Saturday, 16 June 2007

On Moderation In Religion

Today's topic is: Should atheists, skeptics, brights team up with moderate religious believers to get rid of fundamentalist or extremist religion, or should atheists scorn religion altogether and attempt to get rid of faith(when I say this I don't mean forcibly.)

I'd like to start by saying that there are a lot of nice, reasonable, caring, and liberal people of faith. I even know some of them. Many religionists have contributed a lot to society. Many religious people have changed the world and fought hard to make it a better place. Alas, often against other people of faith with a different interpretation of the same book. I don't even think that most (American) fundamentalists intend to do harm, although they often do. Many of these liberal religionists decry extremism as well, and stand firm against the Pat Robertsons and Osama Bin Ladens of this world. Being as we both understand the dangers of fundamentalism, it would perhaps be best if we all opposed it as a group, and certainly we would be a lot more numerable if we did so.

However, is religion by nature "fundamentalist"? I would have to say yes. By the nature of it, everything that doesn't agree with the truth is wrong, and most religious people, even religious moderates, claim to have the truth. This sets religion up in a way so it is a very us-v-them mentality that cannot be proven wrong as such(because they will just say that they have faith.) (For an similar scenario, nationalism does the same thing: "my country right or wrong".) And of course, if you are wrong, you go to hell. Many communities define themselves in religious terms and this leads to war. And I'd imagine that even if one is a liberal religionist, it would not be difficult to slip into the fundamentalist mentality, due to this exclusive truth claim. God certainly does not seem like a moderate. Being as he orders death for those who don't worship him in many places(1). This leads us onto the fact that many people do not see the conflict as extremism-v-everybody-else, but see religion as a whole as dangerous. Being as these religious claims are false, we should use our reason to come to that conclusion.

It is definitely in our best interests to communicate with and listen to people of faith. For the mean time, it also may be best if we at least temporarily ally with like minded believers--atheists tend to have little political power, not very many numbers(in places like America) and it may be more tolerable to religious groups if their faith becomes more liberal from the inside. I think partly it depends on the issues involved aswell--regarding science and rationalism I think atheism and science must fight unreason fairly isolated; as reason and faith are opposites. On other, more societal issues contested by the religious right like abortion and gay marriage, anybody who fights for justice should join together, atheist or not.
Eventually, I feel that a world without religion would be much to our advantage and eventually, even if not at the moment, reason will have to stand alone.

(1) Bible: Deuteronomy 13.12-16, the Qu'ran 2.190-93 for examples. Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan debate this here:,536,God-Is-Not-a-Moderate,Sam-Harris-and-Andrew-Sullivan-Beliefnetcom

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we need allies, we need to strengthen critical thinking. If we are to penetrate saudi we need to exercise great care and tact.