Fundamentalism The Oldest Folly

Dictionaries define a fundamentalist as 'one who believes in the literal interpretation and the infallibility of the Bible' as if fundamentalism were unique to Christianity alone. This definition may be modified someday, but, the problem of fundamentalism will continue to torment us. Even the rationalists and atheists are not free from its evil influence. The literal interpretation of the purpose of life as suggested by the religious books (pleasing god and striving for heaven etc.) does not appeal to them so they deny any purpose whatsoever.

Before we embark upon the purpose of life, it would be prudent to resolve the old dispute about god's existence. Believers say that god created the universe whereas the atheists say that it has come up by chance. Although logically, devoid of emotion, god and chance convey the same human ignorance about how this beautiful cosmos came about. But, what distinguishes the two, in practice, is the element of purpose. When an atheist discovers a deep purpose in life his chance becomes god. God or chance is, therefore, our choice depending upon our own mental states. We generally oscillate between them before maturity.

Now, for the sake of simplicity and immediacy, let us restrict our discussion to the purpose of human life. And even among us, it would be helpful to bear in mind, the purpose, as a member of species is different from the purpose as an individual. Since each human being is as unique as his/her genes and environment, it is reasonable to accept that his/her purpose as an individual, too, is unique. After these elementary reservations, self-actualization stands out as the general purpose for human life. Even the realization of self or enlightenment is merely the process of self-actualization for some of us.

Coming back to fundamentalism, after the hasty retreat of rationalists from the domain of religion, the priests of every shade were free to misinterpret the purpose of human life to the extent that it became one for all --a blind adherence to a particular creed. This period when religion was a fig leaf for moral fascism is known in history as the Dark Age.

If fundamentalism has been bread and butter for the clergy, it served as a shield against ignominy for the hypocrites who are generally rich and powerful through unfair means. Where religion is only ritual deep, they easily pass off as religious and attain respectability by erecting a place of worship. The simple minded believers have been the victims who, besides being exploited in numerous ways, fought wars against each other, in the name of god and religion, of course.

Thus we see that, due to fundamentalism or literal interpretation of our scriptures, we either deny any purpose to human life or we learn it rote or we only pretend to know it. All these attitudes are harmful for the moral well being of a society. Present moral stupor in the world may be directly attributed to the cumulative effect of unbridled fundamentalism down the ages. Industrialization has only exposed our incapacity to cope with technological and material progress.   


More by :  Anand Rishi

Top | Spirituality

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