Since finding out that someone had labeled me as a “religious fanatic”, I decided to do a little research to see what the definitions of “religious” and “fanatic” were, and compare them to how I see myself as a Christian.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “religion” is defined as following:
1The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods
1.1 [COUNT NOUN] A particular system of faith and worship:
1.2 [COUNT NOUN] A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion:
Going with the above definitions, I a) believe in a superhuman controlling power who is my personal God; b) follow the particular system of Christian faith and worship; c) I pursue God and Jesus Christ with great devotion.
Origin of “religion”
Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence’, perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind’.
As to the origin of the word “religion” I do feel an “obligation” to obey God and follow Jesus because God loved me so much that He gave His son Jesus for me and Jesus loved me so much that he died for me, paying the price for my sins. Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I have a blood “bond” to Jesus and to God – I am now a child of God and a joint-heir with Christ and that is a bond that no power can destroy. And because of who God and Jesus are and because of what they have done for me, I have a deep “reverence” for them.
Taking into consideration the definitions and origin of the word “religion”, I guess you could say that “I’ve got religion”.
The Oxford Dictionary also defines the adjective “religious”,as it relates to a person, as follows:
1 he was a very religious person
devout, pious, reverent, believing, godly, God-fearing, dutiful, saintly, holy, prayerful, churchgoing, practising, faithful, devoted, committed
So I had to look up “devout” and pious” (Don’t you just hate it when a dictionary defines a word using words that you also have to look up in the dictionary??). Those two words basically mean ” a deep and genuine commitment”. Yup, I would say that I have a deep and genuine commitment to my God, my Saviour and their commands. Am I “reverent”? – yes; “believing”? – yes. “godly”? – I try to be, but I know that I make lots of mistakes; “God-fearing”? – yes, not in the sense that I am afraid of God, but in the sense of being in reverential awe of Him; “dutiful”? – I think so; “saintly”? LOL! – well, I am a “saint” in the eyes of God, but I am certainly no Mother Teresa; “holy”? – yes, the blood of Christ has made me holy; “prayerful’? – in a way – I talk to God all the time, I just don’t do it on my knees; “churchgoing”? – not really, but that’s another blog post; “practising”? – I try hard to have my deeds match my confession of faith (my tongue does get me into a lot of trouble though – another blog post subject); “faithful”? – I try hard, even in the difficult times (and there are many) to “having done all, to stand. ” (Eph 6:13) ; “devoted” and “committed”? – yes. After looking at all that, I guess I would have to say that I am “religious”.
Now we get to the really difficult word – “fanatic”. The Oxford Dictionary states that the word’s origin is:
mid 16th century (as an adjective): from French fanatique or Latin fanaticus ‘of a temple, inspired by a god’, from fanum ‘temple’. The adjective originally described behavior or speech that might result from possession by a god or demon, hence the earliest sense of the noun ‘a religious maniac’ (mid 17th century).
First of all, I would like to mention, that while the devil and his demons can and do “possess” people (the Bible is full of such records), God does not “possess” people. Rather, God “invites” people to choose to ask Him into their lives. Even then, He never takes over our right of free will. God does not control us like a puppet-master (but that is a subject for another post).
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “mania” as:
“a person exhibiting extreme symptoms of wild behavior, especially when violent and dangerous.”
Am I a “maniac”? Well, maybe in the 80’s when I used to dance like that girl in the movie “Flashdance” – I was “a maniac on the floor” – LOL! But seriously, my “religious” beliefs do not cause me to exhibit “extreme symptoms of wild behaviour” or to be “wild and dangerous”. So I am not a religious “fanatic” as far as the origin of the word goes.
As for the actual definition of the word “fanatic”, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:
“A person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.”
The words “excessive” and “extreme” denote a negative, abnormal, destructive and unwanted behaviour. Such behaviours cause damage to others as well as to the individuals who display those behaviours. Living a godly life, which is a life based on God’s kind of love, can never cause damage.
So while it can be said that I have “religion” and that I am “religious”, I definitely am NOT a religious fanatic!
Just a “Jesus Freak”. 🙂
Choose the right word
religious, devout, pious
Religious basically means ‘relating to a religion’ ( the patriotic and religious duty of any Jew) or ‘believing in a religion’ ( the word is regarded by many religious people with considerable disapproval), and both senses are neither critical nor approving. Only in the second sense can religious be used after the verb to be, or be qualified by an adverb, to express the degree of someone’s commitment ( he wasn’t a churchgoer, but very religious). Sometimes it is used in an extended sense to suggest that someone attaches particular importance to a secular object or pursuit; there may be a critical suggestion that such devotion is misplaced ( he always had a religious obsession with fame).Devout is used to indicate a deep and genuine religious commitment ( he was a devout Quaker and would not allow a pub in the village), and is an approving word. It is also used to convey total or uncritical enthusiasm for or commitment to a secular object ( a devout soccer fan).Pious, too, can convey religious commitment ( donations to the Church from pious laymen) but is now mainly used pejoratively to denote hypocritical religiosity ( I know what’s under that pious face of yours).
A Practical Guide for Everyday Living, by Lee Gruenfeld an Essay on the Religious Fanatic
The fanatic feels compelled to engage in behaviors that demonstrate his faith. He believes that the magnitude of those behaviors must be commensurate with the strength of his faith. The more he believes, the more he has to do to show it.
There is another important thing that characterizes the religious fanatic, and that is the inevitable corruption of the original underlying belief system. Because that system probably never demanded that kind of devotion in the first place, one has to retroactively justify it somehow. That’s done by making stuff up that wasn’t part of the religion in the first place.
The only thing religious fanaticism really demonstrates is weakness on the part of the fanatic. Weakness in his own faith.