How to deal with Religious Fanatics (idea)
A Cut-Out-and-Keep Ministry of Information Guide
Picture for yourself an ugly, scarred, bearded face. Add a rough, torn, camouflage jacket with no insignia. Sprinkle a couple of ammunition belts hanging from both shoulders. Top it all off with a Kalashnikov rifle held with both hands.
The result can be found in almost every corner of the globe. The most obvious might be the feared Al-Qaida terrorists and Taliban militiamen tramping around Central Asia. A less immediate danger might be anarchists with weird apocalyptic beliefs building up stores of weapons and ammunition in the Southern United States or in South Africa. The look is shared by all sorts of murderous but non-fanatical rebels, mercenaries, and government-sponsored militias across Latin America, Asia and Africa.
I shall be focusing only on those with a religious or quasi-religious motivation. How can we deal with people whose unkempt facial hair drives them to acts of such murderous brutality that, except on Sunday mornings, most normal people can scarcely imagine?
First of all, don’t panic! The majority of religious people are not fundamentalist; the majority of fundamentalists are not fanatics; the majority of fanatics are not terrorists. In fact, it’s not the beard that drives people to kill at all (ignoring any link to testosterone). (For semantic precision by "fundamentalist" I mean a person favouring strict observance of their own religious doctrine to the exclusion of all other sources of moral guidance. By fanatic, I refer to those fundamentalists who cast aside the moral constraints of their own doctrines for the betterment of their cause. If the UN can't define a terrorist, then I will not even try.)
By my shamelessly crude guesstimate, assuming no more than half the world is religious to start with, we only have to deal with, at most, three-hundred-and-twenty-five-million hardcore psychopaths prone to bomb-planting and plane hijacking, spread across the whole world. (6,000,000,000 Humans /2 = 3,000,000,000 religious persons /2 = 1,500,000,000 fundamentalists /2 = 750,000,000 fanatics /2 = 375,000,000 terrorists. Before you point out how ridiculous this calculation is, realise it is only here to entertain.)
Admittedly, this is a problem. But before you start stacking up emergency supplies in your bio-shelters, realise that terrorists, the hated enemies of the world, are driven by the same instinct as those who hide from them, namely fear.
This is not to say they are acting in self-defence. It is not “Us” whom they fear, or at least not to start with. Rather, they fear God, and not in a "good" way. Fear is a lack of faith. The one who has absolute faith in their God cannot fear anything, neither in life nor in death. Fanatics are driven by perpetual fear and emotional suppression. They fear their thoughts, their doubts, and above all they fear they have been rejected by both society and God.
Fundamentalists do not obsessively focus upon dogma and ritual because God came to them and told them that was His will. If they experienced a contact with God, they would not need Holy Books or any teacher to know the difference between right and wrong. Instead, they believe their failure to receive any divine experience is because God has rejected them. And so they proceed to blame everyone and everything else in the world, save themselves. Most of all, they blame the United States of America.
This is the root cause of religious fanaticism. How can we protect ourselves from these lost souls? Don’t bother trying to reason with them. Unless you can deliver to them the contact with the Holy Spirit/Great Life Force/Power of Almighty God that they so desire, against their will (for they will deny their isolation from it), you will not be able to convince them. More probably, you will make them more suspicious that you are in league with the Great Satan.
So what hope is there? Don’t worry; the situation is not as bad as I’ve made it sound. The human body is not designed to withstand the constant emotional stress and narrow-mindedness that fanatical extremism requires. Sooner or later, they will all burnout from the strain, or else get bored, give up and find a hobby.
In the meantime, the governments of the world are absolutely right to respond to fanatics who turn to terrorism with all necessary force. If people were free to blow themselves up all over the place, society just would not be able to function.
If, on the other hand, we wish to tackle the causes of terrorism, the only conventional means to do this would be to reduce the fear and insecurity resulting from the process of modernity. Bin Laden may not have looked like an anti-globalisation campaigner, but he shared with them a concern about the effects of unbridled capitalism.
Making our society less materialistic, reducing poverty and the commercialisation of sex, would give fanatics less of a reason to hate the West, as well as being very desirable policies for their own sake. This is where the reality of what they seek comes in, and the unconventional means of tackling the world’s problems. It is more widely appreciated in religions today that an actual contact with God's power is the true source of good behaviour. Whilst religions offer advice and encouragement to help people to improve themselves, associations like Subud offer actual experience of the reality.
But these are all long-term strategies. I advise you all – if you see a bearded weirdo in your place of worship - don’t hesitate to contact the MI5, CIA, KGB or MIB – get them picked up and sent back to whichever planet they belong.
I wrote this as an article for a university magazine, which can be found at www.thescript.net, and thought it would fit well as an entry here.
www.subud.org - Official website of the World Subud Association