Is It Possible to Reason with a Fundamentalist?

Fundamentalism is a belief system that is characterized by strict adherence to a set of fundamental principles or doctrines, often including a literal interpretation of religious texts. Political fundamentalists adhere to a literal interpretation of political texts and dogmas. It is generally seen as an extreme form of conservatism, with adherents holding deeply entrenched views that are often resistant to change or compromise. In this paper, I explore why it is not possible to reason with a fundamentalist, particularly in the context of religious beliefs.

The Nature of Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is not unique to any particular religion or ideology, but is rather a broader phenomenon that can manifest in different ways across different contexts. At its core, fundamentalism is characterized by a belief in an absolute truth and the authority of a set of dogmas, doctrines, and principles that are usually rooted in a literal interpretation of religious texts. This belief is typically accompanied by a sense of urgency or obligation to share these beliefs with others, and to defend them against perceived threats or challenges.

One of the key features of fundamentalism is its resistance to change or compromise. Fundamentalists view their beliefs as immutable and non-negotiable. They are often suspicious of any attempts to modify or reinterpret beliefs. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, to engage in rational dialogue or debate with fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are usually unwilling to consider alternative viewpoints or any evidence that contradicts their own beliefs.

The Role of Confirmation Bias

One of the factors that makes it difficult to reason with a fundamentalist is the role of confirmation bias in shaping their beliefs. Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to seek out and interpret information in a way that confirms pre-existing beliefs, while discounting or ignoring information that contradicts those beliefs. This can create a self-reinforcing cycle in which a fundamentalist becomes increasingly entrenched in their beliefs, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. See my earlier article on eisegesis.

Confirmation bias can also lead fundamentalists to dismiss alternative viewpoints or evidence as biased or untrustworthy. This can further impede rational dialogue or debate, as fundamentalists may be unwilling to engage with ideas or arguments that challenge their preconceptions.

The Importance of Emotional Attachment

Another factor that can make it difficult to reason with a fundamentalist is the emotional attachment that they may have to their beliefs. For many fundamentalists, their beliefs are not simply a matter of intellectual conviction, but are deeply tied to their identity, values, and sense of purpose. Challenging these beliefs can therefore be experienced as a personal attack or threat, which can elicit a defensive or hostile response.

The emotional attachment to fundamentalist beliefs can also make it difficult for adherents to consider alternative viewpoints or evidence objectively. In some cases, fundamentalists may experience cognitive dissonance, a psychological state in which they hold two conflicting beliefs simultaneously. This can create a sense of discomfort or anxiety, which may be resolved by rejecting the conflicting information or rationalizing it in a way that preserves their existing beliefs.

Fundamentalism exists in every religious sect and group. Fundamentalism is dangerous! It is important to understand that it has nothing to do with justice, human rights, or human dignity. It has everything to do with privilege afforded to some and the oppression of “Others.”


In conclusion, it is not possible to reason with a fundamentalist due to a combination of factors, including confirmation bias, emotional attachment to beliefs, and a resistance to change or compromise. While it may be possible to engage in rational dialogue or debate with some fundamentalists, it is important to recognize that their beliefs are deeply ingrained and may be resistant to change. Ultimately, the most effective way to address fundamentalism may be through education, exposure to alternative viewpoints, and the cultivation of critical thinking skills.

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