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Home > Article Library > Editorials > Christianity Does Not Equal Fundamentalism Search

Christianity Does Not Equal Fundamentalism
by Randall Sapphire


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I often hear Neo-Pagans discussing dealing with Christianity as if all Christians were rabid Protestant Fundamentalists out to stamp out all other religions. Nothing could be further from the reality. While fundamentalist Protestant Christians are generally well-organized and very vocal in the United States, they are a relatively small minority in world Christianity. They are a minority among Christians in the US as well, albeit a fairly large minority.

Let's start by defining just what a Christian Fundamentalist is. Christian Fundamentalism is an American Protestant theological creation from the mid-1800s. Fundamentalists believe that to be a true Christian one must 1) accept that the Bible is inerrant in its original texts and must also believe in 2) the virgin birth of Jesus, 3) the substitutionary doctrine of atonement (that is, that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of humankind), 4) the miracles of Jesus, and 5) the physical character of Jesus' resurrection. Most (but not all) Fundamentalists also believe in an interpretation of the Bible called Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism was created by John Nelson Darby in the mid-1800s and popularized in the early 20th century in the notes in the Scofield Reference Bible.

You will notice that nothing in this description requires Christians who subscribe to Fundamentalist doctrine to be rude and obnoxious to everyone who does not believe exactly like they do. Nor does it require them to try to pressure the government to impose their beliefs on others via laws and regulations. While many Fundamentalists do these things, many others do not. Some people refer to the obnoxious, rude, and intolerant Fundamentalists as "Fundies" as a way of distinguishing between those who simply have Fundamentalist religious beliefs and those who have both the beliefs and a large helping of intolerance.

Now let's take a look at some numbers from the religion section of 2001 edition of The World Almanac. There are just shy of 2 billion Christians in the world (1,974,181,000 according to page 692 of The World Almanac). Of these almost 2 billion Christians, only about 337 million are listed as Protestant.

The figures I've seen in articles and news reports indicate that only 20 to 30 percent of Protestants are Fundamentalists. However, let's play it safe and say that 50% of Protestants are Fundamentalists. That would mean 169 million Fundamentalists (rounding up). 169 million Fundamentalist Protestants out of 2 billion Christians is about 8.5%. That means just over 90% of the world's Christians are not Fundamentalist Protestants -- even with our large estimate of the percentage of Protestants who are Fundamentalists. (Of this 8.5%, of course, not all will be intolerant Fundies.)

Given these figures it seems silly for Neo-Pagans to base their ideas and plans for interacting with Christians on what the Protestant Fundamentalists will think, say, or do. Of course, many Fundamentalists are going to believe that Neo-Pagans worship Satan, have no morals, sacrifice infants, etc. While there is certainly nothing wrong with countering their propaganda when it is presented, I think it is counterproductive for Neo-Pagans to base their reaction to and interfaith dealings with nearly two billion Christians on the beliefs and prejudices of a minority of less than ten percent.

While most Christians may not understand why we've chosen to be Pagan instead of Christian, they are probably far more willing to accept our choices that the average Fundamentalist is. Wouldn't it make more sense to reach out to the 90% or more of the world's Christians who are not Fundamentalists than to plan all our dealings with Christianity around the 8% or so who often seem almost unreachable by any type of religious "live and let live" proposal?

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