Can we please stop having religion, people?

So this idiot punk-ass Somali kid decides he wants to be a big jihad hero and set off a bomb in Portland, and is exactly dumb enough to walk right into a sting. I imagine the FBI was having a hard time not laughing as they handed him the cell phone he thought would trigger a massive explosion. “Dude, it’ll be just like on 24, except this time you’re the good guy!”

On Sunday some clodhoppers decide to retaliate by burning down the Islamic Center the kid attended, though they only managed to scorch part of it a little bit and cause some smoke damage.

In the midst of all this, we have the unsurprising spectacle of Christopher Hitchens turning Tony Blair into thin strips of beef tripe in a debate over whether religion is a “force for good” in the world. The only debate there is whether anyone who would answer yes to that question is merely deluded or maliciously ignorant.

Religion, more and more, is being revealed as a haven for lunatics willing to commit all manner of lunacy to curry the favor of an imaginary father figure. I see precious few good guys, only idiots with competing holy books trying to outdo one another’s monumental acts of barbarism. Whatever good “faith” may be doing anyone is well hidden from view, at best. Can everybody please just let it go already?

…Sorry. Slipped into a little reverie there. Back to bad old reality yet again.

Burning Korans, drawing Mohammed, avoiding hypocrisy, creative vs. destructive protests — religion just makes the whole frickin’ world crazy!

There’s a truth about the upcoming Koran cookout planned by Dove World Church and its grandstanding (and light-fingered) pastor Terry Jones: they have every right under the Constitution to do this thing. Are they a bunch of dicks who don’t care about the potential devastating backlash of their actions as long as they get the publicity they crave? Yeah, I suppose they are.

Recently, atheists proudly participated in an online event called Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, which was as deliberate a middle finger to Islam as we could have thought up. Before that, PZ Myers famously threw a cracker in the trash, making him the bête noire of Catholics worldwide. (Though they conveniently forget that he also trashed a copy of The God Delusion at the same time.) As people who are not above acts of deliberate provocation ourselves — indeed, as people who are currently arguing amongst ourselves about the merits of “being a dick” in our encounters with religionists — it would hardly be honest of us to join the chorus of chest-beating outrage against Jones’ church for the horrible offense of burning somebody’s holy book. While most of us, I’m sure, take Fahrenheit 451 to heart and deplore book-burning on general principles as a disgraceful act of intellectual cowardice and the suppression of ideas, we should also acknowledge the legitimacy of the act as a form of protest speech. After all, I can’t very well defend the rights of flag-burners while condemning a Koran-burner. Don’t work dat way!

I suppose where the conversation ought to go from here for atheists is in whether or not Jones is motivated by a desire to conduct a legitimate form of protest, or if he’s simply a crass political opportunist, playing into a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry in order to increase his profile from “obscure pastor of an outcast hick church” to “internationally famous martyr and warrior for Christ”. Well, what is legitimate protest in this context? Yes, radical Islamists brought down the World Trade Center. But all Muslims are not radical Islamists, and all Muslims did not partake in, let alone condone, the 9/11 attacks. So if Jones’s idea is that he’s protesting Islam for 9/11, he’s clearly throwing his net way too wide. The thing is, I suppose he knows it, but doesn’t care. He’s getting the publicity he wants.

The potential for hypocrisy in criticizing the upcoming burning has been much on my mind, and I’ve been forced to think about the similarities and differences between what Jones is about to do, and, say, Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. And then I’ve been forced to question whether or not any of my ideas are simply bullshit justifications I’ve been making up to feel better. I don’t think they are. But I do think it’s a positive thing, overall, that I’m willing to be self-critical. This is an advantage the godless life offers, I think, over the brazen certainties of God-botherers like Jones, who confidently assert that God (i.e., their projection of themselves upon the universe) truly wants them to do what they’re planning.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, for one thing, was on the whole a creative rather than destructive act of protest. It was a response, not only to the real Islamist violence and threats of violence that erupted in the wake of the publication of a few innocuous (and not especially good, when you think about it) cartoons, but to the arrogant assumption on the part of Islamists that non-Muslims were somehow obligated to follow Islam’s rules. Also, at the end of the day, what you had were a bunch of silly cartoons. While there was a little huffing and puffing about EDMD, in the end, the message I think got across (to the general public, if not to radicals) that taking someone’s life over a lame doodle was both insane and pitiful in equal measure. Lame doodles themselves can’t possibly hurt a fly. EDMD might have offended some Muslims. But in the end, no one killed anyone.

