Fundamentalist (noun). An adherent of any religion who latches on to the extraneous details and decorative fripperies of the faith, to the utter neglect of the basic principles. A Christian fundamentalist insists on the literal truth of the creation hymn in Genesis while defying every precept in the Sermon on the Mount. An Islamic fundamentalist worries himself sick over whether the faithful can carry their groceries in paper bags (because infidels might have recycled the paper from old Korans, infidels being just the sort of people who would do that), while continuing to kick the poor and helpless in the teeth, which is the one thing known for a fact to make Allah mad as a hornet.

Etymologically, the word comes from a Latin term meaning having to do with the fundament. 

Fundamentalists are unpleasant, but fortunately you will never meet one. The word is used in modern English only to describe the religious beliefs of third parties not present in the current conversation.


  1. I can only imagine what paroxysms of horror that Islamic Fundamentalist example would go through if they found out how much toilet paper includes recycled content.

  2. Sean says:

    What does one call an adherent to all the fripperies and codicils who still adheres to the central tenets?

  3. Greybeard says:

    I normally look to Dr. Boli to bring together wit and wisdom. I am so disappointed to find here an attempt at wit while nearly abandoning any attempt to expand on the wisdom of the reader. Rather he has joined the pop culture in an ad hominem attack upon a vaguely defined enemy. I would have expected a personage of such long standing to draw upon his historical experience to discuss the underpinnings of the term, rooted in a theological controversy during his middle aged adulthood about 100 years ago. That might have lead to a thoughtful discussion or analysis of the veracity of various methods of objecting to trends in common thought and culture. But no. He chose to join the more vulgar elements of our society by applying an unpopular label and then dismissing his opponents because they were thus labeled. I thought the rhetorical training of Dr. Boli’s era was superior to current trends, but alas I stand utterly disappointed.

    • Dr. Boli says:

      Now you force Dr. Boli to define what he really thinks of “fundamentalists,” Christian and otherwise—because it was the label Dr. Boli was interested in.

      The article was provoked by noticing that Christians whom “pop culture” would define as fundamentalist are refusing to wear the label, perhaps because it has been tarnished by the association with “Islamic fundamentalism.” “Islamic fundamentalists” also commonly refuse to wear that label, perhaps because it is tarnished by association with a Christian movement. So a “fundamentalist” in everyday conversation means one of those awful people over there, not one of us nice people over here.

      Now, Dr. Boli has always called himself a “Christian fundamentalist,” because he believes in the basic teachings of Jesus Christ. It is true that he picks different fundamentals from the ones usually associated with “fundamentalism.” He does not believe that the “five fundamentals” from which the movement of Christian fundamentalism took its name are as fundamental as the teachings about how you’ll be measured with your own stick. For Dr. Boli there are two fundamentals:

      Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

      But he does not hold the “five fundamentals” in contempt, either. He may argue with you about what kind of inerrancy we should expect from Scripture, and he may accept as fundamentally Christian even people who deny all five but still try to live as Christ taught them to live;—in short, he may argue about how fundamental the “five fundamentals” really are. But if you accept the five fundamentals and follow Christ’s teachings (not forgetting the one about the beam in your own eye), then you are a good and consistent Christian. And if you accept the label “fundamentalist,” then you are probably also a courageous one.

      So Dr. Boli meant to trace the evolution of the word “fundamentalist” from technical term in religious studies to insult, a term that has come to mean what “Pharisee” meant to early Christians.

      And now, if all that explanation is not enough, then we come to the simple apology. Any need for explanations proves a failure to communicate the first time. You came to be entertained, and you were insulted. You did not deserve that.

      • Ben Ieghn says:

        It is Dr. Boli’s great wit, which attracted me to the “Celebrated Magazine” in the first place and that which keeps me coming back; never have I visited to engage in “thoughtful discussion or analysis”, and certainly never to be tormented with “veracity”! There is plenty of that available elsewhere ad nauseam to sufficiently erode what little’s left of the lining of my esophagus; I have always found a good eye-watering, Adam’s apple bouncing, knee-slapping, belly-laugh is the best way to wash even the largest beam from an eye without causing splinters…

      • Greybeard says:

        I didn’t say I was insulted, merely disappointed.

        In the original posting it appeared that you were using the logical fallacies of circular reasoning and ad-hominem attacks to support the modern attitude towards those labeled fundamentalist. If I understand your response, the intention was not to attack fundamentalists as much as it was to satirically mock the modern usage of the term. If that be the case, I applaud your efforts.

      • Dr. Doug says:

        Dr. Boli,

        Fundamentalism is a response to attacks on the truth claims of Christianity. There are at least two ways that this response can go wrong.

        First, the response might be simply reactionary in focusing on the points of attack and thus obscuring other things that are fundamental to the faith.

        Second, the fundamentalist response might go wrong by
        unwittingly accepting the attackers’ limited modernist criteria for what can be accepted as rational truth and then trying to show that Christian tenets–or the Bible–meet those problematic criteria.

        It is, of course, necessary to display the reasonableness as well as the beauty of Christian truth, and it is necessary to uphold what is fundamental. The proper word for that is actually orthodox, not fundamentalist.

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