Fanaticism in religion

By editor - 15.4 2021

1. Definition of religion

Religion (from Latin 're-ligio': re - again, legare - 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

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.

2.2 Only truth

Fanaticism typically proclaims owing 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. As an example can serve the Kumbhamela festival, where millions of followers of various Vedic traditions meet and their prominent representatives discuss theology and practice of their paths. There is no violence whatsoever.

In fact there are extensive connections among main spiritual cultures a traditions - Download:

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 one's eyes before evidence contradicting it - scriptural or scientific (SB 12.2.1 p.). 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 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 hold of immense wealth in temples. 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.).

Catholic church in Poland fights against Vaisnava organizations Chaitanya Mission and ISKCON and does not hesitate resorting to lies, blasphemies and violence. Connections between church representatives and skinheads who attacked visitors of big festivals were 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 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.

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 Britons. (SB 1.10.3-4, Teheran, March 13, 1975)

Also the background of September 11 is still very unclear. For example despite the official version there was no plane crashing to Pentagon:

This encourages a consideration if the picture of religious fanaticism is not sometimes artificially exaggerated. Classical question is: Cui bono? (Who benefits?) The most affected victims are common citizens - as taxpayers they pay for vast security measures and then they have to obey them as passengers.

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 nation in 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.