Now, piling up a couple hundred copies of the Koran and torching them — that would be a destructive form of protest. Furthermore, it’s hypocritical of Jones to justify it by condemning Islam as a hateful, intolerant religion, when he has a history of hate speech (against gays, the usual suspects) and intolerance. While I think Jones has the right to go through with his speech, I don’t think his motives are honest. He’s exactly what he condemns, except that his religious radicalism wears a cross rather than a crescent moon and star. (The atheists who took part in EDMD might condemn Islam and Islamist violence, but we’d never want to deprive Muslims of their right to worship, as many right-wingers do right now.)

Could this event trigger more terrorist attacks and counter-strikes against our troops overseas? Yeah, I suppose it could, though it isn’t as if they needed more reasons to do that. But if Jones ends up giving them one, the first such attack will be all the vindication he needs. “See, we were right about how violent Islam is!” Not caring that, in this instance, he threw the first punch. Yeah, it’s entirely valid to condemn radical Islamists for doing what they actually do, which is kill people who aren’t sufficiently “respectful” to their beliefs. But you limit your condemnation to those individuals and groups who do the violence. As has been pointed out to an indifferent Jones, it’s absurd and dishonest as hell for him to suggest that he’s only protesting the violent Islamists, and that “moderate Muslims” ought to support him, when it’s their holy book he’s burning too.

In the end, I think what we as atheists should take away from all this insanity is a sobering realization that this is the kind of world you get when religion runs the show. Belief pits us against our fellow man for the most absurd of reasons: failure to worship the correct invisible magic man in the correct way. And for all that defenders bleat about the alleged benefits of religion — that sense of charity, well-being, love and community we are told believers enjoy better than any of the rest of us — they always leave out the part about religion’s innate tribalism. Whatever benefits religious beliefs confer are only enjoyed by those within that particular belief community. If you’re an outsider…run.

We rationalists can only hope humanity outgrows its penchant for religious tribalism one day, and that all these vile superstitions are eradicated from our cultural landscape completely. (Not through violence, of course, but through intellectual and moral awakening.) There really ought to only be one tribe — humanity.

But until then…yeah, go ahead, burn that Koran. Whatever. I’ll be at home that day. Let me know when the smoke clears and it’s safe to breathe free again.

Why we need blasphemy

Pat Condell, in one of his wonderfully cranky YouTube rants, opined that the Danes (I think it was the Danes) were probably wondering what the hell had happened to their free country since Islam showed up. The idea that freedom should surrender without a fight to religious fundamentalism of any kind, but especially that which has only fear and violence to support itself, is disgusting. And craven laws like that passed in Ireland, which naively strip away basic rights out of the fear of even a little bit of violence, merely give the fundamentalists what they want: a culture of oppression which is the only kind of culture where fundamentalism can thrive.

Now from Denmark comes word that a Somali terrorist has been shot (to which I say “Good,” and the PC crowd can flame away all they like) and wounded attempting to break into the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who was responsible for some of the controversial Mohammed cartoons that caused such a stink some years ago. The man’s goal was, of course, not to sit down over coffee with Westergaard to offer constructive critiques and rebuttals to his work, but to murder him, which is of course a perfectly rational response to a cartoon.

Once more with feeling: if your religion cannot stand up to a fucking cartoon, it ain’t the cartoon that has the problem.

I have spoken to a number of atheists who, with the very best of intentions, have naively asserted that the best thing to do when faced with the violence of radical religious extremists is to sit down, shut up, and not get them riled, because really, we don’t want anyone to get hurt, do we? That they cannot see how this cowardice and capitulation gives religious lunatics the power over us they wanted all along never ceases to amaze me. And does anyone actually think that, by appeasing them once in this way, they’ll be satisfied and decide they can stop shooting and bombing and whatever else it is sky-daddy has told them to do this week, “peace” be upon him? Let’s do that as a multiple choice question: A) No; B) No; C) Hell no!; D) What, are you stupid? Once they know that a tiny bit of fear is all it takes to control you, then they’ll just keep demanding and threatening more and more, until you’re afraid to wipe your tender bottom without their divine mandate.

