The Battle for God
Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, 371 pp. (plus notes).
This book is an examination of religious fundamentalism in the twentieth century. Protestant fundamentalism has been visible on the American political scene since Jimmy Carter's campaign for the presidency in the 1970s . (It was Carter, a born again Christian, who first galvanized fundamentalist Christians into a voting bloc. Disappointed with the lack of support by Carter and the Democrats for their moral values, the fundamentalists remained in politics by joining the growing alliance of conservative groups and became known as the "religious right"). Similarly, since 9/11 the media has fed us a steady diet of information about fundamentalist Islam and its implications for our security.
Written by a former Roman Catholic nun who teaches at Leo Baeck College for the Study of Judaism, the book is an objective investigation of the growth and development of the modern fundamentalist movements in Protestantism in the United States, Judaism in Israel and Islam in Egypt and Iran. According to the author, fundamentalism is a response to modernism and the threat (both intended and unintended) posed by modernism to the traditional values of each of the three religions. It is the author's contention that the contemporary strains of fundamentalism in each of the religions is not a throwback to the past but is a modern response of each religion to the challenges of the modern world.
The book traces the roots and development of each of these movements. While all three sprang from the perceived threat of modernism, that is all they have in common, as each has developed separately and is not involved with the others. The tone of the book is neither critical nor partisan as the author gives the story of each movement and analyzes their successes and failures in terms of their religious objectives.
While generally readable and interesting, the book does tend to be slightly dry and academic in places.
This report prepared by Chuck Nugent