It is important to understand that there’s a difference between a person of faith and a religionist. While a person of faith believes in deity, their interpretation of deity will generally hold a certain degree of allegory. The main purpose of their belief surrounds a search for peace of mind and something or someone larger than themselves.
As a general rule, a person of faith does not require a literal interpretation of their holy book and will usually integrate seamlessly in a post-modern world. This is the person who lives their life amongst the rest of the community without attracting undue attention to themselves. On any given day they do what a vast majority of us do. Go to work or school, run errands, pay bills, etc. On a specific day they will usually attend the worship service that is germane to their deity, but if they miss a couple it’s perfectly acceptable. They may or may not partake in ”worldly” activities like smoking or drinking alcohol. Some may be able to justify using recreational drugs and whether we hear them or not, most will use the occasional swear word. In short, everyday people.
Then You Got Your Fundies…
he other type of believer is a whole different animal that I like to call a “fundamental literalist,” or “fundamentalists.” Others may refer to them as “Holy Rollers” or “Fundies.” While these believers also engage in some of the same activities as the person of faith, they usually hold to a literal interpretation of their holy scriptures, a belief that all other religions, belief systems or different sects within their own religion are wrong, and that atheists are particularly reprehensible. They believe that the rest of the planet is doomed to one type of eternal punishment or another and they are largely incapable of not shoving their beliefs down the public throat.
They often interject their opinions, superstitions and dogma squarely in the faces of anyone and everyone they encounter and are prone to supporting the public admonishment of those who disagree with them, sometimes to include the belief that those people should be murdered. Stoning seems to be the preferred method of punishment. Then, when they are called out for their anti-social behavior, they view it as being persecuted. More on persecution later on.
Interacting With Fundies And The Faithful…
Interacting with a person of faith and a fundamentalist can result in quite different effects on your sanity. Dealing with a person of faith can actually end up being a rewarding exchange of ideas. Even though the conversation might end up with neither changing their ideologies or compromising on their principles, both parties will often walk away with a feeling of accomplishment. Engaging a fundamentalist, however, can be very frustrating because when you present something in a clear, concise, factual and complete package, the feedback bears little resemblance to what you have put forth, and in some cases is the opposite of what you have presented. We all know that one of the more frustrating things in life is being misunderstood, and when truth is exchanged for lies, sometimes all you can do is just walk away and let the fundamentalist bask in their own idiocy, which is something many of them excel at.
While a person of faith may be naïve on a given subject or topic, the fundamentalist is often willfully ignorant or in complete denial. The person of faith is often receptive to information and many of them will go to great lengths to assure that the information they receive is thoroughly investigated. Upon conclusion, they will choose to accept or dismiss what they have learned as real, accurate and truthful. The exercise of disseminating information, the absorption of said information and the integration of that new knowledge into the life of another individual can be most satisfying for both parties. It is what draws people into the teaching profession. It is a noble and fulfilling occupation, and one that is undervalued much of the time.
Willful ignorance is a horse of a different color. Someone who is not suffering from color blindness and looks up at a clear blue sky and insists that it is green, even though there is an abundance of data that explains why the sky appears blue, pretty much deserves whatever responses they get. When dealing with the lunatic fringe of religious extremism, we are often exposed to those individuals who are convinced that their god is telling them to murder, pillage and rape or any of the plethora of other psychotic beliefs.
I have found that when I come across people like this, it is best for me to just walk away and preserve my sanity, because the level of idiocy that is indicative of what comes out of the mouths of the fundamentally religious can be enough to make you want to scream.
Kings and Queens Of Denial…
The fact is that the fundamental religionist is often in denial, which is basically a defense mechanism in the human psyche that shuts down reception and comprehension of information that poses a threat to their concept of reality. It is particularly common with areas of the psyche that are connected to religious beliefs and when understood within these confines, it is no surprise to learn that many people who exhibit this form of denial may be highly educated in a wide variety of subjects. However, they will construct impervious walls against those subjects that threaten their personal faith. A fundamentalist may hear what you are saying, but comprehension will be blocked and a sortie of pre-programmed responses will be launched. The loss of any meaningful communication is inevitable.
The reaction that fundamentalists have when confronted with unbelief in their particular brand of doctrine can bubble to the surface in vitriol, especially when there is empirical evidence that is contrary to their dogma or doctrine. Successful interaction between a fundamentalist and just about every one who isn’t their brand of fundamentalist (or anyone else, for that matter) is extremely rare.
A strong faith is not the same as a strong religion. Faith is often the result of long-term, sometimes multi-generational interaction with other non-combative, like-minded believers and is often accompanied by positive emotional life-experiences and a perception that god is active in daily life, answers prayers, etc.
The person of faith is not the one who wants a fight. They will often have the same problems and frustrations with organized religion as most do. Much of the time there is more in common between peoples of faith and those of a different faith and even those without faith. Understand the difference between a person of faith and the fundamental religionist and do not deprive yourselves of the company of someone who can otherwise enrich your lives in the myriad of other ways that have little or nothing to do with the cause that many of us activists are so entrenched in.
Denial, delusion and willful ignorance are the ingredients of a genuine recipe for a fundamentalist disaster.