07/25/2011 10:23 am ET | Updated Sep 24, 2011

Norwegian Terror: Are Fundamentalists Fundamentally Violent?

Our society tends to swing both ways when it comes to lumping religions: We say either that all are basically good, or that at their "fundamentals" they promote violent extremism.

Profile information is trickling in on Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. We are being told he is Christian and conservative, and that his livelihood is from Breivik Geofarm. By some, Breivik has been called a "Christian fundamentalist."

Is Breivik a Christian fundamentalist a geofarming fundamentalist or crazy? For that matter, was Osama bin Laden a Muslim fundamentalist or crazy?

How can we decide if a person is a fundamentalist? Should we assume every violent person is a fundamental practitioner of whatever demographic group they belong to? Or the reverse, that every fundamental practitioner is at least potentially violent?

This may seem overly obvious, but I propose that a fundamentalist is one who believes and practices their fundamental principles.

Sure, we can and should look at the general way the creed has been practiced over time, the good and bad that have been done by its adherents. But of fundamental importance are the foundational teachings. Look back to the roots -- not the recent spin or politically correct version. What do the primary the source documents say? Are practices based on the principles?

We tend to find it easier to accept preprocessed opinion than to read source documents. Granted, this makes us better able get a superficial grasp on a lot of material, but for deeper understanding we should look directly to the source.

Does a creed or religion in its most fundamental source document, its holy book, teach a violent manifesto? I'm not saying do they record violent deeds, but rather, do they teach promoting the religion by force? Do the lifestyle and teachings of its leader or prophet encourage violent enforcement of the belief?

Can we document a violent manifesto of world domination by whatever means necessary as taught by Jesus Christ, Moses or Buddha from the source documents of these faiths?

In America, we have a chance to learn about everything. We aren't obliged to accept what our parents believed or what we were taught at school. But before we call someone a fundamentalist or choose a creed for ourselves, shouldn't we look into what the fundamentals of that religion or creed really are?

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