Moderate Christians generally don’t like being pinned down about the specifics of their faith. My own opinion on the matter is that they just don’t want to shine too bright a light on their beliefs. Moderate Christians have a tendency to be people who just aren’t quite gullible or unreasonable enough to embrace their faith in full. Fundamentalism is really nothing more than believing everything your holy book tells you no matter how false to fact or ridiculous it may be. The moderate desperately wants to believe in their chosen faith but can’t quite bring themselves to believe that telling a single lie and not being sorry will see you literally roasting away in hell for eternity. In order to better convince themselves that it is reasonable to believe outlandish things (Jesus was the son of God etc. etc.) they engage in impressive amounts of “theology”. Theology might be well described as an academic attempt to make bullshit plausible. Speak vaguely enough, propose all kinds of insubstantial modes of communication and knowing and soon enough the existential possibilities are endless.
There are some bitter pills to swallow along the way though. The bible simply cannot be the inerrant word of God. It is way too full of holes for that claim to stand up. The moderate then will suggest all kinds of roles for the bible and how it is sort of from God but obviously influenced by the human authors. Another problem the bible presents is that it states a lot of stuff that the moderate finds distasteful so this requires that large sections of the bible be relegated to metaphor or an expression of a concept in the language of the time, etc. etc. It can be fairly solidly shown that the bible is not a reliable historical document. Most moderates will at the very least admit that it is not 100% reliable and some will go so far as to concede that it really is not all that reliable at all. They will often suggest though that historical accuracy was not the bible's purpose. It was written to convey a message and much of it is not intended to be factual, merely parable and metaphor to get the point across. Ok. Fair enough.
What bugs me about the moderate position is that after such admissions and concessions they will pipe up with a solid concrete statement such as “Jesus is the son of God”. This bouncing between a realistic acceptance of the bibles unreliability to a ridiculous belief that some guy knocking around two thousand years ago was some form of man/god is carried off not only like it is a reasonable move but with the insinuation that it rigorously thought through and intellectually robust. I don’t doubt that many a worthy mind has invested itself in the effort to make faith reasonable but this endeavour is simply not borne of a desire for truth but from a desire to make a comforting fantasy real.
Reality has many qualities that just don’t sit well with humans. It is not fair for example. Those who do wrong quite often get away with it completely. Many of the worst villains in history have never faced any kind of justice for what they did. They were arrogant, cruel, selfish, and vicious and served only their own desires and it worked out great for them. Our desire for things to be fair drives people to believe in all kinds of silliness. Karma, reincarnation (possibly with penalties), posthumous judgement and many more wonderful justice inducing cosmic guarantees.
Life ends. This is also something that doesn’t sit too well with most people. No problem, we’ll just pretend that death isn’t the end of life. Now comes the fun bit. Lets combine some of these ideas. There will be justice (not in this life of course, that would be too visible.), and you get to live forever. The real beauty of this combination is that you can start to control people’s behaviour by threatening them with undesirable posthumous punishment and at the same time reward good behaviour (or at least compliant behaviour) with paradise, no less!, beyond the grave. Throw into the mix the all too prevalent male desire to dominate women, all manner of social prejudice and a general desire for control and supremacy and viola!, you have religion.
Moderates are in general basically good people who want to believe God has got their back and is going to sort everything out. No harm in that right? Maybe, maybe not. I object in general to ignorance, be it mild or gross especially when wilfully indulged. I also think that most attitudes held by humans have a tendency to go through cycles. Moderate now may not be moderate tomorrow. A moderate teacher also does not guarantee moderate students. Moderate faith also lends a notion of reasonableness to more extreme versions. A religious moderate and a religious fundamentalist agree about many of the ridiculous ideas underlying their faith. The will of their common fictional overlord is where they differ.
Here are some questions then for moderate believers.
1. Do you think the bible is the inerrant word of God? If not, why not?
2. If you answered no to question 1, why do you think that it is reasonable to believe that a man wielded magical powers and rose from the dead and was a god and a man at the same time; I am assuming that you do not generally believe in these things. What is it about the Jesus case that is so compelling as to make believing the impossible reasonable?
3. Why does God command and condone evil acts in the bible (genocide, Rape, slavery etc.) if he is good?
4. Why is it not more reasonable to assume that God is evil given his rampage of destruction throughout the O.T?
5. In what way would an evil God have acted differently and can you imagine a way in which God might have acted more morally at any point in the O.T.?
6. Why is Jesus’ character so different from the God of the O.T. if they are (inexplicably) the same person?
8. Is it conceivable to you that Christianity might not actually be true (in the sense that Jesus might just have been an irregular Joe.)?
9. When considering the idea that there is no God, is your reaction one of distaste or disagreement and could you be happy living in a universe where there was no God?
10. Why do you think (assuming you do) that Mohammed was not in direct contact with God (Allah)? There is a holy book and many witnesses who profess he was. If you are willing to believe such things are possible, why do you not believe this?
There are many similar questions that could be asked but by now I’m sure you get the gist of it.