Len asked <<Has anyone ever heard of an
I suppose an answer to this question would depend on what one means by
'terrorist'. In current usage 'terrorism' tends to mean acts of violence
against civilians. But this seems too broad as it can refer to any violent
action against non-military individuals (such as a bank hold-up), and not
all such instances are understood to be acts of terrorism. There is
(typically, but not always) an element of organization and political purpose
or agenda (e.g., Al Qaeda's organized efforts to destroy western
civilization, or some rogue environmentalist group bent on hampering the
logging industry, etc.). So it would seem that terrorism as such would imply
in some manner a long-term conspiratorial element in most cases.
Is Ted Kazcinsky, the infamous Unabomber, an atheist? I don't know if he
were, but it would not surprise me if he rejected religious belief, thus
implying that he is an atheist (I invite correction here if I am mistaken).
Then again, in our political climate in which some factions intend to vilify
non-belief as such, I think I would have heard more about this if Kazcinsky
were an atheist from the media. But I think it's still a possibility that he
is/was an atheist, since he was acting (for all I know) on his own and did
not seem to be associated with any religious teachings (as we understand
But the point which I think needs to be stressed here is that atheism in no
way prevents one from being a terrorist. Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung were
all atheists, and their atrocities against human individuals far surpasses
those of Hitler. So being an atheist in no way guarantees that terrorism
and, more importantly, dictatorship will cease. One could be an atheist
today, expressing nothing but vehement resentment for religions, and still
be a gung-ho environmentalist who seeks to destroy a housing community via
terrorist tactics because it is located on the breeding grounds of an
endangered species of cockroach.
Thus, when Len suggests that "Therefore if we eliminated theism we'd be free
of this menace," I'd say GUESS AGAIN.
These particular points must all be framed within a broader consideration:
man's need for philosophy. The task of philosophy is to give man a
comprehensive view of reality and of his life. Our every thought and action
has philosophical implications, whether we are aware of them as such or not.
A religion is a primitive form of philosophy: it is irrational,
pre-scientific and mystical in nature. Religion is man's early attempt to
identify reality and to develop an understanding for knowledge and a code of
values, and by extension a political or social theory which rests on these.
Where reason and science encourage men to seek out answers to the questions
they have about reality, religion (particularly western monotheism) claims
to already have those answers, and condemns those who question or dispute
Atheism is NOT a philosophy; it is simply a negation of god-belief, and
nothing more. Notice how often there is little or no agreement between two
atheists even on fundamental matters. Atheism tells what one does not
believe, it does not tell what one does hold to be true and/or proper. This
is the task of philosophy, and no man is exempt from this. Atheism as such
is inert, since it does not make any positive claims of its own.
So it's quite possible for one to be an atheist and still ascribe to an
irrational form of philosophy, as did Lenin, Stalin and Mao. And look at the
results: they were no different from an organized religion which formed a
union with the state (such as the kings of the past which aligned themselves
conveniently with the church in order to broaden their power). The lust for
power over others is inherent in both communism and religion, and that is
why such philosophies are anti-man in nature.
The solution is not, as the Rev suggests, to outlaw religion. One can only
endorse this as a "solution" if he rejects the ideal that individuals have
the right to exist for their own sake (which of course, many atheists do!).
Men must be left free to engage their minds as they choose, so long as they
do not violate the rights of others (and simply holding religious beliefs
does not violate the rights of others, any more than not holding religious
beliefs violates the rights of others). The idea of outlawing religious
belief is just another form of thought control, which is what religion does
so well. And this is the very mistake which Lenin, Stalin and Mao committed.
Thus, we need a system of objective laws which identifies and secures
individual rights (and we've seen how successful religion has been in this
Therefore, if one's intentions are to help rid the world of terrorism, a
goal which I think is noble, but impossible so long as irrational
philosophies hold currency among men on earth, one must promote a *rational*
form of philosophy, a philosophy which is this-worldly (since this world is
where everyone lives) - i.e., reality-based, a philosophy which is based on
*reason* (as opposed to "faith" which is simply another word for confusing
one's emotions and desires for a means of validation), a philosophy which
promotes a morality of rational self-interest (as opposed to the ethics of
self-sacrifice which both religion and collectivistic philosophies endorse),
and individual rights (not to be confused with indefinite, obscure notions
such as 'civil rights' or 'civil liberties' which are merely catchwords for
those who seek privileges at the expense of others). Such a philosophy does
not follow automatically from one calling himself an atheist. (And I say
this, even though I am an atheist.)
Many of these issues are outlined in an essay on the web titled "Religion
Wears a Bloody Glove" at this address:
This essay shows how collectivist ideologies like communism share the same
philosophical bases of religion in terms of fundamentals. In many respects,
communism is simply a secularized religion. While in religion the individual
must be sacrificed to a supernatural god, in communism the individual must
be sacrificed to the state, the collective or "society." If you think that's
a good idea, then begin the orgy of self-sacrifice with yourselves, for this
is your ideal, not mine.
I implore that those reading this who call themselves "atheists" endeavor to
broaden their intellectual horizon. Simply railing against religious
individuals in order to "make the world a better place" will not do. The
issues you are addressing are far more complicated than simply disliking
someone's religious beliefs, and if you are serious about effectively
criticizing religion, then I suggest you do a little more homework and begin
to think responsibly.