There are lots and lots of scary fundamentalists in the world. There are people who hold views every bit as extreme as Al Qaeda; people who will amaze you with their intolerance and hatred. Fundamentalism is defined by the Oxford dictionary as "A movement that asserts the primacy of religious values in social and political life and calls for a return to a ´fundamental´ or pure form of religion."
This leads to a situation where religion faces off against science, fundamentalists are by their very nature intolerant of other views and seek to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. The problem is their beliefs are dangerously illogical and often incite violence. Fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Muslims often believe in the literal truth of their dusty old tomes; the bible, torah and the koran respectively. When science challenges these views they seek to reject science, their views are not based on evidence or research but rather blind faith which leaves no room for debate.
When people adhere to fundamentalist principles they are often driven to extreme action in support of their beliefs and so the rest of us, the rational world, have to deal with the fallout. Murders and atrocities are committed in the name of God and they have been for centuries now. It is depressing to consider how long the religious battle has been raging because there can be no end to it unless religion itself disappears. If Protestants and Catholics can´t get on with each other what chance is there of either getting on with Muslims?
Religion has been responsible for death and persecution on a grand scale. The war waged between the Catholic and Protestant faiths has left an especially deep scar in the UK and even in my home country of Scotland there are still religiously motivated acts of violence (thankfully rare nowadays). However on a world scale the violence caused by religious intolerance is still the greatest threat to peace today. As an atheist I am always surprised by the ability of religious groups to focus on their differences, as an outsider I see far more similarity between various strains of Christian faith than differences and yet for centuries they have waged a bitter war.
Most of the damage is done by religious leaders who preach intolerance instead of espousing what is positive about their own faith, too many of them concentrate on the perceived evils of others and their pernicious views are used to indoctrinate new generations ensuring that the battle continues.
The fact that their religious texts are often vague and full of contradictions allows people to put forward radically different interpretations about what their God wants.
Here´s a page of frightening quotes from religious fundamentalists and extremists. It is interesting to note that fundamentalist Muslims and Christians have a number of hateful beliefs in common particularly with regard to homosexuality and gender equality.
There have been so many frightening quotes from the right-wing nut Ann Coulter that I´ve given her a page of her own, she has written a number of best selling books and runs a frighteningly popular column.
One of the things I find most strange about religious fundamentalists is the level of their intolerance. I find religion positively absurd but what people believe or practice in the privacy of their own homes does not bother me so long as it doesn´t hurt anyone.
Fundamentalists are overly concerned with what other people do, having the right to their beliefs is not enough for them they want to enforce those beliefs on the rest of us and so you get people flying planes into buildings, murdering doctors who perform abortions, strapping bombs to themselves, persecuting homosexuals and condemning women to second class status. However, it is important to remember that even within these faiths you will find compassionate and reasonable people who consider these actions to be morally repugnant.
I´ll finish off with some of my favourite quotes about fundamentalism.