The Fundamentalist

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"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

We all know the type. Their beliefs are right, and anyone who does not believe as they do is stupid, crazy, evil or all three. The Fundamentalist is right, you are wrong, and being right is the only thing that matters.

A common behavior of The Fundamentalist is a tendency to dehumanize or demonize those not in line with their particular brand of belief, which allows them to lie to, abuse and otherwise mistreat those opposed to their beliefs, often in contravention of their own professed beliefs.

The most common Fundamentalists you'll meet in the West are Christian, but there are also breeds of Jewish, Muslim and around the world Shinto and Hindu fundamentalism. Even Buddhism has had its "holy wars," exchanging campaigns of political repression, burning of scriptures, and outright murder with Taoists in ancient China.

Fundamentalism is also something other than a religious phenomenon. Non-religious ideologies like communism, capitalism, socialism, racism, environmentalism, fascism, democracy, anarchism and yes, even atheism, can all attract their own brands of "fundies" as well.

Fundamentalists crop up in Fandom. If, for example, you see Gollum as anything less than a direct agent of the Valar sent to destroy the Ring once and for all, the Tolkien fundamentalist sees you as bad and wrong. The Fundamentalist is pathologically obsessed with being "right," even in subjects that might not have a right answer—art criticism, hermeneutics, straight down to the best flavor of ice cream. Fundamentalism looks a lot like Fan Dumb, as this College Humor video points out.

A religious fundamentalist may also be a Sinister Minister. See also: Knight Templar, Well-Intentioned Extremist, Holier Than Thou, Moral Myopia, Single-Issue Wonk, Dry Crusader, Strawman Political, Windmill Political, Windmill Crusader, With Us or Against Us, Lawful Stupid and Poe's Law. Atheism is given this attribution in various instances when extreme skepticism is employed against the supernatural or religious beliefs, but most instances in fiction can fall under the tropes Flat Earth Atheist, Agent Scully, and Hollywood Atheist. Also compare Totalitarian Utilitarian and Principles Zealot for similar attitudes to secular philosophies. Contrast The Soulsaver and Soulsaving Crusader for religious fundamentalists who are objectively right within The Verse of the setting.

See also Egocentrically Religious, Black and White Insanity, Belief Makes You Stupid and Activist Fundamentalist Antics.

No real life examples, please; we all know they exist, but listing them is just asking for Natter and Edit Wars.

Examples of The Fundamentalist include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In the English Gag Dub of Ghost Stories, Momoko is a fundamentalist Christian. At times she objects to the magic used to defeat the ghosts, but most of the time she mentally translates "ghost" to "demon" so it's okay, and she insists that her own channeling powers were a gift from God as a result of her conversion.
  • Alexander Anderson from Hellsing is a good example. He is a Vatican priest who works for the Iscariot branch; his job is to kill vampires and other unholy creatures. Alexander compulsively quotes lines from the Holy Bible when he speaks, especially when facing whom he believes to be a heretic or monster that must be slain. He also has an extreme dislike for Protestants (no surprises there), going so far as to call Sir Integra "Babylon" in reference to "The Whore of Babylon". As bad as he is, he has honor which transcends it. Father Enrico Maxwell, however, is WORSE.
  • Scar in Fullmetal Alchemist tries to pass off his murderous revenge against state alchemists as this, saying that their alchemy is an affront to his god Ishval. However, Ed later points out that Scar is deceiving everyone with this excuse, including himself; his real motive is nothing more than simple revenge for the Ishvallan War of Extermination. After this, Scar starts his transformation into The Atoner, fully admitting the crimes he's committed without using his religion as an excuse.
    • It helps that his old master (presumably the guy who trained him as a priest) survived the genocide and when Scar runs into him, he takes the Ishvala Is Love approach—or more like, the Revenge Helps Nothing approach. This is one of the few instances of religion having a positive impact in the setting.
    • The latest movie involves religious fundamentalism as part of the framing device, which is probably the best thing you can say about it besides 'some of the art was pretty.' It's...kind of incoherent and has continuity problems up the wazoo.
  • Bishop Mozgus from the "Tower of Conviction" arc in Berserk takes this trope to the most nightmarishly horrifying logical conclusion imaginable, having tortured to death uncounted thousands of "heretics" (which, to him, includes such miscreants as peasants desperately begging for food for their starving children when that food was supposed to go to churchmen and church-affiliated knights, who most definitely are not starving).

