A few folks have taken issue with a bumper sticker on my car that reads: “science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.”
Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the saying. But Victor Stenger, a physicist and secular author, can.
Some think it is incorrect and should read “extremism flies you into buildings” because religion has nothing to do with the acts of a few terrorists; religion is not to blame. The following may provide some insight.
The 9/11 hijackers weren’t random extremists. They weren’t psychopathic fanatics or uneducated mob members. The 19 hijackers were educated men, living in the West: architects, engineers, technicians infected with religious reasons to try to attack and revenge western culture and go straight to paradise as jihadist martyrs.
The twin towers were a symbol of the West as prominent as they could find, and other Muslims had tried 10 years before to take them down, and almost succeeded.
A number of Muslims all over the world rejoiced at the feeling of a victory against the evil West when the towers went down, even though they killed fellow Muslims among the nearly 3,000 that died. But that was a good thing to them, too.
The Muslim victims got into paradise as quick as the hijackers. Recently, suicide bombings have become all too commonplace as Muslim-Muslim acts of terrorism, with the now targeted apostates and infidels being members of competing despised sects within Islam itself.
Only religious thought fuels such insanity.
The 19 could have set themselves on fire like Buddhist “extremists” do and made their protest statement that way, but that’s not derivable from their religion. Buddhists who set themselves on fire don’t feel the need to take other humans with them.
Witness the 100 or so Tibetan Buddhists that have set themselves alight in protest of China’s repression over the years.
Their ideas of nonviolence and the ephemeral self are behind the practice of protest suicides that purposely do not harm others.
They have no doctrine telling them to take infidels with them to get into heaven, so they don’t wrap themselves with high explosives coated in ball bearings and carpet nails.
They immolate themselves with gallons of gasoline instead.
The body, to them, is a mere temporary shell for their soul destined to be reincarnated into another body for another round of suffering anyway.
Showing true disengagement from pain or pleasure and thereby putting oneself on the path to nirvana, ending the cycle of rebirth, is paramount.
Very few Muslims have done this: it doesn’t kill infidels and get you into paradise. Self-immolation serves Buddhist ideals.
Religious thought alone supports the peculiarity of this insane behavior.
In stark contrast to Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist practice, Catholic and Protestant bombers kill and maim from far away, purposely avoiding any chance of self-destruction.
Their religion teaches suicide is the ultimate evil.
Christians bomb from a distance, and live to do it again, because they would go straight to hell if they killed themselves in the act.
Though having been raised in the “religion of love,” they justified killing other Christians of the other hated sect while avoiding the unforgivable mortal sin of suicide. Northern Ireland experienced bombings daily for nearly 30 years, not long ago, and not suicide ones.
The Tamil Tiger suicide bombers attained the title Maha Viru “Great Hero,” gaining tremendous prestige for their families.
Maha Viru was a venerated ascetic Jain of the sixth century BC, revered also in the Hindu religion.
The ephemeralness, impurity and renunciation of the body and pleasure were the driving ideologies. When pain and suffering are but temporary diversions to the liberation of the soul, what of the temporary pain of bomber or their hapless victims?
Religion sets you on fire, flies you into buildings, makes you blow yourself up in a crowd of worshippers from the wrong sect of your religion or causes you to bomb from a distance so you don’t go straight to hell, not passing ‘go’ and not collecting the $200.
Take religion out of the equation and most of the world’s extremist acts disappear. We would be left with the lone sociopaths and psychopaths who make up a tiny fraction of the general population.
And psychopaths don’t set themselves on fire, fly planes into buildings or bomb from a distance.
Serial killers and mass shooters get their anger, revenge, their enjoyment and moments of power up close and personal.
They murder, sometimes torture and/or taunt their victims, one at a time and over minutes or hours, not in microseconds of explosive fury.
It takes religion to make good people do bad things, from bombing other believers of Jesus or Mohammed to flying planes into buildings, to burning heretics or oneself to death. Religion has everything to do with it.
Column by William Zingrone, Associate professor of psychology