The Violence Inherent in Religious Fundamentalism

Discussion in 'Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality' started by Sirius, Dec 6, 2009.

  1. Sirius

    Sirius Registered User

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    From time immemorial man has bled, fought, killed, and died for the cause of religion. The examples of charlatans waging war to pursue political ends using a religious means are numerous. A cursory look over any world history book will reveal examples of kings who took up the sword of the faith so that they may profit thereby. Today, religion is again being invoked to achieve a political ends. Religious fundamentalist, who believe that they have the only truth, act as enforcers for God. They seek to achieve political goals of enforcing religious laws through subversion and violence. These modern day holy warriors are one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the human spirit and one of the hardest to fight. Religious fundamentalism leads to intolerance and violence because of the belief among fundamentalist that they are beseeched on all fronts by massive threats to the true faith; and god gives authority to take any means necessary to protect the tenants of the faith and punish unbelievers.

    Religious fundamentalism begins with the absolute belief in the infallible sacred texts of the faith. The faithful believe that god wrote the text word for word. All religious fundamentalist of all faiths believe that they have the one true book divinely authored. Couple this with the belief that they have been given the one true interpretation of the text. They not only have the sacred text, they are the only ones who really know what it means. This belief convinces the believer that they are superior to all others who do not believe the exact same thing. This believed superiority leads to a belief in divinely given authority to act for what the believer perceives as the greater good. Because the believer feels he is acting in the will of god, he feels no reservations to do whatever it takes to archive his goals. Whatever it takes is almost always violent.

    Religious fundamentalist exist in all religions all over the world. Christian fundamentalism is present in the United States. On May 31, 2009 Scott Roeder, a fundamentalist Christian who used the internet handle ‘ServantofMessiah’, shot an killed abortion provider Dr George Tiller ( Barnes A01 ). This is in addition to the other doctors who have been murdered and many medical clinics that have been bombed. Fundamentalist Hindus killed up to 2,000 Muslim civilians in the Indian state of Gujarat (Magnier A1). In Mumbi, India, for three days in November 2008, Islamic fundamentalist coordinated ten bombings and shootings throughout the city, killing 173 people (Magnier A1). Islamic fundamentalist have struck throughout the world for a generation. From the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli Olympic team to the attacks of September 11, 2001 to the bombings in London and Madrid and to the present day ongoing events in Afghanistan and Iraq, Islamic fundamentalist have imposed fear on the world taking thousands of lives. Religious fundamentalism has sprouted all over the world and left pain, suffering and death in its path.

    The foundation of what makes fundamentalism so dangerous is the belief in the absolute superiority of the given book of faith and that that as individuals they have superiority over non-believers. Due to this, they also feel they have unlimited authority and power. In a paper about religious fundamentalism Dr Lucy Sargisson makes clear the connection to this absolute belief and its dangers. She explains, “There are identifiable groups of people within all world religions who believe that the purity of their message is under threat. This message is, they feel, a universal truth, infallible and divine. It needs to be protected and preserved†(Sargisson 274). She later says that religious fundamentalist are “driven by a dangerous perfectionist impulse†(Sargisson 283). The fundamentalist has the truth and it must be protected. The ‘perfectionist impulse’ is at the heart of what leads to intolerance and violence. This impulse leads the individual to believe that they can and should take action to purify and fix. Even worse, they truly believe it will work. These individuals can not be rationally confronted. Their goals are religious in nature and they believe god is on their side bidding them to perfect the world as the holy text commands.

    The next ingredient in the dangerous fundamentalist brew is paranoia. Paranoia is prevailing in fundamentalists of all religions. Each group, no matter the religion, perceives numerous 'threats'. The first perceived threat is to the religion its self. Because the religion is threatened they feel personally threatened due to their close association as a true keeper of the faith. Fundamentalist are besieged on all sides by what they believe to be the evils of the world. They are offended and oppressed by what composes the modern secular world. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi sums the largest threatens perceived by fundamentalist. He says, “Fundamentalists have been described as individuals who feel rightly threatened by urbanisation, industrialization, and modern secular values†(Beit-Hallahmi 28). Because all fundamentalism is traditionalist in nature it is threatened by what propels secularism, that being the essentials of the modern world. Industries attract workers to the cities. The cities become hotbeds of vice and crime. Fundamentalists view industrial world as the problem, not the vice and crime. In their world view, everything would be fine if everyone just tended there own little farm and lived a devout religious life circa AD 350. So of course they lead extremely paranoid lives because they feel so very threatened by the vastness of the whole world that surrounds them.

