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At times it is all too easy to get exercised over the words of religious extremists, whether it be the bigotry of the likes of Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps, or the apocalyptic predictions those like Robert Weinland or Harold Camping. But these ravings do not really reflect the views of the majority of believers, many of whom are our friends, co-workers, relatives, and neighbours.
I was reminded of this point in reading a book review in the current Fantasy & Science Fiction. Commenting on the increasing spirituality in Dean Koontz's books, Charles De Lint wrote:*
It has its basis in Christianity but bears little relation to the more strident elements that are presented to us by way of radio shows, TV evangelists, and the news whenever some particularly provocative quote can make a headline.
The truth is that the followers of most religions go about the practice of their faith in a much less confrontational manner. It's the militant element that gets the press because they make better headlines. Unfortunately that leaves those of us on the outside with a distorted view of what it's actually about.
I think De Lint makes a valid point, and it should be born in mind whenever I go off on a rant about whatever some religious nutjob says to annoy me.