How fundamentalism does more harm than good to a religion
Why do we throw stones, use sticks or shoot bullets in the name of religion? Why do some of us attack an author? Most of us are deeply religious, but we don’t resort to such steps. The question is who does it?
Those who have hidden fundamentalism and aggressive fanaticism within themselves.
It is not necessary to find such people simply in mathas, monasteries, mosques or churches. One can easily find such people, wearing suits, traveling from airports, conversing fluently in English or working on iphones and laptops. We can find such people anywhere in the world.
Contrary to popular belief, modernity not only leads to rationality and a progressive vision, but also to fundamentalism and religious identity fanaticism in part of society.
As we have seen in the age of globalization and neoliberalism, religious fundamentalism is growing rapidly. We keep talking about religious fanaticism in India on our prime time news programs but fail to see that most of the religions in the world such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism have produced their own version or fundamentalism, directly or indirectly. These versions have been reinterpreted in the fundamentals of their religions in their own way.
World conditions have provided space for the evolution and expansion of new religious sects among various religions. In India we have so many religious sects with international influence such as Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravishankar, ISKCON, some Sufi, Buddhist and Jain missions, Ram Krishna mission etc. working globally to spread their messages. National boundaries have been blurred through cyber-connection, social media and electronic channels.
Global modernity has allowed the birth and rise of both liberal and fundamentalist versions of religions. All of these versions of religions create a cumulative impact on religious identities across the world.
While fundamentalists interpret religion in a more fixed, rigid and fanatical way, the liberal version adapts, adapts and negotiates in changing times and gives space for expansion.
People of various religions turn to fanaticism mainly because of an identity crisis. Their sense of identity is based on a sense of superiority over all or a now-gone golden era, which makes them tough and aggressive. This crisis is mainly the result of misperceptions.
Factors such as unemployment, economic difficulties, imbalance of political representation add to this, but it is not necessary that only the poor and the unemployed turn to fanaticism.
Sometimes growing wealth leads to a sense of higher identity. When they realize that reality is contrary to the illusion of identity, some sections react aggressively and use violence as a means of affirmation. The money used for terrorist activities and stone throwing is mostly illegal, acquired by the wealthy.
On the other hand, religious fundamentalism provides immense emotional inputs, giving a sense of heaven to aspired superiority. This package attracts people. This is why the number of Christian fundamentalists in North America, Europe and Northern Ireland; Muslim fundamentalists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and some Middle Eastern countries; and Buddhist fundamentalists in countries like Myanmar are growing. These fundamentalist versions of these religions appear as a danger for the ethos, the values and the image of this same religion.
In the real sense, they hurt their religion more than others.
Badri Narayan is Professor and Director at GB Pant Social Science Institute, Prayagraj, and author of “Republic of Hindutva”. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.
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