It would be a mistake to confine extremism to religion or political ideology or a nationality. Extremism can be found anywhere, even in music and art. It is usually a response to some external trouble. It could be seen as a means of countering the negative influence of outside forces, and as a means to find the “one” answer that mankind is waiting for.
Insufficiency of evidence and unfulfilled expectations have fueled extremism. Take time to appreciate why those expectations have persisted.
It has be considered as a peculiar way of thinking, why any human in today’s world would consider only a particular idea or way of doing things as the only correct way. There has to be a certainty warranted by evidence to reach such a conclusion. When that evidence is shown to a number of people, all of them should be able to see the reason and sense in coming to that conclusion. At the same time, it may not elicit the same kind of devotion in all.
I think of the case of one man, Jesus Christ. He spoke of rising from the dead, was resurrected by God, and his teachings have spread throughout the whole world of today. As a matter of fact, we globally follow the Gregorian calendar as an accepted standard for measuring time. Without a deliberate effort, such a thing could not have happened. Other countries and systems follow other calendars, but still hold to the Gregorian calendar as a standard. It is just an accepted fact. So we see which year we are in, in relation to the time of Christ’s appearance – B.C. and A.D.
The acceptance of Jesus Christ does not serve a political purpose. As far as religious teachings go, his words teach of accepting difficulty on the basis of hope, not an immediate correction of problems. He spoke against the Jewish religious system of his time in the hands of certain leaders, and he was not a political activist. He taught of faith in the One true God. Lives of his ancestors are examples of men who abandoned a comfortable life in hope of a heritage for their successors. Men such as Abraham and Jacob stand out as examples. The blessings they received were from their God, not by any other reason. Both Abraham and Jacob even gave up their rightful earnings.
Men such as these would find themselves severely out of place in a world given over to materialism. In its most cruel form, materialism fuels war; on a personal level, it expresses itself in the form of greed and lust.
What does all this have to do with extremism?
For any human to identify with the religious texts, he would have to be given the same kind of evidence and revelation that those men and women were given. They were visited by angels, given prophecy in dreams, and the words spoken to them have come true in ways that no man could make happen by his will or power. As far as political extremism is concerned, the reason for extremism is much weaker. The greatest authority is the human or humans who stand for the idea. If the human or the idea is flawed, extremism should be abandoned for a much more sober thinking.
Where extremism persists, there must be something within a human or it is in the environment causing him or her to respond so.
I only think of one thing in this case as a believer in the true God. If the prophecy or its fulfillment is entirely dependent upon the Creator, then why do some man or men consider themselves as “the chosen one” to bring about what the prophecy speaks of. The only way it is legitimate is, if the Creator gives evidence of His having chosen such a person. That evidence would be undeniable even to the unbeliever, though he or she may choose to persist in unbelief. That would be a choice for which, that person and that person alone is responsible.
In the political realm, the example of democracy as an ideology is most pertinent. Isn’t it true, the quality of a democracy is only as good as the people who adopt it as a political system of thought and action? The failure of democracy starts and ends with the people! Likewise, Jesus spoke of recognizing his followers by their fruits. The fruits would be the evidence of divine blessing and action of spirit upon the followers. The true prophet is also recognized by his followers. If the fruit is missing, these are not the true followers. No amount of compulsion or extremism will make something counterfeit into something genuine!
I understand and appreciate if, the Creator decides to be extreme in his thought or action. Why? Not only because He is Almighty, but due to the evidence of his diverse creative ability evident before all intelligent creatures. Should He decide to no longer honor the intelligent creatures for they have become too proud and unreasonable, He is right! His patience legitimizes his use of power – something all intelligent creatures can appreciate.
The case with humans is different. Our impatience coupled with such acquired power – nuclear weapons, biological warfare – is a terrible mix. Our basic character does not make us worthy of such powers, let alone use them. Despite having seen the consequences of using such power, we still continue to have them, adopt them, proliferate them! It is sad, truly sad!
Extremism is the opposite of reason. I see, why someone would propose reason as the remedy to extremism. Yet reason has its limits, as it remains confined to our understanding of and appreciation for the material world.