I did not write this article. It is another of Sha'Tara's philosophical/religious essays. I think it provides substance for reflection.
Faith and Fanaticism
[thoughts of a burning woman – Sha’Tara]
A question I’ve been wrestling with the last few days: At what point does faith cross the line into fanaticism?
The more I consider this, the more murky the waters become. Faith is generally considered to be a great thing. Fanaticism on the other hand leads to horrors and atrocities. What I’ve tried to do until now is separate one from the other. This is faith. That is fanaticism.
What is faith? Simply put it means to believe in ‘something’ that possesses an intangible kind of superior power – usually that ‘something’ is called God but it can be anything. Certainly in today’s world more ‘faith’ is put in numbers that represent the power of money – and how much horror and destruction is the result of man’s slavish devotion to that God? Another time.
I want to stay with “religious” faith. The “believing in God” type of faith. It is only through faith that anyone can believe in God since God is not a logical nor provable concept – if it were you would interact with it naturally without the need for faith.
So what happens once you believe? You find yourself immersed mind, body and soul in a totally one-sided relationship within which you exercise no control. Having entered into such a relationship, you have to obey your God’s law; his every dictate, his every whim. The only option you have is to refuse and be damned for it. Not a light burden to bear.
So, what does he want from you in this obedience? That depends on your God’s character or attributes.
If he’s the generic deity conceived of as being absolute love then this would be what he’d want: That his followers live a kind of life that would mimic or emulate who he is. You would look at these God believers and you would feel ashamed of yourself for being such a selfish-thinking person compared to them. You would see the sincerity and depth of love they have for one another and it would be beyond anything you’d ever seen before. They would live simple lives full of compassion. You’d encounter them everywhere sharing their resources and helping others. They’d never complain no matter how difficult their lives are. You’d look into it deeper and lo and behold, you’d see miracles as a result of their passage. You’d find the homeless and other rejects and discards of society in their homes. If you queried them about political issues, or about money problems, they’d smile at you and ask why you spend time worrying about such silly things when the world is so full of sorrow and one life so short.
You would watch their children emulating their parents. They’d be out in the community doing chores for others and helping in whatever way they could. The older ones would be instructing the younger and any other inclined to listen in. If you asked these youngsters why they are giving their time helping others rather than indulging in recreational pastimes, playing sports or just hanging out they’d tell it to you straight: it’s how believers are supposed to live and really, it makes me feel good to do this. It’s not because people think I’m a good kid you see, but because of the way it makes me feel inside. Nothing else could make me feel this good about myself.
Understand I’m not speaking of exceptions here, but the norm. If you asked any of them how they feel about those who disagree with them, or who may make their lives harsh because of misunderstanding or envy, they’d tell the truth: it’s hard to accept but it’s how we must live. So we endeavour to love our enemies. And we try to explain or we try to help them.
You may ask them: What if you were really persecuted because of the way you are, what then? And they’d all say the same thing: It’s not for us to determine the course of events. If society turns against us, it should come as no surprise. We would accept it, not because we are afraid to fight back but because ‘fighting back’ has never amounted to any significant change and our faith forbids it in any case. It is endurance that makes us strong in the end. That is how the world changes.
Strangely those who believe in a generic “God of love” do not act that way. Even more strange, those who believe in their religion-based God; who consider themselves the only true believers, even less so. Why? Because to be successful a religion must have the numbers. Numbers mean money and money means power. So the ‘true faith God’ has to cater to basic selfishness in order to keep up his numbers and stay in the Powers’ game of control.
It’s not hard to please this God. Do your religious thing. Pay your dues. Attend meetings. Accept what you are told without question. If your Church or Mosque or Temple says God wants you to go to war to kill the enemies of your country or religion, or round up your non-believing neighbours and “put them to the sword” (a favourite divine expression from the Old Testament) you don’t question that. You do what you’re told and as much as possible, find enjoyment or profit (preferably both) in the performance of your divine duty. History has clearly shown how true faith expresses on this world. Current events show nothing has changed.
Coming back to the title, the problem is in the concept of “faith.” Faith is a one-side relationship within which the believer is totally dependent upon the object of his faith. God’s will (whatever that may be, it’s as flexible for those who believe as it is intransigent for those who refuse to!) is not open to discussion. It is not debatable. Only religious institutions through their appointed leaders can interpret that will. It is not open to personal interpretation or understanding without violating the articles of faith.
My conclusion? Faith can only express through degrees of fanaticism. I know this experientially. Many believers of my acquaintance are shocked, outraged, upset, over my claim that I have no soul and that I can ‘bargain’ with God as an equal on any given day; that I should think God and I can sit at our round table and discuss serious issues. Yet should that not be the most common aspect of being a believer? Why should it be thought of as blasphemous that someone would develop a working relationship with God? Because believers arrogate to their institution the sole right to communicate with God. Those not of their faith who claim such a thing are consorting with demons, or at best, are delusional.
