Thursday, September 27, 2007

Religious fundamentalists anyone?

The word religious fundamentalism might make you think of something you've heard on the news, about bomb threats, about things happening half way across the globe. But you don't have to look to the news to find these fundamentalists- There's a good chance you might know one yourself! These fundamentalists aren't trying to take over the world, they aren't threats to the society. But they do possess a quality which is characteristic of fundamentalism- INTOLERANCE!

An incident occurred recently which made be realize how big a problem religious fundamentalism really is. Now, keep in mind that I'm not trying to target any particular faith with this story- this is merely an example. Fundamentalists can belong to any faith.

I made a friend recently- a nice college educated 21 year old. A devout Christian and a child of missionary parents, she seemed to be a very principled and kind person. But, some of her beliefs took me by surprise. One day we were listening to a song about the 'end of the world' when she told me that for a Christian, the end of the world is a happy event. When I asked why, she told me that she believed that all Christians would go to heaven when the world ended. But she said it is also slightly sad because those not belonging to the faith would not go to heaven. I realized that she was politely telling me that I would go to hell if the world were to end. I was a little bit taken aback by her beliefs so I prodded her some more.... only to understand that in her mind, this made total sense and was completely fair.
She went on to tell me that this is the reason missionaries go around the world trying to 'save' those non-Christians... from the awful fate that awaits them.

I was not offended by what she said, but I was shocked at how firmly she believed this- I realized how easy it is for an average person to be so engrossed in her beliefs and fundamentals that she becomes intolerant of others' beliefs. I belong to a different religion and hope I can attain salvation by following the teachings of my religion, but I don't believe that my religion offers the ONLY path to salvation. To me, it seems like different religions just offer different paths to God or salvation, or as she put it, heaven. This is tolerance, tolerance that I have always taken for granted. It is saddening that in this day and age, there are many people, decent and kind people who are lacking this basic tolerance. Seems like religious fundamentalism is in more places than we would like to believe.