In an email, a Unitarian Universalist friend claimed that few people "actually know what a fundamentalist really is," so I wrote back to assure him that I do. Here is how I put it:

"Fundamentalist to me is someone who thinks that the Booble is the literal word of "God," that he sort of dictated the book to a prophet or scribe, and that since "God" is infallible, each and every word in the Booble is fact. That means that evolution is a myth. That means that Adam put a saddle on a brontosaurus and rode him (as is depicted in a museum somewhere in the Booble Belt). That means that having tattoos is sinful and having an abortion will send you straight to hell. That means that we should actively seek to bring about Armageddon in the Mideast so that we can experience the Rupture and go to Heeven. At least the Christers and the Mooselums agree on something! But whereas the Christer can have nothing but joy and peace in Heeven, the Mooselum only gets 72 virgins. Poor thing, after he wears them out, he can't get a single additional virgin. I would hate to be limited to 72 of anything. Sam Harris the atheist points out, however, that the "72 virgins" supposedly mentioned in the Kookran is actually a mistranslation and that what these mindless halfwits who become suicide bombers actually have in store for them is 72 white grapes."

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In his biography of the Huston family (Walter, John, and Angela), Lawrence Grobel tells of the filming of John Huston's The Unforgiven, and about the day the screen writer, Ben Maddow, arrived on location in Durango, Mexico on "Mission Day," when priests and penitants from the missions stage a parade to collect monies for the missions. On one float, Grobel says, "a man was tied to a cross, and blaring from a microphone all along the route came a voice shouting 'Christ on the Cross, courtesy of Coca-Cola.'"

I wonder if Pepsi had a float depicting the Immaculate Deception.
Well, that's a good definition of American Christian Fundamentalism. I study cults and fanatical faiths, and would say that the common threads between them are: 1) innerrancy of scripture, 2) lives should be based on said scripture (not just inspired by or motivated by), 3) afterlife is better and more desirable than life, 4) (often) unquestioned obedience to tradition, dogma, and/or charismatic leader (think Warren Jeff's cult or Scientology)
According to more official definitions of fundemantalism, and by that I mean any form of fundamentalism:

1) Strong charismatic leader
2) Easy to get in, hard to get out
3) Small close group (often cult- or sectlike)
4) Strong ideas of dogma often based on scripture
5) No tolerance to people who have just the slightest differing of an idea based on said dogma or scripture

As you can see, my definition is very much like yours, but my definition is also applicable to other ideas such as the idea of staying fit (some people who study the health care movements consider it very cult-like, especially if you join groups such as Weight Watchers), political groups and whatnot.
Superb analysis, Alex. Thanks. My absolute favorite is, when you confront one of these people with the bluntly obvious, e.g. that a good God would not having taken their son in an auto collision when the hapless boy impulsiverly ran out in front of an SUV, they console themselves by saying, "It was God's will." You point out that any god who would do such a thing, especially to a child, can only be a wicked if not evil deity (at least the Yezidis own up to the "fact" that it is the Devil who rules this world). To this, they customarily reply, lamely, that "God works in mysterious ways." In other words, they flat out do not have an answer to Mackie's conundrum: an all-powerful all-benevolent deity does not account for the existence of evil. The theologian would quickly say, "But God gave Man the freedom of will to decide between doing good and doing evil." To this, one should answer, logically, "Then why didn't he make sure man exercised that freedom in ways that can only be described as 'good'?" This stumps them every time.
Mormons have a loophole for the problem of evil. 1) it's part of god's plan (stupid evil god), 2) god didn't create the devil - he's eternal, 3) good and evil must exist in balance (dualism)

Weird, but probably not weirder than what I'm used to (fundy faith)
This Mormon idea of "God" (I always put this supernaturalism in quotations marks to make sure nobody thinks I have "faith" in "Him") planning all the evil the world is delightfully disingenuous. It reminds me of the parts of Soloman Schimmel's The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth wherein he quotes some theologians as claiming that "God" "planted" fossil remains in order to fool us and test our faith. The Mormon answer only strengthens the argument that if there is a god he, she, or it is a cruel bastard. So why would we worship such a creature? Rather, like Job (one of my favorite Booblical personages, along with the talking serpent, Cain, Korah, and Judas of Kerioth), I look up to the skies and curse the bastard.
I would go so far as to say that a certain form of Fundamentalism is a part of all religions. There are central tenants to every religion that are not open to debate and must be taken on faith. In this way, even the moderate Christian/Hindu/Muslim/etc practices a kind of fundamentalism.
Interesting you say this. I know that good Muslims eschew alcohol, which the Qu'ran forbids. Last night, I saw a movie, The Prisoner of the Mountains, by a Russian filmmaker named Budrov, depicting an episode in the Russian-Chechen war. One of the Russian solders trades a Chechen liquor store owner a pistol for a couple of bottles of vodka. (This is an important plot point because the same weapon is later sold to an assassin.) In another scene, Chechen rebels capture the two Russian prisoners of the title (which actually only refers to one of them, played by the director's son, who survives their ordeal). To celebrate some minor skirmish, the Chechens break out the vodka (slivovitz, or whatever, a clear liquid) and drink and dance to the accompaniment of a trio of musicians in their group.

Now, the Chechens are almost entirely Muslim, and their religion is the basis for a part of their major gripes with the Russians. So what were they doing drinking liquor? Seems to me we can add another tenet that is universal in the various religions: their tendency to see the tenets of faith as something taken off a steam table at a cafeteria. I wish I had a dime for every Catholic who has had an abortion. By the way, it was a good movie.
Does this explain the insanity of the Taliban, Amer Muhammad? Aren't these people living, mentally, in the 6th century c.e.? There was a news item today about a man who found a whale bone dating to millions of years ago. How do the three major faiths reconcile their holy books with science?
Wasn't it rather stupid of our government to train them and supply them with the weapons of our own undoing? Isn't this what all the super powers are up to today, seeing who can make the most money off arms sales and do the most harm to true democracy (which is not supposed to look the same in every country) by aiding and abetting assasinations and coups? Sometimes, I despair.


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