Sunday, September 16, 2007

Will the 9/11 attacks backfire?

Gentle reader,

America is unlike any other nation on earth. It is a nation made up primarily of people who traveled there relatively recently from other countries (of course, the travelers were not always willing...). The attacks of 9/11, therefore, were in some way an attack on not just America, but on the countries that contributed its people. In other words, in some sense the attacks of 9/11 were attack on just about every country in the world. This is especially true because one of the focal points of the attacks was New York City, the world's biggest melting pot. So without a doubt, one of the accomplishments of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 was to deeply wound and anger the citizens not just of the USA but of almost every country in the world.

The other thing that the attacks did was give people a jolt that got them thinking long and hard about religion and in particular about religious extremism. Since the attacks I have noticed that many people are starting to question their religion, and religion in general. It seems that every day I read more and more stories about people abandoning their faith. And in a way this is to be expected. After all, wasn't it absolute faith that led to the 9/11 attacks? If so then faith is worth questioning.

All of this self-reflection about religion is partly being fueled by several recently-published books such as "The God Delusion" by professor Dawkins, "God is Not Great" by the journalist Christopher Hitchens and others. These books do not give faith the customary free pass. They ask some tough questions. Each book develops its own thoughtful (and different) thesis against the wisdom of adopting religion as a moral compass for one's life. At the very least the books are an excellent read. But more than that, I suspect that their popularity signals the beginnings of a change in the zeitgeist.

Unless I am mistaken, there is a new movement afoot - a movement that favors rational thought over blind faith, that turns its back on the dark ages of religion. The catalyst of the movement is anger and the focus of change is religion. Could this be the beginning of a new Age of Enlightenment? I wonder, is it possible that those terrible attacks will result in what must have been the terrorists' worst nightmare - an overall reduction in the popularity of organized religion and an eventual relegation of religion to a curious and rather embarrassing footnote in the annals of human history?

Time for today's quote:

Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything.
They just cry over their condition.
But when they get angry, they bring about a change.

-Malcolm X

Until the next time, gentle reader, I remain as always,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

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