Comic Books[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • Nute Gunray from the prequel trilogy era of Star Wars, though he is a political (and economical) example of this. Not religious.
  • Marianne Bryant in Easy A, who is the head of a group of religious conservative students. Before setting her sights on Olive, who she (and everyone else) believes has had premarital sex, Marianne petitioned to have the school football team to be renamed to Woodchucks from Devils. Apparently, she picked up the trait from her father, a priest. Interestingly, both Marianne's boyfriend Micah and her father end up being hypocrites. Micah ends up with an STD he picked up from the guidance counselor, a married woman. Marianne's father is watching Olive's webcast, expecting her to have live sex on camera, and is disappointed when she doesn't.
    • Marianne's father is adamant about his own beliefs and doesn't recognize others, as evidenced by his constant corrections of Olive's hypothetical question about Hell. As far as he's concerned, Hell is a real place, and there's nothing hypothetical about it.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Christians from the Left Behind series. Not only do they engage in selfishness, pettiness, and condescension to anyone who doesn't agree with them, but we're supposed to be on their side, to top it off. We expect that sort of behavior from the bad guys, the followers of The Antichrist, but these are supposed to be the heroes.
  • Patriarch Ortzel from The Elenium starts out like this (albeit a moderately sympathetic version, because he may be a stern unyielding fanatic who wants the Church Knights to give up magic, but at least he isn't Annias, Primate of Cimmura). By the sequel series, The Tamuli, Eddings provides a bit of Character Development.
  • Terry Pratchett parodies the concept of fundamentalism with the Omnians, who cling to their monotheistic beliefs despite being demonstrably wrong. The majority of them are depicted as basically nice people, however, just irritatingly overzealous at times.
    • Except in Small Gods, that book is how they got past the old fire and brimstone style of fundamentalism.
    • An interesting twist is that virtually none of them actually believe in the Great God Om, rather they believe that they don't want to be tortured by the Quisition for expressing their unbelief.
    • Vorbis the Exquisitor is perhaps the ultimate fundamentalist. He has no trouble admitting to himself (and a few others) that it is irrelevant if something is empirically found to contradict the teachings of their holy book, because real truth is found within. In other words, even if he's not factually right, he's still right, and right to extinguish those who disagree. And he's not just pretending to believe he is, either, but really believes he's following his god's will. Supernatural beings see his mind as a steel ball; nothing can get in or out. Of course, when his actual god appears in an admittedly unlikely physical form in front of him, he can't hear him at all, as any believer could. In the end, after his death, he finds himself in the desert where several of his victims have also found themselves. They actually found it to be a hopeful new start. He can't cross the desert because the desert is what you believe, and he finds it horrifyingly empty.
    • "Fundamentalist" atheists, of course, are equally deluded... seeing as the gods have tendency to come and throw lightning bolts at you if you refuse to believe in them. The golem constable in the Watch, Dorfl, being ceramic and thus fireproof has proven to be something of a challenge in this regard.
  • Margaret White, the mother of Carrie in both the book and the film.
    • More Stephen King examples are Mrs. Carmody from The Mist, Sunlight Gardener from The Talisman, Vera Smith from The Dead Zone (though she's not nearly as malevolent as the others), the unnamed Bible-Thumper from Cell, and Jim Rennie and Lester Coggins from Under the Dome. King seems to enjoy this trope, actually...
    • With the exception of Lester Coggins, all of the previously-mentioned characters are antagonists. Lester Coggins turns out to be a Red Herring who dies after a Heel Realization.
  • Jane Eyre has St. John Rivers, and to a lesser degree, Eliza Reed.
  • Averted, hard, in John Ringo's Special Circumstances.
  • In one of the short stories Philip Jose Farmer wrote in the Riverworld series, Jesus Christ and Tom Mix run across a territory controlled by an Inquisitor. The ultra-fundamentalist Inquisitor ends up burning Jesus Christ as an anti-Christian heretic.
    • Something similar happens in "The Grand Inquisitor," a story within a story in Dostoievsky's The Brothers Karamazov. The eponymous figure, representing a Corrupt Church, effectively tells Jesus Christ to His face that His teachings are no longer relevant to either the world in general or the Church in particular. Christ isn't condemned to death, but He doesn't seem to have much effect on the Inquisitor either.
  • Sergeant Shadwell. He hates all Southerners, and, "by inference, [is] standing at the North Pole." Thinks Aziraphale is a Russian spy and Crowley, because he wears sunglasses, must be a member of the mafia. Also believes his landlords, the Rajits, practice voodoo, and frequently condemns his neighbor across the hall, who performs seances and entertains gentleman callers as a "Painted Jezebel" or "Whore of Babylon." He also hates witches. And Go- Sa- Somebody help you if he suspects you don't have the correct number of nipples.
  • Rather common in V. C. Andrews works. Most famous is the Grandmother, Olivia Foxworth in Flowers In the Attic.
  • The Masadans in Honor Harrington are basically like Wahabbists with a different paint job. The way they treat women doesn't bear thinking on, and they considered the New Testament heretical. They're the Evil Counterparts to the Graysons, who were fundamentalists in their own right (though not as bad as Masada), but the Graysons have eased away from this after signing up with the Manticoran Alliance for the most part.
  • Crusade, the second of David Weber's Starfire books, featured religious zealots who worshipped the Terran Empire as gods, and denounced the Khanate of Orion as devils. Within their society, religious doubt was absolutely not tolerated.
  • The Children of the Light in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.
  • Nathan from The Poisonwood Bible is this trope incarnate, combined with The Missionary and a hearty dose of Jerkass.
  • In Death: The murderer in Vengeance In Death is definitely this. Eve even refers to him as a Bible-thumper close to the end of the book.
  • In Time Scout, downtimer terrorists Ansar Majlis and their uptime recruiters.
  • Jorus C'baoth is a Jedi version of this. Very few of his fellow Jedi get along with him as a result, and the only one who can really knock sense into him is Yoda.
  • The novel Towing Jehovah revolves around the discovery of god's body, and a group of atheist fundamentalist extremists attempting to destroy the body to get rid of any evidence of his existence.
  • The Redeemers in The Left Hand of God take cruel and narrow-minded religion to great extremes.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory applies this attitude to everything, right down to people's favorite flavor of pudding: Raj is "axiomatically wrong" to prefer tapioca, because the best pudding is chocolate. Period. This attitude makes him a far, far worse scientist than he thinks, as he refuses to even consider any criticism of his methods or results. Sheldon's mother, by contrast, is a classic Christian fundamentalist at the opposite end of the spectrum.
    • However, as opposed to most Christian versions of this trope, his mother is hardly a ranting lunatic and is Actually Pretty Funny.

