For a long time, there was a meme going around atheist circles that showed the Twin Towers pre-9/11 that said something to the effect that if there was no religion, then the World Trade Center would still be standing. Like most memes, I think the “no religion, no 9/11” notion is rather facile, especially since being highly religious, even “fundamentalist,” in one’s thinking does not mean one is going to run off to join a religiously motivated terrorist group. ISIS is an excellent example of this, since many of their Western recruits know next to nothing about the religion they supposedly are going to fight for:
Two weeks ago, Paris was rocked with a number of coordinated terrorist attacks by ISIS fighters. Two days ago, a “lone wolf” engaged in a prolonged shootout with police in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While the former has been roundly condemned by almost all Americans as nihilistic barbarians, regardless of their political orientation, the latter is seen very differently, depending on how you feel about abortion.Some on the right like Carly Fiorina have been “Not All Pro-Lifers” while others like Donald Trump have simply dismissed the shooter as some random maniac who in no way represents mainstream conservative opinion on anything:
The Friendly Atheist has compiled a bunch of tweets from users celebrating the shootings:
Clearly, terrorism isn’t terrorism when it’s being used by a cause one approves of.
Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforParis, but we don’t need more religion! Our faith goes to music! Kissing! Life! Champagne and joy! #Parisisaboutlife
— From Charlie Hedbo cartoonist Joann Sfar
Like many people, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the wake of the terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo. One thing that I’ve noticed is that self-identified progressives seem to be at a loss about how the West should address radical Islam.
As I write this, Al Qaeda in Yemen has taken responsibility for the recent terrorist attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as well as today’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. While I only recently learned about the existence of Charlie Hebdo after Wednesday’s massacre, its “blasphemous” cartoons seem to be in the proud skeptical and anticlerical tradition that was forged more than three hundred years ago during the Enlightenment philosophes. In fact, I’d have to say that no one does anti-clericalism better than the French; I guess having the honor of being the denizens of “The Eldest Daughter of the Church” will inevitably lead to some major rebellion. From Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie to Notre Dame de Paris (AKA The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to the long tradition of convent pornography, the Catholic establishment hasn’t been sacred to many French for quite some time. This distain has also been extended to the two other Abrahamic religions (France has Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations).