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Religious Extremists: a Moderate Rant

January 8, 2010

Let me announce, before you and the Almighty, that I’ve officially lost my tolerance for religious fundamentalists of any stripe. I’ve had it with zealots who believe their holy textbooks to be the literal word of God. I’ve had it with the jihads, the smugness, the forced conversions, the notion that one’s own sect boasts an exclusive pipeline to the Divine. As far as I’m concerned, they can all go to hell… or at least heck.

What brought me to this unholy pass? The Christmas underwear bomber — a radicalized Muslim from Nigeria — definitely helped. So did the fanatic who barged into the home of the notorious Danish cartoonist who satirized the Prophet Mohammed.  So did the Fort Hood psychiatrist who decided he’d rather kill fellow Americans than fellow Muslims.

Granted, fanatical Muslims are generating the greatest worldwide misery at the moment. But as I took a little time to reflect, I concluded that all fundamentalist religious interpretations are equally archaic, equally obnoxious and equally wrong.

Fundamentalist Christianity depicts us as debased sinners who can be saved only by the sacrificial blood of Jesus. (Those who don’t get with the program or believe in blood sacrifices are condemned to eternal torment.) Fundamentalist Judaism exalts the Jews above all other people — not the surest prescription for amicable relations with the other 99.8% of the world’s population. And of course we all know about the excesses of fundamentalist Islam: the unquenchable libido for world conquest, the systematic oppression of women, the grotesque beheadings, the insane belief in an orgasmic eternity for those who die in the name of the Prophet.

If only it were enough to say “Enough!” But how do you convince millions of diehard believers that their beliefs are simply that: beliefs… and not inerrant God-given truths? (Sorry, but nobody has ever taken dictation from the creator of the galaxies.) How do you roll back 1500, 2000, 3000 years of dogmatic indoctrination lovingly handed down through the generations? Most important, how do you persuade these extreme believers to shift to a more moderate form of belief?

Because I’m not convinced that God is a myth or that all religion is bunk. Religious certainty is bunk, because no living mortal knows the nature or will of God. Our holy scriptures — Jewish, Christian and Islamic alike — are ancient conglomerations of history, mythology, prophecy, dogma and sheer fudge. It’s impossible to know where the truth ends and the fiction begins. 

So we’re left with pure faith, which can be a beautiful and noble thing. The world would be a happier and healthier place if religious fundamentalists had the courage to abandon certainty in favor of faith.

The tragedy is that the masses of fundamentalists need certainty to anchor their uncertain place in the cosmos. Mere faith is too nuanced, too reasonable, too moderate. Fanatical religious souls, like fanatical political souls, want to see the world clearly outlined in black and white. No shades of gray. No uncertainty. No wandering in the wilderness.  No need to think.

In short, we’ll be sharing the world with religious fanatics for a long time to come.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2010 1:30 pm

    The irony of fantasism is that almost all major religions around the world preach in their base tenets: Tolorance, compassion, hard work, dedication, and forgiveness. However, it is when they get more into detail that nearly all of them opt to try to stamp out others if within their power to stamp out the other “pretender”, hence the fanatasism. I find people as a rule like to bend the rules, or omit some of them, to cater to their own personal means. Thou shalt not kill… unless the person is not considered good enough for god’s protection as decided by you. Anyway, I digress.

    I’m a deist, but find that organized religion often can bastardize what it is in and of itself.

    • January 8, 2010 8:15 pm

      LOUDelf: Most believers would be horrified if they had to read the Bible from cover to cover (aside from the sheer length). There’s a disturbing amount of cruelty and mayhem sanctioned by our “God of love” — if you take the Bible at its word. Deism is probably the way to go.

      • Taliesin Knol permalink
        January 8, 2010 8:43 pm

        As if most theists could read… they just beleive what is told to them by their pastor/preacher, because they can’t or won’t think for themselves. Then comes along a madman like Bin Laden, who is greedy for power, understands poeple’s base hatred for others, and their stupidity, and proceeds to take advantage of it. Fantasism happens when people take hold of one set of ideas, and reject rationality and lose the ability to consider the validity of other ideas, often resulting in racism and intolerance.(more stupidity) Irrational stupidity deserves no tolerance, it is “the root of all evil” and perpetrated most by religion.

    • Taliesin Knol permalink
      January 8, 2010 10:07 pm

      This is because people are generally bastards… (or at least enough of them to ruin it for everybody else)

  2. Shiroi permalink
    February 13, 2010 8:47 pm

    My first glimpse of just how much bull fundamentalism is happened quite a few years ago, when I was a kid. I basically dropped a logic bomb on the local church by realizing the paradox of good and evil: “If God is infinitely good, how come evil exists? And why are poor people still poor even though many of them truly believe in God?”. This happened during religion class at the local church, and subsequently I was punished for questioning God’s word. But I’m going off-topic.

    Anyways, what I’ve learned in the country with the largest population of Catholics in the world is that religious fundamentalists cannot be cured of their holy inebriation by being shown how life can be. I’ve seen people lose their children or parents to stray bullets – a trivial, almost silly death. They keep their fundamentalism and resist all attempts at logic. At this rate, we’ll have to cope with these nutwings for a very long time.

    • February 14, 2010 1:40 am

      Not if they end the world…

  3. February 14, 2010 11:24 am

    “Holy inebriation” — good phrase, Shiroi! Religion and logic don’t mix. That doesn’t mean all religious beliefs are wrong; they just can’t stand up to rigorous examination. That’s why we call it “faith.” When it becomes certainty, look out! And yes, TK, there’s a very good chance that fundamentalism could plunge us back into a new dark age, if not a post-human age.

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