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The Josiah Effect: how moderate religion fuels fundamentalism

(55 Posts)
thatbags Wed 15-Jun-16 07:37:00

Here is a very interesting essay by Henry Rambow about how he thinks religious radicalisation happens and how it leads to terrorism. He speaks as someone who was a fundamentalist christian. He did not become a terrorist but he says he understands how easy it could be for young people to adopt violent ideologies and to act on them.

This is from near the end when he is concluding:
"...moderate religion primes children — by the millions, if not billions — from an early age to accept without question the authority of the very same books that serve as the basis for fundamentalist ideologies, and it teaches children that the gods described in those books are worthy of worship. This renders these children susceptible to fundamentalist ideology when, as young adults, they begin seeking a purpose for their lives."

obieone Wed 15-Jun-16 07:55:23

Christianity very much questions. It is part of the reason people go to church.

And best not to muddle all religions together. They are very different.

But yes, as a very basic principle, if children are taught not to question things, then stuff can happen because of that, which is fairly obvious really.

whitewave Wed 15-Jun-16 08:32:34

All belief systems behave in the same way. Whether they are religious or ideological.

obieone Wed 15-Jun-16 08:36:44

No they dont. Think of cults.

whitewave Wed 15-Jun-16 08:40:28

A cult is a belief system

Gracesgran Wed 15-Jun-16 09:16:49

Is a culture a belief system whitewave?

Elegran Wed 15-Jun-16 09:21:11

A cult is not a culture, a culture is not a cult.

Nonnie1 Wed 15-Jun-16 09:23:01

Cults tend to block out other religions don't they?

Luckygirl Wed 15-Jun-16 09:31:47

I always say that the reason that religions run the risk of becoming fundamentalist is because they deal in fundamentals. The risk of terrorism is inherent in all religions. It is part of what they are. Thinking and belief are two very different animals.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 15-Jun-16 09:32:11

Whatever. Maybe. Maybe not. But it can't turn people into violent, cruel, unfeeling, criminals. That comes from the evil inside the individuals. The very nature of the beast.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 15-Jun-16 09:36:29

So, every child sent to a (say) Christian Sunday School from a very young age, taught the whole Christian story, and brought up in a family where "Love God and love your neighbour as yourself", is the main rule of living, is likely to be easily coerced into setting bombs and hacking people's heads off? Come on!!!


jinglbellsfrocks Wed 15-Jun-16 09:37:25

Too much Twitter is bad for the brain.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 15-Jun-16 09:47:16

Bags! Consider that last post deleted. Sorry. (I can't ask 'em to delete it. I'm already a pain in the arse to them)

janeainsworth Wed 15-Jun-16 10:12:55

Do many Christians, other than in parts of the US, set much store by the smitings and violence etc of the Old Testament?
My exposure to formal religion has been limited but even at Sunday School in the 50's we knew and understood that the OT was a history of the Jewish people and that the teachings of Jesus were to be found in the New Testament and were at variance with, and nothing to do with, what was written in the OT.
I think the author is writing from a personal perspective of guilt and not from dispassionate observation.

Lilyflower Wed 15-Jun-16 10:13:13

I agree with whitewave, any faith is a gateway into another and potentially more destructive belief system. The reason is that faith is, in essence, believing something without any evidence or rational proof. It discourages logic, questioning, proper informed debate and rational scepticism.

There is an interesting difference in levels of faith between my sister and I who had the same religious upbringing. We were both baptised catholics and were both sent, originally, to catholic schools though and, though our parents did not attend church, I was sent to church on Sunday mornings and also attended catechism. I had a first communion though wasn't confirmed while my sister was youunger and kept at home.

We have turned out very differently. Terrified of the idea of hell and sin I was quite religious up until the age of about twelve when my mother stopped sending me to church. I started to question the idea of a 'merciful God' burning souls in hell for ever and, once that keystone disappeared under rational consideration the rest of the edifice of faith fell. I am now an atheist and very sceptical of faith though I am still a cultural Christian and value the whole moral system of faiths unless they make people suffer or become extremists.

My sister, who escaped some of the 'brainwashing' has, however, embraced faith in genereal and jumps headlong into belief systems whether they are irrational or contradictory. She is a low church Christian and church-goer, a socialist and a vegetarian. She has so restricted her ability to think independently that she cannot deal logically or rationally with any social, political or personal topic. She cannot debate any issue without becoming heated and angry and she went through a phase of saying, 'You cannot think that!' without perceiving the restrictive, self deluding quality of her words.

Through my sister's blind faith and very prejudiced views of those who disagree with her I can see how young people can be drawn into dangerous mindsets where they are a threat to others. My sister was a nice girl and very tolerant once and her 'moderate' beliefs have hardened into a sort of fanaticism - which she would not recognise or acknowledge.

I think faith is a slippery slope which starts mildly and grows. It is a danger to society when adherents are lonely, socially outcast, addicted to anti social substances, failres at work or play, or who feel marginalised or alienated in any way. A faith can provide a vehicle for vengeance against the rest of the (happy and contented) world.

Lilyflower Wed 15-Jun-16 10:14:28

Sorry, in general', not 'in genereal'. No edit button!

Lilyflower Wed 15-Jun-16 10:15:34

And 'failures', not 'failres'.Doh!

