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The virus of religious moderation
(51 Messages in 6 pages - View all)
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1.       Melek74
1506 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 06:24 pm

The virus of religious moderation

PERHAPS it should come as no surprise that a mere wall of water, sweeping innocent multitudes from the beaches of 12 countries on Boxing Day, failed to raise global doubts about God’s existence. Still, one wonders just how vast and gratuitous a catastrophe would have to be to shake the world’s faith. The Holocaust did not do it.

God’s ways are, indeed, inscrutable. It seems that any fact, no matter how infelicitous, can be rendered compatible with religious faith. In matters of faith, we have kicked ourselves loose of the earth. Given the degree to which religion still inspires human conflict, this is not the good news that many of us imagine it to be.

One of the greatest challenges facing civilisation in the 21st century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest concerns — about ethics, spiritual experience, and human suffering — in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Incompatible religious doctrines have Balkanised our world and these divisions have become a continuous source of bloodshed.

Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it was at any time in the past. The recent conflicts in Palestine (Jews v Muslims), the Balkans (Orthodox Serbians v Catholic Croatians; Orthodox Serbians v Bosnian and Albanian Muslims), Northern Ireland (Protestants v Catholics), Kashmir (Muslims v Hindus), Sudan (Muslims v Christians and animists), Nigeria (Muslims v Christians)and Iran and Iraq (Shia v Sunni) are merely a few cases in point. These are places where religion has been the explicit cause of millions of deaths in the past decade.

It is in the face of such pointless horrors that many people of goodwill now counsel “moderation” in religion. The problem with religious moderation is that it offers us no bulwark against the spread of religious extremism and religious violence. Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of God, but they want us to keep using the word “God” as though we knew what we were talking about. And they don’t want anything too critical to be said about people who really believe in the God of their forefathers because tolerance, above all else, is sacred. To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world — to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish — is antithetical to tolerance as moderates conceive it.

In so far as religious moderates attempt to hold on to what is still serviceable in orthodox religion, they close the door to more sophisticated approaches to human happiness. Rather than bring the full force of 21st-century creativity and rationality to bear, moderates ask that we merely relax our standards of adherence to ancient superstitions and taboos.

But by failing to live by the letter of the texts — while tolerating the irrationality of those who do — religious moderates betray faith and reason equally. As moderates, we cannot say that religious fundamentalists are dangerous idiots, because they are merely practising their freedom of belief. We can’t even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivalled. All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don’t like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture imposes on us. It is time we recognised that religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance.

Religious moderates imagine that theirs is the path to peace. But this very ideal of tolerance now drives us toward the abyss. Religious violence still plagues our world because our religions are intrinsically hostile to one another. Where they appear otherwise, it is because secular knowledge and secular interests have restrained the most lethal improprieties of faith. If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith.

Moderation in religion has made it taboo even to acknowledge the differences among our religious traditions: to notice, for instance, that Islam is especially hostile to the principles of civil society. There are still places in the Muslim world where people are put to death for imaginary crimes — such as blasphemy — and where the totality of a child’s education consists of his learning to recite from an ancient book of religious fiction. Throughout the Muslim world, women are denied almost every human liberty, except the liberty to breed.

And yet, these same societies are acquiring arsenals of advanced weaponry. In the face of these perils, religious moderates — Christians, Muslims and Jews — remain entranced by their own moderation. They are least able to fathom that when jihadists stare into a video camera and claim to “love death more than the infidels love life”, they are being candid about their state of mind.

But technology has a way of creating fresh moral imperatives. We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation — because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that these developments mark the terminal phase of our credulity. Words like “God” and “Allah” must go the way of “Apollo” and “Baal” or they will unmake our world.

Sam Harris is author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article431642.ece

Maybe it´s time to stop pretending it is not a problem.

2.       catwoman
8933 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 06:55 pm

Basically religious moderates are a diplomatic face for radicals..

3.       alameda
3499 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 08:14 pm

 

Quoting catwoman

Basically religious moderates are a diplomatic face for radicals..

 

 So...do you think Karen Armstrong is radical? The link it to a speech she gave. You can listen and watch her speak. She has a lot to say and is well worth listening to.

 

Below is an exerpt of a Bill Moyers interview with Karen Armstrong

 

MOYERS: What appealed to you about Islam? Because in the context of 9/11 ... there´s so much talk about Islam as a violent religion. We saw those suicide bombers, heard those suicide bombers invoking the name of Allah, saying they were doing this in the name of ... of God, and the name of their own faith. So you´re saying, there are good things about this religion, that helped you rediscover your own spiritual journey.

ARMSTRONG: Ironically, the first thing that appealed to me about Islam was its pluralism. The fact that the Koran praises all the great prophets of the past. That Mohammed didn´t believe he had come to found a new religion to which everybody had to convert, but he was just the prophet sent to the Arabs, who hadn´t had a prophet before, and left out of the divine plan. There´s a story where Mohammed makes a sacred flight from Mecca to Jerusalem, to the Temple Mount. And there he is greeted by all the great prophets of the past. And he ascends to the divine throne, speaking to the prophets like Jesus and Aaron, Moses, he takes advice from Moses, and finally encounters Abraham at the threshold of the divine sphere. This story of the flight of Mohammed and the ascent to the divine throne is the paradigm, the archetype of Muslim spirituality.

 

The whole transcript can be found here.

4.       catwoman
8933 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 08:28 pm

 

Quoting alameda

 So...do you think Karen Armstrong is radical?

