My Struggle with the Brussels Terrorist Attack

While you read my writings, keep in mind one thing – I’m only 35 years old, 36 in a month. Nearly middle-aged, but not nearly mature enough, in my opinion, to be disseminating thoughts and convictions that are set in stone or immovable. I started late to the game, being an uber-religious, dogmatic fundamentalist until the age of about 25. Then, it took me another 5 years to really walk myself out of the fixation on reconciling all of my beliefs via Biblical apologetics, jumping through spaghettified hoops, just to get to where I knew was right and correct, and yet was barred from being so, due to the unreasonable religious logic – arguably an oxymoron.

My chief concern here is the loss of life. The loss of innocent life. I pin the conduit for the Brussels senseless murders on the interpretation of Islam that these terrorists are espousing, whether devout or opportunistic. But we cannot forget that this happens nearly every day in other countries, not primarily peopled with humans of European descent.

As Americans, we watch as Paris falls prey to ISIS attacks, then we ignore the attacks in Turkey a few days ago. We watch as Brussels is buried in fear, with scores dead and many more injured, yet we explain away the systematic killing of black and brown people on our own streets, by those who are supposed to serve and protect. We blame religion, poverty, lack of work ethic, apathy, and then return to our privileged lives.

We watch as our fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, enemies all, go into the hospital, waging a war against cancer or worse, fighting to keep their heads above water with respect to mental health. We watch them go bankrupt, one catastrophic medical condition wiping out the seeds of wealth, hurting future generations. We call those who balk at that prospect “freeloaders,” “lazy,” and “Socialists.” We ignore the human condition. The needs of our fellow humanity.

I hate religion with a seething white hot rage, not because I think I’m right, but because it is the easiest conduit for abusing our fellow humans beings, even to the point of death. I hear and understand the arguments of religion not being the reason for human suffering, but rather human culture, which has retrofitted religion to bring about the suffering of others, while the privileged go about their own business, shrugging their shoulders, even praising the status quo.

Even so, if we completely eradicated religion from the bowels of humanity, I am convinced my ire would be forced to seek out a new culprit. We as humans, would replace religion’s capacity to bring about suffering with some other cultural phenomenon.

So I sit here, watching people scream about Islam and Muslims all around me. Then others defending Islam and Muslims. I agree with those who blame Islam and Muslims, insomuch as it is easy to interpret what you want out of it, much like Christianity, to convince yourself that your infliction of death or hatred is righteous and warranted. But I also disagree with them vehemently, choosing to side with those who defend Islam and Muslims, knowing full well that humans can cull the bad from the good, and choose to live in peace. And millions upon millions of Muslims, even devout followers of one of the great (in numbers and cultural history) faiths of this world, Islam, do just that.

And so I weep for those who have lost family and friends in Brussels and for those who actually lost their lives or limbs. But I cannot focus on Brussels as being a titular moment in the narrative of humanity’s blight – our penchant for hatred of one another.


  1. says

    We as humans, would replace religion’s capacity to bring about suffering with some other cultural phenomenon.

    Look at the 2016 elections in the US and you’ll see exactly that. While religion is certainly a part of it, there is racism, tribalism, ignorance, and the division-against-self used to keep populations in thrall to ruthless amoral politicians.

    What happened in Brussels is horrible and criminal. Meanwhile the US bombs cities and hospitals and fires hellfire missiles into groups of civilians all the time. As if it’s somehow OK if the high explosive is delivered using high-tech weaponry instead of carried to the scene of the crime and detonated by the crime’s first victim. One thing I have to say for suicide bombers is that at least they’re pretty committed to what they’re doing. (And don’t for a second think that a suicide bomber is any less brainwashed and hate-filled than a CIA drone pilot or military thug who has been indoctrinated in the bloody baptism font of state supremacy)

    To your not-asked question: if we eradicated religion, the state would step in and demand that it be worshipped. The Romans perfected that technique and it worked well for them for a long time.

    • Joe Sands says

      I’m not convinced that the cultural phenomenon would be the worship of something else. The Romans co-opted the religions of the nations they conquered because they knew it was what could be used to control. If religion was removed from society, so would “worship of the state” be, in my theoretical example.

      In short, spirituality, once realized as unnecessary and redundant, does not necessarily leave a vacuum for something equivalently vacuous.

  2. Zach Sands says

    I feel that I’m in a stage of sorting things out post-Christianity (five years now for me), and my opinions are only halfway formed in light of the reports and commentaries I’m sorting through when it comes to current events. I feel that I had ignored a large part of actual history in favor of biblical prophecy and what not, which has left me somewhat shortsighted, and not so well-rounded in my views. It’s hard for me not to see a wholesale criticism of Islam in light of such a terror attack, as legitimate and straight to the point. But I know that Muslims are also affected by these events, and have little desire to carry out such atrocities themselves. If ISIS claims responsibility, then it’s easier to focus my vehement disdain for Islam on a certain group of bad actors, but it still remains that certain groups and sects, such as Shiite Muslims are targets of violence on a daily basis by Sunnis, as part of a genocidal agenda. But then again, this only accounts for some of the sectarian violence.

  3. StevoR says

    Well writ Joe Sands, well writ and true.

    It is so very easy to hate. To be angry as the Jihadists want us to be; angry at the wrong people as well as the right one’s.

    This attack is a stone of evil hatred congealed into solid brute violence and destruction thrown into the waters of grief and horror and fury and spreading ripples of those emotions in all directions warping thought and reaction like malign gravitational waves but sadly so much easier to detect in things less tangible and more complex than atoms.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Not easy, not simple, not general. Not anymore. Not that it ever was.

  4. lorn says

    My beef with religion, pretty much all religion, less some (Zen Buddhism) but more others (Islam), is that religion provides a ready-made system for people to feel justified in doing all those evil things they wanted to do while avoiding doing those things they didn’t want to do while framing everything in terms of an imaginary afterlife so that we can avoid looking at the humanity and suffering of others.

    I’ve friends who go to a Christian church that has a catch phase of ‘All glory to God’. If they do something good it is ‘All glory to God’. Every time I hear it it grinds my gears. It is system of helplessness and unawareness. The lady does a good thing. She should feel good. She should recognize her worthy application of will and intelligence to solving a problem because owning her power she could feel good about it and it would be more likely she would do more good. Owning the deed also mean owning the process. I means being conscious of how she did it and knowing that she could tweak the process to get better results more quickly and efficiently. She could grow and improve as a human being and become ever more effective at working toward making it a better world.

    Instead it is ‘All glory to God’. This breaks the feedback loop. It means that she cannot own the deed or process. God getting credit means she gets none. Not owning the process means she is unlikely to critique her own performance and systematically improve, as either a human being, or as an agent for good.

    The flip side is even darker. Telling herself ‘All glory to God’ is one side ‘It is God’s will’ is the other. A bud load of orphans going off a cliff is a tragedy, unless it is ineffable will of an angry God. Putting responsibility on God is a fine way of draining away the responsibility from any individual, or society. If it was the failure of an individual or society we might be motivated to do something about it. Get the drivers better training, or stop hiring drunks. Or put up better guardrails around sharp turn near cliffs. But if it is ‘The will of God’ … well … there is nothing that can be done. In fact, doing something to prevent another accident might be construed as thwarting the will of God.

    Religion systematically obstructs human growth, acceptance of responsibility, and our ability to see our fellow humans as living, learning, suffering beings; as opposed to souls used as pawns on a cosmic chess board. Religion promotes backwardness and hinders progress toward a better, more humane, world.

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