Fanatic vs. Believer -- Where to draw the line

By Leca
@lecanis (16661)
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
February 3, 2008 5:03pm CST
I've spent much of my life being called a religious fanatic, because my religion affects pretty much all of my decisions in life in some way or another, and because I often plan my schedule around religious holidays or rituals. Some people find this funny because I'm not part of a mainstream religion, and they're used to thinking of pagans as being "spiritual but not religious" or more flexible in our beliefs and actions. On the other hand, I've always used the word "fanatic" to describe people who try to force their religion on others, or try to make people follow the laws of their religion whether they are believers or not. Mostly in my own mind rather than out loud though, since I don't really like to go around insulting people. Where do you draw this line? Is it a level of involvement in religion in the person's own life that makes them a fanatic, or the way they treat other people? Are you offended if someone refers to you as a religious fanatic?
5 people like this
18 responses
@uath13 (8204)
• United States
4 Feb 08
I happen to think fanatics are people who take things too far ( often trying to force their beliefs on others, or doing things without consideration of others ). You really don't fall into that category.
2 people like this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Feb 08
Yup, that sounds right to me! Thanks! :)
@skinnychick (6906)
• United States
4 Feb 08
People who know me don't call me a religious fanatic because I'm far from it. So I'm not sure about that part of the argument. But like you the ones I always called fanatics were the ones who religion was the "only" religion and would push their faith on anyone or everyone. Your faith seems to come up in many of your discussions and to me the way you discuss your experience with your faith makes you a deep believer. I have never seen you push it on anyone else. Everyone rearranges schedules around religious holidays so it makes you no different than anyone else though your faith is not mainstream and this is what maybe makes a difference in this case to others who don't get it. Nutshell- Fanatics shove their religion down your throat and feel that their religion is the only one that exists. Believers are just the opposite- the believers stand by their faith, respect it and celebrate it- without wanting to force it on everyone.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
Oh, I like teh way you put that in a nutshell. Very good, very good! You have such a way with getting right down to the heart of things, skinnychick!
• United States
4 Feb 08
Awww thanks! :)
1 person likes this
@II2aTee (2559)
• United States
4 Feb 08
Always trust Skinnychick to get down to the skinny of things.
1 person likes this
• India
4 Feb 08
"spiritual but not religious"…to me these are completely separate identities. I have always maintained that a person may worship everyday and go to annual pilgrimage compulsorily and surround himself by religious symbols but that does not necessarily make him spiritual. A spiritual person need not show off his spirituality like a religious person likely does. Your being a pagan or a Christian does not really matter coz as long as you do not know your own self and how to connect that self with the Universal God, you are not really going anywhere. And the moment you can do that, you become a spiritual person and not merely a religious one. To me a fanatic is a person who is ready to even kill another in the name of religion, it is not merely passive belief, it is active madness and devilry and a cunning way of ruling over others in the name of religion. While on this, I would like to know what form of paganism do you follow? Is it wicca?
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
I see spiritual and religious as two separate but complimentary things, sudiptacallingu. When I say "religious", I mean taking part in and celebrating the rituals, holidays, history, and beliefs of a specific religious path. When I say "spiritual", I mean having a personal relationship with a deity/deities/spirit, etc. and/or an understanding of yourself as a spiritual being. Hence, in my mind my religion and my spirituality go hand in hand. Maybe my definitions aren't quite normal, but I realize that some people are spiritual without being religious, or religious without being spiritual... I simply choose to see myself as being both. My religion is Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism. It's sometimes called Celtic Reconstructionism and shorted to CR. I could write pages worth of explanations of what that means, but basically it's a polytheistic tradition with a strong emphasis on honor and personal responsibility. The traditions of my specific path come from the insular Celts (those of the British Isles) and my own study of those traditions is a combination of teachings from my great-grandmother, historical study, and of course my own practice. The major difference between my beliefs and Wicca would be that while Wicca use pieces of many different older traditions, CR focuses on Celtic practices, deities, holidays, and beliefs.
• India
5 Feb 08
Well OK I understand. Being born as a Hindu, I have been raised in the thick of polytheism, with rituals, rites, worship of various deities etc a part of my daily growing up. But my later understanding has made me think that there can never by so many Gods. We may have various manifestations of our beliefs, we may worship the various forces of nature as deities, we may pay our obeisance to the cosmic energy in different ways, but ultimately there has to be one supreme commander. how does your beliefs explain polytheism?
