The problem with extreme moderation
“Do you feel safer outside a bar or outside a temple?” – a close “moderate” friend triumphantly asked Neo, while making the ok-maybe-its-not-entirely-true-but-its-still-useful case for religion.
Well, certainly Neo can concede that there are some temples that are safer than some bars – but (as anyone who’s visited the Kali temple in Kolkata knows), there are some temples that are actually more dangerous than many bars!
Speaking of things that are safer than bars, is Neo’s favorite cake shop in Bangalore divine too? The evidence is more compelling than it seems – on his last visit to “the Cake shop of the Taj”, Neo observed a lady who, after taking the first bite from her (accurately labeled) “death by chocolate” cake, exclaimed “oh God! oh God!”.
Of course the “but its better than going to a bar” argument is a bit of a straw-man argument. Surely there are stronger cases for being religious (although Neo hasn’t heard any yet).
But what Neo told his friend surprised him: “religious moderates are the problem, since they create the cake on which the fungus of extremism could potentially grow”.
Ok, the cake analogy is getting stale already, so let’s switch to alcohol: Just like every alcoholic was a “social drinker” once, every extremist was once a moderate.
(Neo had an excellent sex analogy too, but he wants to stick to the “stuff-that’s-bad-for-you” theme. (And yes, all software guys love brackets within brackets!)).
Drinking is not bad for a society because moderate drinking is bad, but because moderate drinking significantly increases the risk of becoming an alcoholic.
“Extreme moderates”, i.e. those who believe in “moderation in everything” should consider that in many cases, moderation is an oxymoron (“moderately virgin”) or evil (“moderate supporter of terrorism”). But in other cases it has so much potential of turning bad, that you’re almost surely better off without it – “moderate drinker”, “moderate lover of chocolate cake” and “moderately religious”.
So did Neo moderate his “extremely moderate” religious friend with the above argument ? No – but Neo led by example. Neo showed his “moderate atheism” (another oxymoron) by pointing out one of the major drawbacks of being an atheist – atheists don’t really know what to say instead of “oh God” while having sex!