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Fanaticism in religion

1. Definition of religion

Religion (from Latin 're-ligio': re - again, ligare - connect) denotes reunion of individual living beings (jiva, atma) with supreme living being, God.

"Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation." (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 3.3, purport)

Vedic knowledge constitutes jnana (theoretical knowledge) and vijnana (practical, realized knowledge) - jnanam vijnana-sahitam (BG 9.1).

In order that there would be no room for fanaticism in religion, religion must have heart (transcendental devotion) and head (transcendental knowledge).

2. Fanaticism: diffusion, influence and aspects

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Latin fanaticus inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple. Latin fanaticus, inspired by orgiastic rites, pertaining to a temple, from fanum, temple.

Fanaticism has many forms. Most known ones are nationalistic, political and religious, other for example sportive (rowdies).

Fanaticism was and is more or less present in any religious tradition. It is a domain of immature followers, whose enthusiasm turned into unhealthy form. Followers of most traditions, especially when they achieved power, tended to persecute followers of other traditions. From the history of Vaisnavism we do not know of such cases.

One should not let oneself to be discouraged by fanaticism and to not reject religion as a whole ('all are hypocrites who want power and profit') but stick to association of advanced practitioners.

This discouragement ushers in atheism and bitter criticism of religion (throwing the baby out with the bathwater), which is used by secular propaganda. Instead of reaching the goal of religion - developing love of God - there is an opposite effect.

2.1 Niyamagraha

Niyamagraha means not following a given spiritual process according to guru, sastra and sadhu, as well as rules (viddhi), or their blind following. (SB 11.2.39)

Not following has either a form of straight rejection (atheism) or of distortion of scriptures to justify one's own opinions (personal or wider sense gratification - generally anything against service to God) or abusing their concessions for the same. (SB 11.5.13 p.) For example killing of animals in sacrifice (which has limiting purpose) can turn into its direct opposite: mass slaughter in slaughterhouses. 'Murderer of animals cannot understand God.' (vina pasu-ghnat, SB 10.1.4)

A fanatic or a sentimentalist is a sahajiya (SB 2.7.53 p.), or immature spiritualist lacking real knowledge and sincerity to follow instructions of more advanced spiritualists. He tends to philosophical deviations and often makes up a completely new, own path being unsatisfied with the current ones. Nowadays it is a common phenomenon.

Blind following means without referring to scriptures and tradition (guru-sadhu-sastra as internal control mechanisms) and without understanding a wider context. Absence of these internal control mechanisms clears the way for fanaticism.

"A fanatic is one who has lost sight of the goal, but shows the world that he tries even harder".

2.2 The only truth

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." (Winston Churchill)

"A fanatic cannot bring one to God but can easily turn away many, discrediting religion as such." (Jan)

Fanaticism typically proclaims owning the "only truth" (SB 11.5.13 p., 12.2.5 p.). This again comes from partial or complete misunderstanding of one's own and other spiritual paths together with disinterest in their understanding.

Advanced spiritualists, on the other hand, can openly communicate, for example in interreligious dialogue. An example is the Kumbhamela festival, where millions of followers of various Vedic traditions meet and their prominent representatives discuss theology and the practice of their paths. There is no violence whatsoever.

In fact there are extensive connections among main spiritual cultures and traditions:

Bhakti Ananda Goswami:
One must be absolutely convinced. The truth must be one's own, 'realized', not just remembered from someone else's teaching.
He sounds as though he is suffering from 'spiritual' pride. After so many years in the movement, he has 'converted' to Christianity, as something 'other' and opposed to Vaishnavism, rather than realizing that Christianity and Vaishnavism are closely related traditions worshiping the same historical and theological Deity. It is those proud fundamentalists who lack realization, which switch sides as religionists, converting from one kind of fundamentalism to its opposite! Over the years I have met many unrealized Catholics who have 'become' Protestant fundamentalists. As Catholics they were ignorant and as Protestants they became even more ignorant. As Catholics they were blind followers and as Protestants, even blinder followers. Fanatics often cross the line to become fanatically opposed to what they once fanatically promoted. Their disease is spiritual pride, which drives them into extreme and unreasonable positions, pro or con. I prefer not to get involved with fanatics like ..., because they are either subtly or grossly dangerous. They are founts of Vaishnava aparadha. Please don't try to involve me with him or anyone like him. It is not my job to expend my energy having to fight with people like him. He is probably 'invincibly' ignorant, as the Church would say. That is, so proud of his misunderstanding position, that he would rather go to hell than renounce it.
My advise is to stay away from him, and people / fundamentalists like him. You don't know enough yet about either your own Christian tradition, or the Vaishnava tradition, to defend your faith from fanatics. Stay away from Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Advaita Vedantists / Mayavadis and all other proud, exclusivistic fundamentalists. Stay away from New Age corrupters of ancient traditions as well. While constructive dialogue is possible with open-minded main-stream Catholics, some Catholics have fallen into the deep well of Protestant-like fundamentalist thinking. Despite the general global intellectual liberality of Catholicism, some Catholic charismatics are now very fundamentalist. These are the most aggressive of the anti-hindu Catholic missionaries in India. It sounds to me as though ... has come under the influence of this kind of sectarian Protestant-fundamentalist-like pseudo-Catholicism.
It is especially bizarre that he associates his revelation about 'false gods' with the apparition of Mary in Macedonia. Our Lady's authentic apparitions consistently plead for the unity of all humanity! She calls herself the Mother of all humanity and pleads not only for Christian unity, but even interfaith peace and unity! If ... was really understanding an authentic message of our Lady, he would be opening his heart, not closing it. He would be more inclined to interfaith dialogue and understanding, not fundamentalist sectarianism. Catholicism means universalism. True Catholicism cannot be reconciled with any kind of small-minded sectarianism or prejudice. When I encounter 'fundamentalist' type Catholics, the profound contradiction tells me that there is something very wrong with these persons. Stay away from divisive fundamentalists of all kinds. They are suffering from 'spiritual pride' and thus commit many offenses to other devotees and Godhead Himself. Try to associate with humble persons of goodwill, who seek better understanding, mutual appreciation, peace and unity between all of the people of God.

