General Question

wundayatta's avatar

How can we end religious fanaticism around the world?

Asked by wundayatta (58525points) February 11th, 2013

The goal is coexistence. Peaceful coexistence. What can we do or what can be done to show people that coexistence is possible and desirable and that fanaticism is destructive and undesirable?

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55 Answers

ETpro's avatar

Oppose belief based solely of faith (the lack of any evidence) in favor of belief based on the weight of evidence.

elbanditoroso's avatar

We can’t. We never will.

Humanity, for the last 100,000 years, has always wanted to believe in some sort of a higher power. There are any number of reasons: to explain the weather, to give power to the leaders, and so on. Whatever the actual reason, mankind has had this urge to believe in something not of this world.

All civilizations have this – the ancient Minoans, Aztecs, Olmecs, whatever and wherever. It just got more codified and structured in the days of an after Old testament times.

Some scholar – I don’t remember who – said “If god didn’t exist, people would invent one”. I think that is true.

As for the suggestion to ‘reeducate’ people to be rational…. that’s a hoot. It’s sort of like saying to people that the central tenet of their life is no longer valid. It will never happen.

burntbonez's avatar

I believe that people living side by side with those of other faiths and beliefs is probably the best way to increase peaceful coexistence. It’s a double edged sword, though. Look at the middle east. In some places there, there have been times when Christians, Muslims and others have lived together peacefully. Lebanon has fits of peace. But it also has fits of war. Same with Iraq and Iran and many other places in that part of the world.

The US has been mostly a Christian country and it has done well. Will it do more poorly when non-Christian minorities grow in population? If they are a small size is that different from a large size? Like Hindus and Buddhists are ok at a small size. If they were a larger population, would that be a problem? Are Muslims going to become a problem because they are growing among the black population, or because they are growing or because they are known as an antagonistic religion? Or will they be incorporated because they are our neighbors, despite all these other differences?

glacial's avatar

I think humanity will outgrow the need for religion altogether, though it will be too gradual a process to allow for a blueprint. But as long as we have religion, there will always be extremists.

wundayatta's avatar

I think you are missing the point of my question (which is my fault for not asking it well). I’m not talking about ending religion. I’m talking about ending fanaticism. We all know there are middle of the road religious groups and more fanatic groups. Middle of the road have no problem coexisting. It is the fanatics that say their way or the highway. No room for coexistence.

I’m asking where does fanaticism come from and how can we address its underlying concerns (not the face concerns) in order that the fanaticism is no longer necessary and they can be happy living side by side with everyone else without feeling threatened.

What are they threatened by? My suspicion is that it is mostly pockebook issues. But I also think some of it is their fear of being wiped out. Some of it is a desire to protect a culture and certain perks, like male supremacy or something.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@wundayatta – my thinking is that all religions have their share of fanatics. Again, it is in the nature of society to have outliers, both on the side of fanaticism and fundamentalism, and on the side of secularity.

In other words, if you have religion, you will – by definition – have fanatics. It just goes with the territory.

But on a semantic level – what is a ‘fanatic’? One person’s ‘fanatic’ is another person’s ‘fervent believer’. Doesn’t the answer of “what is a fanatic” depend on whether you are being accepting or being critical?

wundayatta's avatar

Good point, @elbanditoroso. By fanatic, I mean someone who is intolerant of coexistence. Their attitude is that everyone must convert or they will be damned or are fair game to be killed or forcibly converted.

josie's avatar

It is unlikely to happen. Nothing in human history indicates that it would or could happen.
Your best expenditure of energy is figuring out how to protect yourself from fanatics- making sure they don’t get into government, making sure their irrational actions are subject to law, making sure they are not driven underground, national defense, even self defense if it ever gets that bad.

wundayatta's avatar

@josie You are saying it is a complete waste of time to think about fanatics in anything other than a self-defense and control posture? There is nothing that can be done to mitigate their fanaticism? We have learned nothing throughout human history about reducing fanaticism other than control and defense? I find that very difficult to believe.

Seek's avatar

It’s simple math: there will always be outliers. If we remove the Westboros and the Taliban, then next craziest people will then be the “fanatics”, and they’ll head in their own direction of crazy.

On the upside, we don’t currently have violent fanatics active in our government. At least, not ones that are burning our own people at the stake.

elbanditoroso's avatar


Not yet. It could happen as we move more and more towards a theocracy.

Sunny2's avatar

Fanaticism is part of human nature and I don’t think we’ll change it. It’s erroneous logic, but if something is good, some people see it as the best and take it up with great fervor. It isn’t just religion that people are fanatic about. It may be exercise, food, a political point of view, a sport, a hobby, you name it.

