Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Moderation in Religion Part 2

Yesterday we saw unquestioning faith was necessary for strong belief. But unquestioning faith is dangerous. By faith we can move mountains. And by faith we can bring down skyscrapers. With hijacked planes. Skyscrapers with people in them. This is not the kind of thing we should encourage. Alas we can’t discourage it by weakening the faith of those who do it.

We say we want moderation in religion. But we want moderation in religion as a means to an end. What we want is an end to the truly evil things people do in the name of religion. We think we can do this by convincing people to question their religious beliefs. But people aren’t going to willingly question their most fundamental religious beliefs. In any case their beliefs aren’t the problem. It’s the things they do that are the problem. What we want is for them to see the things they do as the truly evil things they are.

Religion gives people the highest possible ends. With the highest possible ends comes rationalization for the lowest possible means. Means so evil they would otherwise be seen for what they are can be rationalized because the act is being done for the service of good. Here the ends truly justify the means. This is what makes religious fanatics the danger they are. A religious fanatic sees the ends as so holy righteous and just that the evilness of the means no longer matters.

Dealing with religious fanaticism means getting the religious fanatic to see the evilness of the means makes the ends evil as well. Some means are so evil they can’t be used regardless of the consequences of not using them. Moderation in religion means recognizing that the ends don’t always justify the means. The religious moderate is a person who realizes some prices are simply to high to be paid. Moderation in religion does not mean questioning one’s religious truths. Moderation in religion means accepting that not everyone will accept your truth claims and that there are limits as to what can be done to change their minds.

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