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...