Why oppose moderate religion?

I am an atheist myself but I don’t understand the belief that even moderate religion must be opposed. There are people whose religious belief is so mild that they accept science and don’t want to force their beliefs on others. The answer that is usually given is that moderate religion 'props up’ the extremists. But couldn’t this be said about anything? Is a person who wants to achieve a 32 county Ireland through peaceful means propping up those who would like to achieve it through violence and terror? Are peaceful animal rights activists propping up those with the same goals but want to use violence to achieve them? Maybe I don’t understand the argument fully, but it seems to me that the 'propping up’ argument implies that we shouldn’t believe anything at all or we’ll be enabling fanatics.

Posted: September 27th 2008

Reed Braden www

Liberal religion, moderate religion and fundamentalist religion are wildly different. I don’t think any Atheist denies that there’s a major difference between a Muslim who believes the Qur’an is a message of peace and a Muslim who routinely lops off heads with a scimitar.

However, religion, in all its forms, is a teaching of untruth. Just like a white lie is different from perjury but they are both still lies. I oppose lies and the teaching of lies in all its forms.

I somewhat agree with you that the argument that moderate religion supports and makes possible fundamentalism is fairly bunk. Often it is the moderate theists who are the biggest critics of fundamentalist religion. However, moderate religion is still a promulgation of lies and should be dealt with in much the same manner that we treat all other lies: with derision and disgust.

Posted: October 1st 2008

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John Sargeant www

The key thing is when you can accept something on faith, without evidence or believe something in-spite of the evidence, that mind set allows you to believe anything without question.

The moderates in your example clearly do not see faith as the pinnacle of human reasoning. They neither force their views on others, looking at scientific evidence for understanding the world around us. For me the key thing about a moderate is one that recognises their faith is a product of human reasoning – not one divinely revealed, or supernaturally supported. It works for them but maybe not for everyone.

Your example of not supporting a proposition because others would use violent means to achieve it; it may give a peacemaker pause to advocate a position when they know rising tensions on the subject will lead to an increase in violence. The key thing is that they are not promoting the idea of violence, nor that their position sanctions such actions. The means (by peace) are as important as the end itself.

Moderates are critical about those with extremist tendencies, misrepresenting their position. What we as atheists would question is the belief that accepting something through faith justifies a belief – our argument is that the rationale for any belief must be based on something outside of authority (god or holy book).

Otherwise, the danger is that people on the basis of faith may add to all manner of human misery, and use faith as a get out of jail card. To them the end is faith itself, and any means to achieve it are sanctioned by their faith. It is a dangerous circular idea and the only break on how far you take it is you.

That does not mean that we have to oppose moderates with the same intensity as extremists. However, the idea that faith as a virtue is an idea that needs discrediting.

Posted: September 29th 2008

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SmartLX www

Two main points.

  • If moderate advocates of any position (animal welfare, Irish independence, etc.) fail to condemn the actions of extremists (animal lab vandals, the IRA, etc.) then they must accept the consequences of publicly tolerating or supporting destructive and criminal activity. Religion is no different. Many so-called moderate imams in particular are notorious for refusing to speak out against suicide bombers, and some actively defend their actions.
  • Religious moderates may not be blowing up buildings and so forth, but they are still perpetuating falsehoods as far as atheists are concerned. They’re reading the same religious texts as the extremists and therefore are just as wrong. Opposing religionism like this isn’t a safety initiative, it springs from a simple desire to introduce people to reality.

If a group isn’t dangerous and doesn’t support dangerous people, then there’s no need for laws or punitive action against it. That’s why even the most forthright public atheists don’t call for whole religions to be outlawed or forcibly disbanded. Live and let live.

However, if you think this non-threatening group’s worldview is misguided, and you know they’re passing that misguided worldview on to others, you have every right to peaceably try to correct them just as they have the right to try and convert you. Since a religious group is defined by its worldview, this means persuading people to leave the group.

Posted: September 29th 2008

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