September 11, 2001 was the defining historic event of our time. We still cannot comprehend the full ramifications of this atrocity.But it has had stark cultural and political fallout. Among other things, it inspired Sam Harris to write The End of Faith, and it inspired me to publish this Journal.
I had started Black Sun Journal a mere two or three weeks prior to that horrible day, and all I could think to do in the aftermath was to write, and write, and write some more, to try to make sense of the horror and frustration I felt. So here it is five years later, and on this official fifth blogiversary, I should be celebrating. But I’m not.
The same delusions so eloquently documented by Sam Harris still exist today. To some extent, things have even grown worse. Two years ago, it seemed a kind of “Prague Spring” was sweeping Iran, as intellectuals and secular leaders fielded thousands of candidates for public office. For a brief moment before the 2005 election, it seemed we might see some real change in that important nation. But then the ‘Guardian Council’ disqualified 90% of those candidates, and thereby ensured the theofascist nightmare we see unfolding today.
In a recent brilliant interview with Bill Maher, former Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu compared Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to a “potential Hitler with nuclear weapons.” (The interview is reportedly available for a fee at CNN pipeline). Tony Blair has echoed this sentiment, saying the western public opinion has not kept pace with events, and “there is a big battle to be won.” I couldn’t agree more on both counts.
The only salient lesson of 9.11 for Americans (aside from security) was that our modern civilization was and is completely and totally incompatible with all types of religious delusions.
[ dih-loo-zhuhn ]
an act or instance of deluding.
the state of being deluded.
a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.
Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.
Ironically, the smarter we get and the more progress we make, the greater the ensuing gap between religion and reality. In the face of this gap, the drumbeat gets ever louder for some kind of accommodation or reconciliation between the two. People are feeling the cognitive dissonance, and it’s damned uncomfortable for them. From Francis Collins to the Pope, (who routinely and repeatedly denounces science), social and cultural leaders on both sides of the fence seem to be ignoring the facts, and arguing for deliberate retrenchment into the (not very) comforting fantasies of yesteryear.
But that’s exactly what will keep us unprepared for the next 9.11. Like our religious myths, America’s facade of invulnerability has begun to crack. Our international theocratic enemies are not resting. And our own theocrats are making strides, such as Florida representative Katherine Harris (the very same woman who may have put Bush in office through electoral manipulation while she was secretary of state) who recently claimed that anyone who doesn’t legislate Christianity is “legislating sin.”
Not only are our leaders bankrupt for failing to kick this kind of theocratic blather out of the public square, they are not doing enough to keep us safe. The money spent on security is being spent recklessly out of fear, and on the wrong things. The Iraq war would have been unnecessary if we had quickly and earnestly embarked on our now inevitable Energy Transition. Half a trillion dollars buys a lot of solar panels, windmills, and biofuels. It also would have bought a tremendous amount of small-scale covert anti-terrorism, port security, and air marshals. And I’m sure it could have bought our way to capturing the big fish, OBL. As long as he’s still cranking out the terror tapes, our government should be ashamed of itself.
It’s a big bad world out there, and Tocqueville’s American Exceptionalism has kept us acting like spoiled rich kids who think the rules don’t apply to us. We have no idea what life is like on the other side of the tracks. Our enemies wish to give us that experience. Most people alive today (myself included) have no idea how to cope with levels of national crisis that would ensue from terrorist nuclear detonations. Aside from the obvious mass destruction, these effects would likely include starvation and deprivation on a grand scale–the kind of wartime suffering Americans have only seen in films. Like the rest of us, the Christian end-timers may get a rude shock when they find the Armageddon they’ve been praying for is upon them, and no sky-fairy is coming to their rescue. Though I may starve or perish in such a crisis, at least I’ll never have that particular brand of disillusionment.
My son was asking me last night if I thought the next 9.11 type disaster was inevitable and if it would be worse. I said that it could be, but that doesn’t have to happen. After all we did stop the ‘liquid gel’ airliner attack. But five years on, it still feels a little like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Hope springs eternal, and even in the face of ever growing irrationality on the one hand, there are points of brilliance breaking through on the other. National news magazines are actually starting to discuss atheism seriously, and the blogosphere seems to be far less tolerant of the blatant falsehoods and distortions promoted by believers. Maybe it’s just me, but I think more and more people are starting to understand the factual and rational arguments we secularists have been making for years. It seems that just maybe, from amidst all the apologist rhetoric, some people are having their worldview altered by the clear insanity we are witnessing. Cartoon-gate showed us the rank immaturity of many Muslims about their beliefs. The foiled liquids plot displayed their continued monkey-wrenching ruthlessness toward our way of life.
As I go back and read my original post from 9.11.01–I can also see my own intellectual evolution. Though I had taken strong steps away from my theistic upbringing even at that time, I still had a very emotional response to the tragedy. In my grief, I joined many others in fantasizing about some sort of universal spirit that might help us to deal with the crisis and its aftermath. Of course I realize in retrospect that was obviously a pipe dream. I was then in the last stages of extricating myself from the religious worldview that I held for the first 30-odd years of my life. Old habits die hard.
We’ve seen no evidence of any divine assistance or guidance in our fight against terrorism and fanaticism. No one but a fool could possibly view the actions of George W. Bush over the past five years as having been divinely inspired. In fact, it would be hard to see how our government could have screwed things up any worse. If this is God’s president, what would Satan’s be like? But seriously, as always, we humans are going to have to solve these problems on our own–or–not.
My other sentiment from 9.11.01, that we should “do whatever we can to help ensure the peace, stability, prosperity, and happiness of the rest of the world,” to prevent further terrorism, was equally naïve. Sure that would be a good idea. But we Americans clearly pay attention to stopping oppression only when it serves our needs (oil), and we’ve even been known to promote oppression (Saudi Arabia and elsewhere) when it serves our (oil) needs.
But in places like Darfour, Sudan, Rwanda, the Congo, Zimbabwe, where we don’t need anything from the oppressed, it seems we Americans could care less about genocide. (I actually overheard someone say on the way out of the film Hotel Rwanda. “Wow, that was intense. Where are we having dinner?”)
Regardless of the callousness of some, we should understand that the people suffering genocide through western inaction (arguably the ones who should be the most upset with us), are not the ones committing the vast majority of the terrorism, and it’s not the result of economic desperation. No. Nearly all recent anti-American terrorists have two things in common: oil wealth and Islamism. For the thousandth time I repeat: we won’t see an end to this until we stop buying their oil, and until we put an end to theocracy worldwide.
Anyhow, dear readers, it’s a grim anniversary. Let’s hope our next president is more in tune with the world that is. Let’s hope we have new towers, and a few more rational thinkers by 9.11.11. Here’s to the end of faith, world peace, and a bright future!