After the terrorist attack in Paris, Richard Dawkins tweeted the famous line "If you don't like your religion's fundamentalists, then maybe there's something wrong with your religion's fundamentals". This often-repeated statement echoes the sentiment of many skeptics of religion who believe that religious scriptures encourage the kind of violent behavior we see so often these days perpetrated by fundamentalist Christians and Islamists. As described by Jake Stimpson in this article, the fundamentalists are the truest adherents of their religious traditions. It is the religious moderates who deviate from them.
Sam Harris and others have written extensively on this topic. Harris is critical of religious moderates for their role in perpetuating Iron Age barbarity, as seen in this excerpt from his book The End of Faith. But as we know, Harris is a "new atheist". As such his every word is subject to harsh criticism from self-appointed defenders of religious nonsense like Mikey at Shadow To Light. Mikey is so intolerant of reason that he refuses even to listen to the argument of any so-called "gnu". Instead he proceeds to cut down a straw man. And as is his custom, he makes a complete fool of himself.
In this post, Mikey calls out an article by Henry Rambow that delineates the problem of religious moderation. His primary objection to its logic is expressed this way:
The irony of this Gnu Logic is that while Harris points his finger at religious moderates and blames them for the extreme acts of some religious fundamentalists, his same logic would make him (as a environmentalist liberal who supports animal rights) partly responsible for animal rights terrorism, eco-terrorism, and the anti-free speech efforts of the Regressive Left.And with that, Mikey believes he has dealt another devastating blow to the gnus with a show of superior intellect and solid logic. But his intellect is inferior and his logic is nonexistent. He has completely failed to respond to the actual argument.
Evidently, Mikey thinks that the logic he's trying to refute goes something like this:
1) Any ideology has extremist adherents and moderate adherents.This is invalid logic, of course, and by showing it to be false, Mikey triumphantly proclaims the stupidity of the gnus. What he doesn't understand is that this is nothing like the argument they actually make.
2) If the ideology is bad, then all it's adherents are bad, whether they're moderate or extremist.
3) Animal rights and environmental extremists are bad, so moderate adherents of those ideologies must be bad.
If he had bothered to read Rambow's article, he would see that it clearly spells out the problem of religious fundamentalism: that the fundamentalist actually follows the scripture of his holy book (at least more than the moderate does). It is the moderate who ignores scripture and so makes the religion more palatable to society. In doing so, he preserves the religion, along with all its scripture that fuels the extremist beliefs of the fundamentalists. There is no holy book of environmental scripture that exhorts fundamentalist followers to commit violent acts. Environmental extremists cannot rightly be called fundamentalists at all, because they are making up their own rules of behavior rather than following scripture. And ordinary people with environmentalist views don't enable them in any way.
It's time for zealots like Mikey to put aside their hatred of atheists for a moment and take a look at reality. The Koran of full of calls to commit violence, and the Christian bible has its share, as well. Fundamentalist adherents of the faith have plenty of justification in their holy scripture for their acts of violent extremism. Those who choose to ignore the parts of scripture that are unacceptable to most of us in modern society make their religion seem reasonable. But it only seems reasonable if you pick and choose the more more reasonable parts of it. By making religion seem reasonable, they are perpetuating something that is fundamentally unreasonable - something that at its core is violent and barbaric. Mikey's hatred of infidels, just like the hateful acts of of Islamic fundamentalists, is driven by the same barbaric beliefs that leads those fundamentalists to commit unspeakable acts. But he's arrogant enough to think that he's the one who has it right.