Thoughts Following 9/11
In its Miscellaneous section, today's Science News presents four articles about
Osama bin Laden: Interview
with Bin Laden, Osama
bin Laden, Transcript-
The Man Who Spoke to Bin Laden, and Who
are the Taliban?. To me, what these articles convey is the idea that
bin Laden and his associated terrorists are Muslim zealots who aim
(1) at the expulsion of infidels from Saudi Arabia (home to Mecca and the Ka'aba),
(2) the expulsion of infidels from all of Islam, and (I presume)
(3) the fulfillment of God's Holy Word, as set forth in the Koran, in converting all the world to Islam.
In other words, it's a religious war.
In his interview, bin Laden refers to outsiders in the Middle East as "the Jewish and the Crusaders". Evidently, he wants to re-open the Crusades, and this time, drive the infidel from the Middle East, and force the rest of the world to accept Islam or die.
A month or so ago, I had pondered writing the observation here that intolerance of other religions is a sine qua non of the world's major successful religions.
(1) I would expect that religions that are tolerant of other religions either rapidly die out, or are absorbed by other, less-tolerant religions.
(2) Another characteristic of the world's leading religions would seem to me to be the fact that they are based upon ancient, immutable writings--holy writ. Although these religions may become more liberal from time to time, they are subject to periodic reforms in which they return to basics, as delineated by their (incompatible) "divine" doctrines.... the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, etc. These periodic reforms have occurred in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They wouldn't seem to lend themselves to long-term progress, since they're based upon ancient books whose text is frozen in time. (It may be argued that, although the Koran, the Talmud, and the Bible are received wisdom, our interpretations of them are evolving over time, in accordance with "God's Holy Plan". I hope so.)
I had been concerned for some time that some Western Christians, in their zeal to "save" others, might be unaware that they might open Pandora's Box by pushing other faiths to respond to challenges But it appears that this has been overtaken by events, with the challenge coming from fanatics within the Muslim world. I think it should also be noted that this challenge is no more an across-the-board gauntlet thrown down by Islam than would be a corresponding attack on the Muslim world by Christian fanatics. Most people, Christian, Hebrew, or Muslim, don't want to live in a religious police-state like Afghanistan, including, I'm sure, most Afghans. Such environments have arisen repeatedly in the past during the Protestant Reformation (the Puritans and the early Presbyterians), and, I would imagine, during comparable Muslim reforms. To this day, there are Amish and Mennonites in the U. S. who adhere to a non-technical culture, but most people don't opt for this.
Also, the Taliban are Sunnite Muslims, and are sworn enemies of the Shi'a Muslims.
It might be worth noting that the Old Testament is, in my opinion, a very bloodthirsty history of the Israelites and their neighbors. God repeatedly kills everything that moves. God instructs Saul, "'Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him: but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" Thus saith the Lord to his servant, the king. "So Saul defeated the Amekelites, from Havileh as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he captured Agag the king of the Amekelites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed."
Yea, the Lord was wroth over Saul's transgression. "The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him."
Later, Saul dies in battle. But God commands the death of every living animal Saul encounters.
God also commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and although Abraham isn't asked to complete the sacrificew of his son, human sacrifice was obviously practiced in that day. Tophet was a place where the ancient Hebrews made human-sacrificial offerings.
The Christian position is that God made a new covenant with them based upon the offering on the cross of His Only-Begotten Son, in exchange for the remission of their sins. Christian theology is based upon such shibboleths as "Love thy neighbor as thyself,", "Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth", and "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God". It must have seemed to the Christians as though God had mellowed over the millenia. Even so, Christianity left enough latitude to justify hundreds of wars, such as the Crusades, the Hundred Years War, and the Thirty Years War.
Six hundred years later, when God instructed Muhammet, He seems to have reverted to his Old-Testament Persona.
It has seemed to me to be deadly dangerous to have entered the 21st century with huge populations brainwashed into harboring 1st century superstitions. (You may feel that you're not a product of brainwashing, but think of all the other religiously-indoctrinated believers that are!) And even if that weren't the case, there are still fanatics like Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVay who go around the bend. In the meantime, we have been developing weapons that, increasingly, empower individuals to harm ever-larger numbers of people. In every movement and in every country in the world, there are psychopaths and paranoids among us who are potentially dangerous. In other words, I foresee a generic problem here that transcends Middle Eastern terrorists: the problem of the empowerment of small minorities to harm huge majorities.
Beyond this is the problem that the world is too small and vulnerable to survive our weapons of mass destruction. Nuking Afghanistan would wreak monstrous, long-lasting environmental carnage, not to mention inviting eventual reprisals in kind, and setting a terrible example for future warfare. Other indiscriminate weapons, such as biological modalities, could decimate the populations of innocent nations (thereby bringing the wrath of humankind down upon the perpetrators).
The bottom line is that it seems to me now that these terrorist attacks are the handiwork of a relatively small collection of Muslim zealots who are bent upon Muslim resurgence and domination. And if you want to get an idea what it would be like to report to these theocrats, read "Who are the Taliban?" above.