Unbroken's avatar

Consider the role governments and religous leaders have had in encouraging fanaticism by increasing fear. I think any road we take toward peaceful coexistence will have to come from the people.

The best we can hope for is to educate and build diversity. That will leave less room for intolerance and ignorance.

Societal pressure to be tolerant. It won’t stop fanatics but it might slow them or decrease their numbers organically.

Jaxk's avatar

It seems the fanatic is always the ‘Other Guy’. I’m not a fanatic because I’m rational, it’s those other guys that believe irrational crap. It doesn’t matter if your talking about religion, politics, economics, if you don’t see the light, you’re a fanatic. We should just get rid of everyone that doesn’t see the light and we’ll rid ourselves of the fanatics.

CWOTUS's avatar

I like the response from @Seek_Kolinahr. “Fanatics” will always be with us, and they’ll be identifiable, as @Jaxk suggests, because “they’re not like us”.

The problem is – has always been – with violence inspired by religious belief. Fortunately the West has gotten away from that since the violent civil wars between Catholic and Protestant, and various pogroms against the Jews (and the Holocaust, of course). But we think “we’ve gotten past that” because we haven’t experienced a European / American revival of the Holocaust in 60 years. Even in terms of human history, that’s not even a ripple on the pond.

Now we’re dealing with Islamic fundamentalism, and as I routinely point out, Islam as a religion is about 700 years younger than Christianity. Think about what Christians were doing – to Jews, to each other, and to Muslims – 700 years ago. We just have to continue to muddle our way through this shit, and prosecute violence, whether retail or wholesale, with measures (probably violent in turn, but based on “let’s stop this violence” rather than “my god says it’s okay to be violent against the likes of you”) designed to eliminate more violence.

We’ll get there, but it won’t happen overnight.

flutherother's avatar

The best single way I can think of would be to end injustice. People’s views become extreme when they feel they are being treated unfairly.

JLeslie's avatar

When everyone is safe, secure, fed, and content.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Religious adherents (from whatever religion in which they believe) are always going to produce fanatics. This is what makes religion(s) ridiculous – it becomes the ‘Christians’ vs the ‘Muslims’, or it becomes the ‘Scientology’ vs the ‘Mormons’ (or whatever religion that you choose). Realistically, I don’t think that there is any way to stop the fanatics from taking center stage. All you have to do is look at the way that the so-called ‘Christians’ in our government are steadily taking away the rights of women to make their own choices about their own bodies, & then then think about how the ‘Muslims’ treat the women over which they have control. It comes down to (basically) a GENDER issue. Women tend to believe that we have as much value as a man does, but most religion(s) think that women should be subject to being ruled by men – even the Supreme Court said that “our Constitution does not grant equality to women”. So, as long as religion(s) & government(s) march in lock-step together, you are going to have fanatics.

orlando's avatar

Give ‘em L-S-D?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

You could just round them all up and nuke ‘em. But then, if you really want peace, you’d have to nuke the fanatical atheists, too.

You can’t complain about religious fanatics without complaining about anti-religion fanatics either. There are fanatics on both sides, and if we are to truly coexist, then both sides have gotta go.

antimatter's avatar

The problem with religion is that every religious dude thinks his religion is right and that his or her religion is the ultimate solution that can give the ultimate answer to the greatest question ever. What happens when we die? We invented religion because no one can answer that question. There is absolutely no surety what will happen when we die. Than it’s starts creating religions, it creates the whole bang lot from Buddha to Zionism and everybody becomes fanatical arrogant assholes who will try to force their religion down on each other. Religion is like political parties selling a promise and a package in order to win the most votes. And as we know human nature, humans don’t like to be shown other ways when they believe in something, this fierce competition amongst us will never allow us to life in harmony or co exist with our own religions. We are simply too arrogant and judgmental for that ever to happen.

avaeve's avatar

This is an impossible task. You only stand a chance of success in one criteria: the religion has to teach tolerance, the religion cannot teach to have 100% faith and the religious person has to be willingly open to a logical discourse on this subject. The percentage of religions and people that fit this criteria is most likely too small and even within the criteria, it is a case by case basis with a 50/50 chance of success. You don’t have the money or the man power to even attempt this on a large scale.

Hypothetically, even if you were to solve religious fanaticism, it would be replaced with other forms of fanaticism. Solutions would suffer the same problems as solving religion.

SamandMax's avatar

@burntbonez I think you might want to reword that to ”generally the US has done well”. There have been publicized clashes between Christians and Muslims in the US.
The more memorable of which was in New York regarding the building of a mosque close to Ground Zero. I think to say the US has done well full stop is perhaps a “hopeful” generalization more than a “hoped for” truth.

