable from perennial self-maintaining ordinary religion.10

The guiding thesis of this theory is that fundamentalism arises from an engagement between ordinary tradition-maintaining religion and modernity. Accordingly, the theory calls for both an account (theory) of religion itself and an uncovering of what it is about modernity that would draw religion into a distinctively new form. These two side inquiries will not as such yield fundamentalism as something historically distinctive. They might simply confirm the view that fundamentalism is everyday religion acting as it has always acted and modernity is simply the setting for that action. The other possibility is that modernity has presented to the religions a historically unique kind of threat and has evoked in fundamentalism a distinctive historical phenomenon. That will be the contention of this essay.

Religion as Self-Traditioning and as Self-Transcending

To repeat a point, many of the behaviors and features of fundamentalist movements closely resemble ordinary religion as it has existed through the ages. Textual literalism, naïve supernaturalism, and the divinization of ordinary events, authority figures, and casuistries are part and parcel of religions through the ages. Without such things, a religious faith could never originate, much less survive over time. Religions see themselves as brought about by God (gods, divine power) often in the guise of a charismatic founder or savior figure (prophet. messiah, Buddha, bodhisattva) from whom comes a new message, a divinely willed migration to a new land, a new code for corporate life. Yet, none of these figures and events would create an actual religion unless ways are found to bridge the primal, ecstatic community with subsequent generations. In other words, religions originate and survive by way of successful institutional-izations of the sacred figure and event in the form of an authoritative tradition (oral or written texts, hierarchical functions and structures, sacred places, symbols, rituals, and cosmologies) and an authoritative leadership (apostles, priests, bishops, shamans, imams, rabbis, lamas, and scholar-monks).11 Let us call this cluster of items the mediations of ordinary religion, which have the double function of mediating the sacred power and presence and delivering the traditioned material to the next generation. The posture of believers (or participants in religious communities) toward these mediations is never simply critically objective, linguistically sophisticated, or research-oriented. It is rather an existentially dependent, emotion-filled posture of trust, dependence, and certainty about the mediations as divinely given for the community's salvation and welfare. The one conviction that rules the believer's world (piety) is the conviction that God (divine power) has brought about, willed, and communicated the rites, beliefs, texts, and traditions of the community. The texts record messages sent by God through prophets and therefore say what God intended to say. Accordingly, the texts and other mediating entities have the status of being "divine." In the believer's world, the world of authentic piety, the mediations (the cosmology, casuistry, sacred writings, traditions of origin, institutional structure) are factually true. These mediations and convictions give rise to a discourse which both finitizes the divine and assigns divine status to the mediations. It is, accordingly, a discourse of divine-human or sacred-profane identity. Since the recipient of these mediations is a particular people or community, it is assumed that the welfare of that community is the uppermost aim of the divine activity. And since individual believers are part of the community, the mediations are absolute conditions of the salvation or welfare of those individuals. This is why ordinary religion is always both ethnocentric and egocentric.

The application of sociological and historical methods in the study of religion has confirmed the notion that finitizing and generation-bridging mediations are intrinsic and not just accidental to everyday religion. At the same time, it is clear that this portrait of religion as simply a package of ethnocentric and egocentric mediations is reductive when compared to religion's own self-perception. So we must ask, is such an account exhaustive? Does it do justice to what religions are as faiths? Reductionist interpretations can be found both in the social sciences and in the religions themselves. Familiar are social science claims that self-maintenance dynamics capture the heart and soul of religion.12 By denying any trace of "revelation" or any authentic presence of the sacred in religion, certain confessional theologies reduce religion to an ethnocentric, egocentric , and anthropocentric phenomenon. By failing to consider religion's very center, that which the rituals are all about, namely something eerily holy, the study of religion becomes a deciphering of certain weird ritual behaviors, institutions, and beliefs. Yet, the story of religion displays a sacral power which is not simply an item for belief or a legitimation of ethno- or ego-centric aims.13 We find in religion's texts, narratives, mythos, ethics, and recurring charismatic figures not only a transcending but even radical criticism of religion's own self-maintaining mediations. Prophets, mystics, preachers, saints, and imams not only use finitizing discourse but anti-finitizing discourse: not only entity-reference language but poetry and metaphors. Thus, they direct suspicion, repudiation, and charges of corruption at religion's own highest leadership, its venerable institutions, and even its sacred texts. This critical-prophetic strand of religion aims a skeptical scrutiny at the "divine" status of religious institutions, world-view, doctrines, scriptures, etc. In pre-exilic Israel this skepticism confronted the theocratic politics of the monarchy. In the figure of Mohammed a skepticism was directed at a hegemonic social elite and its oppressive usage of the gods. Recent times have seen a prophetic-critical skepticism aimed at the identification of the holy with the male gender, the Caucasian race, the ruling class, and heterosexuality. While the prophetic-critical strand of religion is most visible in certain figures and texts which give it expression, it should be clear that it also resides in the piety of ordinary members of the religious community. This is because ordinary faith worshipful relation to the holy carries with it a certain sense that what is worshiped and religion's mediations cannot be identical. Religion, then, is ever stretched and strained between the momentum toward survival (thus, its socially necessary finitizing mediations) and the nonreducible holy.

We would miss, however, religion's very reality if we place its mediating entities simply side by side with the holy. Because the mediations are necessary to religion's very existence, they tend to become finite forms of the divine. It would seem, then, that the mediations (cosmology, authorities, texts, figures) would be the very content of religion. If that were the case, the ultimate referent or set of references of religion would be its own social mediations, thus a package of ordinary mundane facts. The prevailing modes of discourse in the religions, in fact, give this impression. A closer look, however, discloses something else. Almost all of religion's empirical claims turn out to be convictions about the hidden presence or operation of sacred or divine power in some event, omen, historical figure, or text. If a causality is asserted ( for instance, the claim that God disposed some past event such as the exodus, or a prophet's announcement of some future divine act), that causality is never itself directly apprehended. The Israelite's may hear the trumpets and see Jericho's walls tumble; they will not see God "causing" the destruction. Nor is the divine causality itself even imaginable. "God created the heavens and the earth" is not on the same plane of discourse as "the cosmos originated with the Big Bang." Religion's causality discourse, then, is only apparently and peculiarly empirical. Because it meshes divine activity and presence into ordinary events and figures, it is a sacramental discourse. And it is this sacramental discourse that prevents empirical states of affairs from constituting the very content of religion.

