That’s too bad

The recent resurgence of passionate, often barbaric, dedication to a religion, such as ISIS ( Islamic State), among the youths took me by a complete surprise.  Why do middle class educated young Canadians frock to the cause of an extreme religious fanaticism?  Today, I thought it was cool among the youths to be atheists and to predict a demise of organized religions.  They point to the diminishing size of many Christian congregations as a proof.   But religious fanatics who don’t mind dying for the cause?  What is happening?

Demise of traditional religions has been predicted for a long time.  Already during the 1940’s, Dietrich Bonheoffer, who was executed by Adolf Hitler predicted that:  “As science advances, the space God had occupied is getting smaller.”   This is why some of us were hoping that such a wake-up call would motivate us to a more vigorous search for a true mission of the authentic religions.

Violence and barbarism by religious people are nothing new.  Officially blessed by a respectable denomination in the Southern U.S., the violently anti-Black, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic movement Ku Klux Klan went on to killing rampage in the United States only several decades ago.  There were many bloody conflicts among Buddhist denominations in Japan for many centuries too.   Warrior monks were legends I grew up hearing about.  Crusaders like Knights Templars were officially glorified for mass killing of Muslims.  Intolerance to differences that led to the burning at stake of many heretics is another crime committed by the organized religion.  Even the supposedly most tolerant Hinduism had a recent history of violence against other religions for the cause of Hindu-nationalism.  But I thought those were passing or the thing of the past.

Why do religions drive some people to such violent inhuman acts?  I think that the basic mistake they make is confusing faith from knowledge.  Religion is a matter of belief.  Belief is not knowledge.  Faith, by definition, always acknowledges possibilities of error.  Hence, no one has the right to cause death of another person in the name of faith.  This is why I am happy to put religions to a rigorous test.  That is the only way to keep religions honest and away from delusions, fanaticism, and superstitions.  This is why I am sad that religious fanaticism and fundamentalism are thwarting the journey of religions towards their true mission.




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