People, what we need is more blasphemy, more anger and more outrage in the face of this lunacy. Religious extremists are the cockroaches in the kitchen, and only the light of reason will send them scurrying to hide. Belief systems propped up by violence are ones that have already failed. No respect should be given them. So pick up your pens, cartoonists, and blaspheme your butts off! And if they turn up at your door, well…shoot first. If they really think they’re the only ones out there to be feared, they obviously haven’t heard Matt Groening’s dictum: “It is unwise to annoy a cartoonist!”

Don’t fear to let bad guys talk

There are many lines that you can expect to hear on just about every episode of The Atheist Experience. One is “Tell me what you believe and why you believe it.” Another is “Promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state.” However, I think one of the most important repeated lines is: “If you disagree with us, then we will try to get to your call more quickly.”

To me, that’s a vital component of intellectual honesty. Anyone can barricade themselves in a mental fortress of belief, deciding on what is true “in their hearts” early in life, and refusing to listen to any evidence to the contrary. However, if you want to have as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible, you simply have to step out of your fortress and really listen openly to what people are saying who don’t agree with you. There is no other way to expose the false beliefs you hold and the true beliefs that you lack.

That’s why I generally want to make it a point in life to read the Bible, listen to Christian radio, argue with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and take all the callers I can.

That’s also why I’m kind of disappointed, though not really surprised, by the apparent terror that, ah, certain people seem to have these days over putting 9/11 terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in a civilian court.

As I understand it, there are two major concerns at play here, both of them (not to put too fine a point on it) cretinous. One of them is that Mohammed will escape from jail and go on the most horrifying killing spree the world has ever known. The other is that if Mohammed is allowed to defend himself in court, then the dulcet tones of his voice spouting terrorist propaganda will surely incite more violence against the United States.

Ezra Klein masterfully dismantles both arguments in just a few short sentences. Regarding their escape:

These guys took down a plane with box cutters. They used crude weapons to attack a far more sophisticated and effective fighting force. The most fearsome of them was captured at home, in his pajamas. It’s not like we’re putting Magneto on trial and need to keep him away from metal filings.

And regarding letting him talk:

Trying these guys publicly, as well as holding them in normal prisons like common criminals, is good public relations. Being a terrorist is a more appealing prospect if the world’s sole superpower appears to cower before your might than it is if you end up trapped in the American legal system, forced to submit to endless cross-examination and consultation with attorneys and other bureaucratic humiliations. Lots of people want to be super villains. But who wants to be a henchman? Being held on a fortified military island and tortured by a country that can’t seem to get you to talk is a much more glorious finish than a long and dull trial that ends with you serving time in central New Jersey.

When you come right down to it, Mohammed is really just another extreme religious crackpot, and talking and listening to religious crackpots is what we on the Atheist Experience want to happen. We want it to happen because crackpottery thrives on remaining mysterious. If you can frame your crackpottery in a few pithy sentences appealing to some seemingly high minded ideals, then it sounds superficially convincing. But when you start probing their beliefs in depth, that’s when you get to have conversations like this

“Tommy Davis previously denied the Xenu story, asking CNN reporter John Roberts if it ‘sounded ridiculous’ and saying the story was ‘unrecognisable’ to him. The Xenu story has also been denied by actor Tom Cruise and other famous Scientologists.”

And this

“Wait. Mormons actually know this story and they still believe Joseph Smith was a prophet? …No, it’s a matter of logic! If you’re gonna say things that have been proven wrong, like that the first man and woman lived in Missouri, and that Native Americans came from Jerusalem, then you’d better have something to back it up. All you’ve got are a bunch of stories about some asswipe who read plates nobody ever saw out of a hat, and then couldn’t do it again when the translations were hidden!”*

And this

“Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man… living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you! He loves you. He loves you and he needs money!”

That’s what we want to have happen with the beliefs of fuckwits like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. We want an American lawyer to stand up in front of this guy on the witness stand, and let him spout off his beliefs. And then we want our lawyer to shake his head in disbelief, and say “Mr. Mohammed, are you freaking kidding me????

What we don’t want is for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to get away with no trial at all, or a tribunal under cover of darkness. We don’t want him to be executed without a chance to air out his horrific, vile sounding views. We don’t want to give people an excuse to make a martyr out of him without laying his idiocy bare for the entire world to see.

I’m sure some people will object that someone will hear his words and say “Hey, ya know? This jihad business sounds pretty reasonable to me.” And I’m sure that that’s true; I can imagine that there are probably a (very, very, very small) number of people who were not already looking to sign up for the terrorist lifestyle, but will be persuaded by Mohammed’s silver tongue to join the cause.

