The one problem that all religions and ideologies have in common is that they squander the search for truth and perpetuate the fight for validation of ideas. By committing to a belief system, we compartmentalise our intelligence and humanity, and bottleneck our ability to learn and discover. We view reality through a warped and tinted lens to make things appear the way we want them to. The problem is made worse by a culture that believes peace will be attained when we all learn to accept the beliefs of others, no matter how unjustified or harmful.
Every cul-de-sac of thought is home to extremists. We like to believe that extremism is this huge departure from a belief system, but it’s actually a branch of the same tree growing from the same roots of irrational thought. Moderates are bearers of a terrible dogma every bit as much as extremists are. There is no definitive line between them because the one effectively enables the other. While extremists are generally less common, they should probe us more than anything to question the belief system as a whole.
Unfortunately, this isn’t what usually happens, especially not in a politically correct culture afraid of its own shadow. When ideologues and religious types go silencing, terrorising, repressing, raping or killing, our response is more often “That’s their culture” or “They’re not True Scotsmen.” I think this is a comfortable and convenient cop out. It’s a refusal to admit that doctrine has led to disaster, as it has many times throughout history. “Real such and such’s aren’t like that”. I don’t really care when a significant number of them are.
I would fight tooth and nail for your right to think, believe and say whatever you want. But don’t expect me to think highly of your group when members bomb the bus station where I pick my children up from school, or call a SWAT team to my family’s house because I critiqued their worldview. I don’t think it’s acceptable for an ideologue or religious person to simply dismiss a more passionate advocate of his values and beliefs as radical or extreme. It should be cause for critical evaluation and reflection, not just of the belief system, but of belief systems as a concept.