I have to comment on the statements made by Ron during this part of the discussion.
Firstly, I agree with him that this is a tripartite battle consisting of:
a) Religious fundamentalists
b) Secularists and Non-believers
c) So-called “moderate” or “liberal” believers
Where we diverge in opinion is what to do about the moderates. Ron attacks Sam Harris for lumping them in with the fundamentalists, but ignores Harris’ arguments for saying so in the first place. Instead he encourages us to talk with them and find common ground. That is all well and good; And I’m sure we do have a lot in common with moderates, but Ron seems ignorant of one big obstacle; their beliefs are still irrational and they will not defy them. We may be able to agree on sports, music, even politics or the environment…..but the second their religion (the parts they actually adhere to) is the subject under scrutiny, they will turn on us.
If we, for example, criticize the actions of fundamentalists by pointing out the specific dogmas they are referencing, the moderate will take offense and rush to defend their faith and deflect criticism away from it. Witness the “offended” Muslims that pop up whenever Islam is criticized, or the “good people” who continue to defend the Roman Catholic Church despite the evidence and horrific nature of its crimes. Moderates also provide financial backing and respectability to the Religions fundamentalists use to justify their harmful actions, making it harder to fight them.
Having moderates as allies only works as long as religion is not the subject under discussion. However, considering the large role religion plays in both domestic and international affairs, that doesn’t make them of much use.