Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Harm of Religious Moderates

Antitheist atheists are often criticized for being argumentative and for focusing on the "wrong" issue by targeting religion in general and for speaking out against religion to religious moderates.

Let us be very clear here: religious moderates are not the ones flying planes into buildings, killing rape victims, or stoning women to death. Religious moderates do have a population within their numbers that advocate for hate and segregation (denial of women's reproductive rights, denial of gay rights, etc.), and propagate ignorance and misinformation. (Whether it be the intellectually abusive indoctrination of children into religion, or the continued stance that the earth is less than 10k years old.)

In fact, many of the religious moderates are as intolerant of fundamentalism and extremism as any atheist, because they too recognize the obvious destructive nature of these extreme ideologies and interpretations of holy texts and sacred passages. These people in no way want to be associated with the people who are bombing abortion clinics or attacking schools where young girls are being educated, or strapping suicide vests to children. This group is the most reasonable (and likable) of all religious approaches. I have nothing to say to these people except that you're SO CLOSE to getting away from the nonsense altogether. You're acknowledging that things have changed and are different, but you cling to your religion. In some sense, you're perpetuating minor harms, but we can forgive you mostly, because you're not a bunch of cunts.

I am willing to overlook a lot of ignorance so long as it does no harm, or does not contribute to something which harms others. Religious moderation is intellectually dishonest and shows a distinct lack of critical examination of facts and evidence. Religious moderation is made more despicable by the fact that they are more open to actual understanding of the world, but still cling desperately to fairy tales and superstitions for the sake of comfort. They are so desperate to not be uncomfortable that they will never question their own ideas.

Worst of all, religious moderates are a population that help to uphold and justify the actions of the extremists and fundamentalists of their religions. They help to uphold the idea that not only are these ludicrous beliefs correct, but that they are justified in some sense. The continued support of idiotic and harmful principles (even if you do compromise to logic and reason on issues like science and evolution) gives the more sincere followers of your religion a foundation on which to build their harmful practices. Your support of the dogma in any way is support of all of it. Most of these people are victims of their upbringing and environment, unable to accept that religion is an accident of geography and culture. Worse, they will stand idly by while their harmful creeds are legislated or enforced... not because they want harm, but because they're too blinded by their faith to see the harm it does. By indirectly validating their insanity, they are culpable.

They can be (and many are) great people, which has nothing to do with their faith, but they're only good because they dismiss their religion to some extent. Some of my best friends are religious, and they are great people and I love them. They are good people because they are bad at their religion, and that is a truth we all have to acknowledge:

You can either be a good person, or good at your religion. Not both. 

Choose wisely.

And okay, as antitheist atheists (or militant atheists, or whatever) we can be kind of condescending and indignant, and when you can't separate yourself from your beliefs, it may even seem like a personal attack. It isn't. I know very few people who go out of their way to be caustic and vindictive, and most of those are honestly the religious people. By and far, the atheist community, even the antitheists among us, are a reasonable, considerate lot. We don't want to upset you, but we also are tired of you supporting ignorance and hypocrisy, forcing it upon your children, and claiming to be good followers of your faith when all you really are are intellectual cowards.

We have a right to question religion. We have a right to ridicule and critique religion. We have a right to be heard, and to speak for those who cannot speak. Silence in the face of oppression never favors the oppressed.

You have a right to your religion, but not a right to NOT hear how stupid and harmful it is. You have a right to avoid answering questions about your faith, but we both know it's because you don't have any answers, just rhetoric. You definitely don't have a right to use it as a vessel for denying any freedom or happiness to anyone (so long as it is not doing harm). You even have a right to be ignorant, and to choose ignorance, though I would say you have no right to deny your children a fair, honest education and the right to choose for themselves.

You are not more moral than us. You are not absolved from involvement in the general harmful nature of religion. You are not persecuted. You are being challenged by a group of people who are no longer willing to tolerate intolerance, and you're choosing the side of the unreasonable... the illogical... the unnecessary.

And we will stand against that, because human beings are more important to us than any tenacious cult's dogma.