The Myth of Moderate Religion

RationalResponseSquad's picture

 The Myth of Moderate Religion

Alan Cook B.Th.(Hons); Adv.Dip.Th.(Christian Studies)
 

The debate between the religious and the atheist has grown more vigorous and heated, particularly since the recent spread of religiously inspired violence to parts of the world that never knew such terror before. The debate has never brought any significant result when conducted with fundamentalist believers, which are in general, a minority. As a result the majority, those holding 'moderate' faith of any kind, blending in easily with modern society, not killing for their faith, inciting hatred nor discriminating against those of alternative faiths to theirs, do not identify with either extreme, neither fundamentalist nor atheist, arguing that 'moderate' religion is the way through the ideological woods. It is generally non-proselytising, tolerant, charitable, and inoffensive. They see themselves as the 'golden mean'; not too religious, or too irreligious and they have no shortage of ecclesiastical scholars giving them theological basis for such practice. This, they argue, allows all faiths to co-exist peaceably, allowing for freedom of belief and expression for all. In this article, I will attempt to point out the oxymoron of the idea of 'moderate religion', its corrosiveness, and how I think the only way to co-exist without religious conflict, is to live without religion at all.

            I'm going to particularly speak here concerning holy books in general, though in particular the Christian scriptures, because those are which I know intimately through many years of study (Having begun my life as an agnostic, I converted to Christianity in early adulthood and my faith was so strong that I was determined that I was called to be a minister of the Gospel. Going to seminary and 5 years of study of church history, philosophy of religion, and biblical studies soon cured me of that.)

There is no doubt that the Christian Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is riddled with features that are abhorrent to the modern mind. Such was the way of life in ancient times. Atrocities committed on a massive scale, genocide, stories of God slaying tens of thousands of his own people for a breach of his commands, in addition to his commands to slay those among them who commit sins too, commands for even the innocent family members of the accused to be slain mercilessly, daughters murdered on account of an irrational promise made to God, and fathers offering their daughters to be gang raped in order to spare their guests. The Hebrew Bible is riddled with racism, violence, glorification of war, hatred, incest, murder, ethnocentricity of the 'people of God' and all of it sanctioned by God himself. This special status, this belief that they were chosen by God, gave them the permission and justification for any atrocity available to them. Such texts were for centuries also used by the Church in crusades, colonisation, forced conversions, plundering of countries' wealth and resources, slavery, and even more recently, Apartheid.

The New Testament is no exception, though lacking the commands to brutally slay all those who don't believe (mostly because the early church knew, as a minority sect, that such was impossible in the face of the might of the Roman authorities) it still contains radical commands to separation, division, and condemnation of those who do not follow their ways. Jesus statistically spoke more about Hell than any other topic in the Gospels, a place of eternal suffering and torment for those who don't 'do as they're told' so to speak, and apocalyptic books predicting the wholesale slaughter of non-believers, and their eternal damnation. Much has been said about these things before, and everyone who has ever read the Bible knows full well what is in there, though many choose to overlook such things every time they open the book in favour of the more 'acceptable' passages. I suspect that moderate Muslims and Jews do the very same thing. Even in the official calendar of readings of the Catholic and Anglican churches, such 'offensive' texts are avoided, never preached about, never explained. Just skipped over as if they weren't there, or if mentioned, simply given a spiritual interpretation or 'spiritualised', to avoid the ugly facts, which brings me to my next point.

            Once humanity finally began to kick off the chains of medieval religion and develop themselves intellectually, study science, search for empirical truths about the world around them and seek justice for all, they quickly began to notice the enormous disparity between faith and reason. The earth was round, the Church demanded it was flat, the earth rotated around the sun, the Church demanded that the world was the centre of the universe, the Church openly executed all who dared to think differently, persecuted minorities, abused women and children, practised torture, and dangled over the fires of Hell anyone who didn't unquestioningly obey the authority of the Church. People of reason, of science, or simply seeking justice and freedom of thought, were frequently persecuted and punished by the church. However, over time, such truths became evident to the point that it was impossible for the church to continue in its denial, and little by little the church was dragged kicking and screaming into modernity.

            However, a problem was then created for the church. The books that they so depended on all those years had obvious flaws, untenable precepts, principles and practices quite unacceptable to modern society. People were leaving the faith in droves. What to do? Dismantle the religion? That would have been the most honest solution, but no. They got their best scholars together and gradually, little by little reinterpreted faith. This didn't happen overnight, it's been happening for hundreds of years and always through the developments made in the secular world. Even in my time in theological seminary, I witnessed the rise of reinterpretations of the Bible to fit every new social movement. One good example is with the rise of environmental concern in the last 30 years has come (late as usual) a theological version of environmentalism, verses and passages gleaned from the scriptures to try to make God a greenie. The church never had such concern until the world put pressure on it to do so. Desperate to survive, the church creates a 'theology' for every new movement in human society. In the 1950s and 60s, faced with the question of religious pluralism, it was no longer acceptable for the church to simply say all non-Christians are going to fry in Hell, so they simply overlooked the verses of the Bible which say exactly that, reinterpreted by their theologians such as Paul Tillich, they came to a belief in 'anonymous Christians', those who are good, and though ignorant of the Gospel, obey god's commands and will be saved anyway. Such dilution of the Biblical message was necessary for the survival of the church. This has been happening in all religions, in all places for many years. Desperately playing 'catch-up' with the world despite its founder Jesus commanding them to be a 'light to the world', they follow every whim of the world, trying to be 'relevant' and producing a mirror culture. Christian versions of everything are found in the world, Christian rock, video games, books, psychologies, bumper stickers and every other fad imaginable. In short, so many centuries ago the church accepted these books as the holy and infallible word of God and then have spent the last 500 years desperately excusing the Bible from itself, speaking for God, embarrassed by his pronouncements and examples, explaining away and apologising for him constantly. I speak here of the Christian church, but Islam and Judaism are no different. Another result of this dilution of the faith is the creation of tens of thousands of sects and denominations. Each dilutes to his own taste. So what's the problem? Is it such a bad thing? Well, I propose that it creates two major issues which have led to the religious situation we have in today in this world.

