The Attack On
The World Trade Center
Perhaps you could help us understand the connection between World War II and the end of Europe's love affair with the Christian religion. I'm suggesting that something like that might happen here. What do you think?
I hope so. I really hope so.
I blame religion for this tragedy. This feeling, which as you know I had at the start, was strengthened after I read the foul words of that slimeball Jerry Falwell. A friend of mine told me in e-mail that Falwell blamed: "pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, and lesbians for bringing down this attack on New York City." She went on to say, "There is a level of hell reserved for him, I suspect." It seems very likely, it seems the sort of thing he would say.
I am stunned at Falwell's logic, or lack of it -- not that I ever expected logic from such a source. How can these groups be blamed for bringing down this kind of attack? It's truly bizarre. Besides, even if it were true, how could being gay, or a feminist or an abortionist, or any of those things deserve this? It doesn't. I also remember something I read somewhere, I don't -- sadly -- remember where I read it or who said it first, but it was along the lines of there being several levels of hell, and the bottom level is Judas. And under Judas is someone like Falwell (or his friend Robertson) looking up Judas's ass to see if he's queer. That still makes me laugh. Perhaps it shouldn't, but it does.
I don't know if other Europeans agree with me -- it may be a suitable subject for a Forum question -- but I trace the beginning of Europe's falling out with religion back before the Second World War to the First World War. It's then, I think, that the UK started to distrust leaders and authority in general, including religious leaders, simply because of the loss of life that war caused. A whole generation of young men was essentially wiped out.
Other European countries still -- as far as I can see -- seem to trust authority far more than the British. I could be wrong about that, because though I've travelled abroad a lot, I've never lived anywhere but here. As I've mentioned to you before, in the last British Social Attitudes Survey (1998) fully 25 percent of the population in the UK who were asked claimed to be either atheist or agnostic. That's a huge proportion of the population. And still our government wants to extend the provision of religious schools. Which reminds me, I owe my Member of Parliament a complaining letter on that subject.
I don't know if it will make a difference to people's attitudes to religion. It should, but I don't know if it will, particularly as the essence of the religious service I saw on TV seemed to be that god is the god of love. If god loves us so much, why did he send us this? What was it attempting to prove to us? I also thought that the talk given by Billy Graham was tactless and stupid in the extreme in that it successfully excluded everyone present who was not Christian, which was surely not the object of the exercise. Or maybe it was.
I think like a lot of other people I am frightened by this loose talk of war. This event was beyond horrible but events like this are not war. They are terrorism.
War is different. War can mean not 10,000 dead but 52,000,000 dead. Fifty-two million people. War means fire and bombs raining down on your town, your city. War means losing your home, losing everything you own, and not just you but many people, all over your country. War means having to leave home and having to go to the next country where you are unwelcome, spat upon and vilified. War means a kilo of sugar or a kilo of butter being something you see once a year, if ever. War means constantly worrying about friends and family members -- where are they? who's shooting at them today? will you ever see them again? In many countries war means internment for some of the population, the 'dangerous' or 'unpopular' ones. In some countries, war means liberals, and those who hold unwelcome beliefs, hanging on lamp posts. For some, war meant people coming into your village, raping your mother and sister, killing them (and possibly you) and moving on. It means having to risk your life -- and sometimes lose it -- for a few litres of fresh water.
I've lived in a city disrupted by terrorism. Terrorism is being afraid of unattended bags, cardboard boxes, parked vehicles. Terrorism is constantly late and unreliable trains. Terrorism is not being able to drive through streets because of a 'security alert'. Terrorism means constantly worrying about friends and family -- are they safe, will they get home okay. Terrorism means looking at those around you and wondering if they're the ones you need to be afraid of. It's horrible, but it's not war.
I hope the word war is being used figuratively, because I don't know what it's going to mean in this case if it's not. I doubt that we will be the ones to suffer, but some of the countries where the terrorists are based, like Afghanistan, have returned to a pre-industrial standard of living already. There's nowhere 'down' for them to go.
In Europe, ours is the first generation that has seen no war on our soil. Nearby -- think of the Balkans -- but not on our soil, not killing our sons and brothers, fathers and friends in any numbers -- I say this advisedly because Britain just recently lost a soldier in Macedonia. It's easy to forget what war is like. But I've sat and listened to my parents talk about what war was like for them. My mother was a schoolgirl in 1939, my father a teenager who had only just started work. By the time 1945 came my father was interrogating German prisoners, and my mother working in an armaments factory. In 1997, when my father died, I had a horrifying glimpse of what it had been like because the stress caused my mother to go back in her mind to 1944, and suddenly we were seeing a world through her eyes of blackout and ration coupons which we'd never really understood before.
To return to the beginning, I blame religion for this atrocity. Yes, perhaps if it wasn't that it would have been something else, but it was that. All religious fanaticism is dangerous. Christian fundamentalism is just as dangerous as Muslim fundamentalism, and all of it makes me sick. I don't want to mix with these people, they are frightening. That they can believe such bollocks is constantly astonishing to me. I hope the world comes to its senses soon.
A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
-- Oscar Wilde
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