The Dangers of Religious Judgmentalism
When you hear the word “religion,” what comes to mind? Do you picture a loving deity, a path of truth and light, and the promise of eternal peace and salvation? Or do you think about an all-consuming lifestyle and a dark set of “others” who refuse to follow this one true path? Religious zealotry can turn into a dark path of religious judgmentalism, isolation, and prejudice. Read on to learn more about the way this extremism can influence people of all religions and how we can break free and return to a viewpoint of light and love.
Ignorance in Religion
At its best, religion is supposed to teach us how to be loving, open, accepting, and forgiving. Unfortunately, too often, people get caught up in defending their religion as absolute truth. They become so obsessed with convincing the world that they’re right and everyone else is wrong that they start trying to take on the role of moral police.
Religious judgmentalism happens across all religions – Christian evangelists, Muslim extremists, pagan die-hards, Jewish zealots, Hindu ascetics, and even aggressive atheists. These people live in big cities, small towns, rural villages, isolated compounds, and glamorous world capitals. They become so narrow-minded that they start to feel as though everyone not like them is wrong, broken, stupid, or evil.
How It Begins
So how do beliefs that are supposed to be founded in love and truth mutate into hatred and judgment? In many cases, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. People find truth and hope in their religion, and, in the beginning, they want to share that hope and truth with everyone around them.
However, once people share those beliefs, they expect the people they convert to follow the guidelines of their religion. They feel that following these rules is the only way to stay in good standing with their god or to appropriately honor them. People who refuse to follow the prescribed lifestyle or who don’t accept the “truth” that these extremists are preaching are ostracized and labeled sinful or wrong.
Damage to Loved Ones
Religious judgmentalism hurts everyone around us, beginning with our loved ones. Oftentimes, the people who love us most may not feel as strongly about religion as we do; they may not even believe the same way we do. And the harder we preach, the more alienated and judged they may feel.
Our loved ones may feel like they can’t talk to us about religion or even about some of the important parts of their lives. They may feel judged, unloved, or even second-class in our lives. This sort of close-mindedness can start to drive away the people who love us most, causing immeasurable hurt and years-long rifts.
Damage to Society
Religious zealotry and religious judgmentalism also cause tremendous damage to our society. In the United States, many of our most oppressive laws come from a place of religious moral policing. For instance, the persecution that many people in the LGBTQ+ community face comes from right-wing Christian nationalists imposing their own ideas about which sexualities or gender identities are acceptable to God.
When religious zealots become the voice of a religion, that religion becomes associated with hatred and persecution. In fact, this has been a problem for Muslims in America, who get unfairly associated with the extremist sects that committed the atrocities of 9/11. This hatred and mistrust can turn into something of a societal arms race as people begin dividing out into groups of “us” and “them.”
Damage to Self
Perhaps most insidious of all, religious zealotry causes a deep and subtle hard to the zealots themselves. When we buy into the “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” ideology, we lose sight of the precious gifts other people have to offer. People not like us become a faceless “them” who we don’t even see as being fully human.
As we descend further into this religious fervor, we become more and more isolated, and our worlds become smaller. Soon, the only people who we can have relationships are people who believe the same way we do. We lose the beauty of a full and diverse experience of the world and constantly see evil and sin, rather than the light present in everyone around us.
Why Open-Mindedness Is Important
In the battle against religious judgmentalism, open-mindedness is the single best defense we have. Open-mindedness strives to accept all people as they are, honoring them for the inherent human value they carry. It focuses on listening to the diverse experiences people have to offer, rather than fearing viewpoints different from our own.
When we work to be more open-minded, we start to see the people around us as full humans again. We begin to hear their stories and discover the light within these people. We learn that we all share the same common desires and struggles and that we have far more in common than we have differences.
Examine Your Bias
The first step towards being more open-minded is to take a look at the biases you hold. In general, we’re all a little biased against people who don’t look or live like us. This may include people of different races, genders, sexualities, religions, economic backgrounds, and so on.
Think about the groups or people you don’t like and ask yourself if you write people off just because they belong to these groups. Think about why you don’t like these groups and if the people you don’t like have ever done anything to harm you specifically. It may also be helpful to take an online bias test to see what subconscious biases you may be harboring.
Now that you know a little more about the biases you hold, it’s time to start asking some hard questions. Oftentimes, religious zealotry may discourage questions, urging us instead to trust blindly in the tenets of our faith or our own beliefs. But any belief worth judging someone for is worth examining first.
When you encounter something new that makes you feel angry or uncomfortable, stop and ask yourself how much you really know about the person or topic. Think back to your biases and ask yourself if any of those prejudices may be influencing your feelings. Then seek out information from reputable sources, trying to get a few different viewpoints on the topic before you decide how you feel about it.
Breathe Before Judging
One of the hardest things you’ll encounter in your path to open-mindedness is resisting the impulse to write off different views as bad or wrong. You may feel strongly that these views or behaviors oppose your religion or offend your deity. This can be especially painful or frightening if you’ve been raised to believe that people who live this lifestyle or believe these things are evil, unclean, or damned.
When these feelings of judgment and prejudice rise up, close your eyes and take a few deep, calming breaths. Ask the questions we’ve discussed and remind yourself that the feelings you’re experiencing come from your bias, not from absolute truth. Remind yourself that the person before you is made from the same stardust you are, and try to foster curiosity about their life and beliefs.
Escape the Trap of Religious Judgementalism and Zealotry
Religious zealotry can be a dark spiral of hatred and judgment that isolates us from the beautiful humans around us. This religious judgmentalism can hurt our loved ones, our community, and even ourselves. When you find yourself judging someone based on your religious beliefs, take a deep breath and try to extend past your bias into genuine curiosity and open-mindedness.
If you’d like to learn more about how to escape the trap of religious zealotry, check out the rest of my site at PaulWagner.com. I am here to help you awaken and bravely create an inspired life. Learn more about my services today and start changing your life in the most positive way.
You are a beautiful Living Being filled with light and love, born from stardust. You are unlimited potential in every direction. With a focus on discipline, virtue, and your own goodness, you can become as expanded and liberated as you desire.
Pray for others and the Universe prays for us.