A mere glance at the history of the religions will remind us that this description of religion as a mixture of social mediations and the holy is formalistic and idealizing. In their role of social maintenance, the mediations seem to be mere expressions of good intent. But history shows that religious individuals and their institutions have no immunity against that which plagues all actual human societies, namely, the willingness to do terrible things on behalf of what seems important or self-securing.14 Institutions are created in the first place to preserve and deliver the things human beings need and desire, thus in their primary function, they embody and serve natural human egocentrism and eth-nocentrism. Accordingly, successful institutions such as the nation-state, family, or religious community, evoke passions of nurturing, loyalty, and self-protection. As egocentric and ethnocentric, they create instruments that monitor internal and external threats to the community's welfare and preserve community community stability through both rewards and punishments. Like other institutions, the religions (some more than others) have created ways of handling internal and external threats to their mediations. Hence, we find in the religions, the same dynamics of human evil manifest throughout human communities, dynamics that arise with self-absolutization driven by impulses to survive, to protect and secure the "good" of the community. These dynamics compete with religion's sacramental character because self-absolutization to the point of violence suppresses the prophetic/critical element. The power of the holy to discredit religion's claims of divine status becomes muted as religion absolutizes its institutional mediations and justifies its violent self-monitoring.

Does this account of religion's internal tension and its willingness to take extreme self-protective measures yield the phenomenon of fundamentalism? It does expose a resemblance between fundamentalisms and pre-modern ordinary religion. Both pre-modern religious movements and fundamentalisms are marked by empirical or factical discourses, literalist text interpretation, and self absolutizing responses to inner and outer threats Does this mean that fundamentalism is simply a recurrence of religion's self-maintaining traditionalism? Are the anti-science movements of conservative Protestantism or the political struggles of radical Islamism instances of the perennial tension in all religions between their prophetic transcendence and their survival-driven mediations? This brief description of the mediations of ordinary religion seems to collapse the distinction between perennial everyday religion and fundamentalism. I shall argue to the contrary that fundamentalism is a distinctive response to a new historically distinctive phenomenon, the phenomenon of the modern. To say what this means, we must now conduct a second side exploration.

The Coming of the Modern

Anyone who would understand "the modern" or modernity faces a variety of interpretations and approaches and a voluminous body of texts.15 It is important at the outside to avoid confusing the modern and modernity with "modernism" with its contrasting term, "post-modernism." More confusions are fostered when the modern is identified with a caricatured version of the Enlightenment as autonomous reason, logocentrism and other ills, or is used to name a variety of cultural ailments such as a colonialism, environmental devastation, and mega-corporation economics. At the same time, we resist the view that the modern is simply the invention of historians. So powerful and pervasive is the modern that it almost defies interpretation. Some distinctions are in order. First, modernism, a term for movements in the arts, philosophy, and religion is only one strand or movement within modernity. While the European and American Enlightenment may be an expression of some very basic cultural and philosophical ideas at work in the modern period, it too is more specific than modernity itself. Third, while modernity may have a pathogenic side of cultural impoverishments and displacements brought about by colonialist nation-states and international corporations, it is more inclusive than simply these negative cultural effects.16 The modern also includes a variety of medical, artistic, and even political enrichments of human societies. Fourth, modernity embraces both cultural/societal developments (democracy, capitalism, secularized governments, and education) and ideological/symbolic ideas or values. Finally, only a very narrow interpretation of modernity would assert that modernity has now given away to a post-modern epoch. The modern, with all of its changes, radicalizations, and new social and ideological forms, is still with us. In its widest sense, the modern is that transition and epoch, whose primary setting is Europe, which brought an end to that medley of feudalism, ecclesiastical hegemony, monarchy, and guild-based economies usually called the Middle Ages. Many phases of a long historical process preceded and led to the modern. The religious diversification and partitions brought about by the Reformation plus the humanism, arts, and sciences of the Renaissance created conditions for the modern's emergence. Modernity proper begins when post-monarchical republics and democracies and industrialization, international trade, and capitalism create new forms of everyday life. In a later phase, the nation-states with their new military and economic ambitions initiated colonial expansions followed by anti-colonial revolutions throughout the world. The "postmodern," a phenomenon of late capitalism, is built on and intensifies all of these developments. The modern, then, is a complex of institutions of trade, government, war, and religion that transformed the societies of medieval Europe and, in varying degrees, was transplanted into most of the cultures and nations of the world.

We would, however, miss the genius and cultural depth of the modern if, by focusing on these institutions, we ignored the way they engendered new human communities, different types of human individuals, and a new set of deep cultural values.17 Constituting the modern are both societal structures and sets of human dispositions, symbols, and discourses. In a vastly oversimplified summary, we can reduce the ideological strand of the modern to two motifs: Enlightenment, and, secularization.

In recent decades the Enlightenment and its fellow travelers, modernism, "Cartesianism," and the West, have been a frequent target for criticisms from both the left and the right. Neo-orthodox and other theologies depict Enlightenment "reason" as hubris and as secular humanism while protesting groups from the left represent it as referential, foundational, falsely universalizing, and chauvinistic.18 The caricature perpetrated by these criticisms rests on an the unfortunate narrowing of Enlightenment, first to a single idea (reason), and second to a particular period and intellectual movement of Europe.19 The perception that "reason" was the Enlightenment's one idea is was probably a response to the fierce way Enlightenment thinkers confronted the authoritarianism and supernaturalism of the religious establishment.20 Enlightenment criticisms of religion (by way of "reason") did shake cultural foundations since monarchy, class hierarchies, jurisprudence, cosmology, and education were very much wrapped up with religious justifications. Concepts such as happiness, liberty, individual rights, and tolerance disentangled society's institutions from their religious moorings. As to the second narrowing, the Enlightenment was, of course, an identifiable movement in an era of European intellectual history. At the same time, many of its basic ideas about society, nature, human beings, jurisprudence, and knowledge did not cease with that period but continue today, penetrating any and all cultures receptive to modern science, medicine, democratic rule, and human rights. Even in its own time, the Enlightenment was not an isolated movement among an intellectual elite, but a popularizing movement by way of the tracts of Paine, the novels of Voltaire, writings of Rousseau on education, and the essays of Franklin and many others. It is just this breadth of concepts and cultural pervas iveness that connects the Enlightenment to modernity. Enlightenment is not just an early phase of modernity, later replaced by Romanticism or deconstruction, but rather the forger of many of the notions and deepest values and continue to constitute the modern world.