But you know what else? I’m willing to take that chance, because I’m seriously betting that the number of people who will be moved to sympathy for America and disgust for Mohammed and his ilk would tremendously dwarf the number of people who would fall for his recruitment speech.

I am firmly of the belief that you can’t prevent bad ideas from being heard, but you can shed light on them and make them look foolish. I think it’s the ideal of free speech that we should all strive for. If I didn’t think that, then I would have to conclude once and for all that our little public access show is a bust, simply on the grounds that we have allowed so many more bad ideas to get air time than would have gotten it otherwise.

Call me a naive idealist for having some faith in humanity that they can be dragged to a reasonable position. The ones to really watch out for are the small-minded, pathetic people polluting the airwaves, who are afraid to hear Khalid talk. Somehow they must feel that his beliefs are so reasonable and so seductive that millions of people will become America’s enemies just by listening to a defeated criminal speak on a docket. And frankly, I feel sorry for them, for the fear of the world around them that they must feel every day
.

* Note: It was pointed out in the comments that the quote about Mormonism from South Park, while funny, is not an accurate representation of the Mormon story.

Is Religion Beneficial to Society?

I’m currently in a correspondence with a person who is offering me the tired line that religion is helpful to people and not in conflict with science and has been involved in some worthy efforts.

This morning, February 25, in the Austin American-Statesman, there were two articles—one on the front page of the National section, and one on the front of the Local and State—that covered dangerous errors in sex education in our schools and legislation undermining the relationship between a woman and her doctor, which also noted that our governor has once again spoken out against medical research that researchers believe could yield beneficial medical results. Make no mistake, these initiatives are designed purely to resonate among religious constituents. Are there nonreligious people who might (and do) support these same measures? Yes, I’m sure there are. Would there be enough people motivated outside of religious initiatives to make these “issues” important to legislators? I highly doubt it. The reason they are “issues” is because they are religiously supported agendas. And religion means numbers.

I agree that religion is not in conflict with science—in any area where science is not in conflict with religion. However, as soon as science puts forward any assertion that does not correlate to religious claims, science comes under attack from religion, and bad things happen. The correspondent pointed out that Islamic nations long ago were among some of the most progressive thinkers in math and science. I have heard this, too. However, I wonder what sorts progressive thinking applied to apostates and heretics in these same ancient Islamic nations? Was a conversion to another religion (outside of Islam) taken in stride, do you think?

I don’t claim that where religion doesn’t conflict with X, religion will automatically oppose X. But where religion perceives that X opposes religion, X will be castigated by religious adherents—often violently and forcefully. We see it daily. And I am unaware of a time when it wasn’t so.

For awhile, I’ve been mentioning to Matt that I would like to see a publication of the letters we get to the TV-List. I would devote a section to all the letters, like this latest, telling me that religion is benign or good for people for the most part. And I would follow that section with all the letters we get from adherents telling us that their religion is good, who after a few exchanges say that mass genocide, mass infanticide, suicide-mass-murder, rape, slavery and child sacrifice are all morally acceptable if, and only if, a god tells you to do these things.

I often hear the question “Name one benefit religion offers that could not be achieved secularly (without the lies and harm that comes with religion).” It’s not a benefit, but I have found that you can get a person to say that “X is not moral in situation Y,” and then turn around in only one or two exchanges and get them to say “X was moral in situation Y because there was an added caveat that god said to do it.”

Religion can take a human being who is willing to condemn an action as immoral in a particular circumstance, and get them to say that same action is moral in that same circumstance, if a god says to do it. Now, there are certainly regimes that can get people to commit atrocities that aren’t religious. But it would be hard to get someone who is not a sociopath to admit in a hypothetical that he’d be willing to slaughter children in droves if a charismatic leader asked him to do it, or that he would kill his own child at the request of some persuasive person. Might he do it for a person if the situation actually arose? Yes. He might. Is he likely to foresee and admit that a human could ever convince him to do it (without some form of immediate duress)? No.

Is a belief system that can take a person’s moral reason and short-circuit that to “obey without question” a benign and harmless system? Aren’t we describing a ticking time bomb? What stands between this person committing atrocities—but something to convince him it’s what his god wants out of him? Is a person who says that killing children is right if god requests it, honestly that different than a person who actually kills children because he believes god requested it? Aren’t they the same person, except that one is merely waiting for some cue?

I recall a particular letter from a father of a nine-month-old who wrote to say that even if his religion isn’t true, what harm is it to raise his daughter in Christianity?

