William Egginton


On the future of religious moderation

Cover Interview of October 13, 2011

Will religious moderation be practiced more or less in the future?

In many ways the survival of societies committed to the values of tolerance, progress, and the peaceful exchange of ideas depends on the answer to that question.

Because of their belief in one, exclusive, and unsurpassable code of codes, those who inhabit a fundamentalist worldview are incapable of engaging meaningfully with anyone outside that worldview, and hence of contributing to solving pressing social problems or advancing society as a whole.

While fundamentalists may offer palliative help in local areas, such as certain kinds of philanthropy, their inability to speak across worldviews by bracketing their own certainty about metaphysical tenets of their faith causes them to function as impediments to democratic processes as opposed to active voices in them.

We see this process playing out in Congress at this very moment, where an unprecedented number of fundamentalists have been seated, and where they have used their power to repeatedly block the functioning of government.

Such obstructionism should serve as a wake up call for all defenders of democracy. But it would be a drastic mistake to use such behavior to justify attacking all religious belief. Indeed, the outrage that drives my secularist colleagues to decry all religious expression as equally noxious to politics and scientific progress will ultimately do nothing to reduce the sway of fundamentalist thinking. At worst, it may even help bolster it.

Nothing has provided religious fundamentalism more fuel, more of a raison d’être, than the impression of a world war between faith and reason—a war that the current crop of atheists is intent on inciting and profiting from.

Our best hope of defusing fundamentalist fervor and diminishing its damaging impact on our societies is to foster relations between moderates of all stripes.