Any writing that attempts to tackle “religion” and “fundamentalism” should have an emergency 911 and the address of the writer attached for quick ambulance and police response.
Either he/she is a masochistic mental case or they really need the money to even take on such an assignment. Or maybe both. Well, here I am. You be the judge.
The word “religion” comes to us from the Latin, religare which means, “to bind strongly to.” Someone who is religious has chosen to bind themselves strongly to a particular belief system.
The word “fundamentalism” comes to us from the Latin, fundamentum which means, “of the foundation” or “of the underlying principles”.
We end up with something like this:
A fundamentalist is one who understands the underlying principles which are the foundation of his particular religion and has decided to bind himself strongly to act according to those principles.
Here’s where the fun begins. Almost everybody is a religious fundamentalist.
Even sworn atheists have decided that there is no God. They have bound themselves strongly to the fundamental belief that we have no higher power and they act according to their belief.
How about another example. Let’s take what is considered to be one of the oldest traditional religions, Judaism.
Jews believe that there is a God, that He is the only God and that he is the God that has chosen the Jewish people, from their first founding father, Abraham, to be His people and to eventually rule the world with the Messiah coming from the Jews.
They also recognize that if non-Jews want to believe this, they can be accepted into the Jews and be a part of the religion; with everybody else going to hell.
Sounds like the Muslims too, doesn’t it. Let’s try it. (Boy, we’re getting into trouble now).
Muslims believe that there is a God, that He is the only God and that He is the God that has chosen the Islamic people, from their first founding father, Abraham, to be His people and eventually rule the world with the Messiah coming from the Muslims.
They also recognize that if non-Muslims want to believe this, they can be accepted into the religion; everybody else is going to hell.
Uh-oh. Let’s try Christianity, shall we?
Christians believe that there is a God, that He is the only God and that He is the God that has chosen the Christian people, from their first founding father, Abraham, to be His people and eventually rule the world with the Messiah coming from… the Jews.
(Jesus started out as a Jew, but they rejected him, so he, Jesus, also rejected them, except as they believe in Him as God. — It’s a little complicated.) They also recognize that if non-Christians want to believe this, that they can be accepted into the religion; with everybody else going to hell.
The Rest Of The Ism’s
That takes care of the three “major” religions of earth. But, let’s not forget that there are many other “fundamentals” that people are “bound to” – Buddhism, Shintoism, Animism, and all the other –isms.
Suffice to say that the pattern remains. If you believe in something that you bind yourself to for action and interaction with people in life, you are a religious fundamentalist.
The real problem lies with the dreaded word, INTERPRETATION. How do we interpret what we think was written by those purported to be the original leaders of our religious movements and where does that take us?
Prepared For The Journey
One of the great philosophers of history, Benjamin Disreali, wrote;
“It matters not to me what you believe, just remember that whatever you believe will take you somewhere. Make sure that you are prepared for the journey.”
What disturbs societies of the civilized world (and throughout history) is when those who are bound to their beliefs feel they must dictate to others how to live and, sometimes, try to force others to live as they live.
The most universal modern example which can, probably, be agreed upon is the Taliban in Afghanistan. They are the Islamic religious fundamentalists who cut off people’s heads who refuse to get in line with their particular conservative interpretation of Islam.
Of course this has happened throughout the ages, at least since Abraham. Before that, people just cut off other’s heads because they didn’t like how they looked or wanted their camels. (Probably Camel-holics)
The Fundamental Question
So the question remains, “Can any religion remain free of fundamentalism?” The answer is, “Not if you define it in words and actions, which you have to follow for there to be any meaning.” So, “NO!”
Of course, the alternative is to believe in nothing very strongly and certainly not bind yourself very strongly to it. This gives rise to a new question:
“Can you be happy not believing in or binding yourself to anything on earth enough to care about it strongly and act on it?”
Sure you can. But you probably shouldn’t call it your religion. Calling it that defies the definition. You could call it your social club or something like that. Think about it.
If you call something your religion, it probably involves your god. If your god is so easy-going that he doesn’t mind if you don’t care about what he says to do, how much of a god is he? If he just lets you decide what you’ll believe and when and how you will act on it, isn’t he less powerful than you?
Those who want to believe in their god in moderation, soak-up some good vibrations and call it a religion; that’s okay with me.
Just be prepared that, wherever you travel, you are bound to bump up against those who will “religiously and fundamentally” disagree.
On the other hand, if you want to dedicate yourself to non-religious activities that are meaningful in your life, say, saving the whales or feeding the children of the world, or any number of wonderful causes, by all means do it.
Just don’t buy yourself a ticket on the grief-train by calling it “religious.” Call it humanitarian, travel the world with the quiet pleasure of doing good, and be happy.
I won’t tell God. Who knows, maybe He will meet you on the journey and smile.
Can religion remain free of funamentalism and still have meaning? Share your thoughts in the comments!