To say that "reason" is at the heart of the Enlightenment project is both accurate and misleading. Reason as argument, principles-based deduction, system building and other things was very much in place in the great 17th century philosophical systems, in the Protestant school theologies, and in Thomism. Rooted as it was in Renaissance humanism and science, Enlightenment "reason" made use of many genres of evidences in the pursuit of knowledge. These evidences were not mediated by authoritative texts or institutions but by the world itself. Thus, the Enlightenment embraced many "reasons" or methods of cognitive exploration and thinking: historical reason (Gibbon), mathematical reason (Newton), nature-oriented reason (Buffon), political and economic reason (Jefferson, Paine), philosophical reason (Locke, Voltaire). Common to these "reasons" is a critical and investigative rather than authority orientation.

As an offspring of the Enlightenment, critical reason helped create the modern by shaping such institutions as universities, medicine, exploration, governments, and corporation research and development. The Enlightenment's shaping of modernity is not, however, limited to the multiple operations of critical reason. Certain basic ideas, world-view features, and values that continue to constitute the modern were formed in the crucible of the Enlightenment. Both left and right wing critics of the Enlightenment would surely react in horror at any proposal to abandon these ideas. In the Enlightenment world-view, the earth is no longer the center of the universe, and human beings exist in continuity with nature and animal life. To apprehend human reality requires close attention to the matrix of nature and the contexts and epochs of history. A vision of human society arose centered on the welfare and happiness of individuals, and with this vision, came notions of individual liberty and rights for all human beings from which came a new politics and a new jurisprudence. This vision included the notion of the just society that issued in more humane treatments of minorities (women), prisoners, the mentally ill, and children. Oppression, classism, chauvinism, racism and colonial exploitation continued strong in the European nation-states, but ideas that would eventually confront these things as evils were now astir. And such ideas such as individual rights appear to be more responsible for suffrage, civil rights, and child labor legislations than the religious communities of Europe. Enlightenment "reason" (open inquiry) and Enlightenment societal values and world-view continue to constitute all present-day societies insofar as they are committed to scientific research, mutual tolerance between the religions, democratic governments, and the rights of all individuals.

Secularization constitutes the second motif in the thought-world of modernity.21 Modern institutions and cultures share a common feature which is more an absence, an abandonment, than a presence. In modern societies open-ended inquiry, democratic and constitutional republics, the economies of a free market, and universal literacy all function without religious legitimation and religious symbolization.22 This does not mean that religion has disappeared in the age of the modern. Religion has retained, especially at certain times and places, enormous influence, and religious scientists, educators, and politicians are not without influence in modern societies.23 And traces of an older era are displayed in the "religious" discourse of certain politicians and the display of religious symbols in public life. Yet, it is clear that religion has little or no function in determining what is to be discovered and communicated by physicists, astronomers, biologists and historians, how markets work, how governments are structured, what course of study organizes public schools and universities, and what entertainments and uses of leisure time take place. Anthropologists may be inclined to argue that secularization of a sort began the moment ancient peoples moved beyond a direct dependence on the vicissitudes of nature, the mysterious powers of plant and animal life. Even if that is the case, modernity's isolation of religion into a separate cultural sphere and institution is a distinctive event in human history. This is not to say that modern societies are utterly secular. Religion has survived in all of them, but the relation to the wider culture religion once enjoyed has been radically altered. We can trace this alteration in the following developments.

First, religion lost its official sponsorship by the society's governing powers. To employ the conventional expression, religion became "disestablished." Disestablishment was thrust upon modern European nation-states when the Protestant movement challenged the societal hegemony of Roman Catholicism and as Protestantism itself became divided into multiple and competing religious movements. When the wars of religion had ceased and the Enlightenment had set in, there arose a new set of ideas: mutual toleration between religions, the separation of church and state, and the rights of each religion to exist. Thus, in the modern nation-state, all religions are on their own.

Second, while prior to the Enlightenment some institutions (finance and markets for instance) had become more or less autonomous, the separation of church and state brought about a radical secularization of virtually all of society's major institutions. The state saw to it that public education served no single religion. Corporations, markets, sports and leisure, arts, and medicine all adopted secular aims, ways of operating, and self-understandings.

A third sign of the new secularized age reflects the Enlightenment ideal of critical reason and open inquiry. The secularized nation-state's need for military, educational, and business enterprises engendered a whole range of open (non-authoritarian), powerful, and successful sciences: psychology, history, medicine, astronomy, communications and so forth. And with these sciences came a world view, cosmology and even cosmogony that proceeded on its own. Thus ways of understanding the history of the planet, the origin of human kind, and even the original events, texts, and figures of the religions themselves bring about and constitute the modern. Not only do the sciences offer secularized ways of understanding the past, the cosmos, and human life; they offer alternative secularized ways of interpreting religion's own traditions and ways of interpreting, its holy books, doctrines, accounts of world origin, and accounts of past historical events.

A fourth secularization sets the modern on collision course with all of the religions. The first three secularizations create societal institutions more or less going their own way, severed from religious tutelage and religious monitoring. But the cognitive and practical successes of the democracies, economies, and sciences created a totalizing self-confidence. The term, totalizing, is appropriate insofar as world interpretations were set in a framework whose status was ultimate, exhaustive, and more or less unrevisable. It is at this point that the specific cognitive enterprises of modernity move from secularity to secularism, and enter into competition with non-secular (religious) discourses.24

A recapitulation is in order. Modernity names a historical-cultural event, epoch, and ethos that replaced the monarchical, religious hegemonies and cognitive methods of the Middle Ages with the complex of industrialized nation-states with their non-monarchical governments, religious pluralism, and various forms of capitalism. Modernity's institutions, ideals, and values very much continue certain Enlightenment ideas as human happiness, liberty, individual rights, and critical reason. Both the institutions and basic ideas of modernity proceed without reference to or legitimation by religion. Measured by ethical standards, this complex is neither a progress nor a disaster. It replaced much in the pre-modern that promoted human suffering; oppressive traditions, fixed social hierarchies, primitive technologies. But its very success carried with it overpopulation, massive poverty, uprooted cultures, a polluted planet-wide environment, and the decline of community-nurturing traditions.25

