Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Criticizing the Extremists - Good or Bad?

Moderate believers often criticize atheists (and others, I suppose) for going after the extremists of their religion.  Even if they don't commit the No True Scotsman fallacy, they seem to suggest that only their kinder, gentler brand of [insert religion here] should be discussed.  After all, the fringes are irrelevant, aren't they?

As long as they don't bring up Stalin, we should be happy to return the favor.  Right?

Well.... we atheists were pretty quiet until 9/11/2001.  We thought the same thing about the extremists.  They were a little nutty but harmless, and after all they're a teensy minority.  Then 19 people changed the world.

Meanwhile, in January of 2001, a fundamentalist Christian president busily installed his fundy pals in executive branch offices.  The few of us who paid attention were quite worried about the future of our democracy.  Fundamentalist Christian comprise over 20 percent of Americans but are a huge and well-organized voting bloc that propels Republicans into office and takes office themselves.

Again, as long as they were merely being used by their puppeteers to put the oligarchical overlords into positions of power, they weren't a threat to religious freedom.  They only threatened good sense and good government. We'd survived bad government before, so what's the big whoop?

The big whoop is that secularism is under attack.  We are going after our attackers, not the bystanders.  If the bystanders don't like being swept into the umbrella designation of their religion, perhaps they should be the ones fighting the fundies.

We can't live in a society where fundamentalists have the power to change science curricula, take over government agencies, take over the military, or impose their religion on the rest of us in any way.  We can live in a society where the moderates go about their individual lives without causing anyone else any trouble.

Perhaps the moderates should be telling the fundies to stop denying evolution .... and geology and cosmology.  They should be telling the fundies to get out of government and stop grabbing political power.  They should tell them to take the commandment about telling lies more seriously, like stop calling America a "Christian Nation" or quoting the Declaration of Independence instead of the Constitution.

But they don't do it, so it's up to us.  We have more to lose.  The moderates are bit lazy, which is why they're moderates.  Being a fundy is hard work.  They have to go to church more than once a week, and read the Bible (at least the convenient parts) and worry about which of their neighbors they should hate.  They are complacent about the damage fundies can do.

American Christians feel superior to Islamic believers, which is a mistake.  Islamic moderates probably didn't use to worry about what fundamentalists would do if they took control.  How many Iranians in the 1970s expected to be suppressed after the Shah was deposed?  How many Egyptians are happy about the Muslim Brotherhood taking power now?

So... it's too bad that moderates feel they are unfairly maligned when reasonable people take issue with fundamentalists.  We're not the ones that created a messed up tangle of religious division.  We're the ones who struggled to get free from it.

But don't take my word for it, read this Washington Post blog op-ed:  It isn't just Islamic Fundamentalists...


Infidel753 said...

Then 19 people changed the world.

It didn't help that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell then announced that the country basically had it coming because we tolerate abortion and faggots, thus reminding everyone that religious extremist lunacy isn't exclusively an Islamic problem.

How many Egyptians are happy about the Muslim Brotherhood taking power now?

Actually the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown by the military last year, and Egyptian public opinion strongly supported the coup, which kind of answers your question.

Perhaps the moderates should be telling the fundies to.....

Yes, they should. They complain that atheists go after the extremists (your initial point); but that's because it's the extremists who make the most noise and make themselves the visible face of American Christianity. If the moderates don't like that, it's up to them to be more visible.

Westerners constantly criticize moderate Muslims for not condemning the jihadists (actually, they have condemned them, notably after the Charlie Hebdo attack), and whole armies of Muslims are currently waging a shooting war against ISIS, the worst of the extremist groups. What are moderate Christians doing to fight the Christian extremists?

L.Long said...

What makes people think that the extremists are the bad ones???
From the point of view of their books o'BS the hate-bigotry-kill them all is in there-their gawd telling them what to do!!!
So we expect so-called moderates to tell them stop following the book o'BS and be nice!!!
They can do so and tell them to be nice, but according the extremists it aint no different then atheists telling them to be nice.
And the xtians are only marginally better.

Woody said...

I see, L.Long.
It reminds me of the old argument, are the extremists radical or are the moderates radical?
I've thought long and hard on this one. My conclusion reveals itself as a question, "While the extremists seem beyond my wisdom, why do moderate groups, churches that play a very social and rather moderate role in our societies, still cling fervently to the testaments?"
They can't seem to grasp the reduction in dispute and argument that they will receive from atheists by ... letting go of adherence to the old books.
Personally I favour a dismantling of almost all religious systems, but a more likely move, a step in the right direction, surely, would be for faiths to try to integrate more believably and effectively into modern societies without all of the science-denial and raw stupidity that has marked their attempts to integrate so far.
Continually claiming that we need to be able to understand how to read the testaments properly is getting really old. Even when we accept the era and cultures and lifestyles lived by those who wrote them, we still need to believe that these time- misinterpreted revelations are from the one, true god and creator, whichever one it is.
I had to get that little rant out of my system, thanks for reading.

All the best,

L.Long said...

True Woody.
I usually say ....
I believe they are moderate when they rewrite their books o'BS such as to remove the hate-violence-bigotry- and fear with love and THINKING!!!
Till that time they are just breeders of the fundies.

Woody said...

"Till that time they are just breeders of the fundies".
Damn straight, L.Long!
I've said for a quite a time, in regard to the moderately denied connection between moderates and fundies that many extremist scum, eyes ablaze with religious hate, learned their crap first from rather moderate scriptural lessons, especially if those impressionable youngsters gave a little too much credence to the words they were exposed to in whichever sacred text.
In my opinion, even the responsible, moderate, fairly mature religious groups can't deny being a launching pad for nut-bag extremists.
It makes me angry, more so that moderates don't seem to understand.

All the best,