“How can you say that your truth is better than ours?”
- Mumford and Sons
Fanaticism- Wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication, or enthusiasm
Fundamentalism- Strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles
These two words are often linked with religious movements, and when put together, they shed light on a key aspect of human nature. At our core, we seek answers about the meaning of life, searching for a higher power in which to believe. Because our humanness makes us reliant on our senses, an abstract idea like faith often does not suffice. And that is where fanaticism enters the picture. Throughout history, people of “faith” have latched on to religious leaders with wildly excessive and completely irrational devotion in hopes of finding the “truth.”
Take for instance the anabaptist movement of the 1500s in Munster, Germany. Martin Luther and others rightly accused the church of abusing its power and going astray from its original mission. As is often the case, a religious movement took a crazy turn that led to tragedy. While the leaders of this movement had a valid argument about adult baptism, their actions were soon corrupted with violence, polygamy, and greed that left the followers of this movement either dead or clinging to life.
America’s version of religious fanaticism can be seen with fundamentalist Mormons. When Joseph Smith founded Mormonism, he may well have had great intentions, and felt he was truly a prophet. However, as in the case of similar religious movements, many Mormon leaders have taken the beliefs to the extreme, often focusing on the doctrine of polygamy, a practice that has led to rape, incest, poverty, and, in the worst cases, murder.
And perhaps mainstream Christianity is just as guilty. While the crusades started with the admirable goal of spreading the gospel, the ended up becoming polluted with pillaging of villages of and murdering of innocent people.
In today’s world, the most obvious portrayal of this phenomenon is radical islam, where some are willing to sacrifice their own lives in the name of Allah, killing innocent people throughout the world.
In the end, the question of faith comes back to the question sung about by Mumford and Sons: “How can you say that your truth is better than ours?” In their search for the truth throughout history, people have continuously latched onto fanatical voices that profess concrete answers to abstract questions.
But when it comes to faith, perhaps there are no concrete answers. Perhaps, one must look inward for a truth that speaks to his or her heart rather than outward to voices that proclaim to know this “truth.” With so many voices out there, some fanatical and others more level-headed, how can there be only one truth? Even mainstream religions that all seem to know the “truth” must admit that they can’t all be right.
While I have wrestled with my faith, I recognize that I only come with a Catholic perspective because it is the tradition of faith in which I was raised. If I were raised in a Protestant, Muslim, or Jewish family, I would undoubtedly approach my faith from one of those perspectives. For something as important as faith, and salvation, how interesting that the approach we take is based on something as arbitrary as the family and culture into which we were born.
And this thought brings us back to the very core of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism that has pushed people into inhumane acts against their fellow man. God gave humans the gift of faith, but, due to our own weaknesses, we need tangible answers that faith sometimes cannot answer, and sometimes those tangible answers have led people to bigotry, intolerance, and violence. Instead, perhaps people should look inward and ask how their truth could possibly be better than someone else’s.