There’s a huge population of people in the world who don’t believe that the bible is the perfect word of god. They don’t believe that the teachings of any church are inviolate. They don’t except the truth of miracles without evidence or believe that just because a preacher or pontiff declares something that it immediately has the stamp of truth.
This sounds like a description of non-theists but that’s not the group I’m talking about. The group I’m referring to here is the species of theists generally referred to as “Religious Moderates” This particular brand of theist is by far the most numerous, they exist in all denominations, faiths and walks of life. Most of these accept that the world is far older than a few thousand years, believe in the value of medical science to combat illness, accept the basic truth of evolutionary theory, and have even been known to wear garments made of blended fabrics!
The religious moderate is in every way a rational thoughtful modern minded person, with the exception that they profess to have a belief in a god of some kind. These believers however aren’t necessarily constrained by their “holy” books, as a matter of fact they’ll often quickly admit that the bible or the quran, or whichever book you discuss with them is full of contradictions, inaccuracies, terrible atrocities, ridiculously severe laws, and bigoted judgements. They’ll tell you before you can even get it out that the “holy” book in question is the work of man, and is therefore not a true barometer of god’s will or his intent. The truly frustrating part of all of this is that they’ll still use pieces of that same “holy” book to defend their “faith”. A christian moderate will, for instance, disavow the entire old testament, talk about how the stories are metaphorical and not meant to be taken literally. They’ll explain how the grandiose claims made are just poetic language and then in the same sentence talk about the ministries and miracles of christ as though they’re from a distinct and more reputable source.
This seems, at least to me, like trying to have your cake and eat it too. “I accept that the book is flawed and wrong, and i don’t believe a whole lot of it, except for these parts here, they’re literal historical truth.” This seems like roughly the same thing as saying “All astrology is crap, except for MY horoscope, obviously that’s true.” A great many of these people will talk about how the supernatural aspects of the bible aren’t the most important part, how the message of brotherhood, charity and compassion, a message which is verifiably not unique or original to christianity, is the most important part. If that’s true, I would ask, why is that message contingent upon there being a supernatural creator? Why is it necessary that jesus have special abilities or superhuman powers in order for this message to have weight? Confucius, Gandhi and several other thinkers both before and after christ preached almost exactly the same things without the need of a claim of deity. There is no Temple of Gandhi, no Gospel of the Mahatma.
There are several other aspects of what I’m terming “The Moderate Problem” that equally flummox and irritate me in regards to theological argument, and ultimately the issue of whether or not the world is better off with or without the, in my view fallacious, belief in a supreme being. Those aspects of the problem will have to wait for another day and another post however.