Religious fanaticism

Religious fanaticism is uncritical zeal or with an obsessive enthusiasm related to one's own, or one's group's, devotion to a religion – a form of human fanaticism which could otherwise be expressed in one's other involvements and participation, including employment, role, and partisan affinities.


Steffen gives several features associated with religious fanaticism or extremism:

  • "Spiritual needs"... human beings have a spiritual longing for understanding and meaning, and given the mystery of existence, that spiritual quest can only be fulfilled through some kind of relationship with ultimacy, whether or not that takes the form as a "transcendent other." Religion has power to meet this need for meaning and transcendent relationship.[1]
  • "Attractiveness"... it presents itself in such a way that those who find their way into it come to express themselves in ways consistent with the particular vision of ultimacy at the heart of this religious form.[2]
  • A "live option"... it is present to the moral consciousness as a live option that addresses spiritual need and satisfies human longing for meaning, power, and belonging.[3]

Examples of religious fanaticism

Members of the Jansenist sect having convulsions and spasms Wellcome L0003021
Members of the Jansenist sect having convulsions and spasms as a result of religious fanaticism. Engraving by Bernard Picart


Ever since Christianity was established, some of those in authority have sought to expand and control the church, often through the fanatical use of force. Grant Shafer says, "Jesus of Nazareth is best known as a preacher of nonviolence" [4], although in Matthew 10:34 he says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword." The start of Christian fanatic rule came with the Roman Emperor Constantine I. Ellens says, "When Christianity came to power in the empire of Constantine, it proceeded almost to viciously repress all non-Christians and all Christians who did not line up with official Orthodox ideology, policy, and practice".[5] An example of Christians who didn't line up with Orthodox ideology is the Donatists, who "refused to accept repentant clergy who had formerly given way to apostasy when persecuted".[6] Fanatic Christian activity, continued into the Middle Ages with the Crusades. These wars were attempts by the Catholics, sanctioned by the Pope, to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims. However many Catholics see the crusades as a just war in self-defense. Charles Selengut, in his book Sacred Fury: Understanding Religious Violence, said:

The Crusades were very much holy wars waged to maintain Christianity's theological and social control. On their way to conquering the Holy Land from the Muslims by force of arms, the crusaders destroyed dozens of Jewish communities and killed thousands because the Jews would not accept the Christian faith. Jews had to be killed in the religious campaign because their very existence challenged the sole truth espoused by the Christian Church.[7]

Shafer adds that, "When the crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they killed Muslims, Jews, and native Christians indiscriminately".[8] Another prominent form of fanaticism according to some came a few centuries later with the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition was the monarchy's way of making sure their people stayed within Catholic Christianity. Selengut said, "The inquisitions were attempts at self-protection and targeted primarily "internal enemies" of the church".[9] The driving force of the Inquisition was the Inquisitors, who were responsible for spreading the truth of Christianity. Selengut continues, saying:

The inquisitors generally saw themselves as educators helping people maintain correct beliefs by pointing out errors in knowledge and judgment... Punishment and death came only to those who refused to admit their errors ... during the Spanish Inquisitions of the fifteenth century, the clear distinction between confession and innocence and remaining in error became muddled.... The investigators had to invent all sorts of techniques, including torture, to ascertain whether ... new converts' beliefs were genuine.[9]

During the reformation Christian fanaticism increased between Catholics and the recently formed protestants, many Christians were killed for having rival view point. The reformation set of a chain of sectarian wars between the Catholics and the sectarian protestant culminating in the wars of religions.


Extremism within Islam goes back to the 7th century to the Kharijites. From their essentially political position, they developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to Takfir, whereby they declared other Muslims to be unbelievers and therefore deemed them worthy of death.[10][11][12]

Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri 2001
Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have promoted the overthrow of secular governments.

