The Fort Hood Murders

November 12, 2009

I would say something about the underlying cause of the 13 murders that took place at Fort Hood on November 5, but I can’t say it any better than Ibn Warraq, so I’ll just quote him:

It is time to abandon apologetics, and political correctness. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Muslims are implicated in the horrendous events of September 11, 2001 — or of November 5, 2009. However, to pretend that Islam has nothing to do with 9/11 or the Fort Hood massacre is willfully to ignore the obvious. To leave Islam out of the equation means to forever misinterpret events. Without Islam, the long-term strategy and individual acts of violence by Osama bin Laden and his followers make little sense. Without Islam, the West will go on being incapable of understanding our terrorist enemies, and hence will be incapable to deal with them. Without Islam, neither is it possible to comprehend the barbarism of the Taliban, the position of women and non-Muslims in Islamic countries, or — now– the murders attributed to Major Hasan.

This is what I mean when I say that religious faith is always and everywhere exonerated of blame for these types of things. I’m not merely saying that religious faith is the cause of a great deal of evil in the world (though that would appear to be self-evidently true, given what is actually written in our ‘holy’ books). No, it is not merely that. The real issue is that, in deference to political correctness and ‘liberalism’, we always fail to point the finger at religion, even when it is really and truly to blame.

Warraq is right; the actions of the 9/11 hijackers make no sense, except when you allow for their religious beliefs. The actions of Christian abortion doctor murders make no sense, except when you allow for their religious faith.

That is not, as Warraq points out, to say that all Muslims or all Christians are evil; far from it. Clearly, many Muslims and Christians have learned to shelve the less palatable aspects of their religious dogmas (despite the fact that they are no less canonical than any other aspect by which they choose to live their lives). This is especially relevant for western Christians, who have gained an unprecedented level of financial and political success (and not quite as much for western Muslims, who have not). We are all far better off because of this. Nor is it to say that all tenets of religious faith are bad; the Golden Rule, much as it did not originate in Christianity, is a wonderful principle by which to live one’s life (slavery, on the other hand, not so much…shame about it being tacitly approved of in the New Testament).

It is to say, however, that these acts of terror cannot be reconciled with any rational motivation unless we first accept that the perpetrators believe – truly believe – that the creator of the universe approves of the killing of non-believers, heretics, and apostates. Moreover, it is to say that by failing to even mention the unmentionable (for instance, that Islam itself was necessary, if not sufficient, for 9/11 or that Christianity was necessary for the Inquisition and for abortion doctor murders), we are, as Warraq points out, doomed to forever misunderstand these things.

We cannot simply ascribe these events to bad men with bad ideas. No; it takes a special kind of bad idea to un-make oneself (and thousands of others) at 500 miles per hour, to slowly roast a suspected witch, or to gun down 13 soldiers in cold blood; generally, it takes a religious idea to do that.

We cannot simply say that these are were mis-interpretations of religious faith. First, who are we to say that, and on what basis? The theological know-how of the 9/11 hijackers or the Inquisitors was, very likely, beyond all criticism. But more importantly, these acts simply are not mis-interpretations of anything. They are the logical result of believing that books written in a pre-scientific age, an age in which human beings did not know enough about their world to know to keep their toilets away from their food supplies, are the actual or inspired word of the creator of the universe. Once you accept this, you must logically accept that what is written in these books is true; that god does approve of killing apostates and heretics, at least in certain circumstances.

Once again, we come to the realization that we cannot long endure the co-mingling of Bronze Age ideas about morality and the nature of the universe with 21st century technology. Sooner or later, we will recognize the enormous price we are paying to ignore the real causes of much of what ails us. Hopefully this will come through the rational realization that religious faith is, by-and-large, anathema to long-term human peaceful co-existence; we will learn to recognize that, what ever else we may call ourselves, we are human beings first. There is nothing, however, to suggest that this will be the case. The alternative is the continued descent into faith-inspired conflict at an ever-increasing, and ever deadlier, pace.