Doesn't 'moderate religion' also draw adherents away from fundamentalism and thereby weaken its negative effects?

The case has been made that moderate religion enables fundamentalism, if you subscribe to this view would you agree that 'moderate religion’ also draws adherents away from fundamentalism and thereby weaken its negative effects?

Taken from the article 15 Questions Militant Atheists Should Ask Before Trying to 'Destroy Religion’.

Posted: June 28th 2007

SmartLX www

I’ve responded to something similar elsewhere.

Posted: January 1st 2008

See all questions answered by SmartLX


To clarify, do I agree that having religious moderates around leads to more fundamentalism or less fundamentalism?

No, I do not agree. In fact, I think that the presence of moderate religion provides cover for fundamentalism.

If you look at the demographics of the situation, there are lots of moderates and only a few fundamentalists – under typical definitions of what “fundamentalism” or “radicalism” means.

Presuming that both the population of moderates and radicals have people who tend both to the more moderate and more radical side, there are simply vastly more “radical moderates” than there are “moderate radicals”, and it’s generally easier to recruit people with more radical views than those with more moderate views (those on the moderate end tend to be less committed to the organization, those with radical views are committed but want the organization to go farther).

That’s why you see a continual emergence of little radical groups as offshoots of the more moderate religions. If those moderate religions weren’t there, it would be a lot harder for radicals to recruit.

Or, to put it another way, who is easier to recruit to bomb abortion clinics?

The non-religious person who is against abortion

Or the catholic who believes that the Pope is infallible and abortion is murder?

It seems pretty clear to me.

Posted: December 11th 2007

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

flagellant www

Try asking a Christian ‘moderate’ “Who do you have more in common with: Falwell, Haggard, and Robertson or Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris?” In terms of common humanity, there is no contest. However, while the proper ‘moderate’ answer is the latter trio, most Christians would side with Falwell, Haggard and Robertson, on the grounds of commonality of religion.

Again, consider also asking ‘moderate’ Catholics if they condemn the bombing of abortion clinics; their answers will usually be an equivocation of the type “Yes but…” with even an occasional “No, I support them” thrown in.

It is very possibly true that moderate religion draws some support away from fundamentalism. However, this does not really lessen the effects of fundamentalism; it merely hides or disguises it. Most ‘moderates’ – and this is particular true of Islam – tend to find more in common with their co-religionists, whatever they do, than with their secular countrymen. When Islamist terrorists commit criminal acts in the UK, the Islamic community provides somewhere to hide. For reasons of religious solidarity ‘moderates’ are unlikely to hand suspects over to the police.

Until there is a very public rejection of fundamentalism by ‘moderates’ – priests, rabbis, imams and their flocks – they are all complicit. And, until they do this, we are entitled to regard the vast majority of ‘moderates’ as closet fundamentalists. Finally, until the ‘moderates’ name and shame their parasitic brethren and their creeds, they will continue to provide a cloak of respectability for fundamentalism, not an alternative.

Posted: June 30th 2007

See all questions answered by flagellant


It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that some brands of moderate religion will have some success in drawing adherents away from its more fundamentalist forms. This much is uncontroversial. One could even argue that the very existence of moderates demonstrates the ability of more thoughtful individuals to resist the lure of fundamentalist certitude.

However, the role that moderate religion plays in sustaining the more fundamentalist forms does not consist in its inability or unwillingness to convert the fundamentalists back to moderation. Given the nature of what religions need to do to survive we can safely assume that their doors are always open to a penitent fundamentalist. However, whilst I don’t deny it outright, the degree to which they indulge in outreach is not so clear. On the whole moderates tend to engage with other moderates (often of other religions) not with their own fundamentalists where the preferred method is outright disavowal. There is little evidence of moderates making inroads into the ranks of fundamentalists thereby “weaken[ing] its negative effects.”

The role moderates play in making life easier for the fundamentalists consists in the extent to which moderates defend the foundational beliefs and interests that they share with the fundamentalists. There are aspects of the fundamentalist’s mindset such as the sanctity of certain places; the truth and divine origin of certain texts; the virtue of belief without evidence; the certitude of a loving deity engrossed in human affairs and reward in a life after death, that the moderate is well motivated to defend.

There is a more complete account of this issue here

Posted: June 29th 2007

See all questions answered by MouthAlmighty


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum