I’ve been reading stuff that touched on that a bit, lately. Turns out it’s a bit more complicated than we’d think.
*dons lecturing pose*
(i) When the churches generally started to become more liberal, after the Scopes trial and all that, the hard-liners didn’t actually go away. They were a minority in most churches, and found that they had more in common politically with members of other congregations than with their own. In effect, they built parallel political organisations outside the church. That’s the origins of, and the reason for the structure of, today’s religio-political Christian right. Plus a huge helping hand from Carter, Reagan and the Bushes, of course. The liberal members, on the other hand, didn’t have such a focussed political agenda and were, anyway, represented by their equally-liberalised churches, so they didn’t organise.
We’re maybe starting to see the beginning of liberal-Christian rallying, with Catholics protesting the abuses and misogyny of the RCC. Time will tell.
(ii) They tend to be more apolitical, just like many liberal-minded atheists. I know plenty of atheists in ‘real life’, but hardly any who are Atheists,if you see what I mean.
(iii) As with moderate Muslims, who also exist and who do protest against extremism, they just don’t make nice juicy headlines.
(iv) Of course, there will be a minority who think Creeping Atheism™ is worse than their own extremists, and so are silently cheering the extremists on, but they’re—almost by definition—half-way to becoming extremists themselves.
I’ve often had the same thoughts. Thank you, Daz for summing it all up!
-admires Professor Daz a moment-
Y’know, I asked a theist I know about this once and in total honesty, she said, “Well, yeah, they’re crazy, but there’s just something so admirable about their fervent belief. Granted, they’re doing the wrong thing, but I wish I could sum up that kind of belief.” She sounded so wistful, while I was horrified. This is a person who is anti-violence, intellectual, pro-separation of church and state, etc. It was a very weird dichotomy.
Not scary at all! :)
It sounds like what Nehru observed of the Chamberlain govt after the “great” peace treaty had been signed with Hitler. Europeans were almost admiring Hitler for his outspoken Aryan supremacist stance.
The thing is, it’s all very nice to say that we as moderates are more apolitical that the extremists on any side of this Hydra-esque debate, and you’re right that moderation is not very newsworthy (who’d read a headline screaming “Imam says let Rushdie chill out”? lol) But we must realize that when moderates stay silent, we relinquish the stage to extremists and they then appear to be speaking for the whole group. I have no doubts there are middle-of-the-roaders in every religion/group, but they have to be more vocal about it, without being shrill.
Yeah, I do agree. Part of the problem is, I think, that organising liberals, religious or not, is like trying to herd cats, as someone or other said. That and they’ve not had the decades to organise politically that the religious right had.
It might even be possible (we can hope) that the rise of the Tea Party as the most visible representatives of religion in the States, will actually cause the emergence of more vocal moderates. Newton’s third law, as applied to social and political forces?
Anyway, here’s a blog I came across just this morning that’s pretty good. (His view on abortion is my only main sticking point, but at least he recognises that those opposed to health care for the poor are being hypocritical in their ‘pro-life’ stance.) Now we just have to hope that they get loud enough to be heard, I suppose.
Another reason I find is that atheists in general are suspicious of any kind of organization of people even if they subscribe to it’s ends.
My experience of Indian politics tells me that in the short run, parties like the Tea Party will polarize the vote and cause a splash, but in the end, they will either learn to temper their demands and beliefs or they will fall by the wayside. If I had to apply Newton’s third law I might posit a greater proportion of the moderate electorate coming out to vote, just to keep the extremists out of positions of power.