    God given invincibility combined with extreme paranoia leads to violence. They believe that with god on their side they will prevail against those that are perceived as threats to the religion, which is the whole modern world. In the mind of the devout the world is a threat to the religious group and any and all violence is acceptable to protect the group. In a paper about the goals of violent religious fundamentalists Dr Dr Richard Pech and Dr Bret Slade examine the phenomenon at work. They state, “The need to kill in order to protect the group becomes legitimized through the group’s laws, customs, and/or religion, therefore making it an act of worship, devotion, and dedication (Pech and Slade 12). Not only will they kill to protect, it is seen as sublime worship to do so. Most people do not believe the world is out to ‘get them’ and they lead normal fruitful lives. This is a major aspect in the stability in any civilized society. This is why fundamentalism is so dangerous. They are convinced they have the only truth. This truth is threatened by everyone else who does not follow their strict faith. To protect what they hold so dear, any price will be paid in the blood of people who will never know what they died for.

    Those who are religiously fundamentalist will argue that they are correct because they understand the true meaning of the sacred text. They promote a life dedicated to religious practice, which is admirable. The family is promoted by the fundamentalist as the most important thing after faith. No counter argument can be made with leading a dedicated religious family life. The religious fundamentalist would also argue that a government administered exclusively by the religiously devout would guarantee effective efficient government. Brain Beary recently examined the issue of global religious fundamentalism for QR Researcher. In his article he stated, “Some also believe a strict, religiously oriented government will provide better services than the corrupt, unstable, secular regimes governing their countries†(Beary 32). It is easy to make the argument to those in impoverished countries with corrupt governments that good non corrupt religious people will run the government better than the corrupt one now. But the fact of the matter is all government controlled by religious fundamentalist restrict individual freedom and don’t deliver government services any more efficiently. At best they are repressive regimes and at worst perpetrators of crimes against humanity. But most important, no logical counter argument can be made against what can only be called, ‘because god says so’. This failed logic of god given authority is the same logic that leads to female circumcision and the subjugation of women. Such faith says the world is 7,000 years old. Science has proven the world to be over 3 billion years old. But to the faithful, science is witchcraft mumbo jumbo that contradicts the ancient sacred texts. Any attempt to debate with the fundamentalist is futile. To the fundamentalist there is no logic beyond faith.

    Nothing is more dangerous than an individual that feels completely surrounded by threats and completely empowered by the divine to administer divine law. Urban legends tell of war veterans who, though safely back home suddenly act out violently thinking they are back in a war. The fundamentalist, completely lucid, feels just as much at war as the vet having a flashback. Religious Fundamentalism leads to intolerance and violence because the world is viewed only through the narrow parameters of the interpretation of religious texts and the willingness by fundamentalist to protect that belief from the perceived surrounding threat with any means available.
     
  2. drapetomaniac

    drapetomaniac Premium Member Premium Member

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    I have a closed view of this, perhaps.

    Name the religions before the year 1000 on record or in myth fighting purely on religious grounds - to prove their religion was absolute or right. I can think of just a few out of a very large number.

    I'm not for blaming religion, because atheism in communist nations are among the worst (still fundamentalism in philosophy). And not for blaming one religion for being exploited by kings, because Rome had a turn, as di Ghengis Kahn - but I'm not aware of religious fundamentalism being a part of those in the same way. Part of the Roman model, and the Moorish model in Iberia, was a level of permissiveness instead of extinction.
     
  3. Sirius

    Sirius Registered User

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    I agree, it has been rare, war dominated mainly by religion is a newer concept on the face of the earth. Thus, the most dangerous are the one who most need to be right and feel that the faith is threatened from without.

    Maybe is should say...

    From the darkest days of the Dark Ages man has...
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009
  4. JTM

    JTM "Just in case" Premium Member

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    did you write this?
     
  5. Sirius

    Sirius Registered User

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  6. owls84

    owls84 Moderator Premium Member

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    So would you expand and say the problem is not with "religion" but with fundametalism. Any you could say that applies to all things, Starbucks over Dunken Donuts, Macy's over Sears, Etc. Anytime someone who really has a strong belief believes they are correct they would be willing to protect that belief at all costs.

