Terrorism, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is ‘the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation’. According to the GTI, in 2014 alone 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks which is 61% more than the previous year. 82% of all deaths from terrorist attacks occur in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria and 90% of these attacks occurred in countries that already have gross human rights violations. Four groups were the dominant contributors: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and al Qa’ida.
A friend of a friend today shared a photo of a t-shirt being sold by an atheist group on Facebook and it had the following slogan on it:
Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.
What a cheap way to score points at the expense of those whose only crime is to believe in the same god as people who commit acts of terror. Let’s face it, the ‘flies you into buildings‘ comment is aimed at Muslims because of the attacks of this nature on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. On a purely anecdotal level, I know a fair few people who are Muslim and none of them have ever been inspired to fly a plane into a building on purpose.
The t-shirt and the slogan upon it is just indicative of a bigger issue that I want to address. I’m atheist. I believe in no gods or goddesses but that doesn’t automatically make me a good person. I identify as a secular humanist and that’s why it makes me so sad to see other atheists turning their apparent anti-theism into anti-humanism. If you cannot attack/debate religion without attacking religious people then I don’t think that makes you a very rational person.
It’s true that some people use religion to justify their acts or regimes of hatred, intolerance and violence but such hateful and murderous acts have no place at the feet of others who peacefully practice the same religions. Their religious beliefs do not automatically make them bad people. So why does society feel so compelled to keep putting them there? Why do we hold religious people accountable for the actions of others whom they have no control over?
Maybe it’s because we need someone to blame and Mohammed next door is the most easily accessible target? I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist but I do know that it gets really tiring really fast to see some atheists acting this way.
Extremism flies you into buildings. Extremism leads to the kidnapping of girls who dare seek education. Extremism leads to the burning of hostages. Extremism harms everyone… but as shown in the statistics from the 2014 GTI report, the very people this stupid t-shirt targets as bad people are those most likely to be affected by acts of terrorism. Talk about kicking someone when they are down…
Oh, and by the way, Muslims died in the 9/11 attacks, and some of people who flew humans to the moon were religious, including the astronauts.