In Defense of Religious Moderation

In Defense of Religious Moderation

William Egginton
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    In Defense of Religious Moderation
    Book Description:

    In his latest book, William Egginton laments the current debate over religion in America, in which religious fundamentalists have set the tone of political discourse-no one can get elected without advertising a personal relation to God, for example-and prominent atheists treat religious belief as the root of all evil. Neither of these positions, Egginton argues, adequately represents the attitudes of a majority of Americans who, while identifying as Christians, Jews, and Muslims, do not find fault with those who support different faiths and philosophies. In fact, Egginton goes so far as to question whether fundamentalists and atheists truly oppose each other, united as they are in their commitment to a "code of codes." In his view, being a religious fundamentalist does not require adhering to a particular religious creed. Fundamentalists-and stringent atheists-unconsciously believe that the methods we use to understand the world are all versions of an underlying master code. This code of codes represents an ultimate truth, explaining everything. Surprisingly, perhaps the most effective weapon against such thinking is religious moderation, a way of believing that questions the very possibility of a code of codes as the source of all human knowledge. The moderately religious, with their inherent skepticism toward a master code, are best suited to protect science, politics, and other diverse strains of knowledge from fundamentalist attack, and to promote a worldview based on the compatibility between religious faith and scientific method.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52096-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments (and Apologies)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: An Uncertain Faith
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    On a Wednesday morning in February 2002, a train was pulling out of the station in Godhra, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, when it was attacked by an enraged mob who pelted the compartments with stones and finally set the train on fire. Fifty-eight people, including more than a dozen children, were burned alive that morning. The reason for their excruciating deaths was that they were Hindus traveling through a part of India with a large Muslim population. They were, moreover, members of a group, the World Hindu Council, that had been organizing the construction of a temple...

  5. 1 Dogmatic Atheism
    (pp. 1-17)

    Bill Maher’s highly successful and often hilarious documentary Religulous ends with the comedian summing up his views on religion against a background of images of violence, death, and destruction. This sequence is nothing short of a call to arms, addressed to “rational people” and “antireligionists,” to end their timidity, come out of the closet, and assert themselves. His terms, as one might put it, are nonnegotiable, and his list of judgments includes

    It’s a plain fact, religion must die if mankind is to live.

    Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.

    Those who preach faith, and enable and...

  6. 2 The Fundamentalism of Everyday Life
    (pp. 18-56)

    I am not a gambler. The few times I’ve visited casinos I’ve usually nursed twenty dollars until it vanished while sipping on a couple of free cocktails. Winning, in other words, has never been a goal, much less a reality.

    That all changed one night a couple of winters ago. My family and I were on vacation in Saint-Moritz with my brother-in-law and his family. One evening we decided to take a break from the kids and head over to the casino. As I made the rounds with my drink, my brother-in-law (who, unlike me, really knows his way around...

  7. 3 The Language of God
    (pp. 57-87)

    I remember seeing the previews for the movie The Matrix when it was released in the summer of 1999. I was living with my wife in a cottage we rented not far from Stanford University, where I was about to finish my PhD and move on to a new job and new life. Like many of our friends we were intrigued by the snippets of stylized martial arts we saw on the television screen, and by the ubiquitous advertising campaign inviting the curious to visit the film’s Web site with the question, what is the Matrix?

    In our case our...

  8. 4 Faith in Science
    (pp. 88-120)

    On May 6, 2007, at the first Republican debate of the 2008 presidential race, the Republican presidential hopefuls were all asked to raise their hand if they did not believe in the theory of evolution. Senator Sam Brownback, Congressman Tom Tancredo, and Governor Mike Huckabee, three important members of the legislative and executive branches of government, all raised their hands. A few days later, in light of the outsized reaction to a moment in the debate that lasted only a few seconds, Sam Brownback published a clarification in the form of an op-ed piece in the New York Times. In...

  9. 5 In Defense of Religious Moderation
    (pp. 121-140)

    One of the most mordantly funny political cartoons I ever saw appeared shortly after 9/11. Above a caption reading “Moderate Taliban,” a turbaned teacher instructs his eager students to fly airplanes only half filled with fuel into medium-sized buildings. If I had to laugh despite the horror that had inspired the cartoonist, it was because of the brilliance with which he had mocked the very idea of a moderate fundamentalist: oxymoronic to the extreme, the one term totally negates the other.

    Yet it is precisely this oxymoron that atheists would have you believe best represents the truth when they write,...

  10. Selected Bibliography and Recommended Reading
    (pp. 141-148)
  11. Index
    (pp. 149-162)