I asked him if he accepted the doctrines of hell and salvation. He did. I explained that in his paradigm, salvation requires a blanket condemnation of all human beings as imperfect for being who and what they are. Salvation and hell don’t mean “imperfect” as in “nobody’s perfect,” but “imperfect” as in “You are so horribly and inherently flawed, that by rights you deserve eternal torture according to god, and as your Christian dad, I have to agree that’s exactly what someone like you, my child, should get.”

I asked him what he thought it would mean to a little girl to know that her father sees her as that sort of a horrible being—inherently flawed to the point of complete and total unacceptability?

Initially he attempted to argue god’s love for us and how god wants us to go to heaven and not go to hell. But he couldn’t really find a way to get around the fact that his doctrines meant that he had to say he thought his daughter was inherently flawed and that nothing intrinsic to her could ever be “good enough” to merit anything but eternal punishment. He finally grasped that if there were something she could do that would make her “good enough” to not merit an eternity of torture, then intervention by Jesus would be unnecessary—negating the doctrine of salvation through Jesus. And without someone like Jesus granting her god’s “mercy” (mercy, meaning it’s not what she really deserves, but what god gives her regardless of her undeserving nature), she was hopeless and despicable.

Most of us would normally have a hard time saying any of our worst recorded criminals should be, by rights, tortured for eternity. But even if we felt that way about a person, I would expect that their actions would have to be, in some regard, fairly heinous. Someone might want revenge on Hitler to the point of hoping for a merciless, vengeful eternity of torture. But an average child? Or even an average adult? It’s hard to believe anyone would say that any of our friends and neighbors should be deserving of torture for ten minutes, let alone eternity?

I asked this dad what he would think of a neighbor who each day sat his own kids down and told them, “I think you are all such despicable children that you deserve nothing less than to be beaten without mercy, but since I love you so much, I won’t do that to you, so long as you tell me how truly sorry you are that you’re who and what you are—utterly unworthy.”

I don’t say there aren’t or couldn’t be secular systems that impact normal people’s minds and thwart their reason and moral sense in this way. I don’t say that nonreligious systems can’t and haven’t gotten good people to do bad things. What I’m saying is that I’d be hard pressed to get a human with a normally developed brain, who isn’t already abusive or a sociopath, to say—in a purely hypothetical framework—that people ought to be tortured simply for being people—and for no other reason.

I have never met people who have told me that any historical or current genocide or mass infanticide was “morally right” for any reason other than “god commanded it.” And I haven’t just met a few of those. I’ve met many. And I’m still meeting them. And I can Google their responses to the Old Testament stories and find site after site attesting to the moral correctness of committing atrocities for the Christian god. And I can
’t stress strongly enough that these are not the Fred Phelps’s of the world. These are good, tax-paying, loving, caring, generous people who work and live along side us all in every segment of our society. In fact, any Christian who accepts the Bible as true and god as good, must assert these actions are good in any situation where they are commanded by a god.

There is something unnerving about living in a society where the predominant religion is one that can make a standard, normal human assert that atrocities should never be committed—except when god says to commit them. And then recognizing that in this same society, most of my fellow citizens believe a god exists and in some way communicates or has communicated with them and/or others. And that they further believe that this god, according to their sacred texts, has righteously commanded such atrocities to be committed by his adherents.

Call me crazy?

A grim reminder on a grim anniversary: it can happen here

Because people need to remember exactly what was at the root of the most horrific terrorist act of modern times: religious fundamentalism and zealotry. Here is the list of instructions that was found among the personal effects of 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Some salient excerpts:

Keep in mind that, if you fall into hardship, how will you act and how will you remain steadfast and remember that you will return to God and remember that anything that happens to you could never be avoided, and what did not happen to you could never have happened to you. This test from Almighty God is to raise your level [levels of heaven] and erase your sins. And be sure that it is a matter of moments, which will then pass, God willing, so blessed are those who win the great reward of God. Almighty God said: ‘Did you think you could go to heaven before God knows whom amongst you have fought for Him and are patient?’

Remember the words of Almighty God: ‘You were looking to the battle before you engaged in it, and now you see it with your own two eyes.’ Remember: ‘How many small groups beat big groups by the will of God.’ And His words: ‘If God gives you victory, no one can beat you. And if He betrays you, who can give you victory without Him? So the faithful put their trust in God.’

