WordNet 3.0 (2006 by Princeton U.) defines fanaticism as an "excessive intolerance of opposing views." Know anyone who fits that description? I'm not talking about a fanatical Steelers or Cowboys fan. I'm referring to those who reject out of hand any view contrary to their own personal dogma, be it religious, ideological or political.
We live in a supposedly modern and enlightened culture. Intelligent and open-minded debate on important issues should be the naturally-occurring result of a mutual desire to find the truth. Sadly, all too often this is not the case.
Whether it's the fanatical proponents of human-caused global warming, religious fanatics blowing themselves up in the name of Allah, or mindless followers of the latest "Bush did it" conspiracy theory, too many people have closed their minds to the fruits of knowledge and reason. Preconceived notions become fact, religious dogma trumps reason, and science is forced into consensus and compromise to suit a political agenda.
Global Warming Fanaticism
Never mind the fact that the world has been far warmer in the past than it is at present. Forget that sea ice coverage has made a nice comeback. Ignore the fact that we're halfway to our next ice age. And for Pete's sake don't mention how cold it's been for so early in the winter. Forget all of that. After all, these are just facts, and facts are always trumped by computer models and carbon footprints.
Every time a new UN-sponsored "consensus" hits the press, the climate change fanatics loudly proclaim that the debate has ended. Now, they'll tell you, there can be no doubt that mankind is directly responsible for global warming. If we don't downgrade our standard of living in the name of being good little greenies, we'll all suffocate when the Ozone Layer burns away or we'll be washed off the face of the Earth by rising oceans.
The comparison of scientific findings by credible experts on both sides of the debate isn't an option for these people. Those who raise questions regarding the validity of the latest assertions of the mostly-leftist environmental activists are regarded as heretics and infidels. They're denounced and ridiculed, and occasionally face overt hostility from those who ignore the obvious benefits of healthy debate. For these people, human-caused global warming is the equivalent of a religious doctrine, and they do not tolerate heresy.
Obama as the Messiah
President-elect Barack Obama has gained more followers with less substance than any other national figure in my lifetime. Crowds swooned and chanted and genuflected at his rallies as if he were some hero of myth come to life. He has rarely taken a clear stance on issues, instead making vague and malleable promises of "change." On more than one occasion during the campaign I asked Obama supporters exactly what sort of change they were expecting. The answers were generally as vague as Obama's promises, and most of them grew quite uncomfortable when pressed on the matter. The pathetically obvious truth was that they'd never considered the specifics of what they were advocating. "Change what?" I would ask. They had no clue.
I also asked a few of his supporters how they felt about Obama's well-known ties with Marxists like William Ayers. Roughly one in three knew what I was talking about. Two out of five didn't know the meaning of the term "Marxism." Of those who did, few cared. Nearly every one of them I spoke with around the country reacted with either defensiveness or hostility when I pressed them a bit to explain their reasons for favoring Obama. Thinking is such a difficult, painful thing.
“To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.” - Barack Obama, writing about his college years.
Meanwhile Obama continues to play the role of the Pied Piper, and millions of Americans follow him blindly toward the river. In truth, I wish him well. The nation is a mess at present and we all want it to get better. But given that fact, is a presidential election the proper time for blind faith?
And speaking of blind faith...
"Where is the [Islamic] nation? If 20 million people can encircle the Earth, then 20 million people could also drown Israel in a sea of blood." Egyptian cleric Sheikh Muhammad MustafaThere is a thin line between being devout and being a religious fanatic. To follow the teachings of one's religion and simultaneously exist in harmony with the secular world can be a challenge, but most believers get it done.
But then there are those who don't. The most obvious examples of religious extremism are found in the Middle East, where radical Islamists espouse hatred and exhort their followers to maim and murder those who do not share their world view. How does one reason with people who truly believe themselves to be on a mission from God?
