Fundamentalism (It’s not just for religion anymore.)

The Fundamentals of Fundamentalism

Many folks associate “fundamentalism” with religion. As in this definition from

“a religious movement characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of religious texts, especially within American Protestantism and Islam.”

Recently I heard an interesting theory. That the term “fundamentalism” can actually refer to several subject areas, not just religion. supports this idea with an additional definition of “fundamentalism:”

“strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles”

In my opinion,

All kinds of topics lend themselves to “fundamentalism.”

For instance:

  • Politics: Conservative, Liberal, Moderate
  • Political topics: economy, environment, immigration, abortion, gun rights, vaccinations
  • Sexuality: It’s complicated.
  • Religion: Christianity (including Protestant, Catholic, Mormonism, Progressive), Judaism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.
  • Diet (Omnivore, Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarian, Gluten-free, Keto, Low Carb-High Fat, Intermittent Fasting, etc.)
  • Exercise (Cardio, Resistance, CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, spinning, yoga, etc.)
  • Conventional vs. alternative medicine
  • Curly Hair Care (I kid you not, Curly Girl Method fans can be super rule-y!)

Surely, you can think of additional areas where this idea applies.

Confession: I’m part of the problem.

Sort of. I’ve blogged on some of the above topics. Eating the low carb-high fat way, for instance, and intermittent fasting. I spouted my opinion on exercise here. Two blog posts carried my best practices for caring for curly hair.

In an effort to “convert” folks to my way(s) of thinking and/or living, I sent out into the blogosphere my strong opinions on these topics. With that said, I’m proud to point out this disclaimer I included in this curly hair post:

“There are so many areas of my life where people are legalistic and dogmatic about beliefs and behavior: ie. faith, food, and now hair. Everyone has an opinion about what is right and what is wrong. It seems everyone wants everyone else to do, say, and believe exactly what they do.

I’d rather explore, research, and experiment to find out what works best for me. I recommend you do the same. With that said, if you find some of the information above helpful, hooray. If not, oh, well. Please know that my heart’s in the right place.”

In that quote when I referred to legalism and dogmatism, I was totally on to something. I believe:

This kind of “fundamentalism,” this heels-dug-in-you’re-not-just-wrong-you’re-ignorant-or-evil attitude is the incredibly toxic cause for the divisive environment currently contaminating our country’s culture.

Some individuals take the process even further by severing relationships with loved ones who hold differing opinions. Or by verbally abusing people who disagree with them on certain subjects.

Sometimes the I’m-right-you’re-wrong acrimony results in violence. Just over two years ago, there was a deadly clash of ideas in Charlottesville, Virginia. Almost one year ago today, the horrific attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania resulted in 11 deaths and seven injuries.

We can’t go on like this, can we?

If we are to make the world—or at least America—a better place, how now shall we live?

What can each one of us do to heal this great divide?

I’ve got a few ideas.

  • Apply the Thumper Rule: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
  • Attempt civil discourse: According to, civil discourse is “an engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding.” Note: This only works if the parties involved are committed to civility.
  • Redirect conversations, when necessary. There have been times when I’ve had to say, “Clearly we don’t agree on this topic. Why don’t we change the subject?”
  • Remember Genesis 1:27 which says “we’re all created in the image of God.” Would you shout in to the face of God, “You’re an idiot!”
  • Consider Matt. 22:39, the second “greatest commandment of all:” “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • If religion isn’t your thing, recall the sentence in the Declaration of Independence that says, “All men are created equal.” Don’t think for a minute your alternate opinions make you superior to another human being. We all breathe oxygen. We all go to the bathroom.
  • Choose love. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to say to someone close to me, after a verbal skirmish on a “hot topic,” “Please know I would rather have you in my life than control what you think and believe.”

Sure, it feels great to interact with people who hold the same beliefs as you.

Their agreement validates you. You feel like you can relax, not constantly be formulating the next factoid to fling out in an effort to persuade thought opponents to defect to your side.

The truth is, most of us interact daily with people who disagree with us on multiple topics. There are reasons we all hold contrasting opinions.

Each person on the planet lives with the filter of their family, their education, the places they’ve lived, every word they’ve read, every situation they’ve experienced: joyful or tragic. There is simply no way we will all be in agreement on any given topic, much less, dozens.

Not only that, but think how boring the world would be if we all held the same opinions. Now:

What will you do are you doing to heal the great divide?

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