SRSP 11-16 Topic 3 U1g – The rise of fundamentalism in the 20th century


Fundamentalism is a term that is widely used and frequently misunderstood. It has come to describe a closed-minded attitude that resists views that do not conform to those held by the ‘fundamentalists’. Characteristics of the fundamentalist mind-set include as much opposition to beliefs which seem dangerous to them as adherence to a positive set of beliefs about what is important. Unfortunately the word ‘fundamentalist’ is often nowadays used as a term of abuse – not least in the media.

Students in this unit of work are introduced to what are described as ‘religious fundamentalists’ and also to ‘scientific fundamentalists’. The former refers to those who as a result of their religious outlook have views about a range of issues which they dislike. These have included a rejection of some of the core theories in modern science, especially those about the origin and evolution of the universe. ‘Scientific fundamentalists’ are those who believe in the inherent superiority, even monopoly, of science as a method for arriving at the truth. They are opposed to religious interpretations in particular because they are seen as anti-science.

Students should be able to identify and evaluate fundamentalist attitudes as a result of the work in this unit.

This unit consists of 3 lessons and is suitable for students aged from 14 to 16 years


Key Questions

  • How is the term ‘fundamentalism’ used?
  • Should religious and scientific communities be able and willing to engage with points of view which initially appear to threaten the beliefs they hold?
  • In what ways might dialogue be possible with religious or scientific fundamentalists?

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Unit Resources

Unit Overview (Word)


Lesson 1

Lesson Plan: What is religious fundamentalism? (Word)

Student Resource Sheet 1: How do Christians understand the bible? (Word)

Student Worksheet 1: Religious Fundamentalism in the 20th century (Word)

Student Worksheet 2: What is religious fundamentalism? (Word)


Lesson 2

Lesson Plan: Scientific fundamentalism (Word)

Student Resource Sheet 1: What is ‘scientific fundamentalism’? (Word)

Student Resource Sheet 2: Scientific fundamentalism: some issues (Word)


Lesson 3

Lesson Plan: Can you be a scientist and religious? (Word)

Student Resource Sheet 1: Religious fundamentalism in the 20th century (Word)

Student Resource Sheet 2: Scientific fundamentalism (Word)

Student Resource Sheet 3: How might a Christian live with the scientific account? (Word)

PowerPoint Resource: Can you be a Christian and a scientist? (PPT)

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