Some of the more popular television shows being aired these days deal with addictions or extreme behavior, such as hoarding, obesity, anorexia and drug addiction and intervention. These shows center on otherwise normal people who have become addicted to certain forms of behavior or have taken their interests to extremes, which place themselves or others in danger. Each of these programs often show the extreme behavior in gruesome detail which is shocking to some viewers, who may think this type of extreme behavior is a rarity and far from their own little world. The viewer sees that in each of these programs help is offered by professional mental health practitioners, but in most cases the effected persons deny the severity of their behavior and refuse any kind of help. One can plainly see how much the families and friends of these people are suffering from these types of extreme behavior.
If people do not know anyone who suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, hoarding, eating disorders or other extreme behavior, they may think that they are not effected in any way. But they are wrong. Look at one aspect of life that is present in our every day routines. Religion. Every day people are seen or heard praying. They say grace before meals. They go to mass, church, temple or mosque once a week or more. We hear people preaching in public, whether we want to listen or not. We usually don’t give this a second thought and accept it as a normal aspect of life.
But take a closer look at what can happen. The Twin Towers bombings were carried out by Muslim extremists. Suicide bombings are an every day occurrence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas of the Middle East and Africa. The Taliban is terrorizing Pakistanis and Afghans to force them to adhere to their archaic beliefs. These terrorist attacks are all carried out in the name of Islam. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda have vowed to destroy the West and replace the governments there with their form of Islam. They kill tens of thousands of innocent people, including thousands of peace loving Muslims, because they think or pray differently. Even in moderate Muslim countries there are groups trying to force their beliefs and practices on the rest of the population.
In Israel ultra-Orthodox Jews known as Haredi Jews, a minority in the country are attacking school girls walking to school in a small city near Jerusalem. This sect of Jewish extremists believe in strict segregation of the sexes and they are determined to force their beliefs and practices on the majority of secular Jews, even if it involves attacks on police and other acts of violence against other Jews. Peace talks in the Middle East have been a failure because of religious extremists on both sides. Even in Judaism the different sects attack each other.
Now don’t feel smug because the above examples deal with Muslims and Jews. All we have to do is take a look at the current political campaign in the United States to see many examples of Christian extremists. Most of the front running Republicans are courting the Christian evangelicals, who are in reality extremists. Each of the candidates is professing their Christian faith and are promising to force their Christian values on the rest of America. They are not even talking about the possibility that Americans may believe in a different faith. They threaten war against those Muslim terrorists who are trying to force their beliefs on their own countrymen, while doing the same thing to their fellow Americans in the US. What hypocrites! They value freedom of religion as long as it is their religion. We all remember the fanatical Christian extremists of the Westboro Baptist church whose hateful rhetoric and practices of demonstrating at military funerals and those of gay or gay friendly people. There are only a few members, but they are trying to force their views on the rest of the country. There are many sects of the Christian religion in the West and they each think they are the one and only true Christian religion.
Religious extremism is not only attributed to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. All religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and many others have their extremist members. Even atheism has its extremist elements. There are a couple of big differences between religious extremists and those extremists mentioned in the first part of this post. Firstly religion is quite often considered to be a sacred cow (excuse the pun) and people are either afraid or unwilling to discuss religion in public. Therefore many extremist religious practices or beliefs are ignored or tacitly accepted. People don’t want to criticize someone of their own faith, even though they are not in agreement. Secondly, a big difference is that drug addicts or hoarders and others exhibiting extreme behavior can and do receive treatment for their disorders. Religious extremists are just as sick and unbalanced as other addicts, but no one wants to recognize this. No one offers or even suggests mental health assistance. Because these peoples illnesses are a result of religious beliefs, no one wants to touch upon this subject. It is taboo. It is normal for people to want to express a belief and practice a certain religion, but when those beliefs and practices endanger other peoples lives or the lives of the believers, something must be done. We must recognize that religious addiction does exist.