Consider these excerpts from the Hamas Covenant:
"[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement... Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam... There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility." (Article 13 of the Hamas Covenant)
"The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him." (Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant)
And you wonder why Israel has finally had enough? Islamic clerics routinely teach their followers that waging holy war against non-Muslims, strictly because they're non-Muslims, is a high and holy calling. They're taught that jihad against the infidels is as right and proper as Christians see acts of charity and social work. Freedom of religion? Not in an Islamic nation.
Islam however, doesn't have a lock on the market where religious fanaticism is concerned. While Christians (and I use the term quite broadly here) typically don't engage in beheading infidels, killing teenage girls for family honor, suicide bombings and genocide, they do have their fair share of nutty buddies in their midst.
David Koresh and Fred Phelps come to mind. Both have been guilty of engaging in behavior no mainstream Christian would ever condone. Koresh (who thought he was Jesus) led his faithful down a tragic path to destruction, albeit with the "assistance" of Janet Reno and the BATF. Phelps, of Westboro Baptist Church fame, is busily engaged in promoting homophobia, and firmly believes that Aids, Hurricane Katrina and other calamities are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuals. He also believes that his is the only congregation that will end up in Heaven when all is said and done.
While neither Koresh or Phelps could possibly be described as existing within mainstream Christianity, their perverse pseudo-religious teachings and charismatic leadership built them both a strong following. Many of Koresh's followers perished with him in Waco, TX. Fred Phelps still tends his small flock near Topeka, KS. Phelps' congregation is best known for their picketing of US Military funerals with hateful signs regarding America's tolerance for homosexuals.
What's the common thread?
Obama has done nothing to make me believe he's a fanatic of any kind. But many of his followers certainly fit the bill. They wholeheartedly embrace his vague message of "Change We Can Believe In" while having little idea what, if anything, the slogan actually means. They reject any and all contrary opinion of their new messiah in a manner markedly similar to hard line religious fundamentalists. Blind faith, pure and simple.
The global warming crowd likewise rejects credible scientific evidence that human activity is not a factor in climate change, and often reacts badly when challenged on their beliefs. For them, global warming is dogma, not science.
Hamas rejects any possibility of peace with Israel (or anyone else for that matter) because they firmly believe they are doing Allah's will. They and other terrorist groups have broken every treaty, truce and cease fire in the name of their so-called "Holy War" against the infidel world. The fact that they're currently having their heads handed to them on a tin plate by Israel strengthens their resolve rather than giving them pause. The reason? They believe that murdering Israelis is justified because Allah does not approve of Israel's existence. The result of this pigheadedness is the death of thousands of innocents on both sides of the barrier between Israel and Gaza.
Religious fanatics who subscribe, however loosely, to other faiths are little different in their maniacal devotion to their beliefs. It's worth noting that most of the more fanatical religious groups espouse hatred and violence to one degree or another, often at odds with the mainstream teaching of that faith. Nearly all abortion clinic bombers, for example, profess to be Christians. I have many Muslim friends who are just as saddened by Islamic terrorism as I am. And as a Christian, I find Westboro Baptist Church and their troll of a pastor thoroughly repulsive.
The productive sharing and debate of ideas is essential to the growth of any culture. In a civilized society, there is always room for another opinion. Always a reason for magnanimity. Always a chance to grow and evolve. And, always the possibility of being proven wrong. But as we become more and more polarized on so many levels, we begin to lose our ability to entertain ideas that conflict with our own. We fall victim to our own preconceived notions and refuse to consider that we could be mistaken. And that my good friends, is as dangerous to our culture as any foreign enemy.
Allow me to plagiarize WordNet 3.0 one more time.
NOUN: "excessive intolerance of opposing views."
Are we there yet?
Sources and Related Reading:
- THE COVENANT OF THE HAMAS - MAIN POINTS
- WikiPedia Article on Hamas
- The Obama File
- Detroit Examiner: Trapped Between Two Worlds
- Radar Site
- THE DAVIDIAN MASSACRE PAGES
- Extremism or Stupidity?
- Westboro Baptist Church website : God Hates fags (Warning: Offensive Content)
- Report: Global Sea Ice at 'Unprecedented' Levels
- Global Warming Censored