[quote author=“Niles”][quote author=“saganfan”]
There’s very strong evidence to the contrary as regards Christianity and Judaism. Sam Harris is just wrong, and you’re wrong to agree with him without doing research. You bring up a perfect counter-example to the notion that faith inevitably results in fanaticism: Quakers and UUs. Move just a smidgen towards the center and find the Wesleyan Methodists. Their doctrines are the very essense of progressive humanism. Move to the right and find that many of religious conservatives believe that the US Constitution and the values it sets forth such as democracy, individual liberties, and limited government are sacred principles.
For a humanist religious conservative, look no further than Senator Robert C. Byrd. I had the pleasure to hear him speak at a democratic rally in his home state a couple of weeks ago. He carries a copy of the US Constitution everywhere he goes—he took it out of his pocket and waved it at the audience, exhorting us all to study it thoroughly. Byrd said that it was the greatest document ever written for governing people. He also believes it to have been divinely inspired.
Christianity is Hellenized Judaism. Read some Philo. A melding of Greek philosophy with Jewish anthropomorphised deity.
Do your own research. Subject Sam Harris’ assertion about moderate Christians to critical analysis. It doesn’t stand up.
You pointed out two denominations of Christianity that are, when compared to the larger body of Christianity, statistical outliers. You say that Harris is wrong, yet in order to establish this point you are using as examples two exceptions to the norm in Christianity.
Simply pointing out the existance of two of the most benign denominations of Christianity does not necessarily entail that they are doing any real good. It’s almost as if you’re giving them credit for being the least unprogressive.
The exact reason that Quakers and Unitarians are outcast by most of modern religious society is because their progressive ideals don’t really mesh with the conservative ideals of established traditional religion in the Western world. If these exceptions were the norm maybe you wouldn’t have people like Harris making such arguments. (Then again, you probably would, simply because any religious faith is an affront to reason and the critical analysis of ideas).
I have no doubt about the number of truly good religious people out there who believe in the Constitution and support the concept of liberty for all people (including non-religious people), but unfortunately many of the leaders of these religions only pay lip service to such a belief, and actively try to enact social policy based on their beliefs. When successful, these changes to social policy go further towards bringing acceptance to the religion in a given society. Those church leaders would not have the power they have were it not for their congragations of (mostly) moderate believers and the political power it represents. So yes, I do think that your average believer contributes to the problem of extremism, if only by providing an acceptable social climate in which it can flourish. You don’t have to worry about sharks if there’s no water.
Christianity is moderate—even the conservatives are mostly moderate. Moderate means they believe that each individual is entitled to express their own opinion. That politics be engaged in peacefully and that we should be subject to rule of law. You are mistaking people who hold different opinions than you with people who don’t think that you have a right to hold them. It is you who is the immoderate illiberal. It is you who wish that religious people (with whom you disagree) should not have the ability to participate with their beliefs in the political process. That is an exclusionary and bigoted approach.
Democracy works in America. The backbone is moderate Christians. That’s not a fundamentalist fantasy. It’s unambiguous statistical fact, and has been since the founding of the republic.