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Radical Faith – Exploring faith in a changed world

24 Jul

From Scottish Bishop Richard Holloway:

It is an inescapable human fact that some people want only to belong to groups of the like-minded, or sects, however tiny. Indeed, the perfect sect is probably a solitary individual with no one around to disturb his absolute sense that he alone is right…

The main characteristic of the sect and the sectarian mind is fear, whether of pollution or ultimate damnation. Most of us know that there are many weird people out there with strange opinions, but we are usually undisturbed by their monomania unless they manage to take over some institution that is important to us and drive it in their own direction.

It is, in Yeats’ phrase, the worst who are filled with passionate intensity while the rest of us are enjoying our ordinary lives. Many obsessive sectarians are probably also psychotic, but I do not want to trespass into the area of mental health tonight except to point out that at the root of much religious sectarianism is a kind of ultimate fear…

The curse of all religious systems is perfectionism and the guilt it induces. Religion seems to attract insecure personalities who are so afraid of getting things wrong that they live in constant fear of sin or having the wrong ideas about God and reality, so they create these cruel systems that rule them, telling them how to act and how to think, how to qualify for God’s approval.

They are obsessed with that need to be right that kills the spirit. All the competing religions try to persuade people that they alone have the right programme, are the place where, finally, we will be right: “Join us and you’ll be saved from the anger of God”, they say…

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Posted by on July 24, 2005 in British, Christianity, culture wars, faith and philosophy, interfaith, Pomo

 

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