Moderate religion legitimizes fundamentalism

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Even moderate interpretations of religious belief encourage fundamentalism because it provides the foundational beliefs that fundamentalism relies upon, such as certain religious ideas do not need to be or cannot be questioned.

"[...] there is a sense in which the moderate, nice religious people – nice Christians, nice Muslims – make the world safe for extremists. Because the moderates are so nice we all are brought up with the idea that there's something good about religion faith. That there's something good about bringing children up to have a faith. Which means to believe something without evidence and without the need for justifying it. They're entitled simply to say 'oh that's my faith, I believe it, you're not allowed to question it and you're not allowed to ask me why I hold it'. Once you teach people that that's a legitimate reason for believing something then you as it were give a licence to the extremists who say 'my belief is that I'm supposed to be a suicide bomber or I'm supposed to blow up buildings – it's my faith and you can't question that."

Richard Dawkins[1]


"First, moderate religion primes children — by the millions, if not billions — from an early age to accept without question the authority of the very same books that serve as the basis for fundamentalist ideologies, and it teaches children that the gods described in those books are worthy of worship. [...] Second, moderate religion propagates and legitimizes the vehicles of fundamentalist ideology — both the texts and the rituals. [...] Third, moderate religion lends credibility to fundamentalism by claiming to believe in the very same gods and the very same divinely-inspired texts that are exalted by fundamentalists.[2]"
"[...] I would say that being silent gives tacit agreement with the fundamentalists. The catch is that when the moderates are called on that, they disavow any responsibility when they point out that they disagree with the fundamentalists. Well, that's not good enough. If you allow someone else to speak for you, then you can't complain later when others take your silence as agreement [3]"

"The conflict between humanists and religionists has always been one between the torch of enlightenment and the chains of enslavement. Those chains are not merely visible, but cruelly palpable. All too often they lead directly to the gallows, beheadings, to death under a hail of stones. In parts of the world today, the scroll of faith is indistinguishable from the roll call of death."

— Wole Soyinka[4]

"The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism."

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

Counter arguments[edit]

One argument is that no true follower of a particular religion would commit atrocities. However, mainstream religion may have failed to combat fundamentalism within its own community:

"It’s considered virtuous by some to abduct 200 girl pupils from a sanctuary of learning in the name of a religion. We are reduced to pious incantations, such as: ‘These are not the true followers of the faith – our faith does not sanction killings, abductions or the designation of other human being as infidels’. We have to ask such leadership penitents: ‘Were there times when you kept silent while such states of mind, overt or disguised, were seeding fanaticism around you? Are you vicariously liable?’[4]"

This is arguably a slippery slope argument.

"For example if Harris drinks liberally or moderately shall we conclude that he lends credibility or legitimacy to alcoholism? Does his liberal behavior justify the tens of thousands of deaths each year which are attributable to alcohol abuse? Why? Why not? Does the pot smoker give credence to the heroin addict? How about politics? [5]"


See also[edit]

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