So far, every global war produced some unforeseen and unintended social changes.

American Civil war was not begun to liberate the slaves but simply to restore the pre-secession status quo– yet it wound up abolishing slavery, thus dramatically changing the country.

World War I was started by three emperors – of Russia, Austro-Hungary and Germany. Four years later, as Europe was exhausted and lay in ruins, the war was over – as were these three empires and their emperors.

World War II produced a dramatic social change in the American family structure: before the war, the vast majority of women were housewives, man being the breadwinners, and, therefore, the voices of authority in the family. One glance at Norman Rockwell iconic painting Rosie the Riveter of 1943 shows what happened when the men got enlisted and went to fight – and why American family could never be the same again.

After a major war, there is simply no return to a status quo ante. If the past is any guide, the war on terror will not be an exception, too.

What global changes will the war on terror bring about? I think – the dramatic change in our attitude to religion.

Yes, I know that religion has nothing to do with terrorism, as every newspaper and politician tells us. It is just the perversion of religion that is at fault.

Granted – but why, having made that declaration, our bright politicians and sharp newspapermen suddenly stop? Why won’t they elaborate? Why won’t they explain to us how they know which is the perverted, and which is the un-perverted religion? Why won’t they tell us how they came to their conclusion that the “true” Islam, Islam as intended by Mohammed, is the “moderate,” brotherly-love-of-humanity kind, not the chop-off-their-heads variety practiced by the “extremists”? How do they know that it is the “extremists” who pervert Islam, not the “moderates”?

Well, may be – just may be – they simply don’t know themselves. In fact, they can’t – no one can, be he a Moslem or not. That’s why there are so many religions around, and heresies and sects. And that is why our entire attitude to religion needs to be re-thought.

For contrary to what we are being told, it is religion, not some social, economic or political grievance that is at the bottom of terrorism. Terrorists pull their triggers and explode their suicide vests not to fill their stomachs, not to fill their pocket – but to do the will of God. And we better start getting serious about this simple and basic fact.

Why do we so studiously ignore it? One theory is that we are so nice, so considerate, so filled with empathy for the feelings of the others, that we cannot bring ourselves to criticizing their religion, knowing that it would pain them. That may be; but there is also a rather less charitable theory too – that we are afraid to point to specks in Islam’s eye lest we would be forced to see some very similar ones in our own religions. Not a pleasant prospect at all – hence, it is better not to rock the boat. Criticism of religion is certainly a double-edged sword.

But consider the price we pay for refusing to address the role of religion in terrorism. Will we win the war on terror by deceiving ourselves – like when after 9/11 we suddenly discovered that Islam was a peaceful religion, contrary to the pre-9/11 opinion? Like when we convince ourselves that the “moderates” long for freedom and root for us, rather then gloat when the terrorists kill and maim American soldiers? Like when we pretend that we know what is “true” Islam and what it is not?

Winning the war on terror requires making one critically important step, the step we were unable to make so far – that of taking a very deep breath and finally subjecting the prime cause of this war – religion – to cold, detached, unbiased scrutiny. And if we did, so much what is negative would be discovered, that it would become simply impossible for our religious viewpoint to remain the same.

Not that religion will disappear – after all, America did not disappear after the Civil war, European states did not disappear after the World War I, nor did the family disappear after the World War II – but just as those wars resulted in the changes of political and social structures of the countries and families, religion will change too, to become something quite different from what it is now.

The essential structure of religion has remained unchanged from the times immemorial. While year after year mankind gained knowledge of the physical world, vastly improved its technical and technological power, gained insights into economic and political forces that bind us into a society, religion remained exactly the same – the steadfast certainty that we know what God wants of us.

As we dissect this mode of religiosity it will be discovered that it is precisely this certainty that causes terrorism. And to defeat terrorism, the certainty will have to go, resulting in a dramatic change in our post-war perception of religion. If, after the war, the status quo continues and our attitude to religion remains the same, it will mean only one thing: that the terrorists won.


 

 


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