Religious radicals are true believers?

Let’s first state that “true believer” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right, rather they believe something like they believe the sun will rise the next day.

The terrorists that attacked the WTC were Muslims who clearly believed they would receive eternal salvation by committing the acts they deemed justified. I hear so many people saying, “They weren’t true believers of Islam, they misinterpreted the Koran.” Although, who gets to determine what the correct interpretation is.

I would even go so far to say these men who made the attack are even purer believers than many other religious folk.

Here’s how I come to that conclusion. Let’s say you believe in the Christian God, thus no one can get to heaven except through Jesus, thus everyone else burns in the firey pits of hell for all eternity. Christianity is also supposed to be a prosletyzing religion, so wouldn’t you feel obligated to be that crazy guy that wears the sign “Jesus saves” and hand out flyers and try to get the message out to everyone.

I don’t have enough time to explain it all clearly brb in 1 hr.

I see your point. Eric Hoffer is responsible for this usage, having effectively defined “true believer” as someone who holds to a belief based on non-rational grounds and therefore incapable of being reasoned out of that belief or into another belief. (Someone with more familiarity with Hoffer’s work than I may want to refine that somewhat vague definition a bit better.)

Also, it’s been my experience that people who insist that their belief structure conform to what we can know about the world through inductive logic are usually condemned as lukewarm members of their faith (or “not really X-ians”) by those who hold to such non-rational beliefs.

I don’t see your point. :wink:

Are you saying that radicals (or fundies) should stop calling themselves ‘Christians’, a very loose term not to be reserved for ‘true believers’?
Then I agree.
Saying: ‘Hi, I’m a Christian.’ is very confusing when you actually mean: ‘Hi, I’m a Christian Fundamentalist.’

My debate topic was essentially how can religious radicals be thought of as “misguided” or “wrong” merely because they interperate the text differently than someone else.

The second dominant tie-in on this debate was are radicals actually “true believers”. Whether this radical destroyed the WTC or is found in large crowds wearing a big sign promoting his/her religion and shouting his/her beliefs. And I ask if these people are true believers or not, because if you truly believed that all people were going to burn in hell, wouldn’t you feel a dire need to fill other people in on what they’re missing out on. And if you truly believed that Islam was in danger due to western imperialism wouldn’t you feel obligated to abide by your interpretation of your beliefs to the fullest extent .

Sorry, for not clearifying the OP, I was under a time constraint, I hope this is satisfactory.

I see what you’re getting at, and it is a dilemma. Yes, I believe that many religious fundamentalists truly believe what they preach, even those who resort to violent means. But do I care? Well, as much as I care that the man who lives in a box downtown and who wears plastic bags on his feet thinks dinosaurs are out to get him. Now, if he were to decide that some people were in cahoots with the dinosaurs and had to be killed, or even if he decided that his life’s work was harassing others into believing, that would be another story. (while we’re on the topic of religion- and when aren’t we in GD?- the Wiccan rede comes to mind “An it harm none do what thou wilt”)
As for the actual WTC terrorists, along with other Islamic suicide bombers, many Muslims have tried to stress that, according to Islam, suicide is a sin. And didn’t these men frequent strip clubs prior to the act?

I think when people say of extremists, "but they aren’t true [believers in X] " what they’re trying to say is that while not everyone who believes in X does what they people do. Polycarp, Jodi, Tomndebb and I have all spent enough time saying, more or less “All Christians aren’t like that.” I suspect people were trying to do the same with Islam in the example you cited.


Fanatical and extreme behaviour is easily seen as proof of sincerity of belief - the reasoning being that people wouldn’t do things so far out of the ordinary, if they weren’t more than ordinarily motivated by their faith. Similarly with ascetics: you see people giving up various pleasant things, you naturally assume they are more strongly and deeply motivated than others who continue to enjoy them.

I’m not sure about this. Only God knows the truth of what each of us holds in our hearts… but the extremists have such a showy, “look-at-me-I’m-more-committed-than-you” manner that I can’t help but wonder if their faith isn’t hollow underneath.

It seems to me that it is very easy to kill for one’s beliefs… and not that much harder to die for them. (Given a certain amount of self-deception, or peer pressure…) What is hard is to live for your beliefs - if you’re a Christian, to let Christ’s message shape your life, your judgements, the way you deal with those around you. In my (admittedly limited) experience, such people are not outwardly extreme in their behaviour… but anyone who knows them knows that they are, in a real sense, true believers.

Sorry to slightly hijack, but this reminds me of some analysis I did of a friend of mine who lives in very slovenly conditions on purpose and almost is distainful of those who live in “normal” or even nice living situations. I see what he means about not having a nice place while others are suffering, but I also think he is the kind of person who doesn’t mind living this way. I think it comes down to tolerance levels and what personal taste will allow. I think it’s a lot bigger sacrifice for someone who can’t stand to live like that to still go ahead and do it for a greater principle. But if you are constantly afraid or physically suffering because of the sacrifices you can’t stand, are you really free to be the kind of person you are meant to be?

Yep. We are all different, so (assuming we have a God-given purpose) we all have different purposes in life. It’s much better, I think, from both a theological and a personal standpoint, if we find out what that purpose is and do our best to fulfil it, rather than adhere to somebody else’s standards of morality and behaviour - no matter how admirable those standards may appear. At least, this is my excuse for being a reasonably good software developer, instead of a bad priest.

I’ll second what Steve Wright said:

At various times in my life, I’ve considered entering a convent or the priesthood and making a formal worldly dedication of my life to Christ, and I’ve been doing that a bit more since I got laid off. The thing is, that’s apparently not what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to be in the world, dealing with the stress and reality, rather than running from it. Besides, I don’t think they’d let me have access to the SDMB in a convent! :slight_smile:

On this board alone, the beliefs that His4Ever, for example, and I differ quite a bit, even though we both consider ourselves devout Christians and even “true believers.” This is splitting a very fine hair, but what I would say of her is, “We differ on the details of our beliefs,” rather than “She’s not a Christian” or “She’s wrong.” If I felt more strongly that overt proselytization was good, you’d better believe I’d be doing a lot more of it. (No pun intended.) Since I’ve got my doubts about its effectiveness, I prefer to go about things my own way.

So, we’ve got 2 reasonably good Anglican software developers. If we get a couple more, we can get a good game of Hearts going. :wink:


How good an anglican do you have to be to join this game? :smiley:

To get back to the topic at hand…

I’ve always felt that with a lot of the more destructive ‘extremists/true believers’ the particular bee in their bonnet comes first, and the religion aspect is mostly a convenient excuse for following through with it.

For instance - people who fly planes into buildings. Were they just ordinary kids growing up until someone pointed them at a passage of the Koran that said ‘go and kill the infidel’, or did they start off feeling insecure and victimised and angry and then deliberately go looking through their holy book to find a justification for acting on those feelings.

I suspect more the latter. These people actually had two belief systems going - one was ‘I should be a good Muslim as defined in the Koran’ and the other one was ‘I have been victimised by the evil West and deserve to get some of my own back’. And even though they claimed it was the first of these beliefs that was driving these actions, it was actually the second