            Firstly, the creation of radicals and fundamentalists is a direct result of this dilution. People within the church, eager to please and obey their God, read their Bibles and see something radically different to what is being practised and preached in their churches. There is a good reason why for so many centuries the Catholic Church did not allow its members to read the Bible for themselves. They knew what would result, and it did. Jesus' call to serve and his ethic are radical and uncompromising, Christians who read their Bible honestly, listen to Jesus words, then look at their church pews and see fat, rich, comfortable Christians who don't think of God from one Sunday to the next, sacrificing nothing than an hour a week to the faith, and when confronted, they respond quickly with, 'Don't judge me!' The more radical believers, I actually respect more, at least they see the hypocrisy, the compromise, and dishonestly, but unfortunately, instead of turning to reason and simply abandoning this corrupt institution and it's mythic scriptures, they maintain the basic assumption that these books are 'God's Infallible Word', think themselves 'called of God' to demonstrate 'true' religion to the world, latch on to the most radical texts in scripture, and then use them to justify all kinds of horrific acts. But I speak here not only of 'horrific' in the sense of physical violence, but also the terrible social damage such radicals do. One only needs to see the damage the radical orthodox Jews are doing in Israeli politics, the effect of conservative Christianity on US administrations such as that of G.W. Bush, the division of Palestinian politics (and now Palestine) by Hamas, the influence of radical Islamic clerics in countries like Iran, and the chaos caused in political structures all over the world by radical religious zealots taking to politics. These radicals are so divisive they are even divided among themselves, committing and encouraging violent acts on each other, Sunni against Shite, Catholic against Protestant, etc.

            Secondly, it has driven the realm of religious belief purely into the private sphere and thus exempted it from reason. Moderate religion, in its inability to explain and justify itself has pushed faith into the unquestionable private sphere though all the time permitting it to influence their everyday lives and decisions. A politician must justify his policies, his economic position and social policies, he must reasonably explain himself to his electorate to be taken seriously. However, they are never required to explain their religious position, never required to justify their faith, give reason and defence for it, explain how it will benefit the electorate, while all the time letting that very faith influence and make crucial decisions on matters of policy, though they frequently deny it. One only has to see in my country, Australia, how much the current opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has let his Catholicism influence his policy proposals and his stand on important issues such as women's rights, education, abortion, stem cell research, etc. All this influence with no responsibility to justify it. Why? The relegation of religious faith to the private sphere has exempted it from  the need for defence, while letting it affect every area of the religious person's life and of the lives of those they are responsible for, whether it be political leader, boss at work, parent, teacher, scientist, or academic. Such faith clouds all they do. Surely they should be required to give more justification that simply 'it's my religion and you can't question it'.

            A common argument in support of 'moderate' religion is that these religions have a good 'core', a 'pure' faith that has no such problems, and the problems are caused by the religions of  the world being corrupted by their 'host' cultures, defiling the 'pure' religion and creating the bigotry, discriminations, divisions, fighting, denominations and all other such evils. On the contrary, there is no religion outside of individual cultures, the religious person's excuse that they need to simply follow the core of faith and the only problems are caused by cultural additions is a fallacy. There is no 'core' of any faith, no 'pure' Christianity, Islam or Judaism, they are all in, and of, cultures. Even the earliest Christians were simply sectarian Jews, every Christian ritual and act, even their description of the nature of God, is a result of thousands of years of cultural and ideological development, not only Jewish, but Greek and Roman too. Religion is an expression of ignorant culture, not something outside of it.

            In short, the final result of the development of 'moderate' religion is the dilution of the holy books and the relegation of faith to the private sphere, rendering it unquestionable; thus fermenting the rise of radicals and actually giving them the status of inscrutability. The 'moderates' all over the world, claiming freedom to believe nonsense in one area of their life and then its exemption from reason and public scrutiny, have given the same freedom to the radicals and fanatics. What freedom you take for yourself, you must admit to others.

            So what do I propose? One can't sit and simply criticise the status quo without presenting an alternative. Shall we attempt to eradicate religion completely? Would that free the world of evil and create a human Utopia? I'm not so foolish to believe that religion is the root of all evil. Evil will still exist. People will still fight and do violence to each other over politics, money, power, and many other things. However, though we can never have a perfect world, how much better would this world be if the problems caused by religion were eradicated? Imagine, for example, the Palestinian/ Israeli territory being a country of peace with all Semites living side by side, having no religious claims to set them apart, and the tourists visiting the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Tomb of Jesus as simply interesting historical sites, no different to how we now visit the ancient Roman and Greek temples? However, I unfortunately recognise this as a pipe dream. No-one will ever be able to convince everyone to give up their religious faith voluntarily and doing it by force is an option doomed from the outset, no government can police what happens in the privacy of the home whether it be sexual, religious, or even culinary practices. One can see how religious faith survived Stalinism in the Soviet Union. It survived in the minds and homes of the common people determined to believe at all costs. The best that can be achieved is to educate as many as possible, particularly children (not allowing them to be religiously indoctrinated at a young age by their parents), allowing them to see for themselves the error of religious faith and cast it off once and for all. Then, after enough years have passed, so few people will believe any such nonsense that religious people will finally have the credibility they deserve in society. None!

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Lion IRC's picture

Religion is mainstream - ie. moderate.

Religion is mainstream.

If (almost) everyone is doing "religion" how can you claim religion isnt "moderate"?

To speak of the "myth of moderate religion" makes it sound like nobody has ever heard of "moderate religion" when in fact;

* Most people are religious.

