It is up to us
June 29, 2016 — It’s been a bit over 24 hours since the terrorist attacks at Ataturk airport in Turkey as I write this.
It seems quite obvious to me that the attacks are religiously motivated. If those people weren’t adherents of a religion, they wouldn’t do those things. They might still be unhappy, they might still have various grievances, but they would not explode themselves in a quest to kill strangers perceived to be enemies in some purported exchange for some imagined eternal blissful afterlife awarded by some imagined deity for fighting in some imagined holy war. For that, religion is required. And the throbbing core that powers the Death Star known as religion is faith.
Faith is the idea that it is a good idea and a virtuous deed to deliberately attempt to be more certain about something than what is warranted by the available evidence. Deliberately willing oneself to be excessively certain. “Look at me! I’m so certain I’m right! And I clearly don’t have enough evidence to be so certain! I have faith! I’m so faithful! What a good boy am I for being so faithful!”
Faith is never described by the faithful so baldly as I have done, because to do so would be to highlight the idiocy of faith, and nobody wants to think of themselves as having behaved like an idiot. But faith is clearly idiotic. It is not a good idea to deliberately be excessively certain. It is not a vritue. It is the opposite of a virtue. The all too common and ridiculous cry of the defeated theist, “Well, it takes more faith to be an atheist…” betrays the believer’s subconscious realization that faith is something to be avoided, that it is not a reliable way to know what’s true.
How should we combat the type of faith that drives people to commit such acts? I would suggest the most effective way (not that I think it will be all that effective) is not to coerce compliance by means of threats, weaponry, and soldiers — I do not think this will do anything to mitigate cancerous faith. Likely, it will only make it stronger. I suggest the most effective tactic — or at least a tactic which should be tried — is to educate the faithful by argumentation — help them to reason their way out of their faith. And most importantly, I think we should directly attack the basic concept of faith itself. The concept of faith should be given the reputation it deserves. The statement, “He is a man of great faith” should not be regarded as praise, but as an insult.
We cannot rely on members of other religions to do this. A Christian and a Muslim and a Jew arguing about religion are like three blind men arguing about which of three unremarkable Thomas Kinkade paintings is the best possible painting in the universe. Their arguments will all be constructed out of the sheerest nonsense.
And you will not see any U.S. politician making any sort of argument that Islam or Christianity or Judaism or any religion has no basis in fact, or that faith is the idiocy that it so obviously is. That is because (among other reasons) the U.S. Constitution requires that the government remain neutral towards religion, not favoring any religion (or no religion) over any other religion (or no religion). Their hands are tied — even if they wanted to make such an argument, they are not permitted to do so. Nor are members of the United States armed forces while acting on behalf of the United States, as I understand it.
So it is left to us — private individuals — to make such arguments.