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Feb 08
I'm a hard polytheist, meaning I actually believe in each of my deities as a separate entity, not just manifestations or aspects. I've done a lot of research into other religions and different theological ideas, yet I still haven't seen anything to convince me that there can only be one "supreme commander" as you say. In my opinion, the relationships between the Gods are complex and hard for human beings to fathom. There is a certain amount of specific Gods having more control over specific realms of life, but there's also a certain amount of the Gods working together. I don't need to see one God as being less powerful or less important than another to believe that both exist, just as I don't need to believe that one human is more powerful or important than another to believe that both exist. I know there's a lot of push towards monotheism in ever traditionally polytheistic religions these days, but most of the Celtic Reconstructionists I know are hard polytheists. The Gods have very distinct personalities, rituals, and ways of thinking... and to try to reconcile all of those into one being just blows my mind. I can easily draw comparisons between a Celtic God and say, a Greek God that fills roughly the equivalent role, but trying to say that Morrigan and Brigid are the same deity while being treated completely differently by them to my face would just be silly to me. I see having more than one God as being nothing different than having more than one friend or family member. :)
@balasri (26546)
• India
4 Feb 08
I just cannot go and tell anybody how to call me.At the same time I don't mind too.As far as Iam concerned sticking to your beliefs and sincerely following what you belive is religious.Scoffing at other religions and try to defend your's always is fanatism.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
*nods* Perhaps I spend too much time thinking about labels sometimes, but it's something that interests me, how people interpret the actions of others.
@balasri (26546)
• India
5 Feb 08
Because that is the easiest thing to do for them.
1 person likes this
@Ravenladyj (22920)
• United States
4 Feb 08
People have called you a religious fanatic?? really?? LOL thats just insane...Mind you I suppose their idea of a "fanatic" is different to mine..To me a fanatic (of any kind) is someone who is uncontrolably obsessed...In the case of religion to me a fanatic would be someone who can't think for themselves because they are SO obsessed with their religion it effects every waking moment (and sleeping too I imagine) to the point of being a destructive force in their lives even if they arent aware of it....A religious fanatic to me would be someone who can't see anything outside or past their religious bubble of existence...They are the type of ppl who if you ask them a question or try to converse with them they always or mainly respond with scripture...if you ask them to pass you the salt they'll pray to their god first to see if its ok, then spend an hour trying to convert you, THEN pass you the damn salt ;-)... Think of it this way...a celebrity stalker is a fan who will do anything at any cost to get to their chosen celebrity....Religious fanatics operate in the same way....they live their religion at ANY COST which isnt a good thing...LOL you dont seem to fit that bill Lecanis..not even close :-D
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
Hehe, I think some people call anyone who is religious at all a fanatic, or perhaps anyone who actually follows their religion instead of just giving it lip service. :P Nope, I don't think I fit that bill either, Ravenladyj! I can definitely pass the salt without either praying or proselytizing!
• United States
6 Feb 08
I've been called a "religious fanatic" and I personally take it as a compliment. I am a very devoted Christian. I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart and He is my everything! He is #1 in my life and I seek His wisdom and His plan for my life. God bless!:)
• United States
4 Feb 08
By just following your religion and planning around holidays is normal.Just think of it, don't Christians plan all around Christmas and Easter? What makes a fanatic is their passion for their religion. If they think of themselves as their religion first and as a person second.They think that everything should revolve their religion. And that Everyone should follow their religion.All others are wrong or even worse, a sin to practice.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
I think the planning around holidays thing has to do with time off from work. Since Christians automatically get their main holidays off, they find it weird that I spend pretty much all my time off for the year celebrating various religious holidays, since I don't automatically get mine off. I'm definitely a person first, so I guess I'm not a fanatic by your definition. And of course I don't think everyone should follow my religion... what a boring world it would be with only one belief system in it!
1 person likes this
• United States
5 Feb 08
I don't think you are a fanatic just because you take off work to practice your religion.I am lucky, except Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement,I can work on my holidays. But I couldn't, I would take time off too. That's not being a fanatic, it is practicing the rites of your religion.
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@susieq223 (3742)
• United States
5 Feb 08
I want to be a fanatic when it comes to applying my faith to my own life. Maybe a better word to use would be passionate! I don't like to push my faith down other people's throats, because I don't like it when it is done to me. I will tell anyone about my faith if they leave a door open, but once told, I shut up. I am interesting in how others believe, even if I think they may be wrong. I think many faiths have a piece of the "right" and I never know what I can learn from someone. I like your definition of the fanatic as someone trying to force their beliefs on others, judging them or treating them as "less than."
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Feb 08
Hi, susieq! Very well said! I also want to be passionate in applying my faith to my own life... I think I live up to that pretty well most of the time, but I'm sure there's still room for improvement! :) I love to talk about religion, both mine and other people's, so for me it's always a matter of making sure my way of talking about it is respectful, and in the spirit of shared information and tolerance.