SwimHome Wed 15-Jun-16 10:32:16

Lilyflower I agree, and I'm sorry how it has turned out for your sister. I was brought up as a fundamentalist and fortunately (?) I recognised the disparity between what they taught and what they lived very young and learnt to question and think for myself. It was laughable if not tragic how they would only mix with their narrow group of fellow-believers, even within our family, and how I was taught to disrespect those of other faiths as being deluded. Funnily enough the closer to theirs the beliefs of others, the more antipathy was shown. I certainly learnt what hatred was in practice, while being 'taught' forgiveness. When I was old enough to get away from home I was shocked and delighted to find what loving and kind people existed in the 'wicked world' I was supposedly being sheltered from. So don't give me 'religion' as anything positive!

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 15-Jun-16 10:53:23

Lilyflower don't you think the people you describe in your last paragraph would be those things, faith or no?

Linsco56 Wed 15-Jun-16 11:40:19

I have nothing against people of religion. As people, the are just as interesting and varying as anyone else, but religious leaders compete with one another like businessmen trying to sell their product as the most genuine. The second you subscribe to one of these products, you rebuke the others, further dividing humanity. There is even division within each religion between those who interpret scripture differently or who practice with varying degrees of strictness. IMO the dogma of religion, to an extent, restricts free thinking and some religions are taking a longer time to adjust towards tolerance than others.

starbird Wed 15-Jun-16 12:37:26

All religions have what is often called The Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have done to you" . Unfortunately some people latch on to the social teachings of their religion ( some of which have been added later for political reasons by those who assumed authority but are not part of the original teachings), and they concentrate on keeping the Fast, the way to dress, etc while ignoring the lessons on love and becoming more spiritual themselves. . This applies to some of the more extreme so called current teachers/leaders of the religions as well who dictate for example, that a beard is a sign of learning and sell potions to encourage hair growth!! Also, religions all came in a certain context and had to address the political and social needs of the day, which over time changed so that some aspects of the religion became uneccessary - a good example of this is cutting off the hand of a thief (only after three offences), there was no way for a nomadic tribe to lock up someone when living in tents in a dessert!
That is why all religions taught that there would be a "return" but of course most of them missed it when it happened. The ten commandments still hold good, but we may need guidance as to how to apply them to modern life. Have our cars and tvs become a form of idol worship for some?
I think our current over materialistic Godless society is what turns people to fundamentalism. Everyone has 'Godness' in them but moderation, kindness, unselfishness, etc although taught in the home, are often not valued or encouraged by society or the political system, where integrity is often sadly lacking.

Gracesgran Wed 15-Jun-16 12:54:38

A cult is not a culture, a culture is not a cult. That wasn't quite what I asked Elegran; I wondered if a culture is a belief system. I wanted to put a thought to WW and get her take on it. It may help to explain what I was thinking - and get your take on itsmile

I recently read a (very long hmm)article about the people (young men) who have been involved in the shootings in the USA. The writer - a psychologist - had found that most of the shootings had occurred in what he called "red" states or on the edge of those states. For "red" I think we would read redneck. He also found that all of the young men involved found it hard to live up to the very macho view of men that was prevalent in these areas. Some were clever and seen as geeky some where just not aggressive or were small. They had all been the subject of derogatory and aggressive remarks both directly and on line, and of bullying. His view was, that in the end the shootings were something like an "I'll show you macho" response.

If we accept that there may be some truth in this we could extrapolate it to the latest shooting. If the guy was gay, as has been suggested, it could be that his action was partly and I'll show you that gays should not be allowed to live - a tenet of the more extreme versions of his faith which he could not live up to.

That was why I wondered if a culture could be described as a belief system in the same way as a religion is. I think it could but I do not know whether a more academic view would agree.

sarahc446655 Wed 15-Jun-16 12:56:56

I think alot of people on this site havent heard the news that 49 people have just been shot in Florida, the latest atrocity,by someone yet again, representing Islamics. How many more people are going to die before the blame is place squarely where it belongs and people stop apologising and side stepping the issue.
I lived in Yorkshire for a long time, part of which I entered many Islamic homes to tutor their children in english.
I also witnessed young males and females having liasons in the car park of where I lived (making it a problem for residents car parking) because these people have no freedom at home. The same situation was witnessed in the local uni library where they congregated disturbing people who wanted to work.
That and what is generally known about these people is that their lifestyle is totally oppressive in that they are allowed no emotional or creative outlet which builds into explosive urges such as killing and rape etc. The 7/7 bombers came from the same area.
Alot of more recent Islamic generations have grown up in situations where they also mix with the lowest common denominators in our society,criminals and the like, creating a potent mix of aggressive lawlessness pressured by religious oppression.
No one seems to ask them why it is that its always their religion that commits so much murder today and that it is actually written in the religious book to do this.
The mistake westerners are making is to delude themselves that these people appreciate the so-called tolerance of them - if the boot was on the other foot - they would not defend our rights.

whitewave Wed 15-Jun-16 13:10:58


No a culture isn't a belief system in the meaning of the term in which I have framed it.

So we speak as European culture as a distinct and recognisable thing. Think of Mozart, Da Vinci, Bacon, Beatles, Shakespeare and then accepted values like the assumption of innocence, the idea of community,- the list is endless. But contained within this distinct culture are recognisable belief systems. So you have Catholicism, Protestants, Judaism, Humanism etc. Then you have Social Democracy, Conservatism, and so on.
So every culture is distinctly recognisable. Even though we speak different languages we are European and share everything in common with Continental Europe.

ExaltedWombat Wed 15-Jun-16 13:13:27

Christianity "questions" in a rather special way. It only accepts "answers" that support its faith. Rather like the NRA in America. Or, come to that, many Breakers or Remainders.