Sayyid Qutb, a figurehead of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, was influential in promoting a Pan-Islamist ideology in the 1960s. When Qutb was executed by the Egyptian government, Ayman al-Zawahiri formed the organization Egyptian Islamic Jihad to replace the government with an Islamic state that would reflect Qutb's ideas for Islamic revival.[13] The Qutbist ideology has been influential in jihadist movements that seek to overthrow secular governments, and Qutb's books have been frequently been cited by Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.[14][15][16][17][18][19]

Since Osama bin Laden's fatwa in 1998, radical jihad has increasingly become an internationally recognized term. Bin Laden's concept, though, is very different from the actual meaning of the term. In the religious context, jihad most nearly means "working urgently for a certain godly objective, generally an imperialist one".[20] The word jihad in Arabic means 'struggle'. The struggle can be a struggle of implementing the Islamic values in daily activities, a struggle with others to counter arguments against Islam, or self-defense when physically attacked because of belief in Islam. According to Steffen, there are portions of the Qur'an where military jihad is used. As Steffen says, though, "Jihad in these uses is always defensive. Not only does ‘jihad' not endorse acts of military aggression, but ‘jihad' is invoked in Qur'anic passages to indicate how uses of force are always subject to restraint and qualification".[21] This kind of jihad differs greatly from the kind most commonly discussed today.

Thomas Farr, in an essay titled "Islam's Way to Freedom", says that, "Even though most Muslims reject violence, the extremists' use of sacred texts lends their actions authenticity and recruiting power". (Freedom 24) He goes on to say, "The radicals insist that their central claim – God's desire for Islam's triumph – requires no interpretation. According to them, true Muslims will pursue it by any means necessary, including dissimulation, civil coercion, and the killing of innocents". (Freedom 24)

According to certain observers this disregard for others and rampant use of violence is markedly different from the peaceful message that jihad is meant to employ. Although fanatic jihadists have committed many terroristic acts throughout the world, perhaps the best known is the September 11 attacks. According to Ellens, the al-Qaeda members who took part in the terrorist attacks did so out of their belief that, by doing it, they would "enact a devastating blow against the evil of secularized and non-Muslim America. They were cleansing this world, God's temple".[22]

See also


  1. ^ Steffen, Lloyd. p. 119.
  2. ^ Steffen, Lloyd. p. 120.
  3. ^ Steffen, Lloyd. p. 121.
  4. ^ Shafer, Grant. p. 193.
  5. ^ Ellens, J. Harold. pp. 42–43.
  6. ^ Shafer, Grant. p. 236.
  7. ^ Selengut, Charles. "Sacred Fury: Understanding Religious Violence." p. 22.
  8. ^ Shafer, Grant. p. 239.
  9. ^ a b Selengut, Charles. p. 70.
  10. ^ "Another battle with Islam's 'true believers'". The Globe and Mail.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-19. Retrieved 2018-01-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Mohamad Jebara More Mohamad Jebara. "Imam Mohamad Jebara: Fruits of the tree of extremism". Ottawa Citizen.
  13. ^ Lawrence Wright (2006). "2". The Looming Tower. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41486-X.
  14. ^ Scott Shane; Souad Mekhennet & Robert F. Worth (8 May 2010). "Imam's Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  15. ^ Robert Irwin, "Is this the man who inspired Bin Laden?" The Guardian (1 November 2001).
  16. ^ Paul Berman, "The Philosopher of Islamic Terror", New York Times Magazine (23 March 2003).
  17. ^ Out of the Shadows: Getting ahead of prisoner radicalization
  18. ^ Trevor Stanley. "The Evolution of Al-Qaeda: Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi". Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  19. ^ Qutbism: An Ideology of Islamic-Fascism Archived 2007-06-09 at the Wayback Machine by Dale C. Eikmeier. From Parameters, Spring 2007, pp. 85–98.
  20. ^ Ellens, J. Harold. p. 45.
  21. ^ Steffen, Lloyd. p. 224.
  22. ^ Ellens, J. Harold. p. 35.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Paul. "Genocide or Jesus: A God of Conquest or Pacifism?" Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Vol 4. Ed. J. Harold Ellens. Westport: Praegers, 2004.
  • Edwards, John. "Review: Was the Spanish Inquisition Truthful?" The Jewish Quarterly Review 87 (1997): 351-66.
  • Ellens, J. Harold, ed. The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Vol. 3. Westport: Praegers, 2004.
  • Ellens, J. Harold, ed. Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Vol 4. Westport: Praegers, 2004.
  • Farr, Thomas. "Islam's Way to Freedom." First Things 187 (2008): 24-28.
  • Johnson, J. T. "Opinion, Jihad and Just War." First Things (2002):12-14.
  • Moran, Seán Farrell, "Patrick Pearse and Patriotic Soteriology," in Yonah Alexander and Alan O'Day, The Irish Terrorism Experience, Aldershot: Dartmouth, 17-30.
  • Selengut, Charles. Sacred Fury: Understanding Religious Violence. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
  • Shafer, Grant. "Hell, Martyrdom, and War: Violence in Early Christianity." The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Vol. 3. Ed. J. Harold Ellens. Westport: Praegers, 2004.
  • Steffen, Lloyd. Holy War, Just War: Exploring the Moral Meaning of Religious Violence. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
  • Беляев, И.А. Религиозный фанатизм как иллюзорная компенсация недостаточности духовно-душевных составляющих целостного мироотношения / И.А. Беляев // Вестник Челябинской государственной академии культуры и искусств. — 2011. — № 4 (28). — С. 68-71.
Broder Gabrielsen