* Most people think of their religion as moderate.

The fact that the minority - atheists - think of religion (the rest of us,) as "extreme" is just a subjective claim. 

 

By the way, since when are counter-apologists in the business of making up myths? "Myth of moderate religion."

That doesnt strike me as a very "rational" approach unless you want to invite a tit-for-tat response..."the myth of rational atheism"

 

 

 

Sapient's picture

You misunderstood the post.

You misunderstood the post.  He wasn't saying moderate religion was a myth. Did you read anything other than the title?

 

- Brian Sapient


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Lion IRC's picture

That’s one hell of a LOT of epileptic fits.

Atheism as an idea, is largely dependent upon the extraordinary claim that every single human experience of divinity - the supernatural – ever reported throughout the entire course of human history, was either a deliberate lie or a delusion.

 That’s one hell of a LOT of epileptic fits. And don’t forget, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence – THEY ALWAYS HAVE. So every one of these people who think/thought they saw a ghost or had an out-of-body experience or prayed successfully for a miracle, (don’t forget these people, over thousands of years, number in the hundreds of millions if not billions,) all faced their own sceptical albeit INTERESTED audiences.  So isn’t the more astounding claim that of the atheist who insists; ...    *every theist is wrong – lying or deluded.   *no theist has any evidence whatsoever.   *epilepsy and schizophrenia are far more prevalent than anyone realises.   And how does the atheist making such an extraordinary assertion about the vast majority of their fellow humans answer the question…where’s your extraordinary proof for that claim?  

 

Lion IRC's picture

Sapient wrote:You

Sapient wrote:

You misunderstood the post.  He wasn't saying moderate religion was a myth. Did you read anything other than the title?

 

 

Oh, yeah. I see your point.

 

"In this article, I will attempt to point out the oxymoron of the idea of 'moderate religion'..

 

An attempt isnt necessarily "mission accomplished". He wasn't saying moderate religion was a myth.

Skepticus's picture

I don't agree

Lion IRC wrote:

Atheism as an idea, is largely dependent upon the extraordinary claim that every single human experience of divinity - the supernatural – ever reported throughout the entire course of human history, was either a deliberate lie or a delusion.

 

 

 

I don't agree. There's no scientific proof that any gods exists. This is not an idea, it's fact! About the experience of divinity: There's lots of reasons why theists have these experiences, they're not necessarily lying or delusional.

The question is: Are these experiences really from god or just normal human reaction given the circumstances?

 

Definitions....

From a careful reading of the essay, it seems to me that the 'myth' in question is the myth that moderate religion is harmless and benign, not that 'moderate religion' is itself a myth. It all depends on how you choose to understand the preposition 'of'. Does 'of' identify the two things, 'myth' and 'moderate religion', or does it define the myth as something belonging to moderate relgion. If you read the text, the latter definition is obvious. The oxymoron is that calling itself 'moderate', it pretends to be that which it is not. That is: harmless and benign. Therein lies the myth.

Sapient's picture

Thank you Lapidario for

Thank you Lapidario for being a voice of reason in the clarification of what the author meant by "Myth of Moderate Religion."

Lion IRC seems to have a very strong bias here.

 

- Brian Sapient


Buy popular atheist books and support the Rational Response Squad at the same time on Amazon.

Brian37's picture

Lion IRC wrote:Atheism as an

Lion IRC wrote:

Atheism as an idea, is largely dependent upon the extraordinary claim that every single human experience of divinity - the supernatural – ever reported throughout the entire course of human history, was either a deliberate lie or a delusion.

 That’s one hell of a LOT of epileptic fits. And don’t forget, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence – THEY ALWAYS HAVE. So every one of these people who think/thought they saw a ghost or had an out-of-body experience or prayed successfully for a miracle, (don’t forget these people, over thousands of years, number in the hundreds of millions if not billions,) all faced their own sceptical albeit INTERESTED audiences.  So isn’t the more astounding claim that of the atheist who insists; ...    *every theist is wrong – lying or deluded.   *no theist has any evidence whatsoever.   *epilepsy and schizophrenia are far more prevalent than anyone realises.   And how does the atheist making such an extraordinary assertion about the vast majority of their fellow humans answer the question…where’s your extraordinary proof for that claim?  

 

Wrong. This shows your complete lack of understanding of evolution, biology, neurology and human psychology.

Evolution's goal is not to be rational, it's only goal is to get to the point of reproduction. If a placebo gap answer helps an individual in a species survive to the point of reproduction, that placebo, no matter how fake an answer, worked.

The Ancient Egyptians were successful in their "safety in numbers" because they surrounded themselves under the false belief that the sun was a god. The real benefit was the "Safety in numbers", not the actual sun being a god.

Making up answers to fill in gaps is something our species has always done. It doesn't make gods real, it is merely a product of evolution.

If the zebra mistakes the wind for a lion in the tall grass, that bad guess, will cause them to run, and maybe even cause them avoid a real lion they did not spot at first.

God belief is merely gap filling, a product of humans making quick answers first without testing to insure quality of data. It is because evolution is not about perfection, that this psychological side affect of our evolution exists.

I would highly recommend "The God Delusion" Dawkins and "The New Atheism" Stinger  and Sam Harris " End of Faith". They go into detail scientifically why this flaw exists in our evolution.

Tradition is not a good argument. You don't believe the sun is a god.

Numbers are not a good argument. You are not a Muslim merely because they have the most members.

Yet our human history has plenty of dead myths and dead traditions. Gaps filling is part of evolution, it is an unfortunate part of evolution, but this flaw does have a real affect of allowing us to get lucky sometimes with a bad guess.

The real neurology of "god" is studied in the chemical processes in brain scans that produce pleasurable chemicals when humans think about things they desire. But these reactions are not because of a real deity, these reactions are a result of our own flawed perceptions which cause the REAL feelings.

