I posted on the religion blog about Why the Christian Right Is Dangerous after reading this by Amanda Marcotte. It does seem that the extremist wing of the Christian Right is growing bigger and crazier. The “home schooling” and “school choice” movements are particularly worrying. The number of American children being home schooled has grown from 850,000 students in 1999 to 1,770,000 students in 2013. Not all of those children are being kept out of school for religious reasons, of course. But we could easily be growing a subculture of badly educated religious fanatics who could become increasingly violent as they become more estranged from the rest of us.
Karen Armstrong defines fundamentalism in a broad sense as a reaction against and rejection of modern Western society. Fundamentalists, in different ways, all attempt to establish enclaves of pure faith that shut out any other views. Those they come in contact with who aren’t “them” must be either shunned or assimilated. And in time, if that doesn’t work, they must be eliminated.
Two chapters in Rethinking Religion are dedicated to religious mass movements and religious violence. These chapters propose that the two factors always present in violent mass movements are a holy cause — defending the faith against those they think are its enemies, in this case — combined with a fanatical grievance, or the belief they’re the ones who are the victims. You see this in violent Islam, in the violent Buddhists in Myanmar, and also in mass movements that are not expressly religious.
The Christian Right in America is obsessed with the belief that they are being persecuted. This has been true for a long time, but it’s becoming more and more obvious. And they clearly have a holy cause. I think we would be very naive to assume that widespread religious terrorism can’t happen here — except around abortion clinics,of course, which for some reason is not supposed to count.