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Antidotes for Fundamentalism

 

By George A. Boyd ©2002

Fundamentalism in religion has given rise to extreme beliefs and behavior, up to a willingness to commit acts of terrorism against innocent people. It is important to understand some of the factors that lead to a fundamentalist world view and contrast this via a non-fundamentalist world view.

Affirmations illustrating typical belief positions of fundamentalist groups are contrasted by alternative statements from a non-fundamentalist perspective given in the table below:

Fundamentalist Belief
Non-Fundamentalist Belief

My scripture is Literal Truth, the infallible Word of God that is to be obeyed without question. All other teachings are false.

Scripture contains moral teaching, historical information, symbols and an overarching cosmology that describes God and the creation myths, metaphors and spiritual truths; this scripture can guide my choices and provide material for my meditation and reflection. It helps construct my personal philosophy and inform conscience, but it is one of a number of different scriptures that may have variant beliefs, moral injunctions and proscribed rituals. These other scriptures may be valid guides for other people, just not for me.

My belief in God is the only true one. All others are deceived and deluded, are infidels or sinners.

There are many paths to the Divine. While this path speaks to me and feels like my true path, not everyone has the same calling. My path may not be appropriate for others, just as their path may not be appropriate for me. What I believe may not be appropriate for others.

Only my Savior, God-man, Prophet or Master is true. All other leaders are false or are even emissaries of the Devil.

Like different teachers teach different courses in school, there are different types of spiritual teachings, and there are teachers who can guide an individual within the parameters of these teachings. Each Master Teacher is a channel of the Light for his/her own path or tradition.

Only my religion’s creeds and rituals lead to salvation, all others are false. Those that adhere to other beliefs and practices are deluded and will go to Hell, reincarnation or transmigration.

Creeds create a framework for religious understanding; rituals permit a participation and identification with one’s faith. There are many cultures with their own costumes, festivals and ceremonies; so there are many varieties of religious experiences. I must discern an effective path of salvation that fits with my inner sense of truth or Dharma.

My Savior will judge or destroy those who do not believe as I do. My Savior is coming again and will only embrace those who belong to my religion. Everyone else will be damned or left out of Heaven, salvation, or Nirvana.

Each individual is judged on the thoughts, words and deeds committed on the body: their afterlife and subsequent incarnations are conditioned by the karma they generate. While some traditions have cyclical appearances of the same Master Soul, most traditions are succeeded by another teacher (parampara) or a modernized teaching for a new civilization and mileau by another exponent of spirituality.

Since others are deluded or ignorant, I am justified to convert others to my faith by whatever means necessary: religious education, testimonial, evangelism, even forcible conversion. To accomplish my aims, I may protest against and attack others' beliefs and values; destroy others’ icons, idols, or places of worship; even murder and war, or the sacrifice of my own life are acceptable means of removing the obstacles to prevent the non-believers from adopting my faith, and doing what I believe is right.

Because of other’s perspectives and level of spiritual evolution, they cannot necessarily believe the way I do. I should not expect others to adopt my beliefs or practices. I will attempt to find my truths for myself without imposing them upon others. I will show tolerance and respect for those of other faiths. I will attempt to understand others who hold beliefs different than my own.

Since my belief is the only true one, I am obligated to convert as many people as possible before the end of the world, Last Judgment or Second Coming.

Conversion is not necessary or even to be encouraged. If asked, I am willing to share my ideas and beliefs with others. I do not advocate that others should believe what I believe without verifying it for themselves on the touchstone of their intuition and meditation experience.

People who become fundamentalists may not have been exposed to other paths or other religions in a positive way. They have not explored the Great Continuum of Consciousness (GCC) to recognize the pattern and substrate of other faiths and other perspectives anchored in other contexts.

Considering that many fundamentalist faiths label other faiths and even cursory exploration of those other faiths as evil, it is not surprising that this deterrence of investigation leads to a close-mindedness of fundamentalists to new ideas from other than their own doctrines.

Breaking Free of Fundamentalism

Many people spend most of their lives locked into a fundamentalist mindset. The people in their lives maintain the same views; often their entire culture is steeped in these beliefs and values. The opportunities to break free of fundamentalism in these insular environments are rare. When they do occur, these doorways into a world beyond these restrictive world-views can provide a transition from the emotionalized realm of blind faith into the experiential and perceptual world of meditation. These paths of egress include:

1) Encounter with an untenable belief or value within the fundamentalist doctrine. When a requirement of the faith does not resonate with a person’s inner core of truth (dharma) and can no longer be rationalized, this may lead individuals to break with unquestioning faith and begin to critically examine the doctrine. Finding other flaws, the individual may leave the faith altogether and seek an alternate belief system.

2) Personal experience of abuse or terrorism at the hands of fanatical adherents of the faith or the group’s leader. Typically, these attacks may couple messages of shame, guilt or labeling the individual as a sinner or wicked person who deserves the abuse. This personalization of the attack can be overcome with separation from the attack and supportive counseling, for those individuals fortunate enough to escape from the perpetrators.

3) An opening experience that gives the individual access to a world outside or beyond the world-view. This may take the form of the awakening of the Kundalini, leading to an out-of-the-body encounter with the Soul or near-death experience that shows the attention new realms of the GCC or an encounter with a guide who takes the individual beyond the perceptual horizon of the world-view.

4) Transcension through initiation. By moving beyond the apparent origin of the faith by the transformation of the potentials of consciousness, the individual enters into a whole new world.

5) Discovery of moral flaws in the leader. Idealization and overvaluation of the leader, even deification, is common in highly devotional fundamentalist groups. When the human flaws of the leader are revealed, it may lead the individual to question not only the leader’s integrity, but also the leader’s doctrine.

6) Development of critical thinking. Through the rigor of higher education, the individual may be led to examine, critique, modify and jettison beliefs that do not hold up to inquiry. The individual may form a sharper criterion for truth and may begin to reject the irrational propositions of faith. By learning the rules of logic, the arguments of faith may be found to be untenable.

7) Rejection of an overly restrictive lifestyle. Not all individuals are content to surrender and subjugate all desires, aspirations and drives. Recognition that one cannot live by a repressive code may lead to rebellion, then rejection of an overly confining lifestyle dictated by fundamentalist doctrine.

The blind, unreasoning faith expressed by fundamentalism has led to inquisitions, wars, acts of terror and wanton destruction of other cultures and religions. While many locked in the vice of fundamentalistic doctrines will never get out, and their whole lives will be conditioned by these beliefs, a small number can and do move away from these teachings. To the degree that aspirants can remove these restrictive beliefs from the mind and heart can they truly begin to develop tolerance and understanding.

The goal of spirituality is not to cultivate blind hatred and intolerance, but understanding and compassion. Viewed from this more open perspective, you can grant others the freedom to follow their own path, without imposing your own views and beliefs upon them.

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