How big a step is it now, given the parameters of power necessary for religious institutions to ‘sick’ their followers upon those blasphemers and send them to hell through persecution and genocide? Not big at all, just a slight shift in the power structure.
So, what prompted this? An exchange with a very, shall I say, passionate person regarding the faith. No matter what I do now, since I refuse to tip-toe through the tulips of religion’s thorny garden, I am utterly lost. Since I reject ‘the faith’ then I have to be speaking for the Devil. If I dedicate my life to serving others, it’s because subconsciously seduced by the Devil I promote an agenda of destruction towards the ‘true ’ faith.
But here’s my greatest crime. I defend a person who after waiting upon God for personal healing and getting nowhere turned to ‘familiar’ spirits and found healing from them. This person is wrong, case closed. If God won’t heal you, then you have but one option: to die… as Hemingway might aptly have put it… alone, in the rain. This person is going to hell, but I even more so for agreeing with his choices, supporting ‘what works’ rather than tradition or faith.
How far, say in the last two thousand years, have Earthians come in understanding of their personal responsibility to life? In terms of true compassion? In terms of self-empowerment allowing them to make their own choices based on logic and common sense rather than following the dictates of their institutions and their institutional Gods?
Of the inauguration of at least two world-class religions; of the great constitutional promises of freedom and equality; of religious reformation; of ‘liberal’ churches; of ‘liberal’ governments; of social revolutions intended to make this world a better place in which to live, what can be said?
This: it’s been a catastrophic failure fuelled by faith bathed in bloodshed and unimaginable violence against nature and the helpless.
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|Reviewed by Lois Christensen
|Faith is the substance of thing unseen. You have to have your own faith and the type you have is up to you. I have faith in my God and he knew when I was to be born and when I am to die, that is my belief. It is hard to imagine me not having a God like this to worship. He does have many mysteries to explain in his own time, and I do think Fanaticism is carrying away to the extreme of God, but many people do depend on prayers and God's willingness to heal and help them in all their problems. He is a great and wonderful God as I see him. Only through faith do I see him though.|
|Reviewed by Jackie (Micke) Jinks
|I won't expect you to agree, but I'll tell you what I know: There is a love for me and from me that is between the Greatest Being there is. He allows all my senses to recognize His Powers on Earth from time beginning; He offers me opportunities that are my choices to utilize - good or bad; He brings to me a well of sadness and joy so that I may learn the differences; He supplies me with my needs, not my wants, so that I will respect such treasures; He shows me that kindness and evil exist - what is right and wrong - and gives me the will to understand both; He recognizes my doubts while enlightening me with faith of life; He is mine, and I am His. This I know, and it strengthens me. He is for others to find their way...
Thank you for posting this Sha'Tara message, Reg...and allowing me my expressions.
Blessings and Love ~~ Micke
|Reviewed by John Leko
|...again thanking you for sharing insight and giving us food for thought...
|Reviewed by Elizabeth Price
|I agree with Bonnie here. We have free will and call it what you will, I don't blindly follow anywhere. But great thought provoking write. Liz|
|Reviewed by Tom Hyland
REG - quite a cerebral write. After reading it, then read all of the comments posted before me. Bottom line? Touchy subject! Like every controversial issue, each side, and each person has some correct points or views, and some wrong ones.
Good old Dichotomous thinking -extremism - black or white - must be one extreme, or the other. I propose that this simple fact is the root cause of 90+ percent of the major problems in the world, both currently, as well as historically.
Now, my two cents worth - I am 67, and although raised in, and indoctrinated in The Holy Roman Catholic Religion (as a child taught by Catechism that IT was the only TRUE religion) - Received the Sacraments of: Baptism - Penance - Holy Communion - Confirmation - Marriage - and having served as a volunteer in a Cathedral Choir for 16 years - I both Sang and Rang bells for JPII when he was here in Baltimore - I HAVE FAITH, BUT DO NOT BELIEVE IN ANY "ORGANIZED" RELIGIONS - NONE! My God is a Personal God, within me! As a mere mortal, I make mistakes, but IF there is any HEREAFTER, I'll worry about that WHEN I GET THERE!
I totally agree with the fact that THEY keep the "sheep" in the fold, using FEAR tactics, in order to keep the MONEY COMING IN, to maintain POWER! While the concept of religion may have started out as a HUMANE function, it has been CORRUPTED by Mankind.
FANATICISM is the WORST EXTREME of religion. PURE PROPAGANDA! INSANITY in its worst form! Mass genocide using the concept of GOD as a scapegoat!