The New Diaspora of Religion

Both fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist religious communities experience and respond to the modern.26 They must make their way, accordingly, in the societies of late capitalism, mostly constitutional democracies, whose institutions are overwhelmingly secularized. A narrow interpretation of the fundamentalist response focuses primarily on intellectual problems created for religion by the Enlightenment. A broader way inquires into the effect and import of secularized institutions on the features of everyday religion. It asks how the loss of sponsorship (disestablishment), the removal of educational, governmental and other institutions from religious tutelage, and the secularization (disenchantment) of everyday life affect the way human beings are religious. Recall the mediations of everyday religion: egocentrism, often in intense emotional degree, orientation to the promise of salvation, ethnocentrism as the setting of religious loyalty, literalist-factual modes of interpretation, a supernatural world view, taboos and rituals that structure everyday life, and the certainty that all of these things have divine origin, sanction, and status. On the other hand, most human beings who live in a modern society are shaped by institutions void of any religious world-view, ethic, or ritual. Insofar as the society is religiously tolerant or pluralistic, the religious person lives side by side with other religions which the society, by its refusal to sponsor any one of them, grants legitimacy. Religious persons may not experience a direct attack on their beliefs and practices in the workplace, school, or sphere of entertainment. They will experience, most of the time, institutions, discourses, and practices where religious beliefs are not operative. In this situation, the very consciousness, including its interpersonal shaping, undergoes secularization. This secularized consciousness is the subject of Friedrich Nietzsche's phrases, the "twilight of the gods" and "the death of God." Described here is not so much an intellectual atheism as a godless structure of individual, intersubjective, and institutional life. Related to Nietzsche's insight but inspired more by Dilthey are Dietrich Bonhoeffer's brilliant but informal ruminations in prison which portrayed modernity as religion-less, a time when people are free from religion.27

The event and epoch of the modern bears a certain resemblance to an event in the history of ancient Israel, the exile of the Israelites into Babylon and the subsequent dispersion of Jews throughout the Middle East, Europe, and the new world. The problem the dispersion created for Israel was the problem of how a people whose deep identity was its religious faith could survive, shorn of the very things (land, temple, kingship, priesthood) on which it depended for existence. In exile Israel lost its primary institutions, the societal sponsorship of its faith, and its geographical and national setting. To survive the dispersion, Israel had to become Judaism, a mode of faith able to exist as a minority people amidst alien cultures and their religions by way of synagogue, the Hebrew language, Torah, rabbinate, and Halakah. In other words Israel as Judaism survived by means of a new set of mediations. The situation of the religions in the modern era is not unlike the Diaspora of Israel. Like the Israelites, the religions of modernity must exist without the society's official sponsorship and survive the strange mythos, deep values, and institutions of an alien culture. Like the Israelites modern believers must hang up their harps by the waters of a Babylon powerful enough to assimilate and displace their traditions in a single generation. The Diaspora of modern religions is in one respect distinctive. The gods (sacred power) disposed the lives of all ancient peoples. A religious "sacred canopy" (Peter Berger) overarched pre-modern cultures. But with the coming of the modern, the sacred canopy disappears. Each religion must find a way to survive not just as a specific community or people but as a faith amidst institutions, world views, and everyday life practices utterly empty of divine import. In such a situation, the religious person cannot but become a bicameral self, holding onto the community's mediations by way of a self largely shaped by secularity. This is the situation which sets the stage for the varieties of fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist responses to the modern.29

The experience of being dispersed into a secularized society is the most prominent feature of religion's present-day situation. The modern, however, confronts religion not just as challenge and threat but as opportunity and gift. Throughout history a prophetic/transcendent element has attended religion's tradition-oriented mediations and given religion a sacramental character. This element only partly arises from within the religions themselves. Originating in the wider cultural settings of religion have been moral traditions, political structures and aesthetic trends which have helped religion's prophets expose the cruelty, narrowness, superstition, idolatries and follies of the religious community. Christianity's appropriations from ancient Greece (philosophy) and Rome (law, social structure), from oriental mystical traditions (the negative theology) are instances of external sources of transcending. Modernity, likewise, has offered its own sources of critical transcendence. Its democracies, sciences, philosophies, and global cultural interrelations have helped religious communities relativize their hierarchical structures, their commitments to millennia-long traditions of sexism and racism, and have made available critical methods for probing the religious community's own texts and traditions. Modernity, then, can function as a wider cultural source for religion's own prophetic/transcending side. Even as modernity itself is a paradoxical mix of new liberating possibilities and new global horrors, so religion's relation to modernity includes both the threat of assimilation and appropriation of new resources of self-transcending.

Fundamentalism: a Theory

The theory of fundamentalism explored in these pages attempts to differentiate the fundamentalist phenomenon from the perennial tendencies and traits of self-preserving religion. Because it is a theory, it calls for confirmation in detailed sociological and historical inquiries. Also, because it is a theory, it is not meant to describe in a direct way the behavior or features of any particular human individual or community. Human individuals as self-transcending and communities as structurally complex never coincide with any set of generalized features. Individuals and families become part of "fundamentalist" congregations for a variety of reasons, many of which have little to do with the dynamics set forth in this theory. "Fundamentalist" religious groups engage in varieties of practices (works of charity, boy scout troops, athletic teams) which would fall outside these dynamics. For this reason, the "fundamentalism" of this theory is a degree-to-which term. "To the extent that" persons or groups embody the features of this theory, they could be said to be "fundamentalist." The theory departs from a number of accounts of fundamentalism in one respect. In this theory fundamentalism cannot be grasped as a distinctive phenomenon by simply focusing on textual authoritarianism, absolutized beliefs or practices, or gender role policies. Rather, all of these practices occur throughout the history of religion communities. Fundamentalism arises when the self-preserving ethnocentrism, natural egocentrism, literalism, and cosmology, in short, religion's traditional mediations, work to maintain themselves in the new Diaspora of religion in the secularized cultures of modern nation-states.

In modern nation-states, religious individuals live out their everyday lives in secular institutions and are formed by cosmologies, moralities, and ways of thinking that directly or indirectly challenge their beliefs and practices. The cluster of mediations which constitute their religious community have little or no cognitive or symbolic status in the wider culture. Historical and scientific contextualizing modes of thought directly challenge everyday religion's unex-amined empiricism, its perennial tendency to see its mundane mediations as factual yet absolute truths. These contextualizing, historical, and fallibilizing modes of thought destabilize everyday religion in its core conviction that its mediations are divinely willed and caused. In pre-modern eras, the "divine" mediations of religion were challenged by competing deities. Modernity's challenge is to deity as such. Modernity's historical, social and psychological modes of thought can be said to be "atheistic," not in the theoretical sense of an explicit denial of the gods, but in the secularizing sense of non-sacramental explanations. Modern religions have responded to their loss of sponsorship and to radical secularization in a variety of ways. Some retain the traditional "divine" mediations by means of a cultural isolation and repetition of traditional discourse that eschews self-conscious apologetics. Others have welcomed and even appropriated modern modes of thought that de-absolutize the mediations, using them to criticize and revise traditional religion. Fundamentalism is a third response.

