The twentieth century was the first century in known history to be considerably atheistic. It was also the bloodiest century, with more than 100 million killed in war and in horrible atrocities by atheist and fascist leaders such as Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin and the like. This shows religion is not the cause of evil but holds back much evil from taking place.
Conversely, the twenty-first century is being dominated (again) by fundamentalist religions serving as the primary metanarrative of the international community, with religious fundamentalism among the Abrahamic religions especially growing and expanding in global influence, whether it be global Evangelical Christianity or Islamic fundamentalism.
By “fundamentalist” I mean passionate adherents of a particular religion who believe in the literal, divine inspiration of their sacred scriptures.
(In the case of American Evangelical fundamentalism, some would say they have shifted their focus away from Christ as the foundation stone (1 Cor. 3:10) to their belief in the orthodox doctrine of the infallible Bible.)
At the turn of the century American fundamentalists unfortunately became known not for what they believe but for what they are against!
Challenges to fundamentalists include more than modern science and philosophy. Their greatest challenges come from within, with Christian scholars beginning to espouse “higher critical” views of the Bible. These scholars engender doubt as to the authenticity of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch as well as the authenticity of the New Testament books that bear the names of Paul and other apostles.
“Christian exegesis itself helped destroy the foundational beliefs of many in the Christian church” (Hans Kung, Christianity).
The following are some reasons why fundamentalism continues to be a powerful belief system:
1. Consistency: Fundamentalists have a basic religious value or idea that is vigorously protected out of a fear of deviating from the pure ideals of the faith, to which all believers in a particular congregation or denomination adhere.
2. Simplicity: Fundamentalist thought, attitude and systems are simple and transparent; perspectives that deviate are largely ignored.
3. Clarity: Interpretation and doctrinal structure are established for the entire group. Those with a deviant view regarding anything significant are disfellowshipped.
(For more on this topic read Hans Kung’s Christianity: Essence, History, Future, pages 636-642)