Broder Gabrielsen (English: Brother Gabrielsen) is a 1966 Norwegian drama film directed by Nils R. Müller, starring Alf Malland and Mette Lange-Nielsen. The preacher Gabrielsen (Malland) has a great talent for exciting crowds and builds up a large following. His reputation is enhanced by a healing at a meeting, and Gabrielsen begins to believe in his own healing ability. When further miracles fail to occur, he experiences a crisis. The film was highly controversial in its time, because of its treatment of religious fanaticism and charismatic congregations.

Cable 1971

Cable 1971, otherwise known as Priority Signal or File 1971 was a high profile and secret military signal communicated between the two main inter-services branches of Pakistan–the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The military cable was directed through the Naval Intelligence and Military Intelligence to ISI sent on December 1952 to its headquarter.The cable came in the wake of reactionary of Basic Principles Committee's first report towards the writing of the first set of the Constitution of Pakistan. The cable was sent by then-Commodore S.M. Ahsan to DG ISI Major-General R. Cawthome on a file coincidentally numbered 1971. The cable discussed the implication of One Unit, religious fanaticism, and the economic parity between the West and East Pakistan that will ultimately result in the division of Pakistan into two different groups.The Cable's message read as:

The creation of Committee of Ulema to veto the decisions taken in the House of People on religious matters, gives excess of powers to Ulema over the rights of elected representatives of the people. This gives an impression of Pakistan as being a Theocratic State.

To recommend that the head of the state should be a Muslim will unnecessarily create suspicions in minds of the minorities in Pakistan. The choice to select the head of the state should be left entirely to the people, to select without prejudice to caste, colour and creed.

It is maintained by same officers that a single House elected on population basis should have been envisaged, and we should cease to think in terms of Bengalis and Punjabis etc. The parity between West & East Pakistan will ultimately result in the division of Pakistan into two different groups, therefore, it is the very negation of one people, one country and one culture.The cable's message was further extended and discussed at the Army GHQ by MI's officer Major KM Arif when he compiled an "Intelligence Report No. 7894 of the Office of Intelligence Research and Analysis" in December 1970.The cable is notable for its highlighted title and many historians found strange that the cable was coincidentally numbered: Cable/File 1971.

