“One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.” – Bertrand Russell

I consider religious moderates to be on the side of rationality on countless issues. They are outraged by the fundamentalists as much as rationalists, such as myself, are. Whether they like it (or are aware of it) or not, they are on the side of the freethinkers, and should not be alienated. I think I may have been doing that in the last few posts. There is no doubt that it is better to be a moderate than a fundamentalist. People do not blow themselves up on buses simply because they are religious moderates. Moderates should unite with the rationalists to fend off the dangers the fundamentalists threaten to impose upon the world.

However, they are standing on loose ground when attacking the fundamentalists. The fundamentalists often cite chapter and verse to the moderates. They know their religion better than anyone, and read their scriptures more closely than anyone. Unfortunately, the moderate standpoint is theologically and intellectually bankrupt. It is a result of the embrace of secular knowledge and wisdom, and scriptural ignorance. Sam Harris positions them in a series of enlarging concentric circles representing degrees of rationality. The fundamentalists are in the smallest (irrational) circle. The moderates in the larger one surrounding that one. Liberals are outside of that circle getting increasingly rational.

Freethinkers need the liberals and moderates to join their side in order that religious war will become unthinkable as soon as possible. They could become “brights,” a term popularized by Daniel Dennett. They would also be valuable in developing a completely rational science of human happiness. We need to learn how to maximize the happiness of humanity without heeding to the words uttered by desert goat herders thousands of years ago. We need to deal with human suffering rationally. We need to get of the most profound destructive divisions in the human community if we are to build a lasting, durable, peaceful society. The only way we can ensure this is to have open discussion, and criticism of ideas. When people are pushed into a corner by reason, they should admit they no further reason to believe what they are defending. Doubt is liberating, in fact, it is essential to liberty. As Sam Harris said, “Science may not encompass all human endeavor. Intellectual honesty must.”

~ by jsacc001 on March 22, 2008.

One Response to “Moderation”

  1. lol Fun AIM conversations=Sacco blog ^.^

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