The Fundamentalist Response: Mediations as the Contents of Faith

When the sacred canopy is removed, when the culture's dominant institutions are radically secularized and non-authoritarian modes of thought prevail, religion's mediating foundations (the supernaturally given inerrant Scripture, the infallible church leadership, the unambiguous originating figure) begin to shake.30 This shaking of religion's mediating and "divine" foundations can be experienced as a removal of religion's very contents. In its sacramental orientation, religion's content is never simply its mediations but the mysterious activity of the holy itself. But when the secularizing momentum of the modern removes the sacred canopy and imperils the mediations, religion in a self-defensive act can transform the mediations into its very contents. When religion's own mediations become its very contents, faith means believing certain things, obeying certain taboos, engaging in certain ritual acts, acknowledging certain authorities. In this situation religion's central and intrinsic reference becomes the empirical-factual strand of its mediations. With this turn the subject of the fervor and focus of faith is not the holy itself, although talk about what God wants, does, causes, etc. abounds, but various empirical states of affairs. Religion now can dispute with scientists, historians, and even common sense over such things as historical events and dates and evolutionary biology because alternative empirical (historical, biological) contents have become the object of faith (belief). Once religion identifies its content with empirical/factual states of affairs, it is prone to embrace negative states of affairs, matters that must be false, as objects of belief. To be religious is not to believe in the cosmogony of modern astro-physics, homo erectus, a certain construction of Israel's history or of the life of Mohammed. This is not to say that individual fundamentalists have no genuine faith in God, an ungenerous and undemonstrable claim. It only says that "fundamentalism" (to the degree that it describes a group or individual) names a discourse, a set of convictions, a sociality, or set of tactics that regard the empirical/factual strand of ordinary religion's mediations as faith's very contents. In the discourse of fundamentalism, the contents and references of faith are such mediations of the community as the Bible, the inherited cosmology, the casuistry.

This transformation of religion's mediations and empirical/factual claims into religion's very contents engenders four features that distinguish fundamentalism from traditional ordinary religion: a new form of identity between the holy and the mediations, the suppression of religion's prophetic/transcendent element, an incipient manichaeism, and a tactical appropriation of modernity itself. First, everyday religion's primary conviction is that there is an identity between what God willed or caused and the contents of its mediating entities (Scripture, rabbinate, sharia, creed, papacy, etc.). At the same time, the prophetic/transcending side of everyday religion opens up a space in the religious community for qualifying, questioning, and granting limits to notions that such things are simply "divine." The sacramental presence and activity of the holy bestows mystery and ambiguity on the mediations. When the mediations become the contents and objects of faith, an unqualified notion of identity results. The holy is not only mysteriously (sacramentally) present in the hierarchies, texts, and rituals; it so brings about the mediations in such a way that their intrinsic ambiguity, limitation, and fallibility disappear. This new and stronger sense of the mediations as "divine" gives rise to a new kind of certainty whose object is the total contents of the mediating entity.

Second, insofar as fundamentalism is a religious phenomenon, its communities will retain religion's double-sided structure of social mediations and a prophetic/transcendent element. But in the fundamentalist response to the modern, the prophetic/transcendent is not so much erased as weakened, marginalized, suppressed. Once the mediations themselves become the focus and very content of faith, faith's sense of the limitation, ambiguity, and potential corruption of all finite entities is compromised. To assert an unqualified identity between the holy and something like a cosmology, practice, or text gives rise to tendencies to eliminate from those things history, context, process, perspective, and fallibility. Since its status has become the status of the divine itself, the mediating entity is placed beyond criticism, assessment and open inquiry. Accordingly, the literalist and factual strand always present in ordinary religion develops into a self-conscious and even "rational" apologetics whose aim is to demonstrate the plain truth of the contents of the mediations.

Third, the transformation of the mediations into the very contents of faith gives rise to a second suppression, possibly more evident in Western than Eastern faiths. The Western faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all contain narratives of world origin which bestow on the world, as the product and scene of divine creativity, a certain legitimacy and importance. From this high status of world or creation has come varying commitments to mundane knowledge, philosophy, hermeneutics, and even history. When the mediations with all of their empirical/factual contents become what faith is about, they take on the character of timeless, contextless, and infallible truths which must be defended against all challenges. The Enlightenment strand of modernity is oriented to open-ended evidences; the fundamentalist commitment is to the preservation of the empirical contents of the mediations. As the contents of faith, the mediations (thus semitic cosmology and geology, ancient narratives as historical accounts) must be defended against all competing inquiries. This is why the fundamentalist response to modernity has about it a certain indifference to, even denial of open-ended inquiry, and an outright rejection of whole segments of biology, history, and philosophy. Thus, natural science and other inquiries become taboos in fundamentalist communities. Thus fundamentalism rejects rather than welcomes modernity's potential contributions to religion's prophetic/transcendent and self-critical aspect. To the degree that it repudiates open-ended inquiry directed at world processes and historical texts, fundamentalism turns away from the world as a legitimate, authentic sphere of knowledge toward a Manichaean suspicion of the world.31

The Fundamentalist Response: Culture Isolation and Culture Appropriation

A major contention of this essay is that the primary features of fundamentalism arise as alterations of everyday religion. This is not to say that fundamentalism is the creation of rank and file worshippers in congregations, synagogues, or mosques. Through the ages an elite leadership (bishops, papacy, priests, ministers, theologians, rabbis, imams, powerful laypersons, etc.) have always presided over everyday religion, and it is just this leadership whose response to modernity has created fundamentalism. Various masters of oratory, communications, and politics have crafted the apologetics and tactics which draw religious believers into fundamentalist movements and communities. The fundamentalist phenomenon, then, is not simply an altered dynamics of everyday religion (the new principle of identity, the mediations as contents of faith, etc.) but also a tactical response carried out by leaders who labor to reshape families, congregations, denominations, and even the wider culture. This tactical reshaping displays a paradoxical relation to modernity which combines both a defiant rejection and utilitarian appropriation of modernity. Tactics of survival by isolation are well known to students of religion. Jewish ethnicity, 19th century utopian experiments, and Amish-type societies within society are examples. The fundamentalist movement in the early 20th century in the USA was partly a conflict within certain Protestant denominations, and partly an extra denominational movement of conferences, Bible schools, publishing ventures, and revivals. In the 1940's the movement split into two factions, the more moderate group (the National Association of Evangelicals, Fuller Theological Seminary) cool toward premillenarianism, social conservatism, and the eschewal of scholarship and preferring cooperation to independence and isolation. Degrees of cultural isolation continued in the creation of Christian schools, home schooling, religious television networks, music and book publishing, and thousands of independent congregations. Islamism, on the other hand, displays impulses to independence in programs which would restore an Islamic society on the nation-states of Islam.

