July 27, 2005

Book Review: The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism

While browsing on Amazon.com, I ran across this book by Hood et al. and thought it sounded interesting. Boy, was I wrong! I thought I'd provide a brief review to help prevent others from wasting money on this one.

The book claims to present "a new framework for understanding religious fundamentalism." This was why I bought it. I am fascinated with efforts to understand the psychology of Christian extremists, so it seemed like a sure thing. False advertising! There is virtually no psychology here. The book is about 90% history, and while interesting, it is incredibly skewed in favor of fundamentalism.

Here is the authors' "new framework" in a nutshell: The only way to properly understand religious fundamentalists is to understand them from within their own belief system. On every single one of the 254 pages, the authors use the term "intratextuality," their term for understanding fundamentalism by assuming that every word of the religious text is true and exploring reality from within that perspective. Not surprisingly, at least two of the authors turn out to be fundamentalists, and the book is very kind to fundamentalism.

My favorite part by far is that they use the phrase "objective truth" repeatedly to refer to biblical truth. They make absolutely no distinction between external, objective, empirically verifiable reality and crazy biblical crap. Even better, they dismiss all biblical contradictions by arguing that because the bible is the inerrant word of god, it can't be contradictory and therefore it isn't. Need I say more?

Anyway, this was a big disappointment. The title was extremely misleading, and I'd stay away from this one.