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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Even in the "gentle faiths"

Religious fanaticism has existed in all ages and all religions. It is the sinister side of faith, and its explanation remains elusive. Such extremism - which is usually unleashed in spasms of violence against dissenters - can even be found in so-called "gentle" faiths like Hinduism and Buddhism.

It is most prolific in the three Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, i.e. the religions that trace their roots to Abraham (or Ibrahim, as he is called by the Muslims). Abraham's son Isaac is considered the progenitor of the Jews. The Arabs regard his half-brother Ismael (whom Abraham conceived with Hagar, a maidservant, and not his wife Sarah) as their progenitor

Indeed, it all began with Abraham: the whole issue of violence ordered by divine missives. According to Jewish and Islamic religious history, the Almighty told Abraham, or Ibrahim, to sacrifice the thing most dear to him - his son - as a sign of his unconditional devotion. Abraham intended to obey, but at the last moment, an angel sent from heaven appeared and stopped him. Every year, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha in remembrance of this divine trial.

According to the three Abrahamic faiths, God only revealed the truth about Himself, humankind and the world to their respective religion; it is there- fore recorded separately in their holy scriptures: the Hebrew Bible (the Torah, or Old Testament to Christians), the Christian New Testament and the Islamic Koran

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