What’s Wrong With Being A Fan?

Saturday night I stayed a bit late to relax and watch some TV. When asked what I was watching, I replied, the Journey Home on EWTN.

“You were watching religion?”
“Yeah, what’s wrong with learning more about God?”
“Nothing. But you are acting like a fanatic.”
“How can wanting to learn and think about God be fanatical?”
“There’s nothing wrong with that but you are being a fanatic about religion.”

Being that it is Sunday morning and I had just left Mass where the Readings had me thinking about the compassion and mercy of God, I responded in a like manner, “Let’s not go there this morning.”

What was on the tip of tongue was the retort that Jesus left us a religion. God first left man with Judaism and later fulfilled His promises through Christ Jesus which naturally gave us the “post-messianic” Judaic religion we now call Christianity. As we Catholics hold, Jesus gave Simon, named Peter (rock), the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. The visible extension of said Kingdom was His Church who later took the name Catholic both as her nature and as a way to ensure visibility among the lost sheep seeking reconciliation with God. The method we for reconciling oneself to God is known as religion.

Anyway, let me put some definitions from Dictionary.com out there:

  • Religion:


  1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
  5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
  6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
  7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
  8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one’s vow.

  • Fanatic:


a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.

  • Fanatical:


motivated or characterized by an extreme, uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.

Now let’s see how Sacred Scripture uses both terms. (I substituted fanatical for its synonym zealous and usedVeritas Bible as my primary source).

A quick search of “religion” in the Douay translation of the Bible returns 13 results:

  • Leviticus 16:31
    For it is a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls by a perpetual religion.
  • Judith 14:6
    Then Achior seeing the power that the God of Israel had wrought, leaving the religion of the gentiles, he believed God, and circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, and was joined to the people of Israel, with all the succession of his kindred until this present day.
  • Esther 8:17
    And in all peoples, cities, and provinces, whithersoever the king’s commandments came, there was wonderful rejoicing, feasts and banquets, and keeping holy day: insomuch that many of other nations and religion, joined themselves to their worship and ceremonies. For a great dread of the name of the Jews had fallen upon all.
  • Esther 9:27
    And the things that they suffered, and that were afterwards changed, the Jews took upon themselves and their seed, and upon all that had a mind to be joined to their religion, so that it should be lawful for none to pass these days without solemnity: which the writing testifieth, and certain times require, as the years continually succeed one another.
  • Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 37:12
    Treat not with a man without religion concerning holiness, nor with an unjust man concerning justice, nor with a woman touching her of whom she is jealous, nor with a coward concerning war, nor with a merchant about traffic, nor with a buyer of selling, nor with an envious man of giving thanks,
  • 2 Machabees 8:1
    But Judas Machabeus, and they that were with him, went privately into the towns: and calling together their kinsmen and friends, and taking unto them such as continued in the Jews’ religion, they assembled six thousand men.
  • 2 Machabees 14:38
    This man, for a long time, had held fast his purpose of keeping himself pure in the Jews’ religion, and was ready to expose his body and life, that he might persevere therein.
  • Acts of the Apostles 26:5
    Having known me from the beginning (if they will give testimony) that according to the most sure sect of our religion [Referring to Judaism] I lived a Pharisee.
  • Galatians 1:13
    For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion: how that, beyond measure, I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.
  • Galatians 1:14
    And I made progress in the Jews’ religion above many of my equals in my own nation, being more abundantly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
  • Colossians 2:18
    Let no man seduce you, willing in humility, and religion of angels, walking in the things which he hath not seen, in vain puffed up by the sense of his flesh,
  • James 1:26
    And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
  • James 1:27
  • Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world.

A similar search of “zealous,” a synonym of fanatical, returns 19 results:

  • Numbers 25:13
    And the covenant of the priesthood for ever shall be both to him and his seed, because he hath been zealous for his God, and hath made atonement for the wickedness of the children of Israel.
  • 3 Kings 19:10
    And he answered: With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant: they have thrown down thy altars, they have slain thy prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away.
  • 3 Kings 19:14
    With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant: they have destroyed thy altars, they have slain thy prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away.
  • Judith 9:3
    And who gavest their wives to he made a prey, and their daughters into captivity: and all their spoils to be divided to thy servants, who were zealous with thy zeal: assist, I beseech thee, O Lord God, me a widow.
  • Joel 2:18
    The Lord hath been zealous for his land, and hath spared his people.
  • Zacharias 1:14
    And the angel that spoke in me, said to me: Cry thou, saying: Thus saith the Lord of hosts: I am zealous for Jerusalem, and Sion with a great zeal.
  • 1 Machabees 2:50
    Now therefore, O my sons, be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers.
  • 2 Machabees 4:2
    And he presumed to call him a traitor to the kingdom, who provided for the city, and defended his nation, and wed zealous for the law of God.
  • Acts of the Apostles 21:20
    But they hearing it, glorified God, and said to him: Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews that have believed: and they are all zealous for the law.
  • Acts of the Apostles 22:3
    And he saith: I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the truth of the law of the fathers, zealous for the law, as also all you are this day:
  • 1 Corinthians 12:31
    But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:1
    Follow after charity, be zealous for spiritual gifts; but rather that you may prophesy.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:12
    So you also, forasmuch as you are zealous of spirits, seek to abound unto the edifying of the church.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:39
    Wherefore, brethren, be zealous to prophesy; and forbid not to speak with tongues.
  • Galatians 1:14
    And I made progress in the Jews’ religion above many of my equals in my own nation, being more abundantly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
  • Galatians 4:17
    They are zealous in your regard not well: but they would exclude you, that you might be zealous for them.
  • Galatians 4:18
    But be zealous for that which is good in a good thing always: and not only when I am present with you.
  • 1 Peter 3:13
    And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good?
  • Apocalypse 3:19
  • Be zealous therefore, and do penance.

In many of the passages above both terms are more often used in a positive connotation rather than a negative one. For example, religion is often used to distinguish the practice of worship and devotion to God by the Jews and Scriptural Christians in contrasts to Gentile nations and even the Jews (in the case of the Christians).

Concerning zeal or zealousness, we see again, that being zealous for God is not a bad thing but rather a positive attitude that all should strive for. I found it interesting that there is nice juxtaposition between the Old and New Testaments (1 and 2 Maccabees vis-a-vis Acts and Galatians) concerning zeal for the “law.” The verses in the books of Maccabees give high praises to those zealous of the Law whereas in Acts and Galatians there is the example persons being zealous of the Law but at the cost of the Truth. St. James, in 1:26-27, does an excellent job of placing this type of zeal in perspective for us.

So why is it that Protestants, also known as Evangelicals, who pride themselves with their burning desire to spread the faith often find themselves afraid of the using the word religion? And why is there a general fear, especially in some Catholics that I know, of using the term fanatical or zealous? True there are negative connotations as evidenced through poor examples but Sacred Scripture and the Church instruct us on how not to become “bad apples.” But isn’t being zealous for the Lord and His religion the correct attitude?

Shouldn’t we strive to maintain some fanaticism for God and His religion as formed through the Church without blinding ourselves to the Heart? Isn’t this the ideal way of living the Faith? In my opinion yes and that is why St. Augustine is so often famously quoted, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.” Our restlessness for God and our desire to serve Him should be manifested as an unquenchable thirst and inextinguishable fire until we are called to be with Him!

If there are others of opposing opinions, please feel free to comment. I am definitely interested in what others think about this.



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