Sheldon Cooper: I'm going to stay here in Texas, teaching evolution to creationists.
Mary: Watch your language, Sheldon. You know everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Sheldon Cooper: Evolution is not an opinion, it's a fact.
Mary: And that is your opinion.

  • The hybrid Daleks at the end of the first series of the Doctor Who relaunch. They've spent centuries listening to the rantings of the Dalek Emperor, who considers itself their God for bringing them back from the brink of extinction after the Last Great Time War. "DO NOT BLAS-PHEME!"
  • Stargate SG-1: "It is the will of the Ori that we should spread Origin to all those blessed by their creation... [All] shall find the path to enlightenment... The power and the greatness of the Ori cannot be denied. Those who reject the path to enlightenment must be destroyed."
  • Agent Nelson Van Alden from "Boardwalk Empire" is this to a terrifying degree. Towards the end of the first season, he attempts to convert a subordinate, who is Jewish (and also possibly get a confession of murder out of him; it's not quite clear) by 'baptizing' him repeatedly in a river, and ends up drowning the guy. Word of God says this was unintentional, but he sure doesn't seem too sorry.
  • Shirley in Community is a Christian fundamentalist who is shown early in the series forcing her beliefs on other members of her study group. Most attempts are rather mild, like mandating wearing "What Would Baby Jesus Do?" bracelets. However there are other instances hinted at that aren't so benign, like inviting Annie to a pool party which turned out to be an involuntary baptism.
    • Later episodes have toned this down considerably, and ultimately Shirley is shown to have many good qualities that outweigh the bad.
  • For a series with a lot of religious beliefs on display, Babylon 5 largely averts this trope. Political zealots are fairly common, however, and the conflict between the Vorlons and the Shadows boils down to diametrically opposed doctrine.

