A day that will live in infamy

I had just gone for my morning run.  I was lying on my bed, resting for a bit before I had to shower and go to school.  It was my first year of college.  My roommate walks in "Keith, someone just attacked the twin towers".  It didn't register.  To me, something like this doesn't happen in real life "Both of them?" I reply.  "Yes".

I remember the reaction.  It was both expected and empowering to witness.  President Bush (whom I admired and supported at the time) called for a national day of mourning, asking each religion to hold its own service.  As I recall, the attack was on a Tuesday and the day of mourning was set for that Friday.  What could be better than joining together in faith to mourn for the loss of our fellow Americans.  So, we did.  The Mormon Tabernacle choir sang and the leaders of the church spoke about the tragedy.  We all affirmed our faith, in whichever denomination we put it.

At the time, nothing could seem more natural than to join together in prayer and faith.  Now, I look back and see how horribly ironic that reaction is.  We react to an act of faith by declaring our faith.  We say that our religion is peaceful, not like the suicide-bombing Muslim extremists.  We believe in a loving god.  We're different.  But, are we really different?  Are we a peace-loving people?  I want to point out just how hypocritical we are, and that we are not just the same as the Muslims--we are actually far worse.

Roughly 3,000 Americans were killed in the 9/11 attacks.  This is tragic.  It is to be mourned.  But, immediately following this attack, we invaded Iraq.  We killed hundreds of thousands (one estimate is a little over 1 million) of Iraqi civilians--these are innocent people, not involved in the conflict.  Our retribution is to kill a hundred times as many people as we lost?  That's not just revenge, that's not just defending ourselves, that's horrific.  And, Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 atta.cks.  We invaded because--according to the official story--they had weapons of mass destruction.  First, it turns out they didn't have the WMDs we thought they had.  Second, isn't that hypocritical of us to invade a country with weapons of mass destruction?  We have tons of WMDs.  We have weapons so destructive and horrific that they can level an entire city, killing millions all in one stroke--and we released those weapons on two of Japan's biggest cities.

But, what I just found out really sickens me.   We did our own September 11 attack, back in 1973.  We supported a coup de tat of the Chilean government, overthrowing their democratically elected leader and putting in the tyrant Augosto Pinochet.  This coup resulted in thousands of deaths and established the tyrant for what would become a 16-year reign.

But this is the main reason why I look back on that day in 2001 and see only irony.  Sam Harris had an appropriate reaction.  He saw that the real problem with this particular attack was faith.  When someone believes in a god so strongly that they are literally willing to do anything to show their faith in their god, that is a dangerous thing.  They become weapons.  They become tools of destruction.

I recently posted on my wall a question asking people if they would be willing to kill me if their god told them to.  I had one friend answer in the affirmative.  He said that if god asked him to kill someone, he must have a good reason for it.  This is the danger of faith.  This is the problem with doing whatever it is that your god asks of you.  People start to justify horrible, unconscionable actions with their faith in their god.  Muslim extremists will fly planes into buildings in order to exhibit their faith, and Christians will declare war on tiny Middle-Eastern countries, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians.  Why is so much death and destruction spread because of belief in an allegedly loving god?  And why do we continue to support and defend such disgusting beliefs?  We need to encourage rational thought.   We need to encourage morality.  We need to encourage being compassionate and kind.  We need to discourage blind obedience.  We need to discourage being willing to do anything for a leader figure (be it mortal or immortal).  We need to challenge authority.