I've been thinking about the actions of people under the guise of religions. It is clear to me that there are extremists in any religion, under any denomination, just as there are more liberal people. My question is whether it is appropriate to categorize certain religious denominations as "extreme" intrinsically, as opposed to merely the followers being extreme.

Are only people "extreme"? Or are there aspects of certain denominations that foster extremism in their followers by the nature of the views they preach?

If religious denominations can be weighed by differing amounts of extremism, are there any resources which list each denomination in order of "magnitudes of extremism"? Stated differently, if you agree that there are differences in "extremeness" among religious denominations, you must also (logically) agree that some are more extreme than others, and thus ultimately believe in one that is not extreme; i.e. the "true" base religious standpoint (whether it exists as a denomination today is irrelevant, you have to believe such a standpoint exists if you hold such a position).

Has there been any writing by Christian believers on this subject?

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    Extreme, in this context, basically means "having an extreme level of deviation from the norm." So to get a good answer to this, you first have to define "normal," which is not as easy as it sounds.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Oct 1, 2011 at 20:05
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    @Mason: Yes! Hence my second paragraph on the "true" base religious standpoint (i.e. "normal"). My question is thus, has anyone really addressed this seriously? Or does the conflict between denominations end with "let's agree to disagree"?
    – stoicfury
    Oct 1, 2011 at 20:12
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    @MasonWheeler no, that's a bad definition of extreme. A group is 'extremist' if they diverge greatly from what is normal for their society. Contrasting 'extremist' with 'liberal' seems strange-- where do liberal extremists go? Apr 10, 2015 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


I'm going to take a risk with an initial assumption: Since it's hard to find non-hostile documentation referring to specific denominations as "extreme" or "extremists, I'm going to offer the next best thing: Denominations that are widely accepted as Fundamentalists.

The assumption is that by "extreme" you mean "fiercely attached to a core set of beliefs, and less likely to compromise on those positions." This somewhat fits, because of your comparison with "more liberal" people, and Fundamentalism emerged as a counter-force to liberal movements within the Church.

I do realize that there are other ways the term "Extreme" could be interpreted. It could mean "dangerous" as in those that would kill to defend their beliefs, or the ones that would hole up on a compound somewhere, arming themselves against the invasion of Satan's armies. My answer doesn't address that type of "extreme". I'm shooting for what I THINK you're looking for. Forgive me if I'm wrong.

Fundamentalist Christians are defined as such:

Fundamentalist Christianity, also known as Christian Fundamentalism or Fundamentalist Evangelicalism, is a movement that arose mainly within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among conservative evangelical Christians, who, in a reaction to modernism, actively affirmed a fundamental set of Christian beliefs: the inerrancy of the Bible, Sola Scriptura, the virgin birth of Christ, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent personal return of Jesus Christ.

Various sources can be found that compare Fundamentalists with Mainline Christianity, and Pentecostals. Of course, all of these are relative terms, but I think the closes you can get to the list you're asking for - a list of denominations that are more extreme would be to look at a list of denominations that are accepted as Fundamentalist.

There are such lists on the Internet, but (oddly enough) the best I found was at Wikipedia.


My denomination is listed there, and I'd agree - I fit that definition of Fundamentalist, as to my fellow Church members. However, nobody in my church (by that, I mean my local West Salem Baptist Church, not Baptists as a whole) would dream of using our devotion to the "old fashioned" positions as an excuse for hostility toward others, as hinted at in the question you linked to. We take the commandment to love our enemies as seriously as we do the Trinity, or any of the other beliefs that define Fundamentalists.

Other than that, the Handbook of Denominations in the United States gives information similar to what you're looking for - the core beliefs and tenets of each denomination, but not with a chart or ranking in order of Fundamentalism. You can look at each denomination on your own and use your own definition of Extremism to determine which you think are extreme.

  • You are correct, I probably should have clarified more on exactly what I meant by "extreme". I was really trying to capture both aspects that you point out - extremeness of interpretation (fundamentalism) and extremeness of action (going out and burning down the house of gay people, for example). These lists of denominations are very useful to me. If the handbook had some sort of table depicting the differences, that would be quite useful.
    – stoicfury
    Oct 2, 2011 at 19:04
  • Unfortunately, it doesn't. You would have to read through it yourself to get a sense. Oct 2, 2011 at 19:18

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