September 16, 2009

Are Religious Extremists the Only True Believers?

The Bible Car: Driver SideImage by ASurroca via Flickr

Perhaps the real difference between a religious moderate and an extremist is that the extremists consistently behaves as if he or she really believes his or her religion to be true. Religious believers are fond of talking about testing faith. Some of the Christian bible passages most cherished by adherents of that religion are those that involve various figures passing difficult challenges to their faith. To retain one's faith in the face of such a challenge is widely considered a virtue.

I suppose it should come as no surprise, then, that adherents of various religions around the world tell women to shut up, maim or kill their own children, oppose bullying prevention measures in schools, try to kill those who do not share their beliefs, disown their children for seeking life-saving medical procedures, rape women who are curious about other religions, praise acts of terrorism, pray for the death of those with whom they disagree, become violent over cartoons they don't like, and undermine democracy, all in the name of their religion. They believe that these and many similar acts are not just justified but actually required by their religion. They can point to passages in their "holy" texts that do indeed seem to condone such behaviors.

Could it be that the religious moderates refrain from such acts at least in part because they do not believe with the same intensity as the truly faithful?

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