A Religion without Spirituality

religion.jpg“I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good… Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty; we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.”

-Randall Terry, Founder of Operation Rescue

Quoted in The News-Sentine; Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Wikipedia describes fundamentalism as the tendency to reduce a religion to its most fundamental tenets, based on strict interpretation of core texts. Fundamentalism as a term has differing meanings and definitions some of which are controversial to groups with certain vested interests. The original usage was used to describe a narrowly defined set of beliefs that developed into a movement within the US protestant community in the early part of the 20th century. These religious principles were in opposition to the modernist movement within the Presbyterian Church and espouse the strict adherence and faith in religious fundamentals.

In my eyes however, fundamentalism remains the embracing of any religion to the most extreme. Fundamentalism is the referral to abide by the doctrine regardless of the circumstances. Conformity to the doctrine is a must without taking into notice the consequence of the act or its effects on society.

The choice made by fundamentalist religions to place doctrinal conformity higher than love, compassion and peace, has resulted in extreme acts of brutality and hatred in the past – in the mere name of religion. Thousands have been killed, children have been left orphaned and homeless and little girls have been raped and violated, in the march for the superiority of a religion and the subservience of others.

Perhaps the reason why rational thinking is butchered from the mind of many fundamentalists, who cease to feel emotions of any degree. Their obsession with their religion and the spread of its supremacy is so consuming that humanity dares not approach them and basic human sentiments slowly disintegrate in their uniform religious approach.

This fundamentalist approach is often a means of achieving absolute salvation. While many have a staunch belief that a doctrinal conformity will bring them eventual deliverance, many others argue that the simple adoption of that sect’s doctrine is enough to achieve salvation. The best portrayal of this dichotomy remains some of the fundamentalists sects of Christianity, a contradiction that often goes unnoticed.

Fundamentalist Christianity, or Christian fundamentalism, is a movement that arose mainly within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by conservative evangelical Christians, who, in a reaction to modernism, actively affirmed a fundamental set of Christian beliefs. The five “fundamentals” of Christian belief that were specified in a series of 12 paperback volumes containing scholarly essays on the Bible that appeared between 1910 and 1915, entitled The Fundamentals, were:

  1. Biblical inerrancy
  2. The divinity of Jesus
  3. The Virgin Birth
  4. The belief that Jesus died to redeem humankind
  5. An expectation of the Second Coming, or physical return, of Jesus Christ to initiate his thousand-year rule of the Earth, which came to be known as the Millennium.

They also believe in “six-day” Creationism, the doctrine which holds that the universe was created only a few thousand years ago, rather than the billions claimed by modern science, and that God created man and woman and all the species outright, rather than by a process of evolution.

Two important facets of fundamentalism are the correctness of thinking and the seriousness of thought. Correctness of thinking refers to the belief that the claims made by them are true, regardless of the opinions and views of others. This belief states that the path to salvation can only be led by these fundamentalists. The second facet, i.e. seriousness of thought would mean that these fundamentalists truly believe that the burden of salvation has been heaved upon their shoulders and without their divine guidance; the Earth would cease to be.

However, religious fundamentalism is not restricted to merely Islam and Christianity as the common beliefs hold. We witness such fundamentalism in every major religion ranging from Judaism to Hinduism to Sufism to Buddhism, etc.

The appeal of fundamentalism lies in its factor of membership punched with the threat of fear. Moreover, deep philosophical thought is not required for a fundamentalist neither is an understanding of the doctrine binding. The feel of power and the ability to mould Destiny is intense and almost narcotic to various extreme fundamentalists. Very often, religious fanaticism is born at these very roots. Within the spectrum of a particular belief system, religious fanaticism is the most extreme form of religious fundamentalism. Coming to a conclusion as to a definition of religious fanaticism is a difficult job due to the sensitive nature of the subject. It is noted that the followers of a religion are the target of accusations of religious fanaticism and not the religion itself. In spite of the varying allegations, the unavoidable truth remains that religious fanaticism robs religion of its spirituality.

The possibility always remains that these self-adjudged leaders may be wrong in their opinions and beliefs. It is a great possibility that salvation might not always be attained by heeding the irrational commands of these ‘spiritual’ leaders. I doubt very much how the strict conformity to a doctrine could ever lead a man to the path of happiness and fulfillment, which is ultimately the essence of salvation. Being deprived of emotion and familiarized with brutality and insensitivity could never bring upon a peaceful smile.

If God were amongst us, it would indeed be pitiable, for what we do in His name is the most heinous of crimes. A cloak of religion might shade one from the world but the eventual impact will be detrimental to the growth of humankind. Let us stop trivializing religion and making it the scapegoat for cold blooded murders and unimaginable offense.

We still have a chance of reviving religion in its sanctity. Let us, at least, make the effort.

Shayoni Sarkar