Fanatics use God’s name to give God a bad name
The news often reports how religious fanatics kill innocent people and justify their barbarity in the name of God. Such reports, coupled with ghastly imagery, fill many people with revulsion toward not just religious fanaticism but also religion itself. Even those who don’t become averse toward religion view it with suspicion or at least apathy. And because religion is centered on God, it is God who ends up getting bad press, all because of those who press his name into service for their extremist agendas.
Foreseeing such misappropriation of religion, the Bhagavad-gita (16.17) states that demonic people often perform religious activities in name only. Such people want to boost their prestige or power in society’s eyes and in their own eyes, not in God’s eyes. They don’t want to become an instrument for God’s purposes; they want to make God an instrument for their purposes.
Fanatics don’t represent God. The Gita describes that God is the well-wisher of everyone (05.29). and those devoted to him similarly become well-wishers of everyone (12.13). In fact, the devoted are described as gentle, kind, tolerant, humble, composed (12.13-20) — qualities that are opposite to those found in fanatics.
How can fanaticism and the associated bad press be prevented?
By martial and intellectual measures.
Martially, fanatics need to be penalized. Intellectually, vigorous education is needed about the true nature of devotion, about the errors in fanatical conceptions of devotion and about how such conceptions are peddled by self-interested people for furthering their own interests. Such education can minimize the mass alienation from religion which happens as a reflex reaction to terrorism. It can also help those targeted by radicalization to see how their faith is distinct from its fanatical spinoffs.
Thus, the way to fight fanaticism is to promote better philosophical understanding of God’s purpose and greater practical alignment of our purpose with his purpose.
Think it over:
- How do fanatics misappropriate God for their own purposes?
- How is fanaticism the opposite of devotion?
- How can fanaticism be countered?
16.17 Self-complacent and always impudent, deluded by wealth and false prestige, they sometimes proudly perform sacrifices in name only, without following any rules or regulations.
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