Pope: "Disease of Fundamentalism"

"Pope Francis said fundamentalism is ‘a disease of all religions’, including the Roman Catholic Church, as he returned from a three-nation tour of Africa in which he preached reconciliation and hope.” Is this true?

Do not get drawn into an argument too simply. Some who consider themselves fundamentalist are surely not "diseased." And others who entirely reject the word are fully cognizant of their actions, but are a disease to society.

There are many definitions for the word "fundamentalism". In America, the word came to use in the famous
Modernist/Fundamentalist Controversy that peaked in the first quarter of the 20th century. Many are familiar with what became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial that epitomized the controversy. At the heart of the controversy was the attempt to define the faith in terms of a growing liberal interpretation of Scriptures. Fundamentalists supported a traditional reading of miracles, the Trinity, the Virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, etc. Whereas modernists supported a more "rational" interpretation of faith and Scriptures that largely eliminated the miraculous.

In these terms, most conservative Christians would be considered fundamentalists. But we do not use the word so narrowly today, and obviously, yesterdays comment by the Pope did not attempt to reference American Christian history. Nor was the pope's reference to the mental stability of various religious believers. If I could define his use of the word in a manner that would make me agreeable to his statement that "fundamentalism is "a disease of all religions'", I would have to make several distinctions.

First, I would say that fundamentalism by this definition, in order to be a disease, must press one to support their faith without rational or emotional concern for those who do not believe. Further, to undergird this type of fundamentalism, believers must not even consider alternate interpretations of their scriptures or to the teachings of their leaders. At the core of a pathogenic fundamentalism is a submissive irrationality that emphasizes complete obedience to "faith tenets" with no concern for others or their beliefs.

Even "Christians" can fall under this definition when they camp on particular Biblical interpretations without even considering other interpretations and when they fail to bring a concern for others and society into their reading of Scripture. With the Bible's twin commandments to love God and to love one's neighbor, it's followers are predisposed against pathogenic fundamentalism. However, amongst the diversity of religions and religious philosophies, faiths that have a wrathful God are predisposed towards pathogenic fundamentalism.

Thus, though some religions are more benign when taken "fundamentally," I can go along with the Pope's comment when it is appropriately defined. Broadly interpreted, I think he meant to say that all religions should have a concern for others, but when they don't, they become a disease to humanity.
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