Ever feel the "eyeballs" in the bowl at a Halloween party? You know they were olives now, but when you were a kid and no one told you better, it scared the crap out of you because someone used mood, emotion and climate to convince you the olives were eyeballs.

Belief in the super natural is merely a flawed way of humans to attempt to cope with life. It is a flaw we evolved with.

 

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Lion IRC's picture

Brian37 wrote:Lion IRC

Brian37 wrote:

Lion IRC wrote:

Atheism as an idea, is largely dependent upon the extraordinary claim that every single human experience of divinity - the supernatural – ever reported throughout the entire course of human history, was either a deliberate lie or a delusion.

 That’s one hell of a LOT of epileptic fits. And don’t forget, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence – THEY ALWAYS HAVE. So every one of these people who think/thought they saw a ghost or had an out-of-body experience or prayed successfully for a miracle, (don’t forget these people, over thousands of years, number in the hundreds of millions if not billions,) all faced their own sceptical albeit INTERESTED audiences.  So isn’t the more astounding claim that of the atheist who insists; ...    *every theist is wrong – lying or deluded.   *no theist has any evidence whatsoever.   *epilepsy and schizophrenia are far more prevalent than anyone realises.   And how does the atheist making such an extraordinary assertion about the vast majority of their fellow humans answer the question…where’s your extraordinary proof for that claim?  

 

Wrong. This shows your complete lack of understanding of evolution, biology, neurology and human psychology...

 

Gee. Looks like I should have dedicated my post to telling everything I DO know about "evolution, biology, neurology and human psychology". As it happens, that wasn’t the objective of my post. My post – a response to the claim that religion is something other than normal, natural, moderate, mainstream, human activity – was about the extraordinary claim made by atheists. Namely, that EVERY human experience of something (they think is) super natural, is not in fact super natural. Sure, some people DO have epileptic fits and hallucinations. But atheists don’t just claim that SOME experiences aren’t what they seem. Atheists don’t even claim that MOST such experience are “all in the mind”. They claim that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM are a flawed “attempt to cope with life.”  All I am saying is that proposing such a universal assertion about what SOMEONE ELSE experienced is an audacious claim. (You’re not me, how do you know whether I saw a ghost?) It’s an extraordinary claim, (that you’re deluded, that ghosts don’t exist,) requiring extraordinary PROOF. It would be a MUCH less controversial claim if it wasn’t making a brute fact claim (special pleading) about every single human being who EVER lived. But as it stands, it is an astonishingly bold and arrogant claim. 

Brian37 wrote:
Evolution's goal is not to be rational, it's only goal is to get to the point of reproduction. If a placebo gap answer helps an individual in a species survive to the point of reproduction, that placebo, no matter how fake an answer, worked.

The Ancient Egyptians were successful in their "safety in numbers" because they surrounded themselves under the false belief that the sun was a god. The real benefit was the "Safety in numbers", not the actual sun being a god.

Making up answers to fill in gaps is something our species has always done. It doesn't make gods real, it is merely a product of evolution.

 

Yes, but you see the gaps not only exist but the number of gaps is also increasing the more we try to fill them with something other than the best explanation available. The “no-God hypothesis” folk go to extraordinary lengths (as well as making extraordinary claims) just to avoid the God Conclusion. Religion is not only rational and moderate, it is also a reasonable attempt to explain stuff much more succinctly and parsimoniously than….”quantum weirdness, dark energy, multiverse, holographic model dependent reality… Of course religion, like most human thought, is not perfect but neither is…quantum theory which still hasn’t worked out if we are looking at a clear picture of a fuzzy reality or a fuzzy picture of a clear reality.   

 

Brian37 wrote:
...The real neurology of "god" is studied in the chemical processes in brain scans that produce pleasurable chemicals when humans think about things they desire. But these reactions are not because of a real deity, these reactions are a result of our own flawed perceptions which cause the REAL feelings.

Ever feel the "eyeballs" in the bowl at a Halloween party? You know they were olives now, but when you were a kid and no one told you better, it scared the crap out of you because someone used mood, emotion and climate to convince you the olives were eyeballs.

I know what eyeballs feel like. Real eyeballs – not imaginary ones. That’s EXACTLY the reason I am able to compare the feel of olives with that of real eyeballs. Eyeballs exist. They are not figments of imagination.

 

Lion IRC's picture

Sapient wrote:Thank you

Sapient wrote:

Thank you Lapidario for being a voice of reason in the clarification of what the author meant by "Myth of Moderate Religion."

Lion IRC seems to have a very strong bias here.

 

 

 

 

Yes a strong bias but I think Lapidario’s explanation is a bit of a quibbling.

 The article is quite clear. It’s an attempt to explore the question…What is the myth of Moderate Religion? Where IS the myth?

 

  • …that it is not “moderate”?
  • …that it cant be called moderate?
  • …that stuff which the majority of humans think and do believing it to be “moderate”, actually isn’t “moderate” but some abnormal immoderate act?
 
Isn’t it atheism which is the outlier? 
 Surely the characteristic of religion which makes most religious people think of themselves as moderate is that Buddhists and Christians and Muslims and Wiccans and Rastafarians and New Agers, etc all share the mainstream characteristic called… “belief”. And it’s quite normal. It’s the Stalinist/Maoist atheology which stands out in stark contrast that mainstream MODERATE people reject.    

 

Vastet's picture

I don't feel like typing for

I don't feel like typing for an hour, so I'll just head over there....

Good article, btw.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

As I explained before, and

As I explained before, and I'll say it again for those who don't seem to have read the article: The Myth is that Moderate religion is benign and harmless and the author attempts to debunk that myth by explaining that it is NOT harmless and benign. Is that so difficult to understand? Lion IRC seems bent on pushing his own agenda here in a place where it does not belong. He should at least be honest enough to read the article completely before embarking on a rant that has little to do with the article in question.

