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Why is “moderation” such a good thing?
Posted: 29 March 2008 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Many seem to think that “moderateness” is the key to virtue, as in “moderate” Christians, “moderate” Muslims and so on.

Moderation, that is, not go “all the way” along the codes prescribed by the Holy Book is praised as morality, and even, as the “true” essence of these religions.

This is also conflated with Aristotle’s dictum of the golden middle road, as if evil lurked in the extremes.

But, let us consider for a moment what inconsistently applied calls for human rights would entail, i.e, what “moderate” humanism should mean.

Should it entail that we have a moderate condemnation of slavery, say that people in Ontario should be able to make eunuchs out of say, 2 percent of the boys?

Should it entail that we have a moderate condemnation of racism, say that Nigerians should be allowed to practice it?

Should we only moderately uphold the equality of the sexes, so that women in Portugal should be barred from becoming police officers?


The call for moderation in terms of human rights is just nonsense.

The only reason why we may call moderate Christians or Muslims moral is that it is only when they repudiate the evil maxims within their Holy Books that they can aspire to become as moral as non-religionists.

If they don’t repudiate those evil maxims, then they are immoral.

Thus, it is only because religions like Christianity and Islam contain so much evil that “religious moderation” becomes the moral obligation incumbent upon them all.

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Posted: 29 March 2008 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Faith seems to me extreme by nature. God-belief, no matter what it’s shaped like, is still extreme.

From a bigger perspective, might the moderate stance be agnosticism?

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Posted: 29 March 2008 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Aaron - 29 March 2008 12:26 PM

From a bigger perspective, might the moderate stance be agnosticism?

Here, you are dealing with what you could call epistemological “moderation”, rather than moderation (i.e haphazard attachment) with respect to some averred ethical code.

Sure, if you haven’t absolute grounds for rejecting or affirming some phenomenon, you are intellectually entitled to take the stance “dunno about that”.

But, that is a rather superficial attitude, and careful examination of the evidence of a proposition might make the affirmation (or rejection) the most LIKELY correct stance.

And then, the taking a stance is more rational than not taking a stance at all.

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Posted: 30 March 2008 01:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Aaron - 29 March 2008 12:26 PM

Faith seems to me extreme by nature. God-belief, no matter what it’s shaped like, is still extreme.

From a bigger perspective, might the moderate stance be agnosticism?

I think the only stance should be atheism. Unless there is proof of a god and there is proof of what he wants of us, we shouldn’t believe in anything.

Any form of religious belief is bad.

Dom

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Posted: 30 March 2008 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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A little surprised to see an argument against moderation here, of all places.
Even with all the attendant equivocation and fuzziness and enabling of bad behaviour, even a cursory glance at history (or modern day absolutist societies for that matter) should make it clear that the alternatives to moderation are invariably worse.

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Posted: 30 March 2008 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Occam’s Razor - 30 March 2008 12:05 PM

A little surprised to see an argument against moderation here, of all places.
Even with all the attendant equivocation and fuzziness and enabling of bad behaviour, even a cursory glance at history (or modern day absolutist societies for that matter) should make it clear that the alternatives to moderation are invariably worse.

Okay, so we should have only a moderate, inconsistent attachment towards human rights, then?

[ Edited: 30 March 2008 08:49 AM by arildno]
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Posted: 30 March 2008 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Yep.

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Posted: 30 March 2008 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Occam’s Razor - 30 March 2008 03:52 PM

Yep.

Dismissed.

Moderation is only called for with respect to those ethical systems that are fundamentally flawed. Like most religionisms.

[ Edited: 30 March 2008 12:20 PM by arildno]
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Posted: 30 March 2008 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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A moderate Religious apologist to me is the same as saying “Nice Racist” or “Polite Bigot.”  The law that guarantees one moderate’s rights to believe is the same law that protects the fundamentalist murderer.  Sam is pretty right on this subject.

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Posted: 30 March 2008 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Aldrino, I was being glib (to a rather obvious extent, I thought) about human rights because I didn’t consider the ‘question’ - such as it was - worth taking seriously. Ask me a sensible question and I’ll answer it sensibly.

LogicAndReason - 30 March 2008 04:28 PM

A moderate Religious apologist to me is the same as saying “Nice Racist” or “Polite Bigot.”  The law that guarantees one moderate’s rights to believe is the same law that protects the fundamentalist murderer.  Sam is pretty right on this subject.

I agree with Sam Harris’ characterization of religious moderates as ‘enablers’ and agree that they are, to that extent at least, a menace to civil society. Yet nice racists and polite bigots exist and it’s silly to pretend they don’t just because the concept doesn’t fit with your absolutist view of good and evil.
I’m hardly a fan of religion but I like absolutist thinking of any kind even less. In civil terms I’d rather be neighbours to a moderate person who happens to believe silly shit about old men on clouds than someone who happens not to believe in men on clouds but who sees the world in absolute terms with no grey areas open to interpretation and debate. That way lies the totalitarian nightmares of Hitler, Stalin, Mao et al.

