What makes religious fanatics particularly scary is their delusional belief in their own infallibility. See this billboard that was put up in Maryland:
Imagine how lacking in self-awareness one has to be to put words into Jesus’s mouth. I believe that religious fanaticism (irrespective of the religion fanatics claim to uphold) is a refuge for sociopaths. It allows them to do all kinds of horrible things and excuse their actions by claiming that they do the will of God.
The first time I met such a person (or such a person in the making) was at school. We didn’t have many religious people back in the Soviet Union and the ones who existed were considered freaky. In 6th grade, I met the only kid from a religious family a had ever met. Her name was Dasha. I believe that Dasha’s parents were extremely irresponsible in raising her in an ultra-religious environment in a country where that would most certainly make her an outcast. Adults can bear the burden of their choices but imposing that hardship on children is unfair. My deeply anti-Soviet father, for example, made sure I never had any doubts about the veracity of the propaganda I was fed at school. As a result, I was a much happier child than I would have been had he shared his anti-Communist resentments with me on a regular basis.
Dasha, however, soon learned to use religion to her advantage. She realized that fake pseudo-Christian contrition was a great way to manipulate people. Dasha’s “Christian” parents were extremely poor (even by Soviet standards) because they were opposed to contraception and chose to have as many kids as God would give them even when there was nothing to feed the kids. As a result, Dasha was mortally jealous of kids whose families were better off (which would be everybody.)
Once, Dasha’s best friend Anya came to class wearing ear-rings. Those were tiny little ear-rings that were really nothing special. But you know how much it means to 12-year-old girls to be able to look like adult women. Anya was super proud of her ear-rings.
Her happiness lasted for a very short time, though, because Dasha went to the principal and ratted Anya out. The principal marched down to our classroom, lifted Anya’s heavy curls, and discovered the offending pieces of jewelry. Then she dragged Anya away to yell at her for being a “whore in the making.”
After a while, Anya came back to class, shaking and looking terrified. She tried to put a brave face on it and sat quietly down at her desk. We all gathered around, trying to comfort her.
Dasha realized that her scheme was misfiring. Anya was now getting even more attention than before.
“Oh God, oh God,” Dasha suddenly started to vociferate. “What have I done? I am a horrible sinner and there will be no forgiveness for me!”
Of course, everybody abandoned the quiet Anya and rushed to Dasha who was yelping hysterically.
“Why are you crying?” we asked her.
“I betrayed my friend,” Dasha kept wailing. “I have sinned and now I am lost forever!” For the next half-hour, we all comforted Dasha and tried to convince her she was not a horrible sinner, whatever that was.
This was, of course, only one of many stories protagonized by little Dasha who learned to use her fake Christian contrition to manipulate others to perfection. I remember her as the most judgmental, nasty, and self-involved kid I ever met. The scariest kind of evil is the one that is deeply convinced of its divine nature.