The power of ideas
What you believe does matter
Repeatedly watching the horrific spectacle of a hijacked jetliner plunging into the World Trade Center, one had to be taken by the enormous force which enabled this people-filled missile to effortlessly slice through concrete and steel in milliseconds.
Yet driving this atrocity was something far more potent—the ideas and beliefs of those who perpetrated it. One of the dead hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was seen at a local bar a few days beforehand, swilling huge amounts of vodka. Alcohol is strictly forbidden to a Muslim, so why would he thus risk Allah’s wrath?
Easy. Part of the belief system fuelling his subsequent atrocity was that the reward for his jihad martyrdom included forgiveness of all his sins (including the illicit binge)—in addition to 72 paradisiacal virgin brides.
Secularism has a problem. Part of de-Christianizing the West has been the insistence that all religions must be regarded as on an equal footing. Religion is, after all, only ‘inside people’s heads’; evolution explains the ‘real world’. So it is hard for secularists to turn around now and label the terrorists’ belief system as just plain wrong.
Oxford’s devoutly Darwinistic Professor Richard Dawkins, has no such qualms. Ignoring the 100 million killed last century through the evolution-fuelled ideologies of Hitler and Marx, he has eagerly attacked all the ‘Abrahamic religions’ (including Christianity) as intrinsically slaughter-prone. His message: only belief in an afterlife would make one capable of suicidal atrocities.1
But Shintoism’s kamikaze pilots were not motivated by afterlife rewards.2My uncle, a WWII Wehrmacht soldier, told me of fanatical tank crews, recruited from the Hitler youth in Nazism’s last gasps. Their fearless willingness to sacrifice their lives made them deadly killing machines. The ideology driving them—void of afterlife reward—was belief in the greater evolutionary good of the race/nation. And the Columbine school killers, one sporting a ‘natural selection’ T-shirt, believed that there was no afterlife judgment, so why not take out as many as possible? (See How to build a ‘bomb’ — in the Public School System)
Unlike Dawkins (and most leading evolutionists) the majority of evolution-believers do not take their view to its starkly logical conclusion—a godless, meaningless universe—instead blending ‘God and evolution’. This includes a huge percentage of Muslims with a western education, which category includes most of the terrorists. Western schools taught them to believe that all humans result from a ruthless ‘survival of the fittest’, and that many ‘branches’ of the great tree of life died off because they were unable to cope with environmental challenges, or became too degenerate. As geologist Dr Emil Silvestru indicated,3 it might make perverse sense to them when certain mullahs label the West as a dying, degenerate branch (a view aided by many post-Christian western ‘cultural exports’), and tell the sons of Islam their holy mission is to prune this decaying wood.
This evil act should bring home to us all the importance of having the right belief. First, it matters to an individual’s eternal destiny (by now, the suicided hijackers would know from first-hand experience that their para-Islamic fantasies were wrong). Second, it matters to everyone else, i.e. society. It was not secularism, but America’s Biblical heritage which made it (for all its faults) the most just, free and religiously tolerant nation on Earth. Whether Bin Laden’s ilk, or the many peace-loving Muslims who abhor terror, represent ‘true Islam’, few think that America under any version of Islam (or Buddhism, for example) would have generated the freedom and tolerance which all religions (properly) enjoy in the US.
The Bible commands Christians to ‘do good unto all’ (Galatians 6:10). Thus, while the state has the mandate to exact justice—not personal revenge—on the evildoers (Romans 13:3–4), persecuting anyone for their beliefs has no place in a Christian response.
The Bible also commands us to tell all people of the truth that there is only one way to salvation (John 14:6). Logically, only one belief system’s truth-claims can be right. Today, unfortunately, Christianity’s truth-claims are widely undermined by the belief that science has ‘proved the Bible wrong’. September 11 gave one more reason to get this magazine into as many hands as you can—because it does matter what people believe about ultimate reality.
References and notes
- Dawkins, R., No stopping religion’s misguided missile, The Age (Melbourne) 24 September 2001, originally in The Guardian (UK). Dawkins is also ignorant of the fact that the essence of the true Abrahamic religion is salvation by grace alone through faith alone, not by works, as shown by Paul’s citation of Genesis 15:6, ‘Abraham believed the LORD, and it was credited to him as righteousness’ (Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, cf. Eph. 2:8–9). As shown in this article, these terrorists were trying to earn salvation by a work, i.e. martyrdom, so by definition was not part of the Abrahamic religion; rather, their religion was a counterfeit. Many of the Crusaders were also practising a salvation-by-works mentality, in an age where the Bible was not readily available to the people. Return to text.
- The last notes of the kamikaze pilots and the Japanese view of death and afterlife, 9 October 2001. Return to text.
- Personal communication, September 2001. Return to text.