All fiction should be condemned. If not banned outright, we should at least universally condemn all fictionists - people who create and distribute works of fiction.
The reason we should adopt this attitude is because all works of fiction are basically lies. To tolerate fictionism is to tolerate lying. Those who tolerate lying, in turn, are enablers for all of those who engage in fraud and other forms of deception. If we condemn all lying - even fiction - then there is no way that the fraudster, the deceptive advertiser, the political manipulator, or the public relations specialist can get the idea that the lies they engage in are somehow permissible.
This argument is meant as a reductio ad absurdum of the claim that religious moderates must be condemned as enablers of the actions of the violent religious extremists. Blaming the former for the actions of the latter is as absurd as blaming "fictionists" for the actions of liars and other forms of malicious manipulators of the truth.
It has been my position in this blog that all moral condemnation must be tightly focused - that only those who are actually guilty are to be condemned. There is a human tendency to divide the world into tribes of "us" and "them", and to take the wrongs committed by a subgroup of "them" (or even imagined wrongs) and apply it to all of "them". This is used to "justify" intertribal conflict - such as conflict between the atheist tribe and the theist tribe.
The way to avoid this outcome is to constantly focus attention on keeping condemnation tightly focused only on those who are guilty, to be on guard for the tendency to make irrational leaps from the subset to the whole, and to attack them when and where we find them.
Which is one of the things I try to do in this blog.
The claim that moderates are to be condemned for the actions of the extremists is one of those irrational absurdities embraced, not because they make sense, but because they mask tribal hatreds in a cloak of apparent legitimacy.
If it is permissible to condemn the moderate for the behavior of the extremists, then it should be just as permissible to credit the extremists for the behavior of the moderate. Consider two extreme cases - one of a deeply religious doctor who thinks that God wants him to provide medical care to the impoverished children in third world countries, and the other a violent jihadist who seeks to blow up a crowded shopping mall.
What argument can we give for saying that the doctor deserves to be condemned for the actions of the terrorist that is not also an argument for giving the terrorist moral credit for the actions of the doctor.
The argument is the same. Just as the doctor who promotes devotion to God is an enabler of the terrorist, the terrorist who promotes devotion to God is an enabler to the doctor. To claim that the argument is valid when used as a reason to condemn the doctor for the actions of the terrorist, but invalid when offered as a reason to praise the terrorist for the actions of the doctor, is itself irrational.
If irrationality is the true enemy, then this is an example of the true enemy. Only, this time, we are talking about the irrationality of atheists.
Rationality says that these inferences are invalid. If rationality is a virtue (and I hold that it is a virtue, though it is one we have only a limited ability to practice), then no good (rational) person would embrace this argument. In fact, the good (rational) person would condemn those who use this argument - particularly when it is used to give an illusion of legitimacy to what is used to condemn (to promote and, in some cases, sell) hatred of all members of a target tribe.
Which is what I am seeking to do here.
Please note, this is not an argument for being nice to religious moderates because it is politically expedient to do so. This is not an argument for promoting niceness at the expense of reason. This is an argument that embraces the position that rationality is a virtue and irrationality is a vice, and condemns a popular form of reasoning because it is irrational.
The claim that we must blame the moderates for the actions of the extremists is irrational - it is an invalid inference and for that reason no friend of rationality would embrace it. For that reason, any friend of rationality would condemn those who practice it.
From here we actually start down a long train of irrational arguments.
Why not credit the terrorist for the good done by the doctor? Answer: Because people can do good without God.
However, people can also do evil without God, so that argument doesn't work.
Ahhh, Alonzo, but what you are missing out on is that religion is required to do evil in the name of God.
Yes, but religion is also required to do good in the name of God, so that argument still does not work. We still do not have anything that a friend of rationality would embrace - that an enemy of irrationality would not condemn.