Spiritual pride
occurs on many different levels. These are little things but they can become more full-blown. One of the ways that you will see spiritual pride is in witnessing. Have you ever heard someone give a testimony of Jesus and when they were through, you really didn't feel you knew anything new about Jesus or see anything more about Jesus? You just couldn't put your finger on it but this is subtle pride that starts to witness about Jesus and then turns toward self. It ends up a self-glorification and it is very subtle. People hardly realize they are even doing it. In the Bible, John the contemplative tells us, "This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched" (1Jn 1:1) They were very careful to witness just to the Lord. So we try to witness with the fruit of what we experience, not particularly how we got there, but we focus more on the fruit. This points right into God's Kingdom, right back into the Lord. Now if we're not aware of it and this door stays open within us and doesn't get healed, be careful. There is a spirit of divinization that may come in, and that spirit of divinization will witness. You can find this spirit in the Old Testament and St. Paul talks about it and he called it out. It was one of the followers that wanted to do what Paul did and kept saying how wonderful it was that he had these powers (see Acts 16:17,18). He kept pointing everything to Paul, to the human. This spirit is very subtle. Here Paul is doing this wonderful ministry but the spirit of divinization is crying out and pointing the spotlight on Paul. Do you see the difference? St. Paul saw it, caught it, and cast it out right away. It is a high-powered spirit and it will try to very subtly get the spotlight off God, off Jesus, off Mary, off God's Kingdom and subtly put it on human beings, even the best of human beings. When you read the lives of the saints, you see that they are so afraid of pride because this spirit is very clever and can work in that area. As intercessors, we also have to be very careful. It's subtle the way the enemy can attack us. Suppose you have really, really prayed and fasted and travailed and suffered from something and the answer comes. You get the victory! We have to be really careful that we don't say, "I did it! I knew it was my prayer. I knew that God told me if I did this, I'd get the victory for you!" Have you ever heard an intercessor talk that way? Maybe you have spoken this way yourself. There are times when we can say to someone very legitimately, "God really gave a burden for you and I have been praying for you." People need to know that God has people in intercession for them, but it is when we go that extra step and take the credit for the victory that we have slipped out of God's camp, right into Satan's. Satan will try everything to have us glorify ourselves.

Only God takes credit for the victory!

(Excerpt from "Desert Tactics," Desert Briefings, tape 3.)

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)
We have not chosen God, He has chosen us (John 15:16).
It is God Who wills in us to do His good pleasure (Phillipians 2:13).
It is God Who gives to every man his measure of faith (Romans 12:3).
It is God Who orders the thoughts of a righteous man (Proverbs 16:3).
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23).
The Holy Spirit gives gifts to men as He chooses (I Corinthians 12:11).
God has mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy (Romans 9:15).

2.3 Rejecting facts

"Religion must be on the basis of science and logic. That is first-class religion." (BG 7.1-3, Stockholm, September 10, 1973)

A fanatic tries to protect his 'only truth' by any means and thus closes his eyes before any evidence contradicting it - scriptural or scientific (SB 12.2.1 p., quote from Malachi Martin's book). He congenitally does not allow discussion. If invested with power, he suppresses opposing opinions and thus precludes discussion. Moreover, he often labels his opponents as fanatics in order to avoid dialogue with them. He is subconsciously insecure in his position and thus avoids confrontation. This indicates a lack of tolerance, one of the concomitants of fanaticism.

