COMMENT

Fanaticism and fascism

By Pantelis Boukalas

Wondering why religious zealots and ultranationalists reacted to the Hytirio Theater?s staging of Terrence McNally?s ?Corpus Christi? without having seen the play first is pointless. The Muslims who got up in arms all around the world recently had probably not seen the film on Muhammad that created the furor in the first place.

Religions are able to fight each other over everything under the sun, but their fundamentalists are all exactly the same, whether proclaiming a crusade or jihad. Faith is an irrational phenomenon and the process of thinking destroys it because the road from doubt to contestation is not very long at all. Unquestioning faith, after all, is the cornerstone of all religions, even those that like to boast that their brand of spirituality sets them apart from the more ?primitive? faiths.

The road from adopting a faith without reason to fanaticism is also short, and it is downhill. The word ?fanaticism? itself, after all, has its roots in religion. Funum, according to dictionaries is the Latin term for temple, fanatici were the priests serving the Roman war goddess Bellona, who would go into a frenzy, like some Christians today who flog themselves, while fanaticus referred to someone who was crazed by the gods.

Was Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros -- who seems not to have got past the phase of reading affirmations to himself in the mirror every morning to feel strong and powerful -- crazed by the gods outside the theater last week? And what about Christos Pappas, also of Golden Dawn, whose childish sexual innuendos in Parliament just keep getting lower? Is there anything more vulgar than that?

Those who blockaded the entrance to the Hytirio Theater in order to ?burn the minions of Satan? were not exactly in a frenzy. And I don?t mean the handful of berobed protesters and their disciples who, like crusaders in a time warp, make a habit of besieging ?blasphemous? plays and movies, on the reasoning of the Biblical ?I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.? This lot are so ridiculous that they cannot be taken seriously.

The challenge and threat -- to democracy, freedom of speech and the basic tenets of civilization -- comes from those who are earnest about their fanaticism and impose it in a fascist style: by threatening, stabbing and killing.

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