The myth of ‘religious extremism’

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I hate ‘religious extremism’.  It seems an obvious thing, to most decent human beings, to state.  The thing is, for many centuries, most religions have been pretty extreme.  Its only in more recent times that we have seen a watering-down of certain faiths and denominations in response to the trends, norms and ever-changing values of western society.

However, while we tolerate and, more to the point, glorify, the concept of religion in all its forms, we feed into the notion that the supernatural, un-proven, irrational entities and their accompanying values, offer acceptable belief systems, we allow the roots of extremism to fester.

If we accept the moderate teachings of most modern religions, that fit in with our current western sensitivities and world view (while neglecting or under-playing the many vicious, evil and immoral teachings of their ‘sacred’ texts) but deem the fundamentalist, death-obsessed (but true-to-the-letter of their barbaric scrolls nonetheless) interpretations wrong, we stand as nothing more, nor less, than hypocrites.

As an anti-theist, I see not only the existence of any god or gods as irrational, unproven and highly improbable, but the faith-based systems that accompany its belief as potentially enormously damaging, offering, for many, a justification to, at best, discriminate against and bully those of us who choose not to believe, or, at worst, commit heinous acts in its name.  Heinous, unspeakable acts that ARE often justified, approved of and oft encouraged, in numerous verses and texts of each abrahamic faith and many others.  To refute this is denial.  To accept those who choose to ignore these as ‘moderates’ is to accept the premise of religion in all its forms.  If you have to accept one warped belief (just because it sounds more palatable) based on mythical beings you must, therefore, accept another, even if its teachings irk with yours.  They are both warped and based on an irrational premise.

I dislike Islam no more than any other religion. I despise them all in equal measure. When people do ‘good’ in the name of religion, it is despite the religion not BECAUSE of it. Humans do not learn morality from religion, from the fear of God being instilled into them or the motivation of an eternal life.  On the contrary, too often their innate and learned morality is compromised by the irrational and hateful teachings of age-old nonsense.

We cannot rid the world of religion and I would never, as a liberal, seek to ban religions or stop free-thinking adults from choosing to follow and believe whatever they choose to. But we must, as a society, do more to encourage humanism, delegitimise religion in all its forms (from faith-based education, complete separation of state and religion, have the media refrain from seeking religious leaders’ opinions on issues totally unrelating to theology) and protecting our children from the chains of religion and indoctrination by insisting that only adults can affirm to membership of any given belief.

It is time we ceased placing any religion on the pedestal of respectability that so many believe it deserves and expose it for the complete and utter rubbish that it is, albeit trash you are entirely free to follow, in your own time, as an independent, free-minded adult.