One often hears that it is not religious belief itself that is problematic but religious extremism. That sounds appealing until one realizes that the presence of religious believers, including religious moderates, is what shields religious extremists from criticism. The presence of religious moderates provides a context in which extremism doesn’t seem nearly as dangerous as it should. Moderate believers make it far more difficult to question even the most extreme religious beliefs.
Isn’t it a bit of an exaggeration to say that religious belief is dangerous? Maybe Islamic extremists are dangerous, but surely there is nothing wrong with Christianity! Let’s examine the Christian bible: Deuteronomy
17:2 If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant, 17:3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; 17:4 And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: 17:5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.
Fairly clear, isn’t it? Christians are instructed in their “holy” bible to murder persons who do not believe in their god. Why haven’t we heard more about this? Because many Christians are content to ignore certain parts of their bible while obsessing about others. And what of those who do not ignore such parts of their “sacred” text? We call them extremists.