Cheerleader Ninjas

Cheerleader Ninjas is a 2002 camp/action film directed by Kevin Campbell, starring actress Kira Reed, and from production company Control Track Productions. It predates the similarly-named George Takei comedic vehicle Ninja Cheerleaders. In the film, the internet must be rescued from the control of a religious fanaticism group by four cheerleader ninjutsu students and their geek allies. The movie was filmed at Englewood High School.


Fanaticism (from the Latin adverb fānāticē (fren-fānāticus; enthusiastic, ecstatic; raging, fanatical, furious)) is a belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal or with an obsessive enthusiasm. Philosopher George Santayana defines fanaticism as "redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim". The fanatic displays very strict standards and little tolerance for contrary ideas or opinions.

Tõnu Lehtsaar has defined the term fanaticism as the pursuit or defence of something in an extreme and passionate way that goes beyond normality. Religious fanaticism is defined by blind faith, the persecution of dissents and the absence of reality.In his book Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk, Neil Postman states that "the key to all fanatical beliefs is that they are self-confirming....(some beliefs are) fanatical not because they are 'false', but because they are expressed in such a way that they can never be shown to be false."The behavior of a fan with overwhelming enthusiasm for a given subject is differentiated from the behavior of a fanatic by the fanatic's violation of prevailing social norms. Though the fan's behavior may be judged as odd or eccentric, it does not violate such norms. A fanatic differs from a crank, in that a crank is defined as a person who holds a position or opinion which is so far from the norm as to appear ludicrous and/or probably wrong, such as a belief in a Flat Earth. In contrast, the subject of the fanatic's obsession may be "normal", such as an interest in religion or politics, except that the scale of the person's involvement, devotion, or obsession with the activity or cause is abnormal or disproportionate to the average.

Haji Qadir Koyi

Haji Qadir Koyi (Kurdish: حاجی قادری کۆیی,Hacî Qadirî Koyî‎), (born 1817 in Koi Sanjaq, died 1897), was a Kurdish poet. He carried on the nationalistic message of Ahmad Khani in his writings. He wanted to enlighten the people and help them to remedy the problems of illiteracy and backwardness and ideas which result from lack of knowledge and religious fanaticism. He encouraged people instead to turn to science and to the realities of modern society in the struggle to liberate and build an independent Kurdistan. According to him, a Kurd is one who speaks Kurdish. In his time, in the late 19th century, the remaining Kurdish principalities had been overthrown by the Ottoman and Persian states. Koyi attacked the shaikhs and mullahs who did not care for the Kurdish language and the notables who ignored the destinies of their people. Living his last years in cosmopolitan Istanbul, he was familiar with the nationalist struggles and the material advancement of modern nations. He constantly advocated use of the Kurdish language. Although his own medium was poetry, he urged the Kurds to publish magazines and newspapers. Calling on the Kurds, in the 1880s, to unite and form their own independent state, he also urged them to use the modern tools such as newspapers and magazines for mass communication. The first Kurdish newspaper, Kurdistan, was published in Cairo in 1898, a year after Haji Qadir's death. Farangis Ghaderi who has studied his poetry in her PhD dissertation argues that modern Kurdish poetry emerged in the late nineteenth century and with Koyî's poetry. She also argues that Hacî Qadirî Koyî should be considered the architect of Kurdish nationalism.

Jalal Dabagh wrote a book discussing Haji Qadir Koyi with the same name.


La Henriade is an epic poem of 1723 written by the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire. According to Voltaire himself, the poem concerns and was written in honour of the life of Henry IV of France, and is a celebration of his life. The ostensible subject is the siege of Paris in 1589 by Henry III in concert with Henry of Navarre, soon to be Henry IV, but its themes are the twin evils of religious fanaticism and civil discord. It also concerns the political state of France. Voltaire aimed to be the French Virgil, outdoing the master by preserving Aristotelian unity of place—a property of classical tragedy rather than epic—by keeping the human action confined between Paris and Ivry. It was first printed (under the title La Ligue) in 1723, and reprinted dozens of times within Voltaire's lifetime.