Brian37's picture

Quote:My post – a

Quote:
My post – a response to the claim that religion is something other than normal, natural, moderate, mainstream, human activity

Who is claiming that religious belief is not normal, I'm not, please tell me where I have claimed that.

I SAID it is a flaw in our evolution. Tornados are normal, not because we want them to affect us, but merely because they do happen.

Belief in a god is natural, like Dawkins put it it would be as natural as "the moth mistaking the light bulb for the moonlight"(God Delusion). So if you want to object to me being a layperson, you're going to have a huge problem with an evolutionary biologist who would agree with me.

Natural things are merely that which that can be observed and verified. "Natural" is not a moral statement in scientific observation, all "natural" means in the scientific context is that it happens.

In the case of god belief it is a NATURAL FLAW because we did not evolve with all the answers and our first default is to fill in the gap, not test. Because evolution doesn't always allow for slow thinking or testing, nor does it require that to get to the point of reproduction.

Bob Spense can explain in deeper detail than I can about why flaws long term create a wider gene pool. I merely understand the basics. 

 

 

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Lion IRC's picture

Its the NORM which determines what is "moderate",

lapidario wrote:

As I explained before, and I'll say it again for those who don't seem to have read the article: The Myth is that Moderate religion is benign and harmless and the author attempts to debunk that myth by explaining that it is NOT harmless and benign. Is that so difficult to understand? Lion IRC seems bent on pushing his own agenda here in a place where it does not belong. He should at least be honest enough to read the article completely before embarking on a rant that has little to do with the article in question.

Its the NORM which determines what is "moderate" and what is immoderate.

What is moderate drinking?

What is moderate language?

What is moderate religion?

 

The whole Op essay is a logical contradiction. You wouldnt know the difference between moderate religion and extremist religion if the FORMER did not exist as a datum.

 

Vastet's picture

That's inaccurate. A

That's inaccurate. A moderate is not extreme, partisan or radical. A moderate drinker doesn't drink excessively or extensively, and doesn't favour one beverage to the exclusion of others.

As such, a religion by definition cannot be moderate, as the very things which define a religion preclude the possibility of moderation.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

I don't disagree with

I don't disagree with anything you've written Brian37. In fact, I would say that our ability to be even debating this subject is evidence enough that the human brain has evolved sufficiently to throw off this evolutionary flaw. Our understanding of science has enabled us to do away with the need for religious beliefs and in my reading of Dawkins, he'd agree with me or why else would he even write his books and tour the world preaching against the tyranny of religion if he thought as you do that it's simply an evolutionary flaw that can't be overcome? And my question to you is what do you think should be done about this problem? Why are you even talking about this subject and reading so widely as you do? Why don't you believe in god(s) and just go along with this evolutionary flaw if it really is so ineluctable?

butterbattle's picture

Isn't it an extraordinary

Isn't it an extraordinary claim that absolutely NONE, not most or virtually all, of the presents found under Christmas trees were delivered by Santa Claus? That's a lot of presents. 

No claim of the supernatural whatsoever has ever been demonstrated to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. So, based on the available empirical data, the probability of any supernatural claim actually involving anything supernatural is zero; it is therefore an infinitely more extraordinary claim than the claim that it was any of a number of natural explanations. 

Furthermore, the very concept of supernatural that is supported by empirical evidence is already questionable, as 'the supernatural' definitively cannot be investigated by the scientific method.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare

Lion IRC's picture

Santa Claus?

butterbattle wrote:

Isn't it an extraordinary claim that absolutely NONE, not most or virtually all, of the presents found under Christmas trees were delivered by Santa Claus? That's a lot of presents.... 

 

Who is Santa Claus?  The person who assumes his persona at the department store? The parents who carry on his legacy upholding and continuing the “spirit” of Christmas?
  •  
Saint Nicholas was a real person but who says Santa is only allowed to be one single person in history?  Those are REAL presents – not virtual presents. That “spirit” of Christmas is not imaginary.
  •  
  It might be hard to define in 20 words or less – but it is definitely real.     

 

Lion IRC's picture

We hold these truths to be self evident.

Vastet wrote:
That's inaccurate. A moderate is not extreme, partisan or radical. A moderate drinker doesn't drink excessively or extensively, and doesn't favour one beverage to the exclusion of others. As such, a religion by definition cannot be moderate, as the very things which define a religion preclude the possibility of moderation.

 

 

 

That’s a self-serving definition of religion.

  •  

What prevents a religion from striving for the objectives of moderation, humanism, egalitarianism, peace, love, freedom, etc? These are all (apparently) objectives to which “moderate” people could aspire and they are not mutually exclusive of religion.

  •  

God could tell humans that these goals are what He wishes them to pursue.

  •  

Take a look at the (apparently) universal, inalienable rights with which humans are endowed by their Creator according to the people whose signatures appear at the bottom of the DOI.

 

BobSpence's picture

For most of history, most

For most of history, most people believed the Earth was flat, that it was the center of the Universe, and that the Sun went around the Earth.

All wrong.

Not lies or delusions, just mistaken, for understandable reasons.

Same with religion. A primitive, intuitive set of assumptions, understandable until careful empirical research corrected them.

It would not be possible to distinguish between a mental experience purely generated by our imagination, and a supposed communication from a 'supernatural' being, without some empirical reference. But empirical data could never point unambiguously to the 'supernatural', merely to a gap in our knowledge.

So no extraordinary claim necessarily involved at all.

'Supernatural' is simply a presumptive label on what is simply unknown, or not currently understood. Lightning was once seen as a manifestation of an angry God. Is it now an extraordinary claim that all believers in Thor or his equivalent were mistaken?