    Good article by the way, really opened the mind a little.
     
  7. drapetomaniac

    drapetomaniac Premium Member Premium Member

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    I think it would be exerting/imposing those beliefs as opposed to "protecting" them - although I do believe "fundamentalists" try to exert and impose their beliefs and see themselves under attack when people object.
     
  8. Sirius

    Sirius Registered User

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    Fundamentalism is the heart of the problem. Religion in and of itself is a good thing.

    Whats dangerous is not strong belief but radical faith. Its the convection on the believers part that they have the one truth. I have some strong beliefs, I'm not willing to protect them at all costs. But then, I don't perceive a threat.

    I think you're right that they could be part of the save the trees crowd, or the KKK, or al Queda. But, the dominate violent fundamentalist are religious.

    I think a major component of fundamentalism is the perceived threat to the faith. Turn on John Hagee and you'll quickly get the impression that the world is conspiring against Christians.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2009
  9. TCShelton

    TCShelton Founding Member Premium Member

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    Mmm, I see it as a devolving chain:

    Spirituality ---> Organized Religion ---> Fundamentalism
     
  10. drapetomaniac

    drapetomaniac Premium Member Premium Member

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    I think "organized religion" has been primarily dangerous when state interests or politics become involved. Christianity didn't spread itself by the sword, governments used Christianity combined with swords to expand their kingdom.
     
  11. owls84

    owls84 Moderator Premium Member

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    I can really agree with this statement. I guess the thing I wonder about is where in the "chain", as Tom states, becomes currupt and this really seems to be this point. At the point power is given. I think I can go as far as say it is the wonderful three letter word that many of us struggle with. E-G-O. Once one's belief is questioned or endangered Man is not willing to let the blow glance to the side but feels he must retaliate. Or in his eyes protect or defend his religion. Combine this with the oppurtunity of power and that is a dangerous thing. Its "The Man that Would be King" Story.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
  12. TCShelton

    TCShelton Founding Member Premium Member

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    IMO, it is when it leaves Spirituality and become Organized Religion. This is where we let other men influence our beliefs. This is where we become lazy and attempt to follow another man's path to our own salvation. This is where many tend to just "show up and listen," as opposed to think for themselves.
     
  13. owls84

    owls84 Moderator Premium Member

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    I agree Tom, this is the point where we rely on others to think for us, giving them power to control how we think. By doing this we open the door for ego and control. Eventually the power given can grow too great. Like Sean Connery.
     
  14. Sirius

    Sirius Registered User

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    I think most religions are actually attempting to teach you how to rationally think outside the box, its the people that fowl it up with doctrine, theology, and the splits that result from the two.

    We've been conditioned to believe that you must belong to a religion or your soul will go to hell, or die, or be doomed to countless reincarnations.

    And again, I think organized religion is overall good. Its where most people are spiritually. It's the convection of the fundamentalist that believes that their version of the truth is the only truth that is dangerous to humanity.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
  15. Sirius

    Sirius Registered User

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    It's so easy to feel this way. The more I think about it, the more I see where I've gotten defensive about my faith.

    I'm not sure faith should ever make us feel like were on the defensive. I'll have to ponder that.
     
  16. Jamesb

    Jamesb Registered User

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    When a group of like minded people hands their spirituallity over to "religion" they are essentually handing it over to a man and his interpritation of it. But just as things grow and evolve so does the interpritation. Do you think that if Jesus or Mohammad came here today they would recognize any part (other then thier own names) of the religion they spawned? They would probably be run out of town, or worse, by those who profess to follow their religions.
     
  17. TCShelton

    TCShelton Founding Member Premium Member

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    +1. Well said.
     
  18. rhitland

    rhitland Founding Member Premium Member

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    The good thing about fundamentalism is there is a cure all you have to do is go outside your box and educate yourself.

    The more I study the religions we have today mainly Islam and Christianity I find that Muhammad and Jesus both where not trying to start a new religion they where simply redefining what the old one was to the new generation. Then through generations of fears and egos the message can and does become diluted but if you look hard enough it is still there.
     
  19. owls84

    owls84 Moderator Premium Member

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    Good food for thought in this thread. I like it.
     
  20. Jamesb

    Jamesb Registered User

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    ...but if you look hard enough it is still there.

    The problem is you have a bunch of people not willing to look really hard.
     

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