Cultural independence is, however, only one side of the fundamentalist response to modernity. In the early decades of the 20th century, Protestant fundamentalists were quick to adopt the new communications technologies of radio and publishing, and in the fundamentalist resurgence after World War II, this appropriation grew into a multi-million dollar television, music, and publishing industry. Accordingly, the fundamentalist movement never totally repudiated modernity or withdrew into cultural isolation. Convinced of the factual and absolute truth of its mediations, it aggressively worked to recapture a degree of governmental sponsorship, Christianize (or Hinduize, Islamisize) the secularized culture and its institutions. In pursuit of such aims, fundamentalist groups participate in and utilize the resources of the modern: technologies (including not only communications but weaponries), genres and styles of music, architecture and other arts, management, pedagogy, and countless other undertakings. Virtually all fundamentalist movements are oriented to the conversion of individuals and to the religious transformation of the wider secular culture. The resulting programs range from the public schools and family value agendas of the New Christian Right to the aggressive and sometimes violent activities of Islamic fundamentalists. To navigate these political waters, fundamentalist movements appropriate modern methods of political self-empowerment and influence. Everyday religion's intrinsic egocentrism and ethnocen-trism are much in evidence in the fundamentalist appropriations of modernity. Independent fundamentalist congregations appeal to egocentric needs in their offer of highly entertaining forms of worship, an appeal that meshes with the cultural narcissism (Victor Lasch) of modern societies. Discourses and programs of super patriotism, right wing politics, and ultra nationalism appeal to the eth-nocentrism ever present in everyday religion. Religion's ethnocentrism is also displayed in tendencies to regard the nation-state's policies and acts (whatever they are) as divinely sanctioned.

I conclude with a brief summary of the major components of this theory of fundamentalism.

(1) Features often identified as "fundamentalist" such as textual literalism, moral absolutism, and supernaturalist cosmologies arise from religion's need for discourses, institutions, and practices that embody its vision and help it survive over generations.

(2)  These mediating or social-enduring features exist in tension with a prophetic/transcendent element which creates within religion a space for its own self-criticism. It is this element that prevents the mediations from becoming religion's very content and reference.

(3)  Modernity is a centuries-long epoch of history in which religion's cultural domination and societal sponsorship is displaced by non-religiously oriented governing powers and secularized spheres of ordinary life. The religions of the world experience the modern as a new Diaspora, and thus face the problem of surviving as cognitive and cultural minorities.

(4) Modernity also includes modes of thought and cognitive enterprises in which open-inquiry has produced non-religious cosmologies and anthropologies, and even alternative accounts of religion's own history, founding figures, texts, and social dynamics.

(5) The religions of the world experience modernity as a diaspora, a dispersal of their communities into cultures whose secular character offer neither symbolic nor organizational support, and whose institutions overwhelm the traditional influence of the religions.

(6) Fundamentalisms arise within the modern epoch when religious leaders so work to protect the perennial (authoritative) mediations of religion from the modern that the mediations become themselves the contents of religious faith.

(7)  The results of this apologetically-driven alteration of the status of the mediations into religion's primary objects of belief or practice are many: the suppression of the prophetic/transcendent element, a defiant aversion to the open-ended inquiries of modern science and scholarship, and aggressive campaigns of proselyting and political influence.

According to this theory, everyday religion itself is an incipient "fundamentalism," because of its tendencies to posit an identity between the holy and religion's historical mediations, it is, with the help of its leadership, ever ready to monitor, maintain, and re-establish its traditions. At the same time religion appears ever aware that its mediations, important as they are for its survival, are not its content, the very object of its faith. Stressed by the experience of a radically secularizing diaspora of religion, some religious leaders suppress religion's perennial awareness of the limitations and fallibilities of its mediations and this is what constitutes the fundamentalist response to the modern. The fundamentalist phenomenon, then, despite its constant appeals to God and its declared intent to be God's people, do what God wants, and believe what God believes is a kind of atheism in this respect. To the degree that the holy is suppressed or displaced, fundamentalism, paradoxically, is itself a sign of religion undergoing secularization. For if religion's finite mediations are the objects of faith, and if the sacramental presence of the holy is suppressed, religion is simply "about" the creed, the hierarchy, the book, the cosmology, the ritual, the casuistry, the sacralized nation-state.

One implication of this theory deserves our special attention. If the matrix of fundamentalism is everyday religion itself, non-fundamentalist religious leaders must confront fundamentalism first of all in its nascent form. Given the loss of the sacred canopy of the modern age, the stresses of the Diaspora of religion, and the momentum already created by the what constitutes everyday religion, almost any modern religious individual or group can be drawn into fundamentalism's fervent agendas of resistance and protection. In such a situation non-fundamentalist religious leaders, themselves ever vulnerable to the lure of fundamentalism, need to be sharply aware of modernity's destruction of the sacred canopy, aware of religion's incipient fundamentalism, aware of its sacramental heritage, aware of modernity's dark, violent side as well as its potential gifts to religion's prophetic/critical aspect.


1. The term, fundamentalism, was coined by Curtis Lee Laws, the editor of the Baptist magazine, The Watchman-Examiner. Studies of the early fundamentalist movement in the United States include Stewart Grant Cole, A History of Fundamentalism (NY: R.R. Smith, Inc., 1931); Norman E Furniss, The Fundamentalist Controversy, 1918-1931 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 19543); and Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again: the reawakening of American fundamentalism (NY: Oxford University Press, 1997), Chapters 1-7.

2. For the nineteenth century of Protestant fundamentalism in the United States in premillenari-an movements and in the changing roles of women, see Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); Timothy Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming: American Premillenarianism 1987-1925 (NY: Oxford University Press, 1979); and Betty DeBerg, Ungodly Women: Gender and the First Wave of American Fundamentalism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990).

3. For the post-World War II upsurge of fundamentalism in America, see Carpenter, op.cit., Chaps 8-12; and, William Martin, With God on Our Side: the rise of the religious right in America (NY: Broadway Books, 1997).

4.  See Joel Carpenter, "The Fundamentalist Leaven and the Rise of an Evangelical United Front," in Leonard I. Sweet, ed., The Evangelical Tradition in America (Macon,GA: Mercer University Press, 1984); "United We Stand," in Sweet, op.cit.; and George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Theological Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1987).

5.  Some of the landmark studies are Nancy Ammerman, Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Pres, 1987); Alan Peskin, God's Choice: the Total World of a Fundamentalist School (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); Emmanuel Sivan, "The Enclave Culture," in Martin Marty and R.Scott Appleby, eds., Fundamentalism Comprehended (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1995), Chap 1. For theological studies see James Barr, Fundamentalism (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978), and, Kathleen Boone, The Bible Tells Them So: the discourse of Protestant fundamentalism (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1989).

