P. Edronkin

Comments On Political And Religious Fanaticism

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Religion is belief: you can believe in revealed words, in divine lessons, in holy books or whatever. All religions have significant belief components - albeit they are generally more complex philosophical entities - and they are all respectable indeed, at least because no one can say whether one religion is better or more rightful than any other: but even considering this, which is pretty rational, there are individuals that can thing wrongly about religion and induce intolerant attitudes.

How is this possible? How can a religion be right and wrong at the same time? It is easy: every single religion is per se an excluding system of thought because in order to achieve divine status and pretend to be the truth, it has to exclude other truths and allegations of divinity. From there and into intolerance there is just a small step and from indifference to intolerance there is a very short distance. If we review historical information regarding various religions and cults, we can easily conclude that in those stages when believers became too intolerant, some common elements are to be found:

- If religion is used for political means or it is cross-linked with political interest: if religious entities assume the role of political factions or movements, or when religion is used for political means, things usually end up turning into violence. In the case of European history, the crusades and the conquest of the new world constitute perhaps the most significant examples of this idea.

- When the clergy becomes infiltrated or penetrated by people without serious religious education in sufficient degree: cases such as those of Savonarola in Florence, Jim Jones in Guyana, David Koresh in the United States, and the Islamic fundamentalist movements show that the charismatic leaders of such movements often lack real education and careers in religion. They often didn't go to religious schools or seminars, and they have not made a name from themselves in any form of religious structure. They use their charisma and appeals for divine blessings in order to attract often-gullible people in ways that would not be available for them otherwise.

In past times there were states and nations where and when political power was centred around religious beliefs, like in the case of the Pharaos of Egypt and the kings of ancient Israel: Salomon ruled the Jewish nation around the year 950 B.C. and undoubtedly became one of the most significant figures in the scriptures shared by the three most important monotheistic religions of this planet.

But Salomon was also an important military leader and the army under his command was very powerful: in Meggido, also know as Armaggedon, they had a formidable force of war chariots, also known in antiquity as 'Nerkabtus' and which were the equivalent of the armoured forces formed by tanks and APCs of present times. And during those times, political and religious issues were solved usually by spilling blood. Today things are pretty different in most cases but as it happens still in the Middle East, when politics and religion mix irresponsibly, things may become explosive.

I think that the argument used by those who support groups like Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda and Hamas in order to justify their actions is pretty poor because they pretend to justify bloodshed in the name of religion on the actions of their alleged adversaries. First of all, those are arguments that do not intend to solve the issues but perpetuate them, as anyone with any degree of education in logic can easily understand, and secondly, because religion is not about killing and revenge. Such arguments are used only to justify violence because it is only in such a way that this people can hijack the minds of honest believers.

At this stage in the world's history, most violent fanaticism comes from the Islamic world. This doesn't mean that Islam is a bad thing in any way; however, it is a fact that doubtlessly, the majority of all terrorist acts in this world, perpetrated by terrorist organisations - no semantic arguments here as to what means terrorism - of Islamic origin, and it is time to review and even revamp the way in which religious beliefs are understood and manipulated in order to avoid further violence.

What I am arguing doesn't imply that anyone should change his or her mind. However, particularly in the case of Islam but also broadly speaking, we humans should be sufficiently brave, honest and educated to stop using pretexts and to lower the violence and intensity of our arguments in order to discus issues in a civil and adult way. Islam - I believe - has a particular responsibility in those problem today simply because by far, present-day violence associated to religious issues comes from within it.

Religion exists to improve the human spirit, and to put bombs and fire rockets only destroys it.

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