When you have reached (M) and have left the taxi, say a supplication of place ['Oh Lord, I ask you for the best of this place, and ask you to protect me from its evils'], and everywhere you go say that prayer and smile and be calm, for God is with the believers. And the angels protect you without you feeling anything. Say this supplication: ‘God is more dear than all of His creation.’ And say: ‘Oh Lord, protect me from them as You wish.’ And say: ‘Oh Lord, take your anger out on [the enemy] and we ask You to protect us from their evils.’ And say: ‘Oh Lord, block their vision from in front of them, so that they may not see.’ And say: ‘God is all we need, He is the best to rely upon.’ Remember God’s words: ‘Those to whom the people said, “The people have gathered to get you, so fear them,” but that only increased their faith and they said, God is all we need, He is the best to rely upon.’

The ultimate “faith based initiative,” this.

Ah Martin, some of you might be saying, of course radical Islamists are violent psychotics. But that’s what their religion promotes. Christianity is all about peace and love and forgiveness and fluffy bunnies. You’d never see that kind of mindset bred here, goodness gracious me no!

Except, of course, we do. Meet “Joel’s Army,” a fast-growing group of Dominionist maniacs so flamboyantly extreme that they even frighten other conservative Christians. In the words of Rick Joyner, a popular pastor associated with the movement:

“As the church begins to take on this resolve, they [Joel's Army churches] will start to be thought of more as military bases, and they will begin to take on the characteristics of military bases for training, equipping, and deploying effective spiritual forces,” Joyner wrote. “In time, the church will actually be organized more as a military force with an army, navy, air force, etc.”

This is how you brainwash a generation of kids into becoming the kinds of killers who strap bombs to themselves and walk into public places. You convince them that any violent act they see fit to commit is fully justified as an act of self-defense. And the best way to feel like you’re a persecuted minority when you really aren’t is by embracing religious piety. Ol’ Adolf had convinced himself of this, when he wrote many religious justifications in Mein Kampf for his anti-Semitism, and the psychology was well understood by Hermann Goering, a much smarter and more cunning man than Hitler, who testified in Nuremberg, “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Goering was speaking in a general political sense there, but the principle applies to religious terror as well. Just replace “pacifists” with “unbelievers” or “unsaved,” and “patriotism” with “piety” or “faith,” and it’s basically the same sentiment.

Joel’s Army have what must be the biggest case of fatwa envy on the planet, and take my cynical little word for it: the only difference between them and al Qaeda is that Joel’s Army simply haven’t gotten around to the “killing people” part of their plans yet. They’re hopeful, indeed, even eager, to see a sea change in public attitudes that will make that kind of activity in America receive the sort of overall public support that Qaeda’s terrorism gets in much of the Islamic world. But that doesn’t mean they’ll wait around to commit acts of violence, any more than the Islamist terrorists have. Proud of their anti-intellectualism and lack of education and worldliness, the cretins of Joel’s Army pray for the day God’s armies swoop down across the United States, killing off all the fags and libruls and establishing a blessed Christian fascist theocracy to welcome the savior’s second coming.

Sure, you might say that, with the vast majority even of Christian denominations contemptuous of the militarist fantasies of JA’s “Kingdom Now” theology, and arrayed against them, that they’re unlikely to gain any kind of majority foothold. But while they might hope for that kind of acceptance, disaffected loons don’t exactly need a majority foothold to be violent. Indeed, the feeling of being further isolated and marginalized might prompt them to action sooner rather than later. And with the far right currently energized by the rise in popularity of Sarah Palin, a book-banning zealot of the fire-and-brimstone old school from a Dominionist church, who knows what kind of plans are fomenting in the brains of these loons, if it looks like even a shred of respectability is suddenly being accorded their views. (Not saying that Palin’s fundamentalism, while too extreme to make her a safe bet in the White House, is as extreme as Joel’s Army. But the link between her church and Dominionist teaching has been noted.)

So on the 7th anniversary of 9/11, it behooves us to remember that not only is the war on terror still not won, it will probably never be won as long as the primary ingredients of terrorism’s recipe — a self-righteous sense of victimhood married to an implacable faith that God is behind you all the way — remain at full boil on the stove. And while we’ve been spending all our time these last seven years nurturing our fear of the Islamists, and wasted countless lives and resources trying to bring the war to them on their shores, over in America we’ve been cooking up our very own divinely inspired wannabe mass murderers, who have as much, if not more, contempt for the United States and its diversity and freedoms as al Qaeda ever had.