6. On the problem of a definition of fundamentalism, see Harris Harrriet, "Fundamentalism in Protestant Context," in Martin Marty and Ian Jones, eds., Fundamentalism, Church, and Society (London: SPCK, 2002); Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991),"Introduction: a User's Guide;" Roxanne L. Euben, Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton, NJ;: Princeton University Press, 1999), 16-20; and Kathleen Boone, op.cit., Chapter One.

7. The primary publishing event that expanded the term, fundamentalism, to include radicalized, tradition-preserving movements in religion other than Christianity was the six-volume work, The Fundamentalism Project edited by Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby. For a brief survey of Islamic scholars who reject the term, see Euben, op.cit. , 16-18.

8. See Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, "Introduction"

9. The predominant view of the literature appears to be that fundamentalism arose as a response to modernity. This is the premise of the above-cited six-volume Fundamentalism Project of Marty and Appleby. In Cole's early history, fundamentalism is defined as the attempt to retain or restore "the imperialistic culture of historic Protestantism" in the setting of "an inhospitable civilization dominated by secular interests." Op.cit., 53. In his comparative study of Islamic and other fundamentalisms, Bruce Lawrence resists allowing Protestant fundamentalism to define the term, but he too sees the world-wide hegemony of the West nations, the history of colonialism, and secularization as the historic setting for eastern fundamentalist movements. Defenders of God: the fundamentalist revolt against the modern age (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989). James Hunter is one of the few writers on fundamentalism who offers an extended analysis of modernity as the setting for fundamentalism. American Evangelicalism: conservative religion and the quandary of modernity (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1983). It goes without saying that different aspects of modernity evoke may evoke different fundamentalisms (Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu). We can also say that in all fundamentalisms, modernity as secularization is the prominent target: thus secular science, world-view, historical-critical methods, culture, morally corrupting entertainment, etc.

10. "Ordinary" or "Everyday" religion in this essay refers to religion as it exists in and through the everyday practices and institutions of particular religious faiths. It is, accordingly, not limited to "popular religion" "folk religion," "religion of the masses, or disenfranchised groups in contrast to the religious elite. Popular religion in contrast to religion's elite, authoritative, or virtuoso groups is the concern of a number of contemporary studies. Thus, for instance, Norman Greinacher and Norbert Metter, eds., Popular Religion (T.&T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1986); Stephen Sharot, A Comparative Sociology of World Religions: virtuosos, priests, and popular religion (NY: New York University Pres, 2001). Some expression is needed pinpoint tradition-maintaining religion which can amass the features (mediations) that both the elite leadership and the non-elite members of the community share.

11. Most of the sociologies and cultural anthropologies of religion, as we would expect, apprehend religion's social features from a perspective external to religion. For an approach that displays religion's institutionality from inside religion's working, see James M. Gustafsson, Treasures in Earthen Vessels (NY: Harper and Row, 1961). For the cosmological element of everyday religion, see Fiona Bowie, The Anthropology of Religion (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), Chap.5.

12. For an account of social scientific approaches that "explain" religion, see theologian-turned-social historian Samuel Preus, Explaining Religion: Criticism and Theory from Bodin to Freud (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987).

13. Works on the non-reductive element (the Holy, the numinous, the sacred) which have obtained almost classical status are Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy (NY: Oxford, 1958); and Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: the nature of religion (NY: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1959). A more recent author depicts a kind of pathos about reductionist sociologies of religion which must " by the very act of exposing it to the analysis required by the discipline" must destroy religion's subject matter. Daniel Hervieu-Lege, Religion as a Chain of Memory, tr. Simon Lee (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 18. See also Frithjof Schuon, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, tr. P. Townsend (NY: Harper and Row, 1975) and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred (NY, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981).

14.  See Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: the global rise of religious violence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).

15.  See Hannah Arendt, "Tradition and the Modern Age," in Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (NY: Penguin Books, 1985); Richard Bernstein, The New Constellation: the ethical apolitical horizons of modernity and postmodernity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992); Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, tr. F. Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987); and Lawrence Cahoone, From Modernism to Postmodernism: an Anthology (Oxford,UK: Blackwell's, 2003.

16. When the Enlightenment is attached to or even identified with modernity, some authors criticize the modern as the Enlightenment. An especially influential work of this sort is Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, The Dialectic of the Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, tr: E. Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002). See especially Chapter 5 on the culture industry and the exposure of that side of the Enlightenment which involves mass deception. In the same vein see Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988), and, Raymond L. Lee and Susan C. Ackerman, The Challenge of Religion After Modernity: beyond disenchantment (Aldereshot, Eng: Ashgate, 2002).

17. Hannah Arendt pinpoints a los s of tradition due to painful new political movements as central to the modern (Between Past and Future, Chap.1), and argues that the new spaces and times of modern science brought with them a new world alienation. The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), Chapter VI. Habermas characterizes the modern as a subjective rationalism, a version of reason rooted in the subject rather than in communicative action, (op.cit.) In Agnes Heller's view, the primary offspring of the modern is a function rather than ideological or essentialist determination of the place of the individual in society. Thus, modernity is primarily a new social arrangement which replaces traditional stratifications, especially gender. A Theory of Modernity (Malden, MASS.: Blackwell Publishers, 1999).

18. Some of the most severe critics of the Enlightenment, as in the 18 century, argue from a religious or theological agenda. Lee and Ackerman following a line opened up by Adorno and Horkheimer see the Enlightenment as a totalitarianism of reason which set in motion the racisms of mass societies. Thus they are highly skeptical of Habermas's attempt to rehabilitate Enlightenment reason. Op.cit. Lindbeck ? Millbanks

19. One of the best corrections of the caricatures of the Enlightenment is Hellmut O. Papper's "Enlightenment" in The Dictionary of the History of Ideas, ed. Philip P. Wiener (NY: Scribnmers, 1973), Vol.II. See also Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: an Interpretation (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), 2 volumes.

20. Crane Brinton argues that it was 19 century religious and romantic polemics that initially reduced the period of the Enlightenment to a one-sided rationalism. The Age of Reason Reader (NY: Viking Press, 1956), "Introduction." According to Nicholas Capaldi, Enlightenment "reason" as a self-knowledge and as a useful knowledge, especially pertaining to human nature, critically targeted feudal economy, religious intolerance, and absolutistic governments. The Enlightenment: the Proper Study of Mankind (NY: G.P.Putnam Sons, 1967), "Introduction."

