This is the post that I was busy writing when I decided I need to first write On “Richard Dawkins is a Fundamentalist” and “Shofar is a Cult”. That post was mostly about label agnosticism and how I care about what people mean by the labels they use, rather than whether it is the “correct” label.
In terms of what people mean when they throw around the “fundamentalist” label, a perfect resource might be the de-conversion blog’s humorous collection of one liners of the form You might be a Fundy if… Using a humorous approach (with many a true word spoken in jest), it sketches out the “outsider”‘s impressions of those people so labelled.
Below are a couple of my personal favourites from the list, with some anecdotes attached. And then there’s a more thorough treatment of the origins of the label, prior to its redefinition to obtain a primarily negative connotation. I.e., what do people mean when they label themselves a fundamentalist.
“You might be a Fundy if…”
Your typical prayer uses the phrase “Lord Jesus” or “Lord God” more times than the Bible.
I have a confession to make. Towards the end of my more regular socialising with the more Fundy-leaning portion of our population, I was no longer able to pay much attention to their prayers (e.g. in the evenings, out camping, before heading to bed). I ended up counting “Lord Jesus”‘es and “Lord God”‘s instead. A typical prayer would contain between twenty and fifty, if I recall correctly. (Twenty would be a short prayer.) In my experience, its use and placement in prayer is somewhat similar to the use of “um” in secular speech. Like a particularly interesting but somewhat annoying mannerism of a lecturer, I found that once you start noticing it, it becomes extremely difficult to not notice it. It unfortunately becomes rather distracting.
You’ve been warned. If I’ve now inadvertently spoilt such prayers for you, I apologise… but I also eagerly await your anecdotes with regards to your experiences! 😀
God regularly opens up convenient parking spaces, JUST FOR YOU.
In search of the supernatural, every little answered prayer gets hoisted on the flag pole and waved about as a “sign”. This is necessary: the more you believe in miracles, the bigger the miracles that will come your way, supposedly. (It is a chicken and egg problem: you have to believe in miracles in order to have significant ones happen to you, and if you’re scientifically minded, you need some evidence before you’re prepared to believe.) So you start small, with everyday ordinary coincidences, attributing, or rather “recognising”, the divine hand in things otherwise considered coincidence. And parking spaces is one of those coincidences that serves as an easy starting point.
(A note on stats: Remember, to an eager Fundy, there is “divine guidance” behind everything, including the throw of a dice. The guidance may be such that the statistical distribution of the dice is still maintained, but if the likelihood of throwing five sixes in a row is one in 7776, divine guidance can guide this to occur at a time when it bears significance… Consequently, it becomes all about recognising the significance in everyday coincidental events.)
You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
This one isn’t really much of a highlight to me, it just reminds me of something: I once received a piece of Islamic proselytising in an email. I should maybe dig it up and share some of the details, because I found it really interesting. Much of it hammered on the Christian’s belief in the trinity, and how blasphemous the Christian’s belief is about Jesus, when “there is no God but Allah”.
On another note, Trinitarian beliefs can be found in a couple of traditions, one of which is Hinduism. Apparently it never really caught on though, “had little real influence”. Nevertheless, I found this interesting page discussing potential Hindu influences in Christianity quite interesting. (Do read it with a little skepticism, of course.)
Now here’s a rather offensively worded one:
While modern science, history, geology, biology, physics and textual scholarship fail to convince you that the Bible may be less than reliable, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in “tongues” is all the evidence you need to “prove” Christianity.
The choice of the words “some idiot” won’t sit well with the tongue-speaking Fundy. A much more diplomatic one that contains a somewhat similar idea, is found in HeIsSailing’s comment (comment number 4):
You might be a Fundy if…
you don’t trust any church pastor who received his biblical knowledge from a seminary or university. You trust the pastor who learned about the bible by the private guidance of the Holy Spirit more than one who has degrees hanging on the wall.
As a former fundy, I plead guilty to this one..!!
The former: any Dutch-reformed pastor, or Theo Geyser et al from Stellenbosch Gemeente. The latter: Fred May, Sias le Roux, and most of the rest of Shofar leadership, and most of HisPeople/EveryNation’s leadership. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)
Now to let things get more nuanced, to start touching on the “original” definition of fundamentalism, Comment 19, HeIsSailing again:
You might be a Fundy if…
You think an “Evangelical” is a carnal Christian who does not have the true, transforming dunamis of the Holy Ghost to be a real, on-fire-for-Jesus “Fundamentalist”.
guilty. I once told a fan of Robert Schuller that he was not a real Christian. gag
That touches on the more formal and “proud” definition of fundamentalist. Wikipedia’s entry on Fundamentalism states the following:
Religious fundamentalism refers a “deep and totalistic commitment” to a belief in the infallibility and inerrancy of a holy book, absolute religious authority, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (fundamentals), away from doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life.
The term fundamentalism was originally coined to describe a narrowly defined set of beliefs that developed into a movement within the US Protestant community in the early part of the 20th century. Until 1950 there was no entry for fundamentalism in the Oxford English Dictionary; the derivative fundamentalist was added only in its second 1989 edition.
The term fundamentalist has since been generalized to mean strong adherence to any set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity, but has by and large retained religious connotations. The collective use of the term fundamentalist to describe non-Christian movements has offended some Christians who desire to retain the original definition.
About the origins of the term:
The term “fundamentalism” came into existence at the Niagara Bible Conference which defined those things that were fundamental to belief. The term was also used to describe “The Fundamentals”, a collection of twelve books on five subjects published in 1910 by Milton and Lyman Steward 
Fundamentalism as a movement arose in the United States starting among conservative Presbyterian academics and theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the first decade of the Twentieth Century . It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations during and immediately following the First World War . The movement’s purpose was to reaffirm orthodox Protestant Christianity and zealously defend it against the challenges of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, and other “-isms” which it regarded as harmful to Christianity .
And that is where we bump heads then, as I typically try to represent liberal theology and higher criticism. And science (which is pretty much unanimous about the factuality of Darwinism). For an article explaining Christian Fundamentalism in more depth, see Fundamentalist Christianity.
Finishing off with one last one-liners, Comment 27, by LeoPardus:
You might be a fundy if… you read the passage, “In as much as it lies within you, live at peace with all men.” and then go out and picket against Jehovah’s Witnesses, evolutionists, atheists, Promise Keepers, and anyone else who doesn’t agree with you 100%.
(In light of this one, I must offer a personal “Mea culpa.” 😉
Yup, again, these guys are speaking from experience.