Jesus is a Palestinian

Jesus is a Palestinian (Dutch: Jezus is een Palestijn) is a 1999 Dutch comedy written and directed by Lodewijk Crijns (1970). The parody on religious fanaticism and millennialism, which involves the topics of self mutilation, incest, and euthanasia, is the director's first full-length movie. It premiered at the 1999 International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Mahomet (play)

Mahomet (French: Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophète, literally Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet) is a five-act tragedy written in 1736 by French playwright and philosopher Voltaire. It received its debut performance in Lille on 25 April 1741.

The play is a study of religious fanaticism and self-serving manipulation based on an episode in the traditional biography of Muhammad in which he orders the murder of his critics. Voltaire described the play as "written in opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect".

Ned Flanders

Nedward Flanders Jr. is a recurring fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons. He is voiced by Harry Shearer, and first appeared in the series premiere episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". He is the extremely religious, good-natured, cheery next-door neighbor to the Simpson family and is generally envied and loathed by Homer Simpson. A scrupulous and devout Evangelical Christian, he is among the friendliest and most compassionate of Springfield's residents and is generally considered a pillar of the Springfield community.

He was one of the first characters outside the immediate Simpson family to appear on the show, and has since been central to several episodes, the first being season two's "Dead Putting Society". His last name comes from Flanders St. in Portland, Oregon, the hometown of Simpsons creator Matt Groening. When he was created, he was intended to just be a neighbor who was very nice, but whom Homer abhorred.

Noc nevěsty

Noc nevěsty (translated as Night of the Bride; also known as The Nun's Night) is a 1967 Czechoslovak film directed by Karel Kachyňa adapted from a novel by Jan Procházka. Set in a Moravian village in the early 1950s, a time of collectivisation as well as mass closures of monasteries and convents by the Stalinist regime, the film is an evocative critique of religious fanaticism and political ideology.


The philosophes (French for "philosophers") were the intellectuals of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Few were primarily philosophers; rather, philosophes were public intellectuals who applied reason to the study of many areas of learning, including philosophy, history, science, politics, economics, and social issues. They had a critical eye and looked for weaknesses and failures that needed improvement. They promoted a "republic of letters" that crossed national boundaries and allowed intellectuals to freely exchange books and ideas. Most philosophes were men, but some were women.

They strongly endorsed progress and tolerance, and distrusted organized religion (most were deists) and feudal institutions. Many contributed to Diderot's Encyclopédie. They faded away after the French Revolution reached a violent stage in 1793.

Roger Griffin

Roger D. Griffin (born 31 January 1948) is a British professor of modern history and political theorist at Oxford Brookes University, England. His principal interest is the socio-historical and ideological dynamics of fascism, as well as various forms of political or religious fanaticism.

Srivasa Thakura

Śrīvāsa Thakura was a close associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and a member of the Pancha Tattva.

Srivasa Thakura is understood as tatastha-shakti, a marginal energy of Bhagavan, Krisna in person. Devotees who are headed by Srivasa Thakura are described as 'parts' of transcendental body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (his eyes, ears, hands, disc/cakra, etc.). They all participated in His transcendental pastimes. They all helped to spread Krsna consciousness, sankirtana-yajna. On the other hand, Srivasa is also Narada - an eternal transcendental associate of Lord Krsna. Srivasa was studying Srimad-Bhagavatam with Advaita Acarya, who was at that time in Navadvipa. They worshiped Krsna, who as an answer to their prayers, appeared as Caitanya Mahaprabhu and converted many atheists - Buddhists and others who were opposed to pure devotional service - making them all His loving devotees.

