All religions, at all times, in all places, have one of two goals: to give meaning to life, something usually tied to morality, or to allay the fear of death. Some religions, of course, serve both goals. It is the second goal — defusing death — that I write about today.
People who do not have a religion have no comforting philosophy about death, whether the philosophy is an immediate ascension to Heaven, resurrection on Judgment Day, or reincarnation. All they’ve got, when thinking of death, is plenty of nothing. For that reason, while it is human nature to fear dying (otherwise, how would the species survive?), the atheists among us have a particularly well-developed fear of death. I think this fear of death has a significant impact on the war against Islamic terrorism.
First, the atheists, who tend to the secular, anti-War Left, do not take the Islamists very seriously. They know, of course, that Islamists can and do kill, but they keep thinking that, if we in the West could just strike upon the magic formula of apology and empathy, the Islamists’ hostility will magically cease. Part of this willful obtuseness is almost certainly the fact that, historical evidence to the contrary, atheists simply cannot understand a culture that is not only unafraid of death, but embraces it. They can’t wrap their minds around the fact that a few groveling apologies from an uninspiring middle aged woman parading in pink is nothing compared to the allure of luscious virgins draped around you in an eternal Paradise. Atheists, staring fearfully at their post-death nihilism, are incapable of grasping how strong a draw those nubile virgins are to men steeped in a culture that celebrates dying and the rewards of death.
Second, the secularists utterly fail to understand our military. Thankfully, our military is not a culture that is steeped in or embraces death. It is a religious culture, though, with the majority of military men and women embracing some form of Christian faith. Indeed, 40% of Americans in the military describe themselves as Evangelical.
Christianity, of course, doesn’t encourage suicide, but it is a religion with a comprehensively realized theology about the afterlife. For those in the line of fire, that theology may not diminish the fear of dying, which is often an unpleasant process, but it must bring with it a more comforting view of death than the void atheists face. In other words — and feel free to correct me here — I’m supposing that, while our troops do not want to die, they have a philosophy that supports them as they contemplate the possibility.
And just as the atheists on the Left cannot recognize how fiercely the Islamists embrace a martyr’s death, creating a complete willingness to die to achieve that Paradise, so too are they incapable of recognizing that many, if not most, of our troops are more sanguine about the inevitability of death than the average atheist. Indeed, it’s probably the fact that they are sanguine that helped them enlist in the first place. People who fear death too much wouldn’t expose themselves to the inevitably increased risk that goes with military service.
It’s this inability to bridge the gap between their own beliefs and the beliefs of others that leads our secular Leftists to don their silly pink clothes and try to save adult men and women from freely made choices that the pink-clad non-believers would never make for themselves. At one level, you have to appreciate the anti-War crowds’ kindness in trying to save others from that which they fear the most (assuming that they are indeed motivated by that goal); at the other level, you really have to worry about their complete inability to imagine the mind of the “other,” and to recognize that people guided by religious beliefs (or the absence thereof) make choices and get to abide by the consequences.