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Anthropologist Lionel Caplan (1987) defines fundamentalism as a belief in the timelessness of sacred writings and a belief that such writings apply to all kinds of environments. In its popular usage, the term fundamentalism is applied to a wide array of religious groups around the world.

The most important characteristic of fundamentalists is their belief that a relationship with God, Allah, or some other supernatural force provides answers to personal and social problems. In addition, fundamentalists often wish to "bring the wider culture back to its religious roots."

Fundamentalists usually conceive of history as a "process of decline from an original ideal state," which includes the "betrayal of fundamental principles".

Fundamentalists do not distinguish between what is sacred and what is profane in their day-to-day lives. Religious principles govern all areas of life, including family, business, and leisure.

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