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

BobSpence's picture

"moderate" does NOT mean

"moderate" does NOT mean "normal".

We could live in a environment where the weather was either perfectly calm or a wild storm, each about 45% of the time, and 10% of the time, mild or moderate.

The moderate state could well be average, which is in fact its main dictionary definition, but it would not be 'normal'.

In religion, apathetic theism, or perhaps atheism, could well be one extreme, fundamentalism/literalism could be the other. If the bulk of the population were one or the other, there may be only a very small number of 'moderates'.

 

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

Brian37's picture

lapidario wrote:I don't

lapidario wrote:

I don't disagree with anything you've written Brian37. In fact, I would say that our ability to be even debating this subject is evidence enough that the human brain has evolved sufficiently to throw off this evolutionary flaw. Our understanding of science has enabled us to do away with the need for religious beliefs and in my reading of Dawkins, he'd agree with me or why else would he even write his books and tour the world preaching against the tyranny of religion if he thought as you do that it's simply an evolutionary flaw that can't be overcome? And my question to you is what do you think should be done about this problem? Why are you even talking about this subject and reading so widely as you do? Why don't you believe in god(s) and just go along with this evolutionary flaw if it really is so ineluctable?

Why don't I believe in a god? Just like I don't believe anymore, like when I was a kid, the shadows in my open closet on a dark thundery rainy night, were  ghosts or boogie men.

I agree it can be overcome. Science is evidence that we can overcome our flawed perceptions.

What can be done? Dawkins is actively doing it. Neil Tyson is doing it. Brian Sapient is doing it, Victor Stinger, ect ect ect ect ect....and so on. Get the word out. Thats really all civil society can do.

You will never completely rid evolution of flaws of any kind, much less get 7 billion people to give up on absurd claims, of any kind. All we can do is maximize scientific understanding of how biology works and how human psychology works.

There is no utopia that any one label can create, but we as a species can seek to make our priorities more education base and pragmatic based and human condition based.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Which is precisely what the

Which is precisely what the article says if you read the last paragraph.... to educate is the only answer.

Vastet's picture

Lion IRC wrote:Thats a

Lion IRC wrote:
Thats a self-serving definition of religion.

No, it's THE definition of religion.

Lion IRC wrote:
What prevents a religion from striving for the objectives of moderation, humanism, egalitarianism, peace, love, freedom, etc?

The fact that the goals of religion (for everyone to believe in the same deity) is counter to all of those things. They can strive all they like, but they'll never get there. It's impossible.

Lion IRC wrote:
These are all (apparently) objectives to which moderate people could aspire and they are not mutually exclusive of religion.

Religion is incompatible with moderation, period. Moderate people who lean religious don't follow any religion to the exclusion of others, by definition. Nothing you've said has any bearing on this reality.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

BobSpence's picture

Christianity is not about

Christianity is not about freedom, humanism, or egalitarianism. Moderation doesn't make sense in that context - it would be about perfect adherence to the doctrine, not a 'moderate' adherence.

God is about being the ultimate power, the ultimate dictator, the only reference for 'right' and 'wrong', demanding obedience to every command.

Religion is a distortion of truth and morality. It has no place in a truly enlightened society.

The greater social health, lower crime rates, more egalitarian nature of the less religious countries among the 'Western' nations are a demonstration of that truth.

Sure we should strive for those objectives. Religion is no help in that, at least not the Abrahamic ones. Look how well those religions have worked to ensure peace in the region they originated in, the Middle East....

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

Brian37's picture

The Abrahamic god fits the

The Abrahamic god fits the definition of dictator, regardless if one wants to call him good or not. You cannot vote him out of office. You cannot impeach him. You cannot change his laws by vote. Your prayers to make change are not by vote or consent but ultimately his whims without regard to your desires. You cannot vote him out of office and replace him.

It is a horrible concept as a claim. It in reality, is merely an anthropomorphic reflection of the evolutionary desire to be on top.

Why would someone want to subject their mind to the mercy of some unprovable entity and call that good, especially when that claimed entity is immovable and unchangeable? It is the worst form of mind slavery humans have ever concocted.

It is a horrible mental placebo and our human progress has happened in spite of this evolutionary flaw.

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Lion IRC's picture

Vastet wrote:Lion IRC

Vastet wrote:
Lion IRC wrote:
Thats a self-serving definition of religion.
No, it's THE definition of religion.
Lion IRC wrote:
What prevents a religion from striving for the objectives of moderation, humanism, egalitarianism, peace, love, freedom, etc?
The fact that the goals of religion (for everyone to believe in the same deity) is counter to all of those things. They can strive all they like, but they'll never get there. It's impossible.
Lion IRC wrote:
These are all (apparently) objectives to which moderate people could aspire and they are not mutually exclusive of religion.
Religion is incompatible with moderation, period. Moderate people who lean religious don't follow any religion to the exclusion of others, by definition. Nothing you've said has any bearing on this reality.

 

Did you take a class in "special pleading"?

 

I say..."a definition"

You say..."no, THE definition"

 

I ask rhetorically about the ability of religion to strive for the objectives of "moderation, humanism, egalitarianism, peace, love, freedom,..."

You assert a brute fact that religion cant do that. Says who? You didnt even answer the question. You are just gainsaying. ...Religion cant do that because thats not what religion is able to do because it cant do anything unless I say it can...and I should know because I'm me and I said so...

 

I assert that something seems to me as if..."These are all (apparently) objectives to which moderate people could aspire and they are not mutually exclusive of religion."

And your response is yet another, "this reality", brute fact, special pleading claim.

"Religion is incompatible with moderation, period."

Says WHO? and WHY do they say that?

 

Dont make me get my bible out and start posting admonitions about moderation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vastet's picture

Quote:Did you take a class

Quote:
Did you take a class in "special pleading"? I say..."a definition"You say..."no, THE definition"

If you don't like the dictionary, that's your problem. Your opinion isn't an argument.

