The notion of god means different things to different people. Religions vary in identity and function. Almost all religions require their adherents to believe their specific religious doctrines with absolute certainty. These deep-seated beliefs and attitudes then become inflexible and are held with great zeal.
Closed Minds and Closed Hearts: Absolutism is Evil
The self-righteous voices of fanaticism, the cruel voices of indifference and intolerance, and the uninformed voices of hate are revolting. Religious extremists are accountable for a lot of pain and suffering in the world. Crusades, inquisitions, faith-based discrimination and persecution, religious wars, and other forms of sheer hatred of other human beings are attributable to attitudes of hate and narrow-mindedness. Nothing deceives you as much as extreme passion.
The Scottish Anglican cleric Richard Holloway reflects on these concerns in Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt (2014,)
Religions may begin as vehicles of longing for mysteries beyond description, but they end up claiming exclusive descriptive rights to them. They segue the ardor and uncertainty of seeking to the confidence and complacence of possession. They shift from poetry to packaging. Which is what people want. They don’t want to spend years wandering in the wilderness of doubt. They want the promised land of certainty, and religious realists are quick to provide it for them. The erection of infallible systems of belief is a well-understood device to still humanity’s fear of being lost in life’s dark wood without a compass. “Supreme conviction is a self-cure for the infestation of doubts.” That is why David Hume noted that, while errors in philosophy were only ridiculous, errors in religion were dangerous. They were dangerous because when supreme conviction is threatened it turns nasty.
Idea for Impact: Beware the Danger of Religious Certainty
We, humans, tend to have a profound need for certainty. It’s easy to embrace prepackaged convictions unquestionably and deny doubt. Most people draw their faith as children from their parents and never question their beliefs for the rest of their lives.
Religious certainty can provoke limitedness in the human condition. We always have to concede that we may be mistaken and learn to tolerate others’ attitudes that may actually bother us.
Be a voice for peace. Be a voice for humanity, for open-mindedness, for wisdom, for justice.