Many religions develop fundamentalists, however, the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, exhibit some of the worst traits of unquestioning faith in the world at present.
It is important that people recognise these traits and try to combat them because of the threat they pose to the lives of non-fundamentalist, but devout followers as well as non-believers. The threats are very real, demonstrated daily by ISIS, Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, the Christian Right and Hasidism.
The key dogma of these extreme religious views is literalism. They contend that their holy scriptures are literally ‘the word of god’ and when the facts don’t fit the dogma, the literalists discard the facts. Moreover, the fundamentalists absolutely know they are right, that ‘god is on their side’, that they exclusively know what ‘god’ wants from us and that they are the only ones privileged with this knowledge.
Another obvious feature is that the fundamentalists want their dogma taught in schools. This serves to promote and spread their creeds and indoctrinates the next generation. It forces children into the religion of their fathers, to adopt their beliefs and their traditions. This indoctrination or ‘brainwashing’ is specifically to stop freedom of thought. To discuss or question the interpretation of the religious creed is made a crime and the perpetrator is ostracised, physically assaulted or killed.
Blind obedience and authoritarian control are strongly associated with fundamentalist regimes, although not exclusive to religion. Totalitarianism, whether religious, communist or fascist rely on the fear invoked by their leaders in order to control their peoples. If one is unable to question the dogma, then the dogma prevails. As liberal ideas are an anathema to fundamentalists, isolation and closed societies become inevitable.
During the twentieth century the rise of totalitarian governments and their disastrous consequences were evident with millions of human lives sacrificed for ‘ideas’. Now it’s the turn of religion to kill, repress and make miserable. One paradox of religious fundamentalism is that unbelievers, ‘infidels’, ‘heathens’, enjoy life much more than those who follow the dogmas and doctrines. The fundamentalists seek to impose their various ways of life on everyone, but the ones most hurt by them are believers themselves. As the fundamentalists can’t harm those who don’t believe except by physical means, terrorism and suicide bombers become their only resource. Violence and fear, inherent in fundamentalist societies, breed more violence and fear.
Although fundamentalists claim they have the answers to life and death they are without joy; the joy of living, art and music, the wonders of science and the universe, the happiness of loving friends and family. In all totalitarian societies, the people, leaders and followers alike, are wretched parodies of fulfilled human beings. Women and children suffer the most under these patriarchal rulers; they are regarded as possessions to be bought and sold for the prestige of their ‘owners’. Repression, prejudice, intolerance and in many cases simple ignorance, are the weapons used to keep the people trapped in poverty, disease and hunger. The majority bow down to the charisma and power of the few.
Religion survives on the promise of ‘heaven’. All the misery and suffering experienced now, in this life, will be worth it for the paradise of a life after death. It’s a win/win situation in which no-one has ever come back to complain. With absolutely no proof of its existence, people accept the awfulness of the present for an empty promise of a future. And what does this future promise? Only what is attainable on earth – food, leisure, comfort, even sex. With co-operation and love, heaven could be with us all, here and now. Instead religion, totalitarianism, literalism, love of power and wealth seek to control and suppress the human spirit of freedom, inquiry, love and progress.
The scriptures provide human beings with good and bad ideas. They should be open to debate and discussion. People should be allowed to question and decide which ideas are worth retaining and which should be rejected. Education and engagement with new concepts and principles are the ways to combat fundamentalism and we should embrace the freedom these bring. We won’t always get things right, there may be no ‘right’ way; the pursuit of a better way supplies the promise of a better future for ourselves and our children much more than a return to the tragic past of history.
Writer: Kay Saxon
The writer is a UK based columnist and commentator with THE PASHTUN TIMES. She is graduated from the University of Central Lancashire, North of England. She can be reached at
THE PASHTUN TIMES