Quote:
Says who?

If you don't like the dictionary, that's your problem. Your opinion isn't an argument.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Lion IRC's picture

Vastet wrote:Quote:Did you

Lion IRC wrote:

Vastet wrote:
Lion IRC wrote:
Thats a self-serving definition of religion.
No, it's THE definition of religion.
Lion IRC wrote:
What prevents a religion from striving for the objectives of moderation, humanism, egalitarianism, peace, love, freedom, etc?
The fact that the goals of religion (for everyone to believe in the same deity) is counter to all of those things. They can strive all they like, but they'll never get there. It's impossible.
Lion IRC wrote:
These are all (apparently) objectives to which moderate people could aspire and they are not mutually exclusive of religion.
Religion is incompatible with moderation, period. Moderate people who lean religious don't follow any religion to the exclusion of others, by definition. Nothing you've said has any bearing on this reality.

 

Did you take a class in "special pleading"?

 

I say..."a definition"

You say..."no, THE definition"

 

I ask rhetorically about the ability of religion to strive for the objectives of "moderation, humanism, egalitarianism, peace, love, freedom,..."

You assert a brute fact that religion cant do that. Says who? You didnt even answer the question. You are just gainsaying. ...Religion cant do that because thats not what religion is able to do because it cant do anything unless I say it can...and I should know because I'm me and I said so...

 

I assert that something seems to me as if..."These are all (apparently) objectives to which moderate people could aspire and they are not mutually exclusive of religion."

And your response is yet another, "this reality", brute fact, special pleading claim.

"Religion is incompatible with moderation, period."

Says WHO? and WHY do they say that?

 

Dont make me get my bible out and start posting admonitions about moderation.

 

Vastet wrote:
Quote:
Did you take a class in "special pleading"? I say..."a definition"You say..."no, THE definition"
If you don't like the dictionary, that's your problem. Your opinion isn't an argument.
Quote:
Says who?
If you don't like the dictionary, that's your problem. Your opinion isn't an argument.

Vastet wrote :

"...a religion by definition cannot be moderate, as the very things which define a religion preclude the possibility of moderation."

 

The Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 1996 wrote :

"Precise definition of the concept of religion, or of what generally constitutes 'a religion', is difficult, if not impossible, because of the intangible and wide-ranging nature of the topic. Generally, a religion is regarded as a set of beliefs and practices, usually involving acknowledgment of a divine or higher being or power, by which people order the conduct of their lives both practically and in a moral sense. This method of defining religion in terms of a mixture of beliefs, practices, and a Supernatural Being giving form and meaning to existence was used by the High Court of Australia in 1983. "

 

 

 

 

Vastet's picture

Now show me a religion which

Now show me a religion which encourages diverse beliefs and rituals, instead of strictly enforcing specific concepts.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Lion IRC's picture

Mr Circular - allow me to introduce you to Mr Petitio Principii

show me a (hard to define) religion which encourages diverse "beliefs and rituals" (beliefs and rituals ARE religion ie. hard to define)

 

See what you're asking for?

 

Anyway, since you asked, it implies you WILL accept an answer so I give you...

The Unitarian Churches?

The Episcopalian Church?

The Bahai religion?

Christianity?

 

I'd like to take up another matter raised by (if not in) the article.

And I direct the issue at you since you are engaging in the topic. (Thanks)

The point being missed by those who run this type of counter-apologetic is that religions - especially Christianity - are theologically speaking, VOLUNTARY.

"Specific concepts" are NOT enforced. If you dont want to be a Calvinist, you dont HAVE to. If you dont agree with Transubstantiation, thats no biggie. You can go to the church next door. You dont even have to do that. Theologically speaking, you can have a one-on-one personal relationship with God and the person you are sitting next to in church wouldnt even know if you thought Communion wine was actually the blood of Christ. Jehovahs Witnesses arent frog-marched into the local Methodist church and told to recant some heretical Aryan view about the "Trinity".

 

Did people ever get burned at the stake? Yes of course. But guess what! Torquemada FAILED miserably. They always fail. You cant control people with "extreme religion" or torture any more than you can control them into atheism with Stalinism.

 

Christianity is (in part) the direct result of what happens when you try to torture an idea out of existence. Torquemada and the Inquisition is a case study in how to convince people that their persecuted ideology is right. If extremism is the only way you can get people to follow your way of thinking, you are inadvertently advertising how BAD the idea is to begin with. (See AC Graylings book "Towards the Light" )

 

Religion doesnt NEED to be extreme to be popular. You dont need to force people INTO religion. (The opium of the masses) The monumental, virtually impossible battle is to get people OUT of VOLUNTARY religion. Surely folk here can see that!

 

So I ask, how can you make a counter-apologetic argument about "extreme religion" when adherence to religion is voluntary?

It is so completely voluntary that even atheists could remain in the clergy...

...and you wouldnt even know it.  

 

 

 

Vastet's picture

"For most of its history,

"For most of its history, Unitarianism has been known for the rejection of several orthodox Protestant doctrines"

Fits with my description of religion. Strict belief system.

"Episcopal(not comparable)Of or relating to the affairs of an Anglican church, such as the Scottish Episcopal Church or the Episcopal Church in the United States."

So anglican.

"The Anglican Communionis an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England
~
The status of full communion means, ideally, that there is mutual agreement on essential doctrines"

So it also has strict views. On to the next.

"Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá'í teachings and doctrine"

Sounded potentially promising to break the trend until I saw this.

I don't need to look up christianity. It's so strict it's base has split 600 odd times over a wide range of disagreements.

A moderate religion would have no doctrine, no essential ritual, no required beliefs.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Vastet's picture

Quote:"Specific concepts"

Quote:
"Specific concepts" are NOT enforced. If you dont want to be a Calvinist, you dont HAVE to.