An example was a violent liquidation of everything Vedic in Arabia in the beginnings of Islam when Muhammad and his followers wanted to get rid of rather degraded form of Vedic worship. The Vedic approach would be to restore proper murti worship (with understanding that devas/angels are subservient to the Lord), not to get rid of it. (At worst the murtis - turned into "idols" by ignorant worshipers - could be buried or immersed in lakes.) Despite their efforts and thanks to their ignorance many traces of previous culture survived (rules for Mecca pilgrimage, Kaaba = Siva's temple, black stone in Kaaba = Siva linga, sevenfold circumambulation of Kaaba, although in opposite direction = parikrama, zamzam spring = Ganga, number 786 on Arabian copies of Koran = om, etc.). (See Aditi Chaturvedi: Vedic Past of Pre-Islamic Arabia

The Catholic Church in Poland has a history of opposing Vaisnava organizations Chaitanya Mission and ISKCON, resorting to lies, blasphemies and violence. Connections between church representatives and skinheads who attacked visitors of big festivals have been shown. They forgot that in beginnings of Christianity it was them who was persecuted by Jewish priests wishing to have unlimited power. New Testament (Acts 5:33-40) describes how Jewish sage Gamaliel discouraged the Sanhedrin from suppressing first Jesus' disciples. He said that if it is a man-made teaching it will wither away in due course of time but if they preach message of God it will be impossible to stop them and moreover it would be dangerous to oppose God.

Similar phenomenon can be also observed in modern scientific establishment which is outwardly open but only until its paradigms ('only truth') are endangered. It was experienced by R. Thompson and M. Cremo after publishing their Forbidden Archeology book. They documented everything in the Forbidden Archeology's Impact book. more here

Sceptics surmise that paranormal phenomena (ie. phenomena outside ordinary sensory experience of most people) are just hallucinations of observer. Some of them require one's own experience. To get it however requires some effort which they are seldom able to undergo. And even if they would get their own experience, they would explain it according to this assumption or worldview (paradigm). They don't want to see, being prisoners of their own mind. To defend their conviction they sometimes use lies, cheating and violence. The sceptic can be both atheist and theist, although scepticism is mostly associated with atheism. Sceptics accepted or made an opinion, claimed it to be the final one (or even the only right one for all, which is the case of various totalitarian ideologies) and they reject everything disagreeable. When confronted with such phenomenon, they „hide their head in the sand“. An illustrative example is in 13:36-15:45 minute of Fastwalkers documentary. A civil aircraft happened on one UFO, near-collision, electronics went haywire. After some time one pilot went to check on passengers. They were at windows at one side watching the UFO. He asked one of them, doctor-sceptic whom he personally knew: „Have you seen it?“ The doctor answered characteristically: „Yes, it was a flying saucer. I didn't watch it, I don't believe in these things.“

To see that this is not an exception, here is the experience of Rupert Sheldrake in his book Dogs that know when their owners are coming home (Three Rivers Press 2011, Appendix: Controversies and Inquiries): "In 2001 in a program about some of my telepathy experiments on the Discovery Channel he [Lewis Wolpert] proclaimed, 'There is no evidence for any person, animal, or thing being telepathic.'27 The director of the documentary offered to show him a video of my experiments so that he could see the evidence for himself, but he was not interested. He preferred to make his skeptical claim without looking at the facts.
In January 2004 Wolpert and I took part in a public debate on telepathy at the Royal Society of Arts in London, with a high court judge in the chair. We were each given thirty minutes to present our cases. Wolpert spoke first and said that research on telepathy was 'pathological science' and added, 'An open mind is a very bad thing - everything falls out.' He asserted that 'the whole issue is about evidence' and concluded after a mere fifteen minutes that 'there is zero evidence to support the idea that thoughts can be transmitted from a person to an animal, from an animal to a person, from a person to a person, or from an animal to an animal.'
I then summarized evidence for telepathy from thousands of scientific tests and showed a video of recent experiments, but Wolpert averted his eyes from the screen. He didn't want to know. According to a report on the debate in Nature, 'few members of the audience seemed to be swayed by [Wolpert's] arguments.... Many in the audience... variously accused Wolpert of 'not knowing the evidence' and being 'unscientific.'28 For anyone who wants to hear the both sides for themselves, the debate is online in streaming audio, as is the transcript.29" [here]

2.4 Instigation

Fanaticism is often used as a political tool according to the 'divide and conquer' rule. For example religious fights among Hindus and Muslims in India began only after arrival of Brits. (SB 1.10.3-4, Teheran, March 13, 1975). It culminated by Operation Akbar - India/Pakistan split by carried out by the British Intelligence.

This encourages a consideration if the picture of religious fanaticism is not sometimes artificially exaggerated. Classical question is: Cui bono? (Who benefits?)

2.5 Masquerading

Nationalistic fanaticism often masquerades as religious (Palestine-Israel) because religious reasons are more difficult to refute and are more acceptable for many people. Generally religion is a touchy issue.

2.6 Sacrifice

A fanatic sacrifices his life for an idea, often with a promise of future reward (e.g. sense enjoyment in paradise). Sacrifice itself is not negative because for example to lay down one's life for one's nation in a war is eulogized as a heroic deed. It is only needed to judge the quality of that idea (according to three gunas) and to see if it is worthy of life (or any other) sacrifice.


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