Compromise - Empathy - Understanding - Dialogue - Searching for a MIDDLE GROUND in order to find a WIN-WIN situation for all extremes - THAT is the only TRUE answer or solution to any problem, issue, or situation!
A reed that is supple, and able to BEND, will not be BROKEN by a strong wind!
"There are but three things that last - Faith, Hope, and Love. And the greatest of these is Love!"
Peace ... Tom.
|Reviewed by Michelle Mead
|Faith crosses the line into fanaticism when humility becomes obsession. Faith is a complete trust or confidence in a religious belief, a belief is a firm opinion, and opinions are views held as probable. You cannot have views held that you think are probable and be obsessive, because the nature of obsession is to persist towards an idea to the point of blindness to any others, whereas as faith is a leap, a hope, a letting go. Fanatics, being obsessive, can't let go. The waters are not even remotely murky. It's total crap that it is only through faith that one can believe in God, because there are people who believe in a type of God, that has no bearing on an organized religion, and faith is a belief in a religion. Faith as complete trust or confidence, say faith in your lover, has no bearing upon religion or God. I know people who interact with a God without a specific faith. Whoever has a one-sided relationship with their God is obviously in the wrong faith, and I think someone who has actually had a spiritual walk within or without of a faith would know that, which leads me to believe you have not in your life. Of course a believer has control, that's a little thing called free will, just ask all the people killing in the name of religions because they conveniently misinterpret doctrines to suit their aims. You do not have to obey God's every dictate and whim, either. We are all on paths with pitfalls and beautiful sunrises, and to think that we will avoid them by obeying is ludicrous. We are humans and not Gods. If we were that perfect, obeying every whim, we would be Gods.And depending on the faith, I can only speak of my own, you are not damned for it-it is a religion of trying to be a better soul, not necessarily acheiving perfection-not even Saints do that. St. Paul, Augustine, Therese of Lisieux, Mother Theresa, just to name a few off the top of my head, were far from perfect, and they certainly weren't damned. Paragraphs 6-10 are true, and that is why people who like to state what good "Christians" they are ought to think about the Man with whom they are comparing themselves-it was Ghandi and Neitzsche who both said something to the effect that was only ever one Christian, which has much truth-the rest of us are trying to be the best Christians that we can, but usually not meeting up to His perfection. To say a successful religion must have the numbers is also not true. There are people in countries where they are persecuted for their faith and are in the minority yet still believe, even at the threat and promise of death. Most of the most powerful religious of many faiths are/were also the poorest, and what they have, they give away, so to say that money is needed, or power, is also an uneducated view of the faithful religious.I am not sure whom you are speaking of as "true God" whatever that means, but many of the world religions are so far from your description of selfishness, and do THE MOST work helping the poor and downtrodden in the world-who do you think is in the worst areas of the world feeding, educating, giving medicine to, the poor, film stars? No, it's the religious, and they themselves have nothing. Alot of the social services helping me are faith-based, so I know all about being one of the poor benefitting from supposedly selfish religions. Accepting what we are told without question is for pew-warmers. The people who have and do speak up for change within the church are the ones whose names we still remember-as catholics, we have Vatican 2, which brought about many changes. It is MAN who goes to and demands wars, not Gods. Man's interpretations are not to be confused with the actual words of God. People seem to not know enough to take the Bible, Koran etc, in a historical perspective, and those are the fanatics. Again this true faith you speak of, if you think war, etc is how faith expresses itself on this world, you are choosing to look at the fanatics and ignore the faithful. I could go all night about the comparisons within history of fanatics as opposed to the good deeds and effects done by the faithful at peace.Faith is not totally dependent on the object of the faith, it is a transformation of self and God, not one sided, but guided-again, this sounds like a lack of inner transformation with any form of God/Goddess. God's will is debatable, what kind of marshmallow brain thinking is that? If, as you say, it is so unknown as to be called "whatever that is' it must then be debatable as it is unknown, and the unknown is always debatable. We are debating it right now. Religious leaders cannot determine God's will, they can only give advice within God's will, otherwise, then it would be their will, which would be against their beliefs. God's will has nothing to do with the articles of faith!!! God's will is a spiritual path, not an article of faith! I mean, really, the people who are worried about you having no soul and bargaining with God ought to be worrying about themselves. I have faith and could care less if you do, my job here is to take care of me and my relationship with God, you would be on your own as my friend-we all have our own journey, no one should ruin it for someone else. Of course you should sit at a proverbial round table and chat with God, we should all have an inner room where we can do that, we don't need a church or hundreds of people, not if our relationship with God is a healthy one. It is really nuts to think that all religious people are going to be sicked on blasphemers. Really. There are alot of non-fanatics out there, I know them. ANyone who spoke that way to you was uneducated in the faith or choosing to be a fanatic and drive you away, otherwise they would not have acted like they did. Even the devil was at one time an angel. Again, the person who is threatened by other faiths is not very safe feeling within their own. I could give lots of examples here, but this is getting long. If people actually followed what their religions said with an intelligence and understanding of things like parables and the fact that their worlds consisted of small areas in ancient times, thus things were much different, then they would be doing all of what you said, not going against any dictates of their Gods-it is how they act now that goes against the dictates-read, read, read. ALOT can be said about how people of various faiths have helped the world. I could discuss this all night long. The last paragraph is a fanatical view of fanatics, not a questioners view of the definition of faith.|
|Reviewed by Pierre Ortega
|I think first and foremost we need to have faith in ourselves and our own capability, We are actually capable individually of making many great changes in our world for the good, Yet our capability is restrained by our religion, our beliefs, and the fanaticism that some
become entangled with as a result of them. Excellent and important write.
