Uncategorized · September 11, 2009

8 years. We Remember.

I didn’t even go to the 9/11 observance at the California Memorial in Clovis this year.

As I’ve said before, I don’t mourn well with others.

Once again I’m saddened by the evidence of the inhumanity that is possible through fanatical actions. This irrational enthusiasm for an idea, a cause, and yes, a religion, has in my opinion been the driving force behind most of the conflict in the world.

Rational people don’t act in this manner.

These weren’t stupid people, and as Richard Dawkins pointed out they were not cowards.

In Professor Dawkins’s words:

… if a significant number of people convince themselves, or are convinced by their priests, that a martyr’s death is equivalent to pressing the hyperspace button and zooming through a wormhole to another universe, it can make the world a very dangerous place. Especially if they also believe that that other universe is a paradisical escape from the tribulations of the real world. Top it off with sincerely believed, if ludicrous and degrading to women, sexual promises, and is it any wonder that naive and frustrated young men are clamouring to be selected for suicide missions?

There is no doubt that the afterlife-obsessed suicidal brain really is a weapon of immense power and danger. It is comparable to a smart missile, and its guidance system is in many respects superior to the most sophisticated electronic brain that money can buy. Yet to a cynical government, organisation, or priesthood, it is very very cheap.

Our leaders have described the recent atrocity with the customary cliche: mindless cowardice. “Mindless” may be a suitable word for the vandalising of a telephone box. It is not helpful for understanding what hit New York on September 11. Those people were not mindless and they were certainly not cowards. On the contrary, they had sufficiently effective minds braced with an insane courage, and it would pay us mightily to understand where that courage came from.

It came from religion. Religion is also, of course, the underlying source of the divisiveness in the Middle East which motivated the use of this deadly weapon in the first place. But that is another story and not my concern here. My concern here is with the weapon itself. To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.

Last year, I felt sad and lost at the memorial, I left to grieve on my own.

This year I feel not just sad, but incredibly angry.  Angry at fanaticism in particular, and at religion in general for creating an environment where this can happen, then using it.  Islam is only the latest religion to use its followers as tools of destruction, Christianity has a similar history.

In my grief, I feel like striking out against those who support religion.  This is, however, irrational.  Fanaticism must shoulder the greater blame, and fanatics come in all religious affiliations, including those with no religion.

Rational thought must prevail.  Rational thinking goes hand-in-hand with skepticism, and I’m glad to see that both are so often part of the culture that makes up Positive Atheism, Secular Humanism, Brights, and other modern secular philosophies.