Aug 16, 2013

The Irony of Fundamentalist Belief: “A fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt” 

The irony of religious fundamentalism is not that the fundamentalist believes too much, it’s specifically and ironically that he or she doesn't believe enough. Surely if one truly believes in a cosmic religious destiny and god-like, active actor then every life event has to be part of a bigger plan or destiny, even if it seems unfair at times.

What a believer merely needs to do then is to practice religious traditions and wait for his or her judgement day. However, to the contrary, the fundamentalist takes things in his or her own hands to make right what he perceives as wrong in society and change what he or she believes god would want changed. As if the fundamentalist just can not wait for god to punish those who are wrong and reward those who are right but he or she has to intervene and render judgement and action. But wait a minute, here belief is reduced to action and hence undermined as such? It is no longer a belief if one has to intervene through action and change what is part of the belief structure itself.

Once faith is acted upon then it is simply a desire and can no longer function as faith or a belief. Here it is obvious that acts of religious extremism in fact, ironically or paradoxically are extreme attempts to conceal a secret doubt. Extremism is an ‘extreme’ attempt by an individual to conceal and overcompensate for his or her deep doubts in the faith itself. Here it can be argued that the term “fundamentalist belief” is an oxymoron, better understood as a desperate attempt to hide the lack of the very belief, it attempts to represent.

This is perhaps why fundamentalist are offended the most and threatened when their beliefs are questioned. It is as if they know deep down that they do lack true or 100% belief and any external input that feeds their deep doubts they reject as they are fully aware of their fragile beliefs. After all calling a skinny person fat won’t offend him since it is simply a false statement but someone who is already insecure about their weight and feels fat can be offended by such a statement. It also follows that an obese person might not take offense to being called fat since again the statement is obviously true and there are no conflicts between what the person portrays and feels deep down.

With religious extremism, the facade is strong religious faith, but only to hide the hollowness of that very belief. It is as if the believer believes in belief itself and god and prophets being a means to that end. As such, similar to the fat example, a true believer will take no offense when their faith is questioned or even insulted since their belief is stronger and above any shallow statements.

Zizek On Idealogy of Belief:
While visiting Bohr, one of his scientist friends, noticing a horseshoe on the door asked how Bohr, a scientist would believe in the superstition that horse shows bring luck, to what Bohr responded: “I also do not believe in it; I have it there because I was told that it works also if one does not believe in it!” 
What this paradox renders clear is the way a belief is a reflexive attitude: it is never a case of simply believing — one has to believe in belief itself. Which is why Kierkegaard was right to claim that we do not really believe (in god), we just believe to believe — and Bohr just confronts us with the logical negative of this reflexivity. 
This is indeed again, how ideology functions today: nobody takes democracy or justice seriously, we are all aware of their corrupted nature, but we participate in them, we display our belief in them, because we assume that they work even if we do not believe in them.

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