That's missing my point. If you don't strictly adhere to calvinism, you aren't a calvinist. You can't moderately adhere to calvinism and be a calvinist, it's all or nothing. Calling yourself one doesn't make you one. Being one makes you one.

Quote:
 You cant control people with "extreme religion" or torture any more than you can control them into atheism with Stalinism.

Then why have more religions died than currently exist? How did the abrahamic faiths squeeze out the Roman and Greek gods, and others, if extreme religion is incapable of changing the beliefs of the masses?

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Lion IRC's picture

And another thing....

I cant understand atheists who make the amazingly sexist claim that religion is another name for misogyny.

 

Heres a bit of free, no charge, concern trolling.

 

When atheists infer that somehow religion is the mortal enemy of feminism, (apart from displaying historical ignorance of female/goddess power within and over many religions,)  they are basically insulting every woman who freely chooses to belong to that supposedly misogynist religion. Nuns are women. Buddhist monks are women. Wiccans are women. There's a (muslim) Supreme Court judge who is a woman. Since when do women like.. THIS ..tell other women that they couldnt possibly have a mind of their own and FREELY choose to do that with THEIR OWN BODY. 

 

I'd like to see Jane Caro try to give Mary MacKillop a lecture about atheist feminism. 

 

Religion is voluntary. Eating forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden is voluntary. (God could have prevented it.)  Becoming a nun is voluntary. Believe it or not there ARE moderate women who prefer to follow religious vestigial customs because THEY want to.

 

And it has nothing to do with "extreme religion".

Lion IRC's picture

Vastet wrote:... A moderate

Vastet wrote:
... A moderate religion would have no doctrine, no essential ritual, no required beliefs...

 

Dont you mean....

 

...ABSOLUTELY, CATAGORICALLY, NO DOCTRINE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OK! And anyone who does will be ex-communicated because we wont tolerate people with doctrine."

 

Circular reasoning. Special pleading. Question begging. And now, assertions which arent even parsimonious. Its like saying... "my doctrine is to hold no doctrines."

 

If you can do that, then I can call atheism a religion. We can both define stuff to suit ourselves. You can say theres no such thing as moderate religion and I can call atheism a belief held by the "no-god faith."

 

 

Vastet's picture

Since I said nothing about

Since I said nothing about women, and already dealt with any metaphor, I'll skip past that.

Quote:
Eating forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden is voluntary. (God could have prevented it.)

I never ate the fruit.

All religion is extreme by its very nature. The only question is if it's inherently dangerous too. But as we've already established, all religions have strict and uncompromising beliefs. It is what defines that religion. Which in turn defines them as extreme.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Vastet's picture

Your opinion and logic

Your opinion and logic failure is your own. But at least you've now conceded the argument that religions can't be moderate. In order to be moderate, it wouldn't be a religion.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Lion IRC's picture

Vastet wrote:Your opinion

Vastet wrote:
Your opinion and logic failure is your own. But at least you've now conceded the argument that religions can't be moderate. In order to be moderate, it wouldn't be a religion.

Nope. I dont concede that.

I might............ if you refute Bahai, Unitarian, Buddhist, Jedi, Christian, (treat others the way you want to be treated) as moderate religions.

 

In the mean time lets call atheism a religion too. OK?

Lion IRC's picture

Vastet wrote:Since I said

Vastet wrote:
Since I said nothing about women, and already dealt with any metaphor, I'll skip past that.
Quote:
Eating forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden is voluntary. (God could have prevented it.)
I never ate the fruit. All religion is extreme by its very nature. The only question is if it's inherently dangerous too. But as we've already established, all religions have strict and uncompromising beliefs. It is what defines that religion. Which in turn defines them as extreme.

 

Sticking to your repetition of .."Vastet says religion is what Vastet says it is."

Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to be dogmatic about what they believe. (I guess)

 

Sapient's picture

Lion IRC wrote:In the mean

Lion IRC wrote:

In the mean time lets call atheism a religion too. OK?

Right after we agree that bald is a hair color.

- Brian Sapient


Buy popular atheist books and support the Rational Response Squad at the same time on Amazon.

Vastet's picture

Quote:Nope. I dont concede

Quote:
Nope. I dont concede that.

Yes, you did. But I twisted you around so hard you thought you were refuting me as you did so, so I'm not at all surprised it went over your head.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

harleysportster's picture

Brian37 wrote:The Abrahamic

Brian37 wrote:

The Abrahamic god fits the definition of dictator, regardless if one wants to call him good or not. You cannot vote him out of office. You cannot impeach him. You cannot change his laws by vote. Your prayers to make change are not by vote or consent but ultimately his whims without regard to your desires. You cannot vote him out of office and replace him.

 

I remember Hitchens once stating , the idea of a benevolent god, watching over us "for our own good" is far worse than a brutal dictator.

After all, when one starts to mature into adulthood, think about how intolerable the situation becomes when the parents say "This is for your own good,".  If I had lived my whole life by what was "for my own good", I would never have been able to make my own mistakes and learn from them. I would never have been able to become the man that I am today.

A god that watches me "for my own good" means that he gave me an intellect, but does not want me to use it because he has to tell me what to do "for my own good".

A god like that would more or less be saying : I gave you a life, a brain, a body and feelings. However, you can not use them the way that you would like and it is "for your own good" and it is because I love you.

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno

Lion IRC's picture

You only think that I think that you think that.

Vastet wrote:
Quote:
Nope. I dont concede that.
Yes, you did. But I twisted you around so hard you thought you were refuting me as you did so, so I'm not at all surprised it went over your head.

I'm content for you to think that the iocane powder is in my cup.

Now....

 

 

Vastet's picture

If you really must delude

If you really must delude yourself with even more fiction, feel free. The rest of us know better.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.