Bill1939's avatar

There are many historical examples proving that people of different races and religions successfully live together when everyone in their community has the means, derived from the use of their talents, to support a family. When economic times get tough, divisions begin to arise along family (which means racial and religious) lines. Fanaticism flourishes in fearful times. Instigators and politicians know this and add to public angst; mobs are more easily manipulated than individuals.

rooeytoo's avatar

Even if you get rid of religious fanatics, there will still be those who are fanatical and willing to fight about something else. It is the nature of humans.

Shippy's avatar

The same way we get rid of sex maniacs. Ignore them.

Bill1939's avatar

Most of the evils that humans embrace arise from the predilection of their genes. Perhaps alterations of our DNA by geneticists will make the transition from an animal being to a spiritual one easier in the future.

ETpro's avatar

@Bill1939 One can at least hope.

mattbrowne's avatar

By using the following four approaches:

1) Replacing the idea of absolute truths with co-existing spiritual truths (your way, my way approach) and making it clear that there’s a difference between beliefs and facts

2) Replacing the idea of fixed religions with evolving religions (believing in a loving God who gave individual humans and entire societies the potential to grow spiritually and otherwise)

3) Stop protecting theocratic fascism and other forms of intolerant, totalitarian religions making it clear than only tolerant religions are protected by the freedom of religion principle

4) Stop making religious people choose between science and religion, pointing out that “there are those who have religious beliefs that conform with observable facts as much as any scientific theory, which means that their beliefs do not conflict with science as they do not attempt to address issues that are observable/provable through scientific means.”

Atheists can help end religious fanaticism by following approach number 4. Many American atheists deny American fundamentalists an escape route by telling them that religion is complete nonsense and not believing in God is the only true way to go for any decent, rational human being.

burntbonez's avatar

Very sensible approach, @mattbrowne.

wundayatta's avatar

Thankyou, @mattbrowne. You’ve got some useful ideas there.

Paradox25's avatar

Whether most on this website want to hear this or not, most people around the world believe there is an afterlife with consequences for our actions whilst alive on earth. Most people also believe there is a higher power as well, however you choose to define such an entity. Common sense would tell me there is a good reason for this, considering that most of these individuals are not adherent religionists.

I’m going to give an opiniated answer here, just like those who make comments such as “I know there is no god” do frequently on here, to answer this question. It is very obvious to me (and most others) that our minds survive the death of our physical bodies, regardless of whether there is a god or not, and many scientists have taken up researching this in place of relying upon religious dogma and blind faith alone.

I’ll answer this question by stating that putting the issue of our minds surviving physical death in the bracket of science rather than religion would end most fundamentalism. If it was a verified scientific fact that we will pay for our actions towards others inevitibly on the ‘Other Side’, rather than this issue being reliant upon religious faith, then I really do believe that most fundamentalism would vanish. I also believe that most people really would behave differently as well, and for the better, including those in power such as CEO’s, politicians, law enforcement, etc.

burntbonez's avatar

Why do you believe that scientific proof of life after death would make fundamentalists vanish? I would think it would make them more fanatic than ever.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Paradox25 , The violence is not between believers and non-believers. It is between fundamentalists of different faiths. These are people who are in agreement over creationism and moral and other issues that a casual observer might say are the most important, but kill each other because one side says that Jesus is the son of God and another side says that God dictated the Koran to Mohammed. This is just so extraordinarily senseless. Can’t we at least fight over something that makes a difference?

mattbrowne's avatar

@LostInParadise – Not necessarily. Right now fundamentalists Sunni Muslims kill non-fundamentalist Shiites again and again.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne The Shiite Mullahs in Iran are fundamentalists in their own right, and they sponsor Middle Eastern terrorism to kill plenty of Sunni Muslims and other sects—any but their own.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – But keep in mind that Iran’s radical Shiite mullahs also sponsor Sunni radicals, e.g. Hamas, although is often gets denied.

Paradox25's avatar

@burntbonez No, I believe the opposite would happen for the following reasons.

1. Most of the evidence for survival (which I’ve posted dozens of times on here over the past 3 years to never get read by most), such as through mediumship, automatic writings, near death experiences, etc repeatedly suggest that cruelity to both animals and people is never justified.

2. The evidence also tells those who look at the material that I have that the most important part of our existence is to be in service to others and to have compassion/empathy for others, but this must not be done at the welfare of animals or any persons regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sex, etc.

3. The real meaning of the Law of Attraction (not the new age stuff floating around out there) tells us that how we behave here will determine what will happen to us when we pass on, not what we believe. In other words it is ourselves that punish/reward our actions according to natural law rather than a vengeful sky daddy placing judgement on us.

