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The Fix for Foolish Fundamentalists
by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
For most, what one believes is sacred! When one embraces a religious belief, he or she is usually convinced that such belief comes from a source connected to God. As for the non-believers who fail to see what the believers consider to be the obvious truth (as believers see it), they can just go to hell. After all, as believers see it, because the non-believers are not with the believers, they are not only against the believers, they are also against God, and in the end, God will cast all non-believers into hell. This type of fire and brimstone theology is sacred to many different religious belief systems.
Are you a believer along these lines? Do you agree with these sentiments? Be honest! Do you agree even just a little bit? If you are a religious believer, the chances are, if you are honest with yourself, that you will answer, yes!
Herein lies the problems, problem one, and problem two. Problem one is clear and obvious. Anyone agreeing with such absolutes of religious beliefs is what we call a fundamentalist. It doesn't matter what religion we are talking about. This mentality is a psychological phenomena, and it exists in every religion, including yours, and including mine.
Fundamentalism is an attitude of absolute beliefs, regardless of rationality, or logic. It is usually an emotionally based position, and usually has no real deep thought, (if any thought at all), behind it. A fundamentalist can entertain any idea which agrees with, or tends to support, his or her own preconceived ideas. However, if we expose the fundamentalist to any idea, or beliefs, that even on its surface looks suspicious and nonconformist, out comes the fangs of blind faith, and the venomous attack of presumptuous righteous indignation.
Fundamentalists can be intellectuals, some may even be really smart. Their problem does not lie in their abilities to think, rather their problem lies with their willingness to think. Essentially, they don't want to think “outside the box” because they think that anything outside the box is bad, and wrong. Convinced of this in their hearts, their hearts thus stop their brains from thinking, and thus exploring, and discovering new things.
This is why fundamentalists crave old-style control and limits, be it in culture, society or anywhere else. Fundamentalists create from themselves their own little bubbles of reality, which are always at odds with the realities around them.
It is this constant clash that gives rise to fundamentalist dreams of end-times gloom, and doom. For the fundamentalist believer, the only possible end for those who are not of the “faith” will be excruciating punishment. What else can befall the non-believer? After all, in the believer's eye, the non-believers have it coming, and deserve every bit of torment that they get. Needless to say, these apocalyptic projections of the fundamentalist are nothing more than a projection of the evil, and turmoil, going inside that individual's own heart, and mind. This then sums up problem number one. Now, on to problem number two.
Problem number two is the fundamentalist in denial. He or she is the fundamentalist who denies being a fundamentalist. The fundamentalist in denial is usually the one who holds fundamental beliefs, but refuses to admit that such beliefs are fundamentalist, or worse, acknowledges the beliefs, but finds nothing wrong with them. This definition makes this second type of fundamentalist more dangerous than the first type previously described. We might call this type the “friendly fundamentalist,” the one who puts on the face of tolerance but who at the same time, is the most intolerant of them all.
The fundamentalist is, by nature, also a supremacist. He or she always believes that his or her beliefs are not only the right ones, but they are the only right ones. All other beliefs held by others are wrong, period. The fundamentalist looks at the views of others as being dangerous to their own views, and therefore, dangerous to the world, and ultimately dangerous to God, Himself. The fundamentalist often considers himself or herself specially chosen by none less than God, to represent God, and feels mandated to impose the interpreted Will, and Way, of God upon all non-believers. Any way we look at it, fundamentalism is a dangerous psychological position, which presents many societal dangers.
As a psychological condition, fundamentalism infects the minds, and hearts of individuals in every religious, and non-religious group. Today we have fundamental religionists, and fundamental secularists. We even have fundamental atheists. It is the supremacist attitude of the fundamentalists that inhibit, or outright prevent, members of differing belief systems to get together, discuss their differences, and discover common denominators upon which bridges can be built, and unity sought.
Combating religious fundamentalism is no easy task. Any attack on fundamentalism is almost always viewed as an attack on religion, and thus equally, as an attack on God. But, this is not true! While religion may indeed be the problem, it may well be that God is the only cure!
How to properly address religious fundamentalism can be learned from the character role model of Moses, found in the Bible. In Numbers 11:24-29, we find a story wherein which God gives of the spirit that He has placed on Moses and transfers it to the leaders of the nation, thus enabling them to also have psychic (prophetic), intuitive abilities to help judge, and lead the nation. Two such men upon whom this spirit rested were Eldad and Medad. The narrative states that when the spirit entered them they went off into a prophetic style trance.
They had become prophets, when master Moses was supposed to be the only prophet. This was interpreted to be an affront, and a challenge to Moses' religious uniqueness, and authority. Joshua, Moses' faithful right hand man informs his mentor about the “competition,” and advises that these two men should be prevented from displaying anymore such “spiritual” behaviors. Rather than respond in a (fundamentalist) jealous or controlling manner, Moses wishes them well, and adds that he wishes that everyone could have such meaningful personal spiritual experiences.
Joshua viewed his mentor as being unique, and special. Moses, however, is portrayed as not sharing that image of grandeur. Moses knew how beautiful, and how transformational an experience of prophecy is. He had no desire to keep such an experience to himself, as his personal acquisition, accessible to no other. Moses was glad to see others having this profound experience, and wished that more would follow.
Moses' attitude here was one of inclusion, as opposed to the fundamentalist attitude which is one of exclusion. Moses had personal experience of God, and this brought to him an inner depth of insight, and transformation as a person. Moses' message was always to encourage his people to experience God directly, even as he did.
When Eldad and Medad did just this, even if the circumstances of it happening were extraordinary, Moses was happy for them. Eldad and Medad were granted a glimpse of the awe, the wonder, and the beauty of an experience of something so much greater than what mere mortal man experiences daily. They experienced that “wow” moment. This single spiritual experience was enough to make Eldad and Medad recognize the foundational message of the entire Torah, which is that they are part of the great singularity of the universe, that YHWH is “One.” This is the spirit of prophecy.
All the universe, all existence, is integrally connected. All are parts of the one greater whole. All together are individual expressions of the One Sentient Consciousness (YHWH) that permeates all. This is what Eldad and Medad experienced, and what Moses wished everyone could experience. It is this direct spiritual experience, and awareness that tears asunder the fundamentalist, segregationist, supremacist mentality of one being better than, or superior to another.
In other words, it is the real experience of God that contradicts, and neutralizes the positions of all those who have no such experience of God, but nevertheless still claim to speak for God, or to represent “His” interests here on Earth.
Fundamentally, a fundamentalist is overcompensating his or her lack of experience of God with loud proclamations of blind faith. Bottom line, this is not the proper way. This is not right religion.
Seeking God, and being religious are becoming more and more mutually exclusive. This is killing religion in general, and doing harm to a great number of sincere religious individuals of the world's many religious systems.
God must return to First Place in the lives of those who claim to be seeking Him, and none should be so arrogant to claim to be representing His Will on Earth.
God does not need you, or I, to implement His Will. God is quite capable of implementing His own Will. After all, all things in nature are tools in God's Hand. God does not need the foolish fundamentalist expressing misguided faith, and thus misleading many. What we need is less religion, and more God. What we need is more natural Torah, and less unnatural fundamentalism.
Our job is to surrender to the Divine Will, not to impose a narrow-minded version of it on to others.
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