Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism

Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism

Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism

Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism

Synopsis

The contributors to this volume explore the often complex relationship between fundamentalist religious belief and political extremism. Does the former necessarily cause the latter?

Excerpt

Leonard Weinberg and Ami Pedahzur

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully As when they do it from religious conviction-Pascal

The relationship(s) between political religions, totalitarian movements, fundamentalism and political extremism may confront us with something of a contradiction, perhaps an irony as well. These days there is certainly a tendency to link these concepts, especially among Western writers. the source of their inspiration has been the rise of violent Islamist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. But this linkage hardly captures the historical reality.

For important analysts of political or 'secular' religions and the totalitarian movements to which they gave birth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, these developments were the outgrowths of extreme hostility to religious belief. Certainly in the Western world, democratic opponents of totalitarian movements, and the fascist, Nazi and communist regimes to which they gave rise, came to regard traditional religious institutions as parts of civil society and as barriers to the kind of total control over human thought and behaviour the totalitarian rulers hoped to achieve. in fact, the decline of religious faith and practice, again in the West, precedes the rise of totalitarian movements and political religions.

During the Soviet era, Marxists who contemplated leaving their countries' communist parties over various issues, most commonly the purge trials, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, Khrushchev's

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