Music[edit | hide]

  • The Proclaimers song "The Light" is a scathing condemnation of the real-life examples of this trope from a moderate Christian perspective, with lyrics such as "I believe in God alright/It's folk like you I just can't stand."

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • When he's a Heel, CM Punk is a Straight Edge fundamentalist: Have you ever taken drugs? Smoked a cigarette? Drunk alcohol? Doubled-up on a prescription medication? If so, then he's Better Than You. Given his feud with Jeff Hardy this leads to a Funny Aneurysm Moment.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Sister Miriam Godwinson from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is a fundamentalist when it comes to religion and saving souls, and a subversion when it comes to technology. She appears to be an anti-tech fanatic, but she's actually calling for restraint, reason and ethics in a scientific field dominated by the amoral University. This is somewhat flanderized in the novel Twilight of the Mind by Michael Ely: Miriam thinks that all technology is evil, unless, of course, the "righteous" use the same technology to enact God's will.
  • Japanese RPGs in general tend to do this a lot, some notable examples being:
  • Claudia Wolf in Silent Hill 3, to the point where she murders Vincent, a fellow cult member, just for disagreeing with her.
    • Before that the series had Dahlia Gillespie, who was so wholly devoted to the cause that she turned her own daughter into an Apocalypse Maiden via a near-deadly ritual and left her trapped in an endless nightmare of physical and psychological pain for seven years afterwards, all for the sole purpose of strengthening said daughter's inner hate so she could birth God and whisk them all away to Paradise.
  • The Covenant is full of these, though some of its leadership has been portrayed as more opportunist than fundamentalist.
  • The Church of Unitology in Dead Space seems to run on fanaticism, but the best in-game example is the insane, homicidally devout Dr Challus Mercer. Subverted in his former fellow-believer Dr Terrance Kyne, who starts out that way but has just about reasoned himself out of his zealotry in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence by the time the player meets him.
  • The Zealot races in Spore.
  • Isabella of Spain in Civilization IV. Most leaders get offended when you don't share their religion; Isabella gets pissed at a much faster rate, and is quite likely to wage a holy war if you don't actively placate her.

We are upset that you have fallen under the sway of a heathen religion!

