Re: TERRORISM: The grim prospects

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Mon Oct 29 2001 - 09:35:26 MST

From: "Brian D Williams" <>
> I know all I need to know about Bin Ladens motives, when he is
> destroyed he will be out of motives.

The same might be said about religiosity in general.
Here's what Richard Dawkins has to say about it.
(It's a bit lengthy, but worth it.)

" How can I say that religion is to blame? Do I really imagine
that, when a terrorist kills, he is motivated by a theological
disagreement with his victim? Do I really think the Northern Ireland
pub bomber says to himself "Take that, Tridentine
Transubstantiationist bastards!"
Of course I don't think anything of the kind. Theology is the last
thing on the minds of such people. They are not killing because of
religion itself, but because of political grievances, often
justified. They are killing because the other lot killed their
fathers. Or because the other lot drove their great grandfathers off
their land. Or because the other lot oppressed our lot economically
for centuries.

My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars,
murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal
LABEL, and the most dangerous one, by which a "they" as opposed to
a "we" can be identified at all. I am not even claiming that religion
is the only label by which we identify the victims of our prejudice.
There's also skin colour, language, and social class. But often, as
in Northern Ireland, these don't apply and religion is the only
divisive label around. Even when it is not alone, religion is nearly
always an incendiary ingredient in the mix as well. And please don't
trot out Hitler as a counter-example. Hitler's sub-Wagnerian ravings
constituted a religion of his own foundation, and his anti-Semitism
owed a lot to his never-renounced Roman Catholicism .

It is not an exaggeration to say that religion is the most
inflammatory enemy-labelling device in history. Who killed your
father? Not the individuals you are about to kill in `revenge'. The
culprits themselves have vanished over the border. The people who
stole your great grandfather's land have died of old age. You aim
your vendetta at those who belong to the same religion as the
original perpetrators. It wasn't Seamus who killed your brother, but
it was Catholics, so Seamus deserves to die "in return". Next, it was
Protestants who killed Seamus so let's go out and kill some
Protestants "in revenge". It was Muslims who destroyed the World
Trade Center so let's set upon the turbaned driver of a London taxi
and leave him paralysed from the neck down.

The bitter hatreds that now poison Middle Eastern politics are rooted
in the real or perceived wrong of the setting up of a Jewish State in
an Islamic region. In view of all that the Jews had been through, it
must have seemed a fair and humane solution. Probably deep
familiarity with the Old Testament had given the European and
American decision-makers some sort of idea that this really was
the `historic homeland' of the Jews (though the horrific stories of
how Joshua and others conquered their Lebensraum might have made them
wonder). Even if it wasn't justifiable at the time, no doubt a good
case can be made that, since Israel exists now, to try to reverse the
status quo would be a worse wrong.

I do not intend to get into that argument. But if it had not been for
religion, the very concept of a Jewish state would have had no
meaning in the first place. Nor would the very concept of Islamic
lands, as something to be invaded and desecrated. In a world without
religion, there would have been no Crusades; no Inquisition; no anti-
Semitic pogroms (the people of the diaspora would long ago have
intermarried and become indistinguishable from their host
populations); no Northern Ireland Troubles (no label by which to
distinguish the two `communities', and no sectarian schools to teach
the children historic hatreds - they would simply be one community).

Parenthetically, religion is unusual among divisive labels in being
spectacularly unnecessary. If religious beliefs had any evidence
going for them, we might have to respect them in spite of their
concomitant unpleasantness. But there is no such evidence. To label
people as death-deserving enemies because of disagreements about real
world politics is bad enough. To do the same for disagreements about
a delusional world inhabited by archangels, demons and imaginary
friends is ludicrously tragic. "

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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