April 11, 2012

The Responsibility of Religious Moderates for Religious Extremism

religious nutsAside from the existence of god(s) and the moral superiority many Christians claim for themselves, I think one of the biggest disagreements between Christians and atheists is whether moderate Christians have at least some responsibility for Christian extremists. I, along with most atheists, believe that they do. However, virtually none of the moderate Christians I know agree with this perspective. I suspect that this generalizes to moderates and extremists of other religious too.

I'm not sure we've done the best job of explaining why religious moderates are responsible for what the extremists do in the name of faith. We've all tried, but our explanations have a way of getting long-winded and may complicate matters unnecessarily.

Here's how Nate Phelps explained it at the Reason Rally:
If you invoke faith as justification for your belief, you must accept the same from others. And every person who retreats to faith bears a measure of responsibility for every act of hate and violence justified by it.
See how simple but effective that is? Those who believe things on the basis of religious faith open the door to others doing the same. And once that door is open, they cannot close it on others. It is through this same door that the religious extremists walk.

If it is okay for the moderate to believe something on the basis of faith, it must be okay for the extremist to do so as well. And just like Phelps points out, this means that the religious moderates share responsibility for the acts of the extremists. This is the price of faith.

H/T to Religion Poisons

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