Moderate and Extreme Religions – An Easter Blog

By Dr David Laing Dawson cartoon

Today in the local paper I read a well written, thoughtful op-ed extolling inclusion, the multi-cultural tolerance of Canada, our peaceful acceptance of one and all. And this article, of course, was written as a bulwark against over reacting to the recent crimes in Brussels.

In the article the author referred to “extremists”, “extreme Islam”, and “radicalization.” – words that appear regularly in our papers and magazines and internet posts.

And I thought about them. The words themselves.

Extreme and extremist. Inherent in these words is the implication that there can be something that is “moderate”, or “in moderation”.

A moderate diet can become an extreme diet. Inherent in the concept of the moderate reduction of sugar in one’s diet, there exists the possibility of extreme reduction, elimination. Similarly inherent in the “reduction of calories” is the possibility of the elimination of calories. Which could be called a “radical” diet and would be suicidal.

I can make the same point with exercise and sports. We have moderate forms of both, and extreme forms. The extreme forms are a little crazy but harmful to no one but the participant.

There once was an extreme Christianity as harmful as extreme Islam, but not today as far as I know. Today extreme Christianity implies a gross excess of forbiddens. Thou art forbidden to dance, uncover thy hair, swear, drink, have transfusions, work on Sunday, use electricity, drive a motor car. It does get dangerous when it includes in its forbiddens, vaccination, medical treatment, planned parenthood and homosexuality. And like all closed systems, such rule-bound extreme collectives are vulnerable to takeover by a charismatic psychopath.

But the point I am making is that when we find an extreme form of something, extremist views and actions, radical views, the seeds of those ideas and actions can be found in the moderate form. They are already there.

There are violent, crazy, criminal ideas in the Old Testament of the Bible. There are violent, crazy, criminal ideas and directives in the Koran. These are the seeds of extremism that moderates ignore, re-interpret, and gloss over. But they remain available to form the foundation of thought and action for the dispossessed, the angry, the lost, and the sociopathic. And, to a horrifying degree, they inform the civil law of many Muslim countries.

It behooves all moderates of all faiths to look carefully at the seeds of extremism in their own holy books and teachings and remove them. Teach love and forgiveness, kindness and generosity. Tell fables that illustrate these lessons. Dump all the stupid stuff about retribution, apostates, infidels, purges and pogroms, stoning, beheading and an exclusive heaven. It would be a start.


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