Religious Fundamentalism: A Global and Comparative Perspective

On Sunday, October 16th, Dr. Bjorn Krondorfer, Professor of Religious Studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland addressed the Baltimore Coalition of Reason and the Baltimore Jewish Cultural Chavurah on the topic of religious fundamentalism.

Prof. Krondorfer began on a light-hearted note, explaining that despite the name, St. Mary’s College of Maryland is not a Catholic college, and he is not a priest.  St. Mary’s is a public honors college, with a liberal arts curriculum.  Krondorfer teaches religious studies from an academic perspective.

Krondorfer explained that Fundamentalism originated in the 1920s as a “modern religious phenomenon responding to modernity.”  It arose in various forms in the US, in the Middle East with the Muslim Brotherhood, and in India with the “Hindutva” movement. After the formation of Israel in 1948, the Jewish Fundamentalist movement “Haredi” arose.  Some Haredi are anti-Zionist, and Bill Maher interviewed an anti-Zionist Haredi rabbi in the movie “Religulous”.  Krondorfer distinguished between Fundamentalism and various other -isms.  A Fundamentalist is not necessarily Traditionalist, Orthodox, Evangelical, Scripturalist, Literalist or “rigid”.  Rather, he described Fundamentalism as a dynamic movement, with quickly-growing megachurches.  Fundamentalism, he said, is “popular, practical, and conservative.”  A common thread among Fundamentalists is a desire to restore or revive a past “Golden Age” and the belief that religion can explain everything in life (“Totalism”).

Baltimore CoR would like to thank Prof. Krondorfer for an excellent talk.  Thanks also the Maryland Humanities Council and their speaker series for bringing us this talk.  Thanks also to Chavurah co-President Bob Jacobson for organizing this event and inviting the Coalition to participate.