How Healthy Spirituality and Religious Fundamentalism Differ

How Wholesome Spirituality and Spiritual Fundamentalism Differ


Ric Rodrigues/Pexels

Supply: Ric Rodrigues/Pexels

Though corruption inside spiritual establishments is widespread data, not often can we get round to discussing how spiritual abuse can overlap with the victim-blaming techniques of narcissistic abuse, the mob mentality of cults, the racialized mythologies framing eugenics rhetoric, and/or the (usually militarized) suppression of mass media, secular increased training, Enlightenment values, and democratic political opposition by authoritarian regimes.

This explicit convergence is the very essence of non secular fundamentalism–a political-religious doctrine linked with adultism and baby abuse, misogyny, right-wing authoritarianism, and xenophobic neo-fascism. Analysis additionally associates spiritual fundamentalism, throughout all faiths, with mind harm, low cognitive flexibility, gullibility to conspiracies/propaganda, each low vanity and narcissism, persecutory delusions, and unhealthy perfectionism.

Within the U.S., spiritual fundamentalists are the single-largest—and most organized—voting bloc opposing actions for reproductive justice, racial justice, (pandemic-related) incapacity justice, LGBTQ+ rights, gun management, local weather justice, and different social justice points. Disturbingly, their ideological aggression mirrors spiritual fundamentalists across the globe—from the New York Instances experiences of Hindu extremists rallying for the extermination of Muslims in India to Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims reportedly terrorizing Sri Lankan Tamils, as depicted in activist-designer-rapper M.I.A.’s documentary.

As psychological well being advocates who acknowledge the interconnectedness of all systemic injustices, it’s crucial that we perceive how spiritual fundamentalism threatens democracy. This public scholarship is meant for use as a condensed primer that disassembles the ideology to 1) illustrate how and why it spans all spiritual doctrines and a pair of) the way it differs from wholesome spirituality, in order that legitimate critiques of fundamentalism can pre-empt conflation with anti-theism. (Observe: “G-d” is spelled as such out of respect for Jewish custom concerning the utterance of divine names.)

The Fundamentals: Fundamentalist Doctrine

Spiritual fundamentalism is a meta-belief that points inflexible edicts, usually associated to the sinfulness of all behaviors. The very best precedence is usually seen as surviving Judgment Day or its equal, not folks’s welfare within the right here and now.

Accordingly, in lots of instances, nearly no diploma of humanism or relationality elements into the rulebook. Nonetheless, analysis exhibits that some folks derive a way of management and/or self-regulation from the ideology’s prescriptiveness.

My conceptual framework of non secular fundamentalism consists of seven pillars (so far):

  1. the idea that spiritual pluralism corrupts, and just one faith is/could be legitimate
  2. blaming society’s issues on secular modernization and youthful generations
  3. ironclad in-group favoritism and a strict division between “us” and “them”
  4. apocalyptic nervousness and/or fantasies of rapture acceleration (e.g., pleasure about local weather destruction)
  5. obligatory evangelizing, with or with out others’ consent
  6. fixed “non secular warfare” with “The Enemy”
  7. authoritarian expectations of leaders (unquestioned dominion) and followers (complete subordinance)

Some have argued that spiritual fundamentalism hardly focuses on G-d as a lot because it does exert energy and management—intrapsychically, interpersonally, organizationally, and politically.

The Divergence: Fundamentalism vs. Wholesome Spirituality

Arguably probably the most obtrusive variations between wholesome spirituality and non secular observe and non secular fundamentalism emerge round authority, management, institutional energy, and the censorship of information.

First, fundamentalist leaders usually instill self-doubt through the doctrine of complete depravity. This standpoint frames humanity as innately wicked, depraved, and against G-d’s will. Not solely that, nevertheless it pits prayer and religion in opposition to self-help, initiative, and proactiveness. Redemption and continued submission to G-d’s will—whichever chief determines what precisely seems to be like—is the one option to transcend depravity.

Dismissing the potential for innate human altruism, compounded with a disregard for actionable religion, solely provides option to a false religion-activism dichotomy on the societal degree. Furthermore, the historic affect of many religion leaders—C.T. Vivian, James Lawson, James Cone, Joseph Lowery, Ralph Abernathy, activist-rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Gustavo Gutiérrez, father of liberation theology, to call just a few—debunks the religion-activism binary.

The affect of this fundamentalist tenet is each private and political. Whereas wholesome spirituality can promote introspection and instinct, particularly through mind-body consciousness, fundamentalism indoctrinates emotional detachment by severing the thoughts and physique. And, personally and politically, fundamentalism permits discovered helplessness and non secular bypassing. In consequence, fundamentalist activism usually champions detrimental rights versus optimistic rights.

Second, fundamentalist leaders usually endorse authoritarianism. Marlene Winnell conceptualized Spiritual Trauma Syndrome (R.T.S.) to symbolize how a dictatorial management fashion and narcissistic abuse techniques can converge in fundamentalist clergy. Victims are sometimes pathologized and scapegoated, whereas clergy efficiently shield their picture by taking part in the sufferer. R.T.S. overlaps with “Church buildings That Abuse,” “25 Indicators of Religious Abuse,” and different fashions of non secular abuse.

Whereas wholesome spirituality promotes a consensual, individualized non secular journey, spiritual fundamentalism mandates that authority unilaterally dictate and examine all members’ non secular consciousness.

The authoritarian dynamic of fundamentalism, mixed with the easily-roused guilt and gullibility of members, can enable leaders to weaponize disgrace and worry-mongering to discourage autonomy and impartial considering.

Authoritarian logic may also justify the infliction of painful and humiliating punishments to which authorities would by no means consent. The end result is undeterred reverence for leaders who destroy proof of abuse and shield their reputations over folks.

Lastly, fundamentalist leaders usually promote scriptural literalism, a way of scriptural interpretation that adheres to the strictest connotation of phrase alternative, disregarding figurative speech. Underlying this strategy is a powerful bias in opposition to secular accounts of historical past (e.g., archaeology) and the notion that sacred texts had been supernaturally-manifested, not hand-written on scrolls by scribes, over the course of about 1,500 years. This place fuels each ahistoricism and superstitiousness, as pseudohistory can plant the seeds for conspiracy.

The movie “1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Tradition,” as an example, exposes how the Revised Customary Model publishers’ committee changed “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai”—Greek phrases for pervert–with “gay.” And in 1983, Biblica, the copyright proprietor of the N.I.V. Bible, mistranslated German scripture. “Knabenschander”—connoting rampant pedophilia by Catholic clergymen±was changed with “gay,” simply because the media deemed AIDS “the homosexual plague.”

So, when former President Trump’s Bible trainer attributed the origin of COVID-19 to homosexual males supposedly angering “G-d’s wrath,” it got here as no shock to many. Nor was there a lot shock when televangelist Pat Robertson—Christian Broadcasting Community’s founder and The 700 Membership’s host for 55 years—stated on air that homosexual males shake palms carrying sharp rings to unfold H.I.V purposely.

Whereas wholesome spirituality goals to stability religion with motive, spiritual fundamentalism promotes anti-intellectualism, the over-spiritualizing of oppression and tragedy, and unquestioned acceptance of pseudohistory and pseudoscience. Contemplating this demographic’s excessive diploma of gullibility to misinformation, political mobility, and powerful ethical incentive to reshape secular governments into theocratic regimes, the implications for the wrestle to guard no matter diploma of democracy we at the moment have are huge.


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