The only thing

October 26, 2005

A response to a video I wrote for school tonight. I’m sharing it because I think it’s timely.

Someone in class said that faith is the opposite of reason. I disagree. I think faith is the opposite of fear. Most people who have faith or religion as a part of their lives also use reason, and are willing to let other people see things in a different way. I think fundamentalism rises when fear rises, as the video showed so well. Some of the fear is a natural response to poverty, feeling powerless to become a part of the mainstream, and to a rapidly changing world. As we saw in the video, fear is often spurred on by disingenuous leaders. In contrast, I saw the leaders who were sincere encouraging and uplifting people when they spoke to them.

I used to be confused by the religious right because they say they are followers of Jesus Christ, and yet, as a group, they are in favor of using guns and war. They often seem angry and hateful. Now I’m not confused by it. Their expression of Christianity is an expression of fearful fundamentalism, just like fundamentalists of other religions, not the expression of people following a century old leader who says to “turn the other cheek.” The video emphasized the similarities between fundamentalists from different religions when it showed fundamentalist Jewish people in Israel at a shooting range. If you take away their yarmulkes, they would look like stereotypical Christian fundamentalists who belong to the NRA.

I don’t think there is a split between world religions. I don’t think there is a split between being religious and using technology or being scientific. I think there is a split between fundamentalism and faith, between clinging to the past and moving forward with hope. Pat Robinson and the Ayatollah Khomeini, and other fear mongering leaders, have much more in common with each other than they do with faithful followers of their respective religions. I don’t think fundamentalism is a matter of individual character flaws either. I think fundamentalism rises out of fear which is a natural reaction to very real outer circumstances. It is also a reaction to imagined outer circumstances. Pat Robinson gave a terrific example of fear mongering on the video, when he told his Christian audience that atheists and humanists were out to hunt them down.

With all my heart I believe in democracy and believe that people should be allowed to worship how, where, and what they may. I think any force fighting for a theocracy is inherently unfaithful and fearful. To ensure that we all continue to be able to freely and responsibly search for meaning, and continue to have many other freedoms, I think we need to make individual changes, and policy changes. Politically, and in business we need to act with the knowledge that having “haves” and the “never-have-a chance-of-havings” is dangerous to everyone. We don’t need to be compassionate to work for a flatter world. (Although I think compassion is soul healing.) We just need to have a reasoned assessment of what is in our own self interest. I think we need to do everything we can on a policy level to allow everyone in the game. On an individual level, I hope we will all contribute to the environment of hope rather than fear. One way to do this is to see our underlying similarities and avoid demonizing other people. Another way to do this is to be careful what we put in our minds. For example, we can choose to watch real news, and refuse to support fear mongering. Education, one of my personal favorites, is also a good solution to fear, especially for the people who are mostly making choices based on imagined fears.

Something I really admire about the British is how they responded in WW II. They were under attack and they could have easily been overcome by Nazi forces, but they rallied together as a country. They didn’t give up, they made sure their cities were blacked out, and took their street signs down so an invading army would get lost. I think their tenacity saved them. In our individual lives and as a society, our courage has saved us again and again, and will continue to do so. I think we are in a time that exemplifies the saying that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

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5 Responses to “The only thing”

  1. Andrea Says:

    Amen, sista. Inflammatory fundamentalists are as arrogant and unconscionable as the most ardent jihadi propagandist. I always got stuck on that “fear itself” quote when I was younger, thinking it uselessly circular. But it does make more sense in times of great stress, as you say.

  2. Andrea Says:

    Heh. I meant American inflammatory fundamentalists, of course. Talk about uselessly circular…

  3. jo_jo Says:

    I think all conservatism (of which fundamentalism is killer app) is based on fear. Ironically, I think it takes more faith to let go and trust that you will be OK no matter what happens or what anyone else does or says. To me, the faithful are the open-minded.

    Best,
    Joanna

  4. Catana Says:

    And these are fearful times–from war and violence to economic downslides and rapid social change, and now drastic climate change, pandemics, etc. People are scrambling for any boat that will carry them to safety.

    “Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death.” Fear can destroy whole societies.

  5. Braidwood Says:

    Thanks for all your comments!


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