 

I didn´t have anybody specific in mind.. I just said what is the main argument against religious moderates. It´s that they give the nice face to religions and shield the radicals, who simply take the religious scriptures more seriously.

5.       alameda
3499 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 10:54 pm

 

Quoting catwoman

Quoting alameda

 So...do you think Karen Armstrong is radical?

 

I didn´t have anybody specific in mind.. I just said what is the main argument against religious moderates. It´s that they give the nice face to religions and shield the radicals, who simply take the religious scriptures more seriously.

 

 You know catwoman, you replied so quickly, I know you didn´t have time to read or watch the video. There is a lot of wisdom in what she has to say. I suggest you take the time to actually think about what she says, rather than come back with a response.

 

Ms Armstrong does none of what you claim. My point here was not to get into a cute clever conversation, but to try to bridge some understanding.

6.       girleegirl
5065 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 11:10 pm

Quoting alameda

 You know catwoman, you replied so quickly, I know you didn´t have time to read or watch the video. There is a lot of wisdom in what she has to say. I suggest you take the time to actually think about what she says, rather than come back with a response.

 

Ms Armstrong does none of what you claim. My point here was not to get into a cute clever conversation, but to try to bridge some understanding.

 

 Well kitty, you have been served!  How DARE you not take the time to actually open one of alameda´s gazillion links and take it seriously!!!!!  {#lang_emotions_wtf}

 

7.       Melek74
1506 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 11:18 pm

It´s very nice that people want to bild bridges of understanding, but until holy books are re-written and religious dogmas updated to the modern ethical standards and scientific knowledge, no such bridge is possible. As long as there´s one person in the equation thinking that the other person is "wrong" in their beliefs and will go to "hell" , there´s not understanding possible, only, at most, "tolerance", and all too often intolerance, hatered and violence.

 

 

Here´s some more reading from Sam Harris - he´s far more eloquent than I am on this topic.


"People of faith fall on a continuum: some draw solace and inspiration from a specific spiritual tradition, and yet remain fully committed to tolerance and diversity, while others would burn the earth to cinders if it would put an end to heresy. There are, in other words, religious moderates and religious extremists, and their various passions and projects should not be confused. However, religious moderates are themselves the bearers of a terrible dogma: they imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others. I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance-born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God-is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.

We have been slow to recognize the degree to which religious faith perpetuates man´s inhumanity to man. This is not surprising, since many of us still believe that faith is an essential component of human life. Two myths now keep faith beyond the fray of rational criticism, and they seem to foster religious extremism and religious moderation equally: (i) most of us believe that there are good things that people get from religious faith (e.g., strong communities, ethical behavior, spiritual experience) that cannot be had elsewhere; (2) many of us also believe that the terrible things that are sometimes done in the name of religion are the products not of faith per se but of our baser natures-forces like greed, hatred, and fear-for which religious beliefs are themselves the best (or even the only) remedy. Taken together, these myths seem to have granted us perfect immunity to outbreaks of reasonableness in our public discourse.

Many religious moderates have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths, but in doing so they neglect to notice the irredeemably sectarian truth claims of each. As long as a Christian believes that only his baptized brethren will be saved on the Day of judgment, he cannot possibly "respect" the beliefs of others, for he knows that the flames of hell have been stoked by these very ideas and await their adherents even now. Muslims and Jews generally take the same arrogant view of their own enterprises and have spent millennia passionately reiterating the errors of other faiths. It should go without saying that these rival belief systems are all equally uncontaminated by evidence."

http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Secular-Philosophies/The-Problem-With-Religious-Moderates.aspx?p=1

8.       catwoman
8933 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 11:51 pm

 

Quoting alameda

 You know catwoman, you replied so quickly, I know you didn´t have time to read or watch the video. There is a lot of wisdom in what she has to say. I suggest you take the time to actually think about what she says, rather than come back with a response.

 

Ms Armstrong does none of what you claim. My point here was not to get into a cute clever conversation, but to try to bridge some understanding.

 

Alameda, you are insisting that I get into a conversation with you about this person that I´m not interested in at all. I simply explained to you what my earlier post was all about, because I had an impression that I was misunderstood there.

9.       catwoman
8933 posts
 29 Dec 2008 Mon 11:55 pm

 

Quoting Melek74

Many religious moderates have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths, but in doing so they neglect to notice the irredeemably sectarian truth claims of each. As long as a Christian believes that only his baptized brethren will be saved on the Day of judgment, he cannot possibly "respect" the beliefs of others, for he knows that the flames of hell have been stoked by these very ideas and await their adherents even now. Muslims and Jews generally take the same arrogant view of their own enterprises and have spent millennia passionately reiterating the errors of other faiths. It should go without saying that these rival belief systems are all equally uncontaminated by evidence."

http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Secular-Philosophies/The-Problem-With-Religious-Moderates.aspx?p=1

 

High goals, but politically impossible, until, as Dawkins says, religion loses it´s unearned, undeserved utmost respect and we can actually discuss religions as belief systems, not any different then other ideologies.

 

Alameda, I suggest you research Richard Dawkins, he has a lot of wisdom that everybody should take the time to think about.

10.       peacetrain
1905 posts
 30 Dec 2008 Tue 12:03 am

 

Quoting catwoman

Alameda, you are insisting that I get into a conversation with you about this person that I´m not interested in at all. I simply explained to you what my earlier post was all about, because I had an impression that I was misunderstood there.

 

 Of course you have the right not to read the article Alameda provided but all she has done is respond to your original post.  Surely you didn´t expect no response whatsoever? It seems to me you were stirring the pot and hoping someone would season your mix. 

 

 

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