Who or what is a religious fundamentalist?

Overall, the key difference between a pious believer and a religious fanatic is the level of extremism and intolerance, says GURNAM SINGH


By Gurnam Singh | Opinion |

In my experience most people of faith are humble and accepting but all faith groups, including Sikhs, harbour fanatical fundamentalists. Some will argue that one persons freedom fighter is another’s fanatic. Certainly when it comes to state violence, such as is the case in India, it seems defenders of basic democratic rights and opponents of Hindutva nationalism are being labelled as fanatics and a threat to national security.

Great freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh, Malcom X and Nelson Mandela were labelled as terrorists, though today they are national heroes. Indeed, some argue that being a ‘fundamentalist’ is not necessarily a vice but may represent deep commitments to basic ideals, as in the fundamentals of their faith. Moreover, against the backdrop of western secularism and colonialism, non Christian faith, or faith in general, tends to be cast as irrational, dated and thus divisive and dangerous. Indeed, this is one of the justifications for secularisation of society.

And so, this many seem like an almost impossible ask, but I wonder if we can develop some broad principles to identify a pious believer from a religious fanatic! So, without naming any individual or group, I asked Chat GPT the key differentiating features between pious believer and a dangerous religious fanatic, and this is what the AI tool had to offer. You decide if there is any value in this.

The terms “pious believer” and “religious fanatic” are subjective and can have different meanings depending on the context and individual interpretation. However, generally speaking, there are some key differences between the two:

Moderation vs. extremism: A pious believer practices their faith with moderation, while a religious fanatic takes their beliefs to the extreme. A pious believer follows the tenets of their religion without imposing their beliefs on others or resorting to violence, whereas a religious fanatic may go to extreme lengths to enforce their beliefs on others, including engaging in violent or coercive behavior.

Tolerance vs. intolerance: A pious believer respects other people’s beliefs and practices tolerance, while a religious fanatic may be intolerant of other faiths or beliefs. A pious believer understands that people have the freedom to choose their own beliefs and respects their decisions, while a religious fanatic may see other beliefs as a threat to their own and may seek to convert or eliminate them.

Humility vs. arrogance: A pious believer practices humility, while a religious fanatic may be arrogant or self-righteous. A pious believer recognizes that they are imperfect and may make mistakes, while a religious fanatic may believe that their interpretation of their faith is the only correct one and may judge or condemn others who do not share their views.

Open-mindedness vs. closed-mindedness: A pious believer is open-minded and willing to consider different perspectives, while a religious fanatic may be closed-minded and unwilling to consider any beliefs or practices that are different from their own. A pious believer is open to learning about other religions and cultures, while a religious fanatic may see any deviation from their beliefs as a threat to their faith.

Overall, the key difference between a pious believer and a religious fanatic is the level of extremism and intolerance. A pious believer practices their faith with moderation, tolerance, humility, and open-mindedness, while a religious fanatic may take their beliefs to the extreme, be intolerant of other beliefs, be arrogant or self-righteous, and be closed-minded

Gurnam Singh is an academic activist dedicated to human rights, liberty, equality, social and environmental justice. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Warwick, UK. He can be contacted at Gurnam.singh.1@warwick.ac.uk

* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


Miracles and Godmen (Asia Samachar, 31 July 2020)

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