Hopefully if these concepts are accepted by mainstream science in the near future then they’ll have a much more powerful meaning to them as opposed to relying on religious faith. This would hurt fundamentalism, both the secular and religious versions of it, at its core. Obviously the most adherent religionists and authoritarians would likely not openly accept what counters their beliefs or evil motives, but it wouldn’t hurt and would likely help to prevent fundamentalism from developing nevertheless.

LostInParadise's avatar

Throughout history, those who claim to adhere most closely to religious doctrine have committed heinous crimes in its name. What makes you think that this pattern is going to change?

burntbonez's avatar

@Paradox25 I’m asking about scientific evidence, not hearsay evidence. You know, evidence that is reproducible by other observers under independent conditions.

If there were such evidence, then fanatics would go crazy, because they’d have scientifically accepted proof of their point of view. They would have proof that God says what they say He says. They’d use that to obliterate any other points of view and force people to believe what they say. And who could doubt them, since it would be science supporting their view of the world.

Paradox25's avatar

Not if the scientific evidence for an afterlife or god counters the fundamentalist view (which I’ve repeatedly stated again and again).

CWOTUS's avatar

You might have to re-repeat that statement again, @Paradox25. And again.

wundayatta's avatar

But then it wouldn’t be scientific evidence for their God. Why are you repeating an irrelevant hypothetical?

rodlee's avatar

Religious fanaticism is fanaticism related to a person’s, or a group’s, devotion to a religion.
Religious fanaticism comes not from deep faith, but from a lack of it.They are someone who is convinced that just believing in God and living a moral life is simply not enough.They believes that the magnitude of those behaviors must be commensurate with the strength of his faith. The more they believes, the more they has to do to show it.

They also believes that his simple faith is not enough. He must do more. And if there is nothing reasonably more to do, he’ll invent something.

I personally don’t think that God wants us to do many of the things that a lot of people feel compelled to do as part of their faith.

Bill1939's avatar

I’m repeating what I said on February 11. “There are many historical examples proving that people of different races and religions successfully live together when everyone in their community has the means, derived from the use of their talents, to support a family. When economic times get tough, divisions begin to arise along family (which means racial and religious) lines. Fanaticism flourishes in fearful times. Instigators and politicians know this and add to public angst; mobs are more easily manipulated than individuals.”

Fanaticism will subside when societies are structure so that poverty, material and intellectual, has been greatly reduced.

ETpro's avatar

@rodlee Welcome to Fluther, and thanks for a great answer. I’m an atheist, but what you said about the lack of faith spurring religious fanaticism makes a lot of sense.

@Bill1939 Thanks for adding another layer to @rodlee‘s answer.

GracieT's avatar

@ETpro, you consider yourself a atheist rather than an agnostic now? I thought it was the reverse.

Seek's avatar

I’m an agnostic atheist. The two terms are complementary, not contradictory.

ETpro's avatar

@GracieT When my self definition generated controversy, I looked into definitions. Agnostics seem to be those who say there is a 50/50 chance there is a God, and whether there is or not is unknowable and will remain so. I am NOT in that camp. Science may some day answer the question. I see no evidence to prove that the question can never be answered.

I also see no evidence there is a creator god who intervenes in the day-to-day affairs of man. I refuse to believe in things no evidence persuades me to accept. And so by proper definition, I am an agnostic atheist.

It’s simpler to just say atheists, because that actually means one who does not profess a belief in God (“A”—not—“theist”—believer in god/s). There is a tiny community of atheistic atheists. These are people who say there is no God, and I absolutely know that to be true. Such individuals are rare, and tend to just be gadflies enjoying the hubbub their assertions cause. I’m not in that camp either.

GracieT's avatar

OK, @ETpro, @Seek_Kolinahr, clear as mud! :0)

Seek's avatar

The plainest I can make it -

Gnostic – ‘I know’
Agnostic – ‘I don’t know’

Theist – there is a god.
Atheism – there is no god.

It’s not an exact definition, but functional.

As an agnostic atheist, I don’t have an active belief in a deity, but if empirical evidence for a deity were presented, I would be willing to change my position.

GracieT's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr, that really helped. Thanks!

LostInParadise's avatar

There is one other less well known stance toward religious belief.
apatheist – ‘I don’t care’ because it does not make a difference

I classify myself as an apatheist.

ETpro's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Again, atheism does not mean there is no god.
“A” = Not
“theist” = Believer in God or gods.

So an atheist is one who is not a believer in god/s. That is different form on who declared they know there is no god. That is a believer in the non-existence of god/s and such individuals are exceedingly rare.

Seek's avatar

@ETpro of course. I was simply posting that as a simplified ‘field guide’ to the gnostic/agnostic theist/atheist issue.

It is true that you will rarely find a gnostic atheist.

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