21. Beginning with the work of Max Weber and continuing in later twentieth century sociologies of religion, the motif of secularization has evoked an enormous literature. Such authors as Talcott Parsons, Daniel Bells, Mary Douglas, Mircea Eliade and many others have studied profanization, the post-industrial society, postmodernism, and many other related themes. Two important collections of essays on the subject are Mary Douglas and Stephen Tipton, eds., Religion and America: Spiritual Life in a Secular Age (Boston: Beacon Press,1982), and, James Childress and David Harned, eds., Secularization and the Protestant Prospect (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970).

22. Virtually all contemporary Western societies now take this for granted. In the period of the Enlightenment, the point had to b e argued that societal institutions could and should get along with the supervision of the dominate religion. Capaldi cites Holbach's Good Sense as one of the many texts in which this point is found. Op.cit., "Introduction."

23. A number of late twentieth century sociologists and historians of religion have sharply criticized what once was a prevailing view among sociologists that modernity (or elements therein) was so powerful, and so incompatible with religion that religion would gradually fade away. See Mary Douglas, "The Effects of Modernization on Religious Change," in Douglas and Tipton, op,cit.; Martin Marty, "Religion in America Since Mid-Century," in Childress and Harned, op.cit., and , Daniel Bell, "The Return of the Sacred: the Argument on the Future of Religion," in The Winding Passage: Essays and Sociological Journeys, 1960-1980 (Cambridge, MA: Abt Books, 1980).

24. It is difficult but important to distinguish secular and secularistic (totality oriented) modes of thought. A secular cognitive undertaking, for instance the astro-physical exploration of a nova or a historical study of the influence of Gnosticism on Christian origins focus linguistic, archaeological, mathematical and other appropriate methods on the problem. Specific studies of the influence of hormones on human behavior or the DNA relations between homo erectus and homo sapiens are secular in that they do not take place under the aegis of a religion but are not necessarily secularistic, logically displacing or denying the existence or activity of the sacred. At the same time, a meta-scientific cognitive environment can arise with these studies and their methods in which the sum total of such inquiries is taken to be an exhaustive, totalized, and absolutized account of reality as such. Thus, an epoch of scientific hegemony can become, to cite Lester Kurtz, "another competing sacred canopy." Gods in the Global Village: the world's religions in sociological perspective (Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press, 1995).

25. A good example of an interpretation of modernity that captures its ambiguous mix of social corruption and cultural freedoms is Habermas, "The Normative Content of Modernity," op.cit.

26. Passages from the works of some contemporary students of religion seem to argue that the concept of "secularization" is highly problematic. For Larry Shiner, there are at least five different meanings of the term, each of which poses problems of unclarity. "The Meanings of Secularization," in Childress and Harned, op.cit. Among others a serious difference has emerged between those who accuse worry that secularization theory downplays both idealizes pre-modern piety and downplays religion's power to survive and even surmount modernist challenges (Mary Douglas, Daniel Bell, Martin Marty) and others who anticipate religion's eventual demise. I would only clarify that the issue of religion's futurity in relation to forces that seem to threaten or displace it is not under consideration in this essay. My primary contention is that recent centuries have produced a new and distinctive phenomenon (the modern) which now poses for all religions touched by it serious problems and which has evoked a variety of responses, one of which is fundamentalism. Even Daniel Bell who asks about a "return of the sacred," acknowledges that modernity seriously delimited the traditional public sphere of religion (Ibid, 337).

27. Dietrich Bonhoeffer could celebrate the "religionlessness" of modernity because he made natural or rational theology (cf metaphysics) the defining feature religion. Religion in this view means living from an explanatory hypothesis, a relation to a deus ex machina. This move makes it easy to empty the religions of any and all divine activity (revelation) and erect an absolute contrast between "religion" and "Christology," faith, and God as the center of life. This intellectualized interpretation of religion, unfortunately, obscures the radicality of religionless or secularized modernity. The hypothesized deity belongs to a long metaphysical tradition with roots in ancient Hellenic philosophy and major outbreaks in the scholastic theologies of the Middle Ages and in the English Enlightenment (deism). The latter was itself a response to secularizing modernity. This chain of philosophical argument is not itself "religion" but a symptom of "religionlessness." This was true even of the Platonic and Aristotelian demythologizings of the Hellenic gods. Religion itself, everyday religion, never exists apart from as tradition and traditioning, world-view, emotional commitment, institutions, enduring symbols, and ritual practices. It is just these things that modernity threatens and displaces, not simply God as a metaphysical hypothesis. For Bonhoeffer's "religionless" Christianity and his interpretation of religion, see The Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. E. Bethge; tr.Reginald Fuller (London: SCM Press, 1967), and, Rolf K. Wüsternberg, A Theology of Life: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Religionless Christianity, tr. D. Stott (Grand rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

28. Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: elements of a sociological theory of religion (Garden City,NY: Doubleday, 1967).

29. Without using the term, Hervieu-Leger makes a similar point. He sees tradition as the "central dynamic of religion." And tradition a structural feature of pre-modern societies, serving as their continuity and social memory. Modern societies on the other hand have a crumbling memory." Thus modernity's secularization means, among other things, de-traditioning, and this carries with it "the dislocation of the social fabric which was itself held together by religion." Op.cit., 25, 127.

30. The metaphor, the shaking of the foundations, is the title of a well-known collection of sermons by Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations (NY: Charles Scribners, 1953).

31. To say that fundamentalism suppresses the critical-prophetic element of everyday religion by turning its mediations into religion's very contents would seem to apply more to Christianity than Islam or Hinduism. The statement appears to privilege the Western motif of the Enlightenment discreditation of authoritative religious texts. And it is important to grant that the central problem that Muslim and Hindu fundamentalisms face is not so much the Western Enlightenment as Western secularizing hegemony and the displacement of traditional cultural settings of religion. It is the case that the form fundamentalism took in the United States was a resistance to both science (evolution) and higher criticism of the Bible, while the form it took Islam was a resistance to secularizing (and therefore Western) movements. But the wider phenomenon of modernity includes not only secularized culture but secularized knowledge, and thus Enlightenment modes of interpretation and natural and social sciences, and this remains the setting of all fundamentalisms. Accordingly, even in Western countries, fundamentalism also includes not just resistance to the Enlightenment but nostalgia for a pre-modern culture and for national sponsorship of religion. While Eastern faiths which retain pre-critical forms of textual interpretation also confront historical and historicizing modes of thought as take into themselves modern historical scholarship. Both Christian and Islamic fundamentalists experience the modern diaspora of their religious communities into a religiously pluralized and a secular world. And both respond by asserting the identity of God and their traditional mediations against the institutions of a secularized modernity.

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Source: Cross Currents, Fall 2005, Vol. 55,  No 3.