By Mohammed Nosseir
August 27, 2018
Observing the inflexible attitude that many religious people often adopt makes me wonder whether believers can be religious without being rigid. Which attribute tends to develop first: Religiosity or rigidness? Do they mirror one another or is the relationship between them one of cause and consequence? Can believers be religious out of love, or is fear of the Almighty a prerequisite for the religious? Regardless of which holy book people believe in, rigidity and religiosity often go together.
The Almighty created a direct and exclusive bond with believers without delegating special tasks to other humans; individuals are personally accountable for the manner in which they choose to lead their lives — and no person plays the role of go-between. This includes preachers, who fulfill a constructive role in better explaining religions, but are certainly not entitled to impose their personal understanding of religion upon their followers.
Being religious is an extraordinary human state. Attaining the status of true believer necessitates a comprehensive understanding of religion — a proposition that is better adapted to open-minded people than to narrow-minded, inflexible persons. Rigidness is definitely a human defect that causes many to argue a given point intensely without having fully comprehended the essence of the subject, regardless of what that subject is. It is an egotistical state that inflates and shields people’s personalities at the expense of true knowledge.
Some argue that being religious requires a highly disciplined observance of religious rituals, which in turn demands a rigid lifestyle. In fact, many people who are quite disciplined in their work, dietary or athletic routines do not have rigid mindsets. Moreover, which is more valued by any holy book: Strictly following a given routine out of fear, or using the same routine to enhance people spiritually out of love? I doubt that love could merge with rigidness.
Others argue that citizens of all nations need to be disciplined; thus, religious rigidity is necessary. In fact, the matter of citizens’ discipline in any nation is one that is best addressed by the rule of law, without the interference of religion. Depending on numerous socio-political factors, the governing and disciplining of citizens can go through different stages; the perfect protection for any religion is to immunize it against these changes. Nevertheless, religious teaching may galvanize the essence of rule of law — but religion itself should never be used to micro-govern society.
Preachers, and believers in general, who have pleasant personalities are more able to rapidly and efficiently reach out to those seeking a better understanding of their religion. While preachers with harsh personalities may have a large following, they assemble their followers by command, not love. Unfortunately, religious people with pleasant personalities are rare in many cultures, where it is falsely believed that rigidness garners more respect and is therefore better suited to creating the required religious bond.
Religious people often want to widen and secure the scope of religion, believing that every single topic in life must be viewed through a religious perspective. The persistent desire to broaden the scope of religion actually constitutes a risk to any given religion; instead of offering people the true spirit of faith that they need, it increases their questioning. Preserving religion as an element of spiritual support probably complies better with the teachings of our respective holy books, while sustaining our natural humanity.
Rigidness is a cultural defect endorsed by the erroneous views of many religious believers across the world. The clear danger is that it may cause people to accumulate false knowledge that better fits their rigid personalities — at the expense of truly understanding their religion. This proposition might unintentionally distance many people from their religion. In fact, rigidity is a trait that we should consider discarding completely.
Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.