The home of Srivasa, Srivasangam, was a place where Sri Caitanya perform sankirtana-yajna, congregational chanting of Krsna's Holy Names, and it was a place where Kazi, a noted Muslim leader, ruled. However, Kazi had a dream where Sri Caitanya said that he should allow devotional service, so since that time Kazi promised that he would never oppose sankirtana-yajna, and also that no one from his family would ever be against Krsna. Kazi was Kamsa in some previous life, but Sri Caitanya showed him mercy by making him devotee. This is inconceivable - Kamsa was enemy of Krsna, Kamsa was an Asura or demon who wanted to kill Krsna, but Caitanya came and mercifully gave even such a demon as Kazi devotional service to Krsna. There is a story that Kazi was serious about converting devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu into Muslims, but this happened just the opposite – so many Muslims later changed their chanting from names of Allah into chanting Holy names of Hari, Krsna. So impersonlists, Buddhists, Muslims - all became devotees by mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srivasa laughed at the religious fanaticism of Kazi.

In the house of Srivasa, Chaitanya showed His transcendental form to all His eternal associates. So Srivasa is also a place from which Krishna consciousness movement around five hundred years ago was started.

Srivasa Thakura had previously lived in Sri Hatta, but because he wanted the association of devotees he went to live on the banks of the Ganges in Nabadwip. Srivasa Thakura had three brothers: Sripati, Srirama and Srinidhi. He also had one son, but at a young age his son died.

The Devils of Loudun

The Devils of Loudun is a 1952 non-fiction novel by Aldous Huxley. It is a historical narrative of supposed demonic possession, religious fanaticism, sexual repression, and mass hysteria that occurred in 17th-century France surrounding unexplained events that took place in the small town of Loudun. It centers on Roman Catholic priest Urbain Grandier and an entire convent of Ursuline nuns, who allegedly became possessed by demons after Grandier made a pact with Satan. The events led to several public exorcisms as well as executions by burning.

The story was adapted into a stage play in 1960, which was then adapted into the controversial 1971 Ken Russell film The Devils, which starred Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed. There is also an opera based on the play, Die Teufel von Loudun, by Krzysztof Penderecki, available on DVD. The book, though lesser known than Huxley's other novels (such as Brave New World), is widely considered one of his best works.

The Fiend (film)

The Fiend (U.S. Beware My Brethren) is a 1972 British serial killer horror film, directed by Robert Hartford-Davis and starring Ann Todd, Tony Beckley and Patrick Magee. The film is set against a background of religious fanaticism and, as with other films directed by Hartford-Davis, also includes elements of the sexploitation genre of the early 1970s.

The Fiend as originally released runs for 98 minutes, but an edited version of 87 minutes (removing most of its more graphic content) was produced for the U.S. market. The film was released on DVD in 2005; however the DVD uses the cut version.

Through Darkest Europe

Through Darkest Europe (previously announced as God Wills It) is an alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove. The book is set in an alternate present in which Islamic countries form a prosperous, democratic and progressive First World, while underdeveloped Christian countries suffer from religious fanaticism.

Torquemada (play)

Torquemada is an 1869 play by Victor Hugo about Tomás de Torquemada and the Inquisition in Spain. It criticized religious fanaticism and fanatical catholicism. It was first published in 1882, as a protest against antisemitic pogroms in Russia at the time.

Treatise on Tolerance

The Treatise on Tolerance on the Occasion of the Death of Jean Calas from the Judgment Rendered in Toulouse (Pieces Originales Concernant la Mort des Sieurs Calas det le Jugement rendu a Toulouse) is a work by French philosopher Voltaire, published in 1763, in which he calls for tolerance between religions, and targets religious fanaticism, especially that of the Jesuits (under whom Voltaire received his early education), indicting all superstitions surrounding religions.

Wieland (novel)

Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale, usually simply called Wieland, is the first major work by Charles Brockden Brown. First published in 1798, it distinguishes the true beginning of his career as a writer. Wieland is the first – and most famous – American Gothic novel. It has often been linked to Caleb Williams by William Godwin. Godwin's influence is clear, but Brown's writing is unique in its style. Wieland is often categorized under several subgenres other than gothic fiction, including horror, psychological fiction and epistolary fiction, which are listed at Project Gutenberg.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.