The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism

By Ralph W. Hood, Jr.; Peter C. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Intratextuality, Stereotyping, and Quasi-Fundamentalisms

From its historical origin, the problem of hermeneutics goes
beyond the limits that the concept of method sets to
modern science. The understanding and interpretation of
texts is not merely a concern of science, but is obviously
part of the total human experience of the world.

—GADAMER (1975/1982, p. xi)

The approach we have taken to understanding religious fundamentalism focuses upon the authority of the sacred text and suggests that all fundamentalisms be approached from within the framework of their own first principles. The sacred text, we have argued, is in itself sufficient for fundamentalists as a source of life's meaning and purpose. The textual narrative provides fundamentalists with a worldview that allows comprehensibility and manageability to an otherwise fragmented existence, thus contributing to what Antonovsky (1987) calls a sense of coherence as a generalized resistance resource. Textual authority, for fundamentalists, provides moral certainty and stability. Thus we have suggested that from a psychological perspective, there are legitimate reasons why a person might choose to be a fundamentalist. We have also contended that for psychological science to be true to its own first principles, it must provide accurate description and must therefore approach its object of study—fundamentalism, in this case—within the framework of that object's own first principles.

Our approach is not a new one, but it has seldom been taken seriously by social scientists who study fundamentalism. Most social scientists have avoided any serious consideration of fundamentalism in terms of its foundational principles (Packer, 1958). This is why the socialscientific literature on fundamentalism has been so skewed. Even social

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