Take care, Pierre
|Reviewed by Evelyn Simon
|Faith is a human emotion. You can have faith, like the article says, in anything. Any one body of believers in God, obviously is a human being, therefore we experience humanly things like illnesses, temptations, doubts, etc. I know this isn't your article Reg, but by posting it, you were probably curious to find out how the believers would react to it. God is the creator of the world. The world is the Lords and the fullness thereof. We are God's creation. Just as your parent's home they bought before you were born, is theirs. Your parents love you, just as God loves us, but if you are continuously disobeying them, you will be punished, or corrected. God will judge you according to His commandments, and do the same. This is why believers do as they are told; we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior, learned from the (Holy Bible) where His instructions are found, and follow them. Have faith and obey God, and when your time of death has come, He will obey you.
He will welcome you into His Eternal kingdom.
God's believers have faith that God will do what He said, if we do as He says.
|Reviewed by Morning Star
|You must get to know him
And love him but faith is entirely up
To that person beliefs and religion!
My life has been filled with many
Ups and downs
Illnesses and so many other things
Having to grow up at the age of seven
And take care of myself
The one thing I found out
That my path I did not walked alone
God was with me through at all
I don’t need to see him to know
He exist and the many miraculous
Favors his done for me
Without my faith I don’t
Know what would have been of me!!
Peace Love and Light….and hugess too…Morning Star
|Reviewed by MaryGrace Patterson
|There is much to think about in this write! Faith is something one believes in with a supreme being who watches over us, guides us and is the maker of all things . Faith gives us substance, nourishment, cause and the will to go on.. Hitler was a fanatic,, need I say more!....M|
|Reviewed by Sandra Corona
|My dear Regis, you've truly pondered over this a LOT!
Me? I believe thoroughly and without question ... NOT some dogma but the BIBLE.
Remember in January of this year when I asked for prayers for my granddaughter, Mariah, not even 23 months old at the time, because one of her eyes was swollen. Born with ROP, both retinas detached before she was 3 months old but were reattached. My daughter called to say that the 'buckle' around Mariah's affected eye was 'too tight' and causing eye pressure ... which could cause her eye to implode (burst in her head), destroying not only the eye but possibly taking her life! Surgery was pending! I immediately contacted everyone by email to explain the situation and ask them to pray for Mariah.
Before the surgeon touched Mariah, in post-op, he asked for another ultra-sound. (Mariah's brother, Doogie, has been treated by this doctor in the past; THIS action--to review the operative site--is unusual, hasn't happened before.)
In the time between setting up the surgery and the surgery, the belt around Mariah's eye 'SLIPPED' lower, her eye pressure was normal and surgery (which could have left her permanently blind in that eye if the retina redetached) was cancelled!!
I call that divine intervention! A miracle!
As you know, we are raising Doogie (Mariah's half-brother) who had both retinas detach, were reattached, detached again and then were unoperable. Prayers were said for Doogie too but he has been totally blind (total black--eyes open or shut--is all he 'sees')since age 8; he's now 14!
Mariah is only 2 ...
I 'wonder' but never ask 'why' ... after all, I am totally deaf--born with congenital, progressive nerve deafness (the hearing of a 65 year old construction worker at birth; 33% GONE at birth).
Life is important! Though I'd love to sit at a table and converse with Jesus, the first thing I'd say would be 'Thank You!" :).
|Reviewed by Bonnie May
|Very wonderful thought provoking write. I guess I believe faith is something unseen that you believe. since God gave us free choice it is totally up to us to believe in him or not. That's why they call it faith. For me it is easy, I am not a puppet for the God I believe in wouldn't want me to be. I am of strong mind and will. I have seen first hand the miracles of prayer and through this life it is my faith the sustains me. I hope you find what your looking for my friend, only you can find that peace and no one can or should force you. Love and prayers, Bonnie|