Monday, July 16, 2007

Moderation in Religion Part 1

The search for the moderate Muslim continues. As noted Saturday not everyone is interest in finding the moderate Muslim. For some people the existence of moderate Muslims would interfere with their goals. Those who work in the visual media find the angry Muslim far more interesting. He, after all, shows emotion. The moderate Muslim is just a talking head. But the primary difficulty facing the search for the moderate Muslim is the whole question of moderation in religion.

The problem of moderate religion is one of proving religious truth. In the intellectual world in which we live truth requires proof and proof requires fact. All facts come from evidence perceivable by our senses. So in the intellectual world in which we live you cannot say you have truth if you do not have material evidence. Since there is no conclusive material evidence for even the existence of God the faithful are in deep intellectual trouble. The religious claim to have truth but they do not have facts. Nor does there seem any way they can get the necessary facts.

All religion has an emotional component. That component is necessary in order to overcome the difficulty described above. The faithful believe in things for which there are no evidence. Therefore their faith must transcend reason and take them to a world where they can reason from first principles, which are not based on factual evidence. Since the first principles of any particular religion cannot be proven false they cannot be proven true. Since these principles cannot be proven true emotion must be used in order to convince oneself these principles are true even though there is no proof of their truth. And the stronger that emotion is the more devout one is going to be.

Here is the problem with moderation in religion, as it is commonly understood. Moderate religion is less fervent than intense religion. To the truly faithful the moderately religious seem weak. Religious moderates are perceived as not having as much faith as the devout. And since emotion is the primary means by which a religion defends itself from its enemies moderation in religion can even be seen as apostasy from the religion in question. So the fervent in religion, the very people religious moderates are trying to reach, have every reason to reject moderation in religion.

This is why the search for the moderate Muslim is so difficult. Immoderate religion markets much better than moderate religion. This is true for all religions not just Islam. Immoderate religion sells because fervency strengthens faith and moderation weakens faith. And faith is what makes a religion strong. Faith is what makes a religion popular. Unfortunately faith is also what can make a religion dangerous.

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