Ioana-Roxana Havrici

Key Words: religious fundamentalism, ideologies,
conflict, multiculturalism,
religious identity, globalization

Faculty of Sociology
and Social Assistance
BBU, Cluj, Romania

Sandu Frunza

Religious Fundamentalism and the New Conflict of Ideologies

Limes, Cluj, 2003


Sandu Frunza’s Religious Fundamentalism and the New Conflict of Ideologies (Fundamentalismul religios si noul conflict al ideologiilor) is the first scholar approach of the topic of fundamentalism in the Romanian culture.  In this volume, the author, a specialist in philosophy of religion and anthropology, has focused his attention on a part of the social reality that was generated by the process of individual’s constitution of identity. It is well known that the reality of religious identity, considered as part of the specific diversity of our multicultural society, is globally reflected by the mass-media through spectacular and speculative means. In Romania, public opinion’s understanding of the phenomena resulted from the multicultural status of the global society depend mainly on mass-media and, as a consequence, there are only second hand representations.

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Sandu Frunza’s study tries to fill in this lack of knowledge by offering a different perspective on the matter of religious fundamentalism. In Frunza’s view, fundamentalism, seen as a global phenomenon, is the direct result of the interaction between religious tradition and ideology (the latter understood as a secularized religion).

In this book religion is considered freom the poiny of view of its relation with modernity and its effects at a micro and macro-social level. The results of this interaction can be seen both in the case of the vulnerabler individual willing to re-create his identity and in the case of human collectivity in general modeled according to the reconstructed typology of social interactions. The individuals have started to deny their inner, religious self, which they used to consider authentic. This process is similar with Boudon’s “effect of perversion” manifested in transcedence’s constitution of the world. Modernity is the keeper of the key to an alternative – it presents ideology as an option able to respond both to individual’s psychological needs and to his desire for social recognition, for it proclaimes itself the only possesor of the true values.

Through discussing about some of the fundamentalist movements developed in Christian, Judaic and Islamic world, the author manages to outline the most important features of fundamentalism. His arguments are sustained by a concise and well-organized presentation of the great variety of opinions on this topic formulated by some of the most important specialists in this area, such as James Davison Hunter, Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Laurence L. Silberstein, Joan Scott, Lionel Caplan, Bruce Lawrence, Marty E. Martin and R. Scott Appleby.

The author shows us that fundamentalism is a paradox because it is both an anti-modern phenomenon and one of the structural elements of modernity’s system of values. Fundamentalism is a reaction to the actually false alienation attempt conceived by modernity and it turns to religious tradition as to the system of values to be followed in a variety of social contexts. Religious tradition considered as a system of values is meant to be generalized from the status of “truth” for a small group to that of an absolute, unchallenging truth for the entire humanity. Programmatically, fundamentalists accuse modernity of being the generator of the process of dehumanization that destroys our society. This is why they refuse to subscribe to this process by conciliating the religious tradition with the Western democratic system of values. Moreover, fundamentalism reproaches modernity for laicism which has distanced the individual from all spiritual values. The violence that fundamentalist movements use both against the outsiders and the moderate members of the group is justified considering their own opinions to be the only desirable ones because of their authenticity.

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The basis of Sandu Frunza’s argumentation is the fact that ideology is a system of ideas resulted from the interpretation of religion as a system of principles of action valued by the fundamentalist organizations as an important means at a socio-political level. Through this, the author shows us that fundamentalism in itself is nothing but a modern form of cynicism. Despite the fact that the  leaders of the fundamentalist movements are always denying any possible influence of modernity on their system of values.

Another question approched by Religious Fundamentalism and the New Conflict of Ideologies is that of the interference of religion and ideology at a socio-cultural level in Romania. The analysis of the multicultural social life and the relation of the religious majority with the minorities specific to Romanian society underlines the fact that religious minorities must be considered as a dominated “social and political category”, not necessarily numerically, but socially and culturally. Sandu Frunza considers that Romanian society is characterized by the interference of the church of majority with a great variety of religious minorities. That is why, the author affirms that cultural and religious pluralism should be developed more in order to avoid the intolerant and fundamentalist attitudes.

In comparison with mass-media’s superficial approach to the relationship between religion and ideology in the context of modernity, Sandu Frunza’s approach is an in depth one undertaken at both a global level and at the level of  Romanian society.

Even though the author’s conclusion presents itself as a foresight, it greathest merit consists in the fact that it gives us a strong reason to be open to further discussions on this matter. Sandu Frunza shows us that the present day conflict of ideologies is part of our world; we have to accept it, and we have to learn to deal with it.

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JSRI • No. 6/Winter 2003