Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Bombings: Do Not Exploit

Boston Bombings: Do Not Exploit

The second principle I would like people to keep in mind in the wake of the attacks in Boston is, "Do not exploit the attacks to promote a personal or tribal agenda."

Already, as the Friendly Atheist shows, there are a lot of people about who want to exploit the Boston attacks and use them as a way to promote hatred of atheists and "the godless".

This happens with every terrorist attack, mass shooting, and even natural disaster that strikes the country. Religious leaders and their followers will step forward and say, "Give us money. Give us power. Hate the atheist."

Others will deliver the same message while pointing at homosexuals.

Some will even point to fellow believers - those who say, "I have my beliefs but will not force them on others," and blame them. Their message is, in effect, "NOT forcing our beliefs on everybody and demanding that everybody worship him as we do makes God angry and that is what makes these types of attacks possible."

On the other side, there are atheists eagerly waiting for information about the attacker or attackers that they can use to make the same types of attacks against theists. At any sign that the attackers had a belief in God (which they almost certainly did) and rationalized their act in religion terms will cause them to stand and shout - on social networks and across the web - "Religion did this!"

No, religion did not do this.

Perhaps a theistic philosophy did this. However, the gap from 'a theistic philosophy' to 'theism' is just a large as the gap from 'an atheistic philosophy' to 'atheism'.

In the latter case, atheists often boast that no harm was ever done in the name of 'atheism' because 'atheism' merely means the belief that there is or probably is no god. (Some say 'a lack of a belief in god' as if rocks and squirrels are atheists.) This is true. However, there have been harms done in the name of atheistic ideologies. The French Revolution, Marxism, and Ayn Rand Objectivism provide three examples. This exactly parallels the case that while harm has been done in the name of certain theist philosophies, 'theism' is merely the belief that one or more gods certainly or almost certainly exists.

"Theism", like "Atheism," says nothing about blowing people up. "Some atheistic philosophies", like "some theistic philosophies", are very comfortable with the idea.

The fact that so many atheists cannot grasp this reasoning is evidence that atheists are not immune to the malignant effects of trial psychology. They are not immune from the human disposition to take a tragedy such as the Boston attacks and exploit it to unjustly denigrate all who belong to what they see as competing tribes.

At this point, we cannot say that the bombing was not motivated by "an atheistic philosophy". Consideration of that possibility may inform a few atheists of what the proper reaction should be if the bombing turns out to be motivated by "a theistic philosophy".

Of course, the paradigm example of exploiting a terrorist attack came on the heals of the 9/11 attack. It seems almost certain that within days if not hours of the 9/11 attacks, senior officials in the Bush administration were telling each other, "We can use this."

Many of those senior White House officials has signed a letter when Clinton was president advising him to attack Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. They certainly thought it would be a good thing for their own administration to do what they had advised the Clinton Administration to do. What they needed was an opportunity to get the people behind them. The 9/11 terrorist attack gave them that opportunity.

As a result, they took their attention off (or their attention was never actually fully on) those who attacked America and its backers and wasted trillions of dollars, got thousands of young and patriotic Americans killed and tens of thousands wounded, and wasted trillions of dollars on destruction that could have been spent on construction.

They left truth and justice behind and, in doing so, they proved to a boon to anti-American terrorist recruiting and fundraising. Their blundering continues to haunt us to this day.

The wise and responsible thing to do is to keep the attention focused on exactly who conducted the attack, and to avoid the temptation to focus blame on a wider group that serves a personal or tribal interest.

1 comment:

Sean Sherman said...

An interesting postscript to this was the intentional exclusion of the Harvard Humanists/actual victims from the 'city healing 'ceremony' due to not being religious. A sad ending.