Religion and Essential Fanaticism
When a practicing Muslim meets a devout Christian, they bring an elephant into the room that nobody’s supposed to talk about. Each believes that the other is an infidel and shall be fed to the flames of hell. They may greet each other warmly and show utmost respect for one another, but there’s always a voice at the back of their heads whispering, “Oh, I know this unbeliever is going to burn in hell, but let’s not make a fuss about it right now”.
This is the essential poison coursing through the veins of most religious believers, particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths. Believing that we are righteous because we have faith in God X, and they are sinners because they believe in God Y, is a crucial part of the religious teachings. Christians claim that only through Jesus can a soul find salvation, and Muslims consider shirk (or association of other gods with Allah) is an unforgivable sin.
Needless to say, bigotry is an inseparable component of religion. The more civilized believers are able to resist this toxin, while other succumb to it, and turn to the ignominious endeavor of building barriers and dividing humanity into “believers” and “unbelievers”.
So it’s obvious that religion, at its most basic level, is a threat to the unity of mankind. I’m not talking about extremism and I’m not talking about fanatics. I’m talking about the moderates who read holy books openly condemning disbelievers as vile creatures who are to serve as fodder for hellfire, yet find nothing wrong with the religion. Promoting inter-religious harmony is a task that requires one to either ignore a vital part of his/her religious teachings, or completely wash his/her hands of any association with them.
When you inquire a moderately religious person about the scurrilous role his/her religion plays in retarding humanity’s progress, they’ll be quick to divert the blame away from religion and onto the followers.
A religion is what its followers believe. There’s no such thing as a “standard” position for a religion, hence the claim that certain believers are “misinterpreting” the holy writ is a logical fallacy. If a majority of followers believe that their religion condones violence for things like blasphemy or apostasy, then the religion does condone violence. One cannot argue why a person believes what he/she believes, because beliefs are never based on reason to begin with! Perhaps it’s the moderates who are “misinterpreting” the faith, while the extremists have it spot on!
When inquired why people do bad things in the name of religion, a moderate believer would claim that it’s not because of religion, but a cocktail of other factors like poverty, illiteracy, political instability etc. Again, it’s a trick involving refusal to address the obvious element lying smack in the eye of the storm, and go flitting off to other factors that can be even remotely linked to the acts of intolerance.
It’s the equivalent of a discussion on respiratory disorders among smokers, with a person blaming the incidence on lack of education, poor healthcare provision, bad parenthood, inefficient laws etc – but never address the actual cigarette which forms the heart of the entire dilemma!
A moderate is an otherwise good person who has his foot placed in a door to the era of barbarism, keeping it ajar. And through this door, we have all the intolerance, bigotry, violence, terrorism, homophobia and sheer stupidity flowing freely into our world.
How many people will it take to come and scream, “Yes! We are indeed killing in the name of religion!” before the moderates start to wonder, “Hmm, know what? Maybe religion does have something to do with it.”
Organized religion and its followers are adept at leading people to believe that it’s okay to accept certain ideas without reason or evidence. It glorifies ignorance, and evil always walks in the wake of ignorance.
There’s nothing bad about believing in a personal God, if one finds comfort in such a belief. But being part of organized religion, a shameless mega-corporation responsible for openly selling hate and bigotry, is like being a mafia wife -rendering numerical and moral support to a system that is so obviously dangerous.