Militant religion

Sometimes called fundamentalism.








In several countries and world regions a response to modern problems has come through attachment to the slogans of religion. These often have a political form similar to the extreme politics in 1930s Europe (Nazism and Fascism). The signs of fundamentalism, perhaps better termed "fanaticism", appear to be an abandonment of reasoned discourse and an apparent hatred of opponents either from their own religious tradition or from other traditions. The root desire may be for a literal understanding of the "sacred" texts with no application of thinking. Such people apparently believe that any act, normally considered bad, is permissible if it is in defense of what they regard as religion (Nationalists feel the same).

Examples can be seen among:

Some Muslims throughout the Muslim world (but especially the Shi'ite branch in Iran and Lebanon). The Taliban in Afghanistan derive from the Quran schools of the refugee camps on the Pakistan border, conducted by Mullas of a fundamentalist sect .

Sikhs and Hindus in India

Jews in Israel and the United States

Buddhists in Sri Lanka

Christians in the United States and other countries.

The most extreme problems are to be found in the Lebanon where most of the warring groups fought in the name of religion. To a lesser extent the conflict in Northern Ireland has religious dimensions. The other main religious conflict is in India where Sikh fundamentalists are calling for a separate Sikh state. In Africa such conflicts can be found in Sudan and Nigeria.

In Yugoslavia the differences between Serbs, Croats and Bosnians are in fact religious as these nationalities are defined by religion rather than language.

In other Balkan countries, including Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, the Orthodox Church shows intolerance towards other forms of religion, which helps feed the Yugoslav wars as well as hostility to Turkey and "outsiders" .

In India conflicts between Hindus and Muslims led to the deaths of millions at the time of Partition and Independence and may do so again over the Mosque in Ayodhya which some Hindus wish to convert to a temple. Hindu hostility to Muslims is increasing.

Other effects of religious fundamentalism are on efforts to solve the population problem where the United States government has in the past been influenced by various religious groups within the US who have prohibitions on several techniques which might help.

Even in countries with a tradition of free speech, such as the United States, religious fundamentalists try to suppress free expression such as scientific enquiry into evolution or try to impose the standards of a minority on the majority. This produces an atmosphere of cultural totalitarianism. Fortunately, actual totalitarianism is voluntary in a free society. That is, people may join a society in which everyone believes the same but cannot impose their beliefs on non-members and can leave if they wish.

The religion of Islam stands out by having been from its foundation a political organization. Thus militant Muslims in western cultures, where religion is usually now separated from the state, are seen by westerners as political activists making difficult demands. In particular the Twelver variety of Shi'ism dominant in Iran is led by mullas with little experience of the world. Even more so, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In all religions, including Islam, the militants are a minority. Militancy may be a result of population pressure, poverty and poor education (and poor knowledge of the actual origin of religion).

Interesting reading

Beam me up Jesus, a humorous look at one kind of fundamentalism

Beam Me Up, Jesus: A Heathen's Guide to the Rapture

Aatish Taseer - Stranger to History

Stranger to History: A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands

Terra Islamica: Auf der Suche nach der Welt meines Vaters

Etranger à mon histoire : Le périple d'un fils en contrée musulmane



Possible Solutions

All religious groups contain a mixture of people. Different streams come into prominence at different times. People who claim to represent the religion as a whole don't always do so in practice.

Some thinkers believe that those closest to the ideas of the founders of the various religions have more in common with each other than with the "fundamentalists" .

For example, neither Jesus, Mohammed nor Buddha can be shown to have had any views about limiting population, or indeed about contraceptives, whatever their self-appointed present-day spokesmen may say. Study of the actual statements of these teachers of the past may show that they favored common sense rather than fanaticism - a state of mind which excludes hatred. None of them can be shown to have wished to create an order of clergy and Mohammed specifically prohibited it. Thus it is difficult to sustain the view that present religious organizations reflect all or any of the wishes of the founders.

Fundamentalists tend to emphasize the differences between their own and other religions, even to the extent of stirring up hatred. The use of mass meetings with rhythmic chanting to create mass emotions, usually of hate, are indistinguishable from the rallies of Nazis and fascists, which is one reason for the distress westerners feel at such phenomena as the rise of the late Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

Hindu fanatics seem to be betraying the tolerant spirit which normally characterizes Hindus - as well as denying the evidence that much modern Hindu teaching derives as much from Sufism - usually associated with Islam - as from ancient Hinduism.

There may be no solution other than better education, especially about methods of indoctrination and study of the actual teachings of the religious founders rather than those of their disciples. The United States constitution wisely keeps the government neutral with regard to religion by forbidding government establishment of any particular variety of religion.

Within the Islamic world there are currents trying to modernise the religion and free it from the monopoly of interpretation claimed by certain schools of Mullas. The Turkish government is sponsoring a re-interpretation of the Hadiths.

Mohammed is quoted as saying: Do you think you love your Creator? Love your fellow-creature first. Jesus has similar advice.

See also Cult.

There should be no compulsion in religion (Mohammed)
In some countries, fewer now than in the past, religious exercises are compulsory. The examples of Spain and Ireland show that when the compulsion is relaxed interest in religion decreases to a minority. The current examples of Iran and Saudi Arabia may show the same. Taseer's observations were that in Iran actual support for religion is much less than the Mullas pretend with the Mosques unattended for prayer. This is an expected result of the imposition of religion on people by the clergy. The same may be true even of Saudi Arabia, where the clergy have access to the huge sums of money generated by oil. The author has observed that, when religion is voluntary, few people actually perform the prayers.

The reality may be that the Age of Religion throughout the world is coming to an end. Those most threatened by this phenomenon are the Clergy. The apparent militancy may be misleading as a guide to the actual influence of religion.

Interesting reading

A useful text: Arthur J Deikman - The Wrong Way Home

James Jones - Blood that cries out

Blood That Cries Out From the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism

Blood That Cries Out from the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism

This book covers violent religions of all types.

Last revised 14/01/12


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