@Kerenhap (63)
• United States
5 Feb 08
Thank you, lecanis, and others who posted to this discussion. I am new here at MyLot, and much enjoyed this discussion and the comments of those in it :) I don't know that I can add much that hasn't already been said in excellent ways, but I would like to introduce myself to you all :) At one point in my own personal search I read the advice somewhere that you need to make your choice so that you become consistant in your practice. I guess I still haven't done that, when it comes to an "organized religion", but feel I HAVE done that when it comes to my personal belief structure. So, lecanis, I see your practice as very "practical" lol... That same book was saying that by taking part in particular ceremonies and practices of your religion (jeesh I don't like that word) you reinforce your practice in your daily life. so that's a good thing :) I see a person's "personal beliefs" as something different... much like people can be Catholic, but not necessarily comfortable with the church being against the use of contraceptives... but they do not let that small piece of man made dogma deter them from their personal belief in God I personally see "fanatics" (when it comes to religion) as those who are not open minded, they wholely believe in the dogma of their particular practice, rather than the "essence" of its truth. To me, if they cannot see the truth that lies behind their religion, then they totally lack understanding at the very basic level. They are too much caught up in this illusionary world, and not really practicing their connection to the spiritual one... Obviously, lecanis, I can see from this one thread that you cannot be accused of that! I am pleased to meet all of you, and thank you for allowing me to take part in this thread... Blessings
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Feb 08
I love what you said about the importance of personal beliefs above organized religion. In my opinion too, as long as you have your personal beliefs sorted out, that's more important than which religion you actually fall under. Since my religion is such a personal and non-organized one to start with, I suppose it's easier for me to form my personal beliefs freely. Since my own research (both historical and spiritual) defines my practice more than anything else, I don't often fall into the traps of "lies my religion tells me." :P
• Italy
5 Feb 08
I think people are not used anymore to see people who spend a lot of time with religion rituals/prayers/holidays etc. In the past everyone prayed and went to the church, now people who do this are the strange ones. I've thought of some fervent catholics as fanatics, for example a guy who stopped to play the violin coz he was too occupied in religious issues (like going to the mass two times a day) but he was one of the nastier persons I've met (was being nice to people the point of being christian?) Maybe from some of them it was an irrational thought coz I saw them too invested from what I'm used to see.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Feb 08
I think you're right... that a lot of people are not used to seeing others be religious at all. I can see how the guy being a nasty person would confuse you as to his religious intentions. I feel the same way a lot of the time, when people claim religion around me but aren't decent human beings.
@dodoguy (1292)
• Australia
4 Feb 08
Hi lecanis, You've done well to define the term "fanatic" up front, because that then demarcates the bounds of its use. By your own definition, how can you be a fanatic if you don't try to ram your beliefs down everyone else's throats? So it seems you're not a fanatic. As for being offended at being called a fanatic, it's only really possible to be offended by what others think if you care about what they think. I might be alarmed and motivated to defend myself if someone became hostile to me because of their attitudes towards my beliefs, but I wouldn't take personal offense as such. It's a bit like walking in a forest and being set upon by a pack of wild dogs - you might defend yourself, but you'd hardly be offended by your critics in that case because their intentions are quite plain and their views are immaterial to your outlook on life. There is a far greater reality than that which we can perceive with our limited senses, and religion acknowledges that reality. If not, then religion is just a hobby, like building model ships or playing a game of bowls - lots of people treat it that way, and that's their choice. I'd suggest that anyone who doesn't live what they claim is their religion as a reality is just giving lip-service to it, like a hobby or a social obligation - while their true (unstated) religion, their true view of reality, is nonetheless reflected in the way they live their lives. It doesn't matter what other people think of you, nor you of them. That's likely where fanatics take root.
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Feb 08
Very well-said! :)
@crazynurse (7489)
• United States
4 Feb 08
For me, a religious fanatic is one who tries to alter the beliefs of others to fit their particular religion or beliefs. I don't care how deep someone's faith or religion is in their own life, but I prefer they not try to force their beliefs onto me. Just as you stated, I don't insult others for their beliefs nor do I try to pull people into my beliefs.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Feb 08
Hehe, we agree once again, crazynurse! We're doing a lot of that lately! :)
@Sillychick (3279)
• United States
4 Feb 08
I think it's funny- as in weird- that people would call you a fanatic because you make decisions based on your beliefs and that you celebrate the holidays or rituals of your religion. First, if religion has nothing to do with your daily life, why bother calling yourself a member of the faith? I can't stand people who lie cheat and steal all week, then go to church on Sunday and think they are better than people who don't go. Second, no one gives it a second thought when a Christian celebrates Christmas or Easter. It doesn't make them a fanatic, so why would you be a fanatic for celebrating the holidays associated with your faith? It's ridiculous. I agree that a fanatic is a person who goes around trying to shove their religion on others, who wears a rosary and carrys a bible, who says 'go in peace' or 'God bless you' every time they talk to anyone, even people who are not part of their church. They are people who talk about it constantly to people who obviously don't want to hear it. They are the people who flaunt their religion in every way possible. Those people annoy me.
