Lesley Hazleton

She Nailed It!

Lesley HazletonLast night I wrote a post, “Christian Taliban?” that had been burning in my thinking. I couldn’t decide if I should write it or not. Finally I decided to commit it to writing.

The movement of the spheres? This morning I see a link from a friend, thanks James! The TED talk by Lesley Hazleton, included at the end of this post, is brilliant. She has written a biography about Mohammed: The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad.

In her TED talk she speaks of doubt and its importance to faith.

She articulates the interconnectedness of religious extremists of all stripes: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

She nails it!

…consider that doubt, as Graham Greene once put it, is the heart of the matter. Abolish all doubt, and what’s left is not faith, but absolute, heartless conviction. You’re certain that you possess the Truth — inevitably offered with an implied uppercase T — and this certainty quickly devolves into dogmatism and righteousness, by which I mean a demonstrative, overweening pride in being so very right, in short, the arrogance of fundamentalism.

It has to be one of the multiple ironies of history that a favorite expletive of Muslim fundamentalists is the same one once used by the Christian fundamentalists known as Crusaders: “infidel,” from the Latin for “faithless.” Doubly ironic, in this case, because their absolutism is in fact the opposite of faith. In effect, they are the infidels. Like fundamentalists of all religious stripes, they have no questions, only answers. They found the perfect antidote to thought and the ideal refuge of the hard demands of real faith. …

And yet we, the vast and still far too silent majority, have ceded the public arena to this extremist minority. We’ve allowed Judaism to be claimed by violently messianic West Bank settlers, Christianity by homophobic hypocrites and misogynistic bigots, Islam by suicide bombers. And we’ve allowed ourselves to be blinded to the fact that no matter whether they claim to be Christians, Jews or Muslims, militant extremists are none of the above. They’re a cult all their own, blood brothers steeped in other people’s blood.

This isn’t faith. It’s fanaticism, and we have to stop confusing the two. We have to recognize that real faith has no easy answers. It’s difficult and stubborn. It involves an ongoing struggle, a continual questioning of what we think we know, a wrestling with issues and ideas. It goes hand in hand with doubt, in a never-ending conversation with it, and sometimes in conscious defiance of it.”

She speaks to my experience with fundamentalism: Devolves into dogmatism and self righteousness, homophobic hypocrites and misogynistic bigots, a cult all their own, steeped in other people’s blood… And yet we, the vast and still far too silent majority, have ceded the public arena to this extremist minority.

For my fundamentalist friends who would rather their leaders tell them what to think, what to do, how to live: You must do the very hard work of grappling with doubt to sift out truth and know justice, to strengthen faith and maintain the good mental health that is integrity and ethical living. This process requires a lifetime. Get started already!

I highly recommend her entire talk! (Full text at this link.)

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