And please don’t confuse my argument for moderation in general with a support for religious moderation in particular.

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Posted: 30 March 2008 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Occam’s Razor - 30 March 2008 09:00 PM

I agree with Sam Harris’ characterization of religious moderates as ‘enablers’ and agree that they are, to that extent at least, a menace to civil society. Yet nice racists and polite bigots exist and it’s silly to pretend they don’t just because the concept doesn’t fit with your absolutist view of good and evil.
I’m hardly a fan of religion but I like absolutist thinking of any kind even less. In civil terms I’d rather be neighbours to a moderate person who happens to believe silly shit about old men on clouds than someone who happens not to believe in men on clouds but who sees the world in absolute terms with no grey areas open to interpretation and debate. That way lies the totalitarian nightmares of Hitler, Stalin, Mao et al.

That is generally my position on moderation as well.

Aaron has a good point about faith being a kind of extremism and absolutism. There is a reason why most believers do not favor extremist beliefs such as putting unbelievers to the sword. I simply don’t know what that reason is. It’s possible that some people are strongly attracted to extremism and absolutism because these are like junk food for some emotional need.

How do you answer the argument about religion being responsible for some good in the world? My usual answer is that the believer cares less about the good for its own sake and more about simply pleasing the believer’s gods. Any better answers?

[ Edited: 30 March 2008 06:41 PM by Carstonio]
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Posted: 30 March 2008 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Carstonio - 30 March 2008 10:35 PM

How do you answer the argument about religion being responsible for some good in the world? My usual answer is that the believer cares less about the good for its own sake and more about simply pleasing the believer’s gods. Any better answers?

Secularism and atheism is also responsible for much good in the world and they don’t do it for a higher purpose. They do it because it is good and right in it’s own sake. They don’t seek a greater reward.


Dom

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Posted: 30 March 2008 08:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Well, in the wise words of the Roman writer Petronius, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”

I think that puts it very succinctly.  Moderation is usually the best approach to take to any matter, but there are always exceptions.  Religion is one of those areas that sort of falls into two categories.  On the one hand I condemn it unreservedly as a lot of silly, superstitious, mind-warping, and frankly pernicious nonsense.  But the fact of life is that we have it, lots of people firmly believe it, and we have to live with them.  Most of them manage to be basically decent people despite it (the moderate ones that is).  Hopefully the trend toward secularization in our society will continue.

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Posted: 31 March 2008 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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True words Billy…the age of reason is coming to an Earth near you.  With the dam of ignorance decaying and the river of knowledge (enabled further by the internet and an outbreak of further freedoms) increasing it’s flow; it will become impossible for old mythologies to sell themselves to future generations.  All we can do at this point is help shape the pathway of this river.

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Posted: 31 March 2008 11:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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arildno - 29 March 2008 10:58 AM

Many seem to think that “moderateness” is the key to virtue, as in “moderate” Christians, “moderate” Muslims and so on.

Moderation, that is, not go “all the way” along the codes prescribed by the Holy Book is praised as morality, and even, as the “true” essence of these religions.

This is also conflated with Aristotle’s dictum of the golden middle road, as if evil lurked in the extremes.

But, let us consider for a moment what inconsistently applied calls for human rights would entail, i.e, what “moderate” humanism should mean.

Should it entail that we have a moderate condemnation of slavery, say that people in Ontario should be able to make eunuchs out of say, 2 percent of the boys?

Should it entail that we have a moderate condemnation of racism, say that Nigerians should be allowed to practice it?

Should we only moderately uphold the equality of the sexes, so that women in Portugal should be barred from becoming police officers?


The call for moderation in terms of human rights is just nonsense.

The only reason why we may call moderate Christians or Muslims moral is that it is only when they repudiate the evil maxims within their Holy Books that they can aspire to become as moral as non-religionists.

If they don’t repudiate those evil maxims, then they are immoral.

Thus, it is only because religions like Christianity and Islam contain so much evil that “religious moderation” becomes the moral obligation incumbent upon them all.

Bravo!  I feel the same way.  Yes, religious moderation is a good thing precisely because it moderates the harm that is IN religion.  At the same time, however, the more moderate a theist is, the more intellectually dishonest s/he is - in my opinion.  The “God is Love” crowd is just so full of it.  Sure, I’d rather be around Christians that are drunk on the Love of Jesus, than whackos who salivate at the thought of stoning homosexuals, a-la-Leviticus.  But are we really doing the world any favors by encouraging less critical thinking in order to minimize violence?  Is encouraging less intellectual honesty ultimately a good thing for the world?

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Posted: 01 April 2008 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Occam’s Razor - 30 March 2008 09:00 PM

Aldrino, I was being glib (to a rather obvious extent, I thought) about human rights because I didn’t consider the ‘question’ - such as it was - worth taking seriously. Ask me a sensible question and I’ll answer it sensibly.

It was a sensible question.
Again, are you only moderately opposed to slavery?

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