The Fundamentalist Mindset: Psychological Perspectives on Religion, Violence, and History

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This penetrating book sheds light on the psychology of fundamentalism, with a particular focus on those who become extremists and fanatics. What accounts for the violence that emerges among some fundamentalist groups? The contributors to this book identify several factors: a radical dualism, in which all aspects of life are bluntly categorized as either good or evil; a destructive inclination to interpret authoritative texts, laws, and teachings in the most literal of terms; an extreme and totalized conversion experience; paranoid thinking; and an apocalyptic world view. After examining each of these concepts in detail, and showing the ways in which they lead to violence among widely disparate groups, these engrossing essays explore such areas as fundamentalism in the American experience and among jihadists, and they illuminate aspects of the same psychology that contributed to such historical crises as the French Revolution, the Nazi movement, and post-Partition Hindu religious practice.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This collection is remarkable in both its scope and quality. It includes the most knowledgeable voices, always rigorous and probing, on the overall subject of apocalypticism. There is no other treatment of the subject that integrates its psychological, historical, theological, and cultural dimensions. The volume will surely be indispensable to everyone concerned with this extremely important phenomenon."

—Robert Jay Lifton, author of Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World and The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

"Is there a fundamentalist mind-set that leads to violence? The authors of this excellent volume answer yes. Their arguments are so full of insights that they will make this book the indispensable reference for future debates on this subject." —Marc Sageman, M.D., Ph.D., author of Leaderless Jihad

"This book succeeds admirably in laying out a distinctive set of criteria for understanding religious fundamentalism. Its great virtue is the care with which it deploys the methods and concepts of individual psychology in order to distinguish fundamentalist violence from religious faith." —Constantin Fasolt, Karl J. Weintraub Professor of History and the College, The University of Chicago

"The editors and contributors are to be congratulated for undertaking this interdisciplinary study... there is much here that can contribute to enhanced understanding of new religions and violence." —Nova Religio

"This work will have wide appeal to those engaged in work on religion in work on religion and violence....The weakness of the book is the emphasis placed on the potential dangers of the fundamentalist mindset, with but a fleeting mention of its benefits."—Joseph M. Kemp, Drew University

"[T]his is a very interesting and timely book deserving of wide attention...These are intelligent people, dealing intelligently with a very serious bu slippery subject. What these people have to tell us about the first eight years of their discussion is more than worthy."—Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195379655
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/19/2010
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles B. Strozier is Professor of History and Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, John Jay College, and a practicing psychoanalyst.
David M. Terman is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and Director of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.
James W. Jones is Professor of Religion and adjunct Professor of Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University.
Katharine A. Boyd is a doctoral student at John Jay College, City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements i
Preface iii
Martin E. Marty
Introduction 1
Charles B. Strozier and David M. Terman
Part I: What is the Fundamentalist Mindset? 9
1 Definitions and Dualisms 10
Charles B. Strozier and Katharine Boyd
2 Theories of Group Psychology, Paranoia, and Rage 18
David M. Terman
3 The Apocalyptic 41
Charles B. Strozier and Katharine Boyd
4 The Charismatic Leader and the Totalism of Conversion 60
Charles B. Strozier, Katharine Boyd, and James W. Jones
Part II: Motivations for Violence 71
5 The Paranoid Gestalt 72
David M. Terman
6 The Apocalyptic Other 97
Charles B. Strozier
7 Triggering the Fundamentalist Mind: Having Control
Under Control 111
Bettina Muenster and David Lotto
8 Fundamentalist Faith States: Affect Regulation and the Attachment Relationship to God 126
Daniel Hill
Part III: Christian and American Contexts 139
9 Eternal Warfare: Violence on the Mind of American
Apocalyptic Christianity 140
James W. Jones
10 Opening the Seven Seals of Fundamentalism 164
Charles B. Strozier
11 The Unsettling of the Fundamentalist Mindset: Shifts in
Apocalyptic Belief in Contemporary Conservative Christianity 188
Lee Quinby
Part IV: Global and Historical Contexts 212
12 Motivations for Jihadi Violence 213
Farhad Khosrokhavar
13 Ordering Chaos: the Nazi Millennialism and the Quest for Meaning 238
David Redles
14 The French Revolution and the Paranoid Gestalt 273
David P. Jordan
15 Hindu Victimhood and India's Muslim Minority 304
John R. McLane
Conclusion: A Fundamentalist Mindset? 336
James W. Jones

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