  • The Qunari of Dragon Age are fundamentalists by definition. Only those who dogmatically follow the Qun are actally called Qunari. If they deviate from the demands of the Qun then they are declared Tal-Vashoth instead.
    • Interestingly, anyone who is not of the Qunari race (i.e., the Kossith) can still become Qunari by following the Qun. The Qunari don't discriminate based on race, only beliefs and magic. Anyone who doesn't follow the Qun is simply bas ("thing").
  • The Protoss are rife with these. In the first game, the Khalai Protoss seem to consist mostly of these until their homeworld is devastated by the Zerg Swarm. Even after they are accepted by the Dark Templar who they had exiled centuries before, many of the more fanatical Khalai still despise them, going as far as to start another war with them. Granted, Aldaris was right about the Dark Templar Matriarch being under Kerrigan's Mind Control, but if he had actually said something to the others rather than babbling like a zealot, the protoss could have prevented everything that happened in Brood War.
    • And the sequel gives us the Tal'Darim protoss, an even more fanatical sect of their race.
  • Team Plasma are a non-religious example. They even regularly chant "we are right, everyone else is wrong!". Explored in that their actual goals are pretty noble (even the protagonists acknowledge this), but their arrogant denial of everyone else's views makes them come off as villainous anyway. (also Lampshaded). It ultimately turns out the Big Bad who made the organization doesn't believe in its goals at all and just wanted to Take Over the World.
  • Swat4 gives up the Children of Taronne, do they ever count. Your SWAT team has to bring in this cult who have bombs that will blow up half the city, and cultists have no regard whether their gunfire will set them off. There's insane writing everywhere, cultist material, children's rooms but no children. Even your teammates get freaked out at the religious babbling. Then you get to the basement. The cult had dug up the basement and buried their murdered children in graves, in preparation for the holocaust the cult believes in. Watch it here if you dare, a few Lets Plays of this level had actually caused Heroic BSOD.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Sam from Men in Hats.
  • Charlotte from Penny and Aggie.
    • Though she's changed since developing an interest in the only black - as well as Muslim - student at the school. As well as in the aftermath of having fallen afoul of the machinations of the one cast member who is truly, unrepentently, sociopathically evil.
  • Seymore and Lil Evil from Sinfest, for Christianity and Satanism, respectively. Especially Anvilicious in the case of the former, portrayed as a robed stick-figure with a fake wire halo. Frequently in his mania for collecting all things Jesus-related he often fails to notice that Jesus is standing right there. Like the other characters, he also has a feudal incarnation as a Buddhist Monk, generally retaining all his other characteristics. Surprisingly, this is occasionally subverted when Seymore does something genuinely kind and compassionate.
    • And it's quite clear their respective deities can't stand their fundamentalist cheerleaders.
    • Anything vaguely kind Seymore has ever done has gone right out the window after he Took a Level in Jerkass in Bad Behavior.
  • Pretty much everyone who isn't an ally and/or lover of the main character in War Mage. The only ones who aren't are the ones that go the extra mile to Knight Templar.
  • Virgo from Zodiac, though she tries to avoid being judgemental.
  • America in Scandinavia and The World is this, particularly when it comes to his opinions on homosexuality. He'd be more effective if a)his sister wasn't pro-gay rights (and a shipper), b) Sweden (the target of his ranting) actually knew what God was, and c) he didn't think gays were flamingos. (Then again, Sister America thinks they're penguins.)
    • The Faroe Islands also has shades of this. A pity he was just as turned on by Denmark/Netherlands as Sister Japan was.
  • Miko Miyazaki of Order of the Stick fame plays this to a T. She refuses to believe any form of morality besides that which she has predetermined, putting her into conflict with the main cast, despite them fighting the same villain. Justified, as the creators wanted to show through her how NOT to play a Paladin.
  • Xkcd pokes fun of the fandom variation in this strip.
  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff:

Sweet Bro: No you dumb homo tool, your PRAYING WRONG.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Rachel Gettys of Survival of the Fittest v4 is your standard Christian fundamentalist along with showing Rich Bitch traits. She spends a good amount of time on the island hallucinating "visions from God" and trying to convert people. Disagree with her and she'll bash your head in.
  • The Fundamentalist is the name of a super villian that was used in flash animation of the MC Hawking song "What we need more of is Science." He speaks just like a Televangelist and creates a ray-gun to turn scientists into actual sheep only to be defeated by the Unique powers and skills of Dr. Astro.
  • Dolly in 80's Dan turns out to be like this, but just when it comes to Christmas.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Princess Clara from Drawn Together is an extreme parody of this type.
  • Ned Flanders from The Simpsons due to Flanderization. Which is a shame, because he used to have sort of a cult (pun unintended) fanbase among religious viewers for representing everything potentially good about Christians (nice to a fault, accepts everyone, strong family values, etc.), even if it was taken to a humorous degree. In more recent (read: at least 15) seasons the writers have just used him as a strawman for Moral Guardians. *sigh*
    • Averted in The Movie, where he's shown as a more fatherly figure and seems to fully revert to his season 1 kindness (and then some).
  • Judge Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • South Park inverts and parodies this trope and gives us the rare fundamentalist agnostic family, The Weatherheads.
    • Father Maxi is this in some episodes (most notably Do The Handicapped Go To Hell?). However, in others (such as Red Hot Catholic Love), he's more grounded and reasonable.