Religion is however we feel our connections to the universe.  Religion can be superstitious or scientific. It can be theistic or atheistic. It can be communal or selfish. Religion is something everyone does, either well or poorly. Religion is our simplified map of world. Philosophy when think about that map, religion is when we feel it.

There are but three religions: and our entire lives are built on one of these three foundations:

There are religions of Fear:

Fundamentalism is what the universe looks like through the lens of fear. Fundamentalism is afraid of change and afraid of strangers. Fundamentalism always feels something has gone terribly wrong. It imagines an angry deity just out of sight. It uses that invisible authority to prove its every claim and justify its every deed.  Because it is afraid, fundamentalism seeks power above all else. It wants to “take America back” or “purify the church from impurity.” It understands the world primarily in terms of power, and seeks to put itself or another fundamentalist in charge.

A conservative is not necessarily a fundamentalist by any means. The difference is fear. Conservatives are concerned with living their own lives, fundamentalists cannot leave people who are not like themselves alone. Even a committed atheist can fall into this trap if, instead of building a compassionate nontheistic worldview by its best lights, it keeps returning to its ridicule of religious people.

There are religions of Desire:

While we won’t be looking at self-defense from this kind of religion, it is important not to leave it out. Worldviews built on desire are usually magical, and self-focused.  A religion of desire does not learn from the world as it is, but seeks to shape the world in its own image. Ideas and practices are chosen for how they make the practitioner feel. Such religion may consist in a personal practice, in chants, beads or in whatever gives the individual a “buzz.” This is the religion of miracles, fortune tellers and success seminars.

There are religions of Love:

By “love” I mean our felt sense of connectedness to each other and to the natural world.  This is the religion of mysticism. “Mysticism” here does not mean “magic” or “supernatural”. Mysticism is an over powering sense of reverence for reality and an awareness that our consciousness emerges from a primordial depth we cannot comprehend.

An astronomer who discovers a new nebula and pauses to say “Wow” is having a mystical moment. Einstein did not believe in a personal God, but used the term “mystical” to imply this dissolving into reverence and interconnectedness. A religion of love can unite the best science and highest reverence, A religion of love can unite the universal and the personal. A religion of love can balance a calling to justice with a deep compassion for all side locked in that struggle.

 Self-Defense Course

For the next two weeks we will be looking at scriptures that refute fundamentalism. We will not be assuming our reader are Christian, but that whether Christian or not they are dealing with people who have fundamentally misunderstood the message of Jesus. My hope will be to disarm fundamentalist misuse of scripture and to point out scriptures that call us to tolerance, scientific honesty, personal responsibility and universal humanism.

Warning label: The truth is we are all fundamentalists when we are afraid or frustrated. Fundamentalism is the name we give our primate instincts and the stored memories of fear and shame that fundamentalism seeks to exploit. The purpose of this guide will not be to give you tools to defeat fundamentalists in a debate. That is as easy as it is counter-productive. An embarrassed fundamentalist is even more dangerous.  Instead, our purpose will be to keep the fundamentalist who is standing outside of you from triggering the fundamentalist who is hiding inside you.