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@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
Excellent point, Sillychick! I agree, if you aren't going to actually have religion in your daily life, then why claim a religion? As I mentioned to another poster, I think the holiday issue mainly has to do with work for me... I have to specifically schedule holidays off rather than automatically getting them, so people notice that every time I ask for time off, it's pretty much because of a religious holiday. Though I only tell them that when they ask why I need the time off. Ah, yes, I know plenty of those type of fanatics, who constantly have to say "God Bless You" and such even though they know you don't care or appreciate it. Or "I'll pray for you" every time you mention anything that they don't agree with, which really means "I'll pray for you to change your mind, betray everything you believe in, and be like me." :P
@xParanoiax (6997)
• United States
4 Feb 08
I call fanatics...people who would never consider their religion being wrong, or almost never. People who...are blind to anything that doesn't fit within their world view. People who go out of their way to force others to their religion. Just because one's faith is important to one's life, does not make them a fanatic.
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@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
Very good definition, xParanoiax.
• United States
4 Feb 08
I am not sure why some people are coined fanatics. Perhaps when they try to push their views down the throats of others. It could also be that those calling them a fanatic do no agree with their philosphies. For whatever reason, I would be insulted by it as fanatic has a negative connotation as far as I am concerned.
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
In my mind, shoving your views down someone else's throat is the easiest way to get labeled a fanatic. Hence my being surprised when people label me so, since I honestly don't care that other people believe differently from me, and have no reason to shove my views on others. If I talk about them, it's how they impact MY life, not what others should or shouldn't believe.
@arkaf61 (10881)
• Canada
4 Feb 08
I think that fanatic comes when religion or any other thing is taken to extremes. WHen it affects the person's life but also the others around them either they want it or not - forcing the ideas upon others is certainly an example -. It goes further than just following the religion or whatever it is, it makes the person think of little else, be upset when others disagree with the person's views, and become pretty illogical when it comes to that particular subject. BUt a person can be completely dedicated and immersed in her/his religion without being fanatic. I think that would be your case. Each discussion I read from you even when regarding religion does not come trough as the talk of a fanatic :) I think because the connotation for the word fanatic is not exactly positive people don't appreciate it.
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
*nods* I agree. I think the way it affects other people's lives and not just your own is a good gauge. Hehe, I'm glad I don't come across as a fanatic to you!
@pyewacket (44032)
• United States
4 Feb 08
I find that rather hysterically funny that people should call you a religious fanatic...What about people in mainistream religions that have their own rituals?...like Catholicism with saying so many Hail Mary's or something or go to confession?...they don't see this as "rituals"??? And yes, then of course you have the other Christian sects that try to cram their beliefs or try to save your soul for not believing exactly as they do. No, no one has ever called me a religious fanatic though especially my neighbors...most of my neighbors are probably scared out of their willies with me since they know I'm a witch....heheee
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16661)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4 Feb 08
That's what is so funny to me: people calling me a fanatic when people in other religions also have rituals and such, and proselytize, which I neither do nor agree with! Hehe, I grew up in a place where people were terrified of my beliefs, but where I live now people aren't terrified as often, just usually confused. They either haven't ever heard of a pagan or are used to seeing anyone other than Christians as being non-religious.
• United States
12 Feb 08
I think being a fanatic has more to do with how you treat others. Following your own religious practices isn't being fanatic its believing in your religion. More people should follow the laws of their religion. Being a fanatic to me means you force your beliefs on others and criticize anyone who does not agree with you. Basically, being a fanatic means you believe your way is the only way to worship and that all other people who are not of your religion should be tortured/killed. I do not think you are a fanatic. I would be hurt if someone called me a fanatic because I like to think I am open to other's religious practices and generally accepting of all people.
• Philippines
12 Feb 08
A BELIEVER is one who practices his faith. He is somebody who freely, intelligently and voluntarily brings into practical life the tenets of his faith. He practices decisively his faith so that the world may benefit from it. A FANATIC is somebody who imprisons himself into the rituals and purely theoretical aspect of his faith. He blindly pactices his faith to benefit his religion.