I found Mr. David Bellotti’s letter in the Sunday Ideas section somewhat amusing. Are we who profess a non-god-based religion called to rally to our own defense as religions line up for battle and as consequently this culture is being sucked up into a black hole of religious and jingoistic fervor?
Stage right: An “allahu aqbar” screaming mob with waving flags and a spirit of self-sacrifice in the cause of jihad. Stage left: A “God bless something” screaming mob with waving flags, a spirit of vengeance—though that be His, sayeth the Lord!—and a spirit of self-sacrifice in the cause of crusade. And Mr. Bellotti wants folks like me to go to stage center and raise a great hue and cry in the cause of sanity, fairness, tolerance, understanding, and civil liberties?—I don’t think so. We’d probably be bludgeoned at the same time by a crucifix or a crusader’s sword wielded from one and a scimitar wielded from the other side. No, as in all religious strife, it’s best for the rational folks to step back and wait till both groups have found some level of katharsis.
Let’s just let one group of religious fanatics look for the Great Satan—as Osama bin Laden and his friends see it—and let’s let the other group of religious fanatics try to find traces of the great evil—as some of the simpletons on this side see it. And when they’ve gotten all the emotional religion-inspired venom out of their system, perhaps we can try again with a carefully reasoned attempt to get people to place themselves into their fellow humans’ shoes to understand and to empathize fully before they draw any conclusions.
I will never forget the observation of Dr. Hammond, my history professor at Texas Christian University many years ago, who fought in the First World War. Reflecting about his youthful innocence and religious naiveté, he said that he read on the belt buckles of dead German soldiers the words, “Gott mit uns.” And once translated to him as “God with us,” the statement was cause of even greater bewilderment about how that was possible since—obviously!—the American soldiery knew God to be with them.
As soon as we believe that some god has intervened on behalf of our side, we’ve obviously let go of our moral obligation to be responsible for our own decisions. Let’s not forget that in the luggage of the hijackers were not only flying instructions but also prayers AND promises of the paradise to come. And now Mr. Bellotti, Pastor Welch, Jerry Falwell, and others on this side believe that ubiquitous prayer and a breakdown of the separation of church and state is truly an answer? Is there any way to be any more self-deluded and morally irresponsible?
I still would like to see someone of that religious mob on either side wave the UN flag and cry, “God Bless the World!” Now, that might be something to begin building a future with.