The Embattled Religiosity of Religious Fundamentalism



This chapter addresses two questions. First, why does religion seem to be so ubiquitous and how feasible is it for humankind to totally secularize, as atheistic commentators are increasingly urging? Second, despite its undoubted capacity for promoting good, is religion nevertheless inherently if counterintuitively prone to violence? The chapter first explores the various reasons that have been offered for the persistence of religion across human societies. Employing evolutionist insights, the chapter shows that while at an individual level, religion is inevitable given the way human brains are constituted, at the group level, religion may well be considered as a complex adaptation that enhances the internal cohesion needed for success in competition and conflict with relevant out-groups. Moreover, while religiosity is a hardwired instinct, religion and religious fundamentalism are in fact cultural artifacts. In short, religion and more specifically religious fundamentalism represent channeled or canalized expressions of the innate religiosity of human beings. The chapter argues that religious fundamentalism represents the fusion of the highly tuned Manichean Mindset with a group religiosity marked by a sense of existential threat. While religious fundamentalism certainly does not ipso facto lead to intergroup violence, it unequivocally possesses violent potentials. Hence the chapter posits that it is not innate religiosity or the cultural product of religion per se that is the problem. Rather it is the defensive, embattled, constricted religiosity of religious fundamentalism that ultimately leads – in conjunction with other intervening factors to be explored – toward religious violence.


Religion Religiosity Religious fundamentalism Manichean Mindset Religious violence Complex adaptation Violent potentials Intergroup violence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.S. Rajaratnam School of International StudiesNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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