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Faith and Fanaticism

Updated on November 26, 2007

There's a very fine line between faith and fanaticism. Faith is when you believe in something strongly. Fanaticism is when you believe in it so strongly that you wish to impose it on everyone else. Anyone who does not believe what you believe is an outcast.

Fanaticism does not have to be confined to religion -- even though it is perhaps provides the most glaring examples of bigotry and fanaticism. You will find fanaticism in politics, social values and mores and even in art and music.

Very recently a friend of mine found religion. I was happy for him (still am!) because it certainly improved him. He stopped drinking, became health conscious and his people skills improved. But a few months into practicing his new religion, he became so convinced that it was the ONLY TRUE religion that he has become unbearably persistent in insisting others should follow suit.

Call him out for a cup of coffee and he's most likely to ask you to attend a religious discourse instead. Call him over to lunch or dinner and he will insist that you first become a vegetarian. Tell him you are not feeling well and he will ask you to perform certain religious practices instead of going to the doctor.

If I tell my friend that someone has met with an accident. I am most likely to be told that it happened because that person did not follow the teaching of "his" religion. Tell him someone's child had died, and he he's most likely to say that anyone who does not follow the "true path" will face suffering. Those who follow other faiths are caught up in a whirlpool of ignorance.

To me, this is not faith. This is fanaticism. Though perhaps in a more subtle and non-violent form.

Faith does not preach or threaten. Faith does not entice or tempt. Faith is being faithful to one's belief. If one really has faith, it should not be difficult for that person to accept the faith of others. If I really love my wife should I have problems believing that someone else loves his wife just as much or maybe more?

True faith is not deterred by what others say. Nor is it swayed. Faith is firm as a rock and can move rocks. But faith, when it tries to bring others to the fold through threats and manipulation, it's fanaticism.

The truly faithful attract others by becoming living examples that attract others to their faith. They become lighthouses for those who are storm tossed by hopelessness and despair. They never become policemen of morality. Nor do they wear the judge's wig.

True faith is attractive. Fanaticism is repulsive.

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