The dangers of religious fanaticism and extremism

Tochi Juliet
By Tochi Juliet

Religious fanaticism and extremism are dangerous to any society. This article highlights the fanaticism and extremism of religion and its effects on society, citing examples.

The dangers of religious fanaticism and extremism

Religion, according to Karl Max, is the opium of the people. The full quote from Karl Marx states that "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people".

Karl Max saw religion as a comforter in a heartless and soulless world. However, it may be undoubtfully true to say what Karl Max saw in religion is the reverse in today's religion as religion has become a tool of oppression.

When we talk about fanaticism and extremism, they are two correlated word; just that one is far fetched from the other. For a better understanding, I will give a vivid definition of fanaticism and extremism.

Fanaticism and Extremism

According to the Cambridge dictionary, Fanaticism is an extreme belief that may lead to unreasonable or violent behaviour.

According to Web-Word-Online, a fanatic is "one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject!" What could be worse? No one can stand a religious fanatic! From the above definitions, religious fanatics tend to become violent.

On the other hand, extremism is "the quality or state of being extreme" or "the advocacy of extreme measures or views". The term is primarily used in a political or religious sense to refer to an ideology considered far outside society's mainstream attitudes.

According to Arena and Aringo, extremism comprises ideological beliefs about an obligation to bring back the political system to a form suggested by religious norms through violence. Extremism is, in fact, a harder form of Fanaticism.

When it comes to religious issues, once one has become a fanatics, his brain will be clouded with every religious doctrine. The person will lack the ability to question some doctrines and beliefs. The individual works under the influence of its church or organizational doctrines.

It is just like an alcohol addict; an alcohol addict hardly reasons with his brain, but whatever he does is influenced by the large quantity of liquor he has gulped down his throat.

Religious fanatism, when it gets extreme, can be dangerous for an individual and society at large. It can be likened to having a psychologically unstable person roaming the streets, just that in this case, the person's sense of reasoning and judgement is clouded by religion.

Religion today has turned to a tool for oppressing the masses

Effects of religious fanaticism and extremism on the society

Effects of religious fanaticism and extremism on society cannot be overlooked. Here, we will list just a few of them. Effects of religious fanaticism on society include:

  • Crisis and Crime
  • Poverty and Retrogression
  • Oppression


I am a Nigerian who lives in Nigeria. Nigeria is made up of majorly two religious groups; Christian and Islamic religion. The two religions are evoking many crises in the country, even though both religions claim to be peaceful.

We have seen many cases of Christians and Muslims clashing and fighting over religious views. Neither party wants to tolerate the other. These are all cases of religious fanaticism and extremism.

I will give a clear example of the point mentioned above.

Example of religious fanaticism and extremism

In my country, Nigeria, especially in the country's northern area, there is a body known as Hisbah police. Hisbah police are in charge of enforcing every Islamic law and making sure they abide by it.

According to some Muslims, drinking alcohol is against Islam; it is the Hisbah police's duty to make sure Muslims comply with this law. In the northern states, there are Christians, but Muslims dominate it.

The Hisbah police, to enforce the alcoholic law, had once seized and destroyed every shop selling alcohol in the north. According to reports, some people lost over N30 million.

Now, this is a form of religious fanaticism. The people's lively income source is hereby destroyed, contributing more to poverty, economic meltdown and depression.

Many alcoholic sellers are not even Muslims, but since they are residing in the north, it is assumed they have no such right to sell alcohol in the state.

The question is, What happens to the Christians living in the same north who drink alcohol, and it is not against their faith.

In this case, it has created an avenue for crisis if the Christians decided to retaliate. Another effect of this is that it has equally landed some people in a state of poverty and retrogression.

Cases like this have always sparked clashes and religious crisis between Christians and Muslims, especially in the northern part of the country.

The hisbah police seized and destroyed every shop selling alcohol in the north.

Poverty and Retrogression

In Nigeria, which we have been using as a study case here, many citizens think about religion more than they think about themselves. Talk about emancipation, and the first reply will be,'' let's pray about it.''

In Nigeria, almost 83 million people live below the country’s poverty line, but these poor ones are even the ones that have built the biggest churches. Many are religious bigots, and that has clouded their sense of reasoning.

Religion has made Nigerians poor, not only financially poor but mentally poor as well.

Some of my people are suffering from mental poverty; if not, how can you explain the case of someone that sold his only car to sow a seed into a pastor's life and then starts trekking to work every day. As a result, he was sacked from work as he comes late due to trekking and boarding public buses.

He lost his job, comes home to cry about how God hates him despite everything he has done for God. That is religious fanaticism and extremism, and the effect landed him in poverty.

As I earlier said, once extremist, it becomes difficult to question anything. You end up swallowing all your pastors, and Imams say hook, line and sinker.

Religion has left Nigerians in a state of mental and financial poverty


I have discovered that religion can harden the heart of some, mostly fanatics and extremists. As they lack the will and reasoning to question anything, they thereby see anyone not in line with their belief as an enemy.

There are religious laws that lack humanity in them. Such laws demand the persecution and prosecution of those that defaulted or trespassed with no atom of mercy or humanity in them.

A perfect example is what is happening in northern Nigeria. The news was reported about a student, a Benue indigene but resided in Kano. He is a barber who is very skilful in his art.

This young rising star was arrested for barbing his customers a particular hairstyle that the Islamic group alleged insulted Islam. According to reports, he was arrested, and every move made to bail him proved abortive as the Islamic group that arrested him said his offence is unbailable.

This is no longer religion but wickedness in the heart of religion. This became the story of a young boy who schools and, knowing how hard the country is, devised a means to carter for himself.

The sharia law in the northern part country once sentenced a musician to death by hanging. Why? They asserted his music is an insult to Prophet Mohammed.

Some Christians discriminate against others and hate on them because they wear trousers and use "attachments" for making hair, yet Christianity is meant to preach love for one another.

Religion fanaticism and extremism are tools for oppression and perpetrating wicked and heartless acts in society. It paints an evil picture of religion; it portrays what religion isn't meant to be.