Tim Lott offers a devastatingly accurate picture of what
drives Muslim suicide bombers and the difference between them and their typical Western contemporaries: The Muslims have lives with meaning.
The meaning said this: my life is not futile and my death is
not final. This carnage has a higher purpose than anything the barren
ceremonies of the West can offer me with its expensive gewgaws, watered-down
religions, trips to the leisure centre and celebrities.
This is a terrifying reality – that these bombers want nothing in return for
their lives other than what they perceive to be the virtue of martyrdom. But as
usual in incidents where it is suspected that al-Qaeda is involved, no demands
were made. The point was to kill non-believers and thus gain not only a place
in heaven but also a paradoxical assertion at the exact point of detonation of
the absolute reality and significance of their own lives.
This is not specifically a criticism of Islam, or even fundamentalist Islam. In
fact, there is something weirdly admirable in the fundamentalist Islamist,
however maniacal, compared, say, with his wishy-washy, half-baked Anglican
counterpart. Because the real difference between a fundamentalist Muslim and a
moderate Christian (or a moderate Muslim for that matter) is surely that they
really, really do believe.
They don’t use their religious custom as social glue, or conventional ritual,
or a way of fitting in. They talk the deadly talk and they walk the deadly
The difference between a fundamentalist and a moderate is that the
fundamentalist is not playing games, at least not games that he is conscious
of. In fact, "I’m not playing games" is one of the meanings that the
bombings expressed. This is another way of saying: "I am the hero of my
own life. I have the courage of my terrible convictions. I will not flinch in
fulfilling my bloody destiny." Again, this is not suggesting that Islam is
It is no madder than Christianity, where we have a whole raft of leaders and
politicians who seem quite happy to believe that 2000 years ago a man
performed miracles and then died to rise again. The only difference being that,
I suspect, most Christians in the UK do not really, really believe
it. They just say they do, even to themselves, whistling in what they secretly recognize
to be the dark.
Christian faith is dying in the West, and in Britain it is nearly dead (deduct
all the people who are trying to get their kids into the local school and it
looks even more moribund).
In the meantime, man’s desperate thirst for meaning and heroism continues.
What can we offer? A few drinks down the pub, some nice glittering objects,
sex, entertainment, a safe refuge for family and friends, a reasonably rich and
stable society. Surely that is enough? Sometimes, but not for anyone with a
spiritual imagination (and that may be most of us).
Many of us get by, happy enough to await our eventual
extinction through old age or disease, distracting ourselves with toys and
work, bringing up our kids till they push us aside and into the grave. Others
find a gigantic and growing void in the place where meaning should be, a place
they fill with endless millions of prescriptions of Prozac, binge-drinking,
self-harm, crack cocaine and reality TV.
The bombers are lying to themselves, just as we are, but
they are doing it in a more committed, one might even say, more honest way.
This is their way of saying life is not a joke and death is not a rumor. This,
the life we are living, is real and deadly, beautiful and terrifying. We must burn
away the illusion, they say. In their case, it is simply, tragically, to reveal
But is there anything but illusion, any truth about the
world that could give the atomized, lost century a meaning powerful enough to
act as a buffer and a prophylactic against suicide bombers? Are there truths
worth living for beyond family, finance and fun? Because if there aren’t, make
no mistake, more bombers will come, and will succeed.
Lott is exactly right up to this point. The empty,
nihilistic, hedonistic void created by the West’s materialistic worldview has
left the culture starved for something more. And radical Islam does a much
better job of filling that void than anything the West is offering. Just read the
testimonials of the young Muslim radicals profiled in an excellent Christian
Science Monitor report from Britain:
On 7/7, the jihad came. The suicide bombers were aged 18 to 30 – the same
age as Abu Osama’s cohorts. By portraying militancy as the ultimate expression
of piety, Abu Osama and preachers like him are leading young Muslims down the
path toward violence.
"Some of the people tell you Islam is a religion of peace because they
think that then you’ll want to convert," says Dublin-born convert Khalid
Kelly, who soaks up Abu Osama’s sidewalk sermon. "But you cannot possibly
say Islam is a religion of peace; jihad is not an internal struggle."
Armed struggle was the last thing on Mr. Kelly’s mind until his conversion
several years ago. "I was your average Irish drunkard, partying and so on,"
he says. Arrested in Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a nurse, for brewing his
own alcohol, Kelly found Islam in prison – an increasingly common arena for
Muslim conversion and radicalization … Like many, his
dedication to Islam arose from a messy flirtation with a Western lifestyle
… "When reality hits you, you come
back to Islam," he says. "If you read the Koran, you see that Allah
gave us the right to terrorize the enemy."
The report goes on to say that hard core Islam is reaching many like Khalid
Hard-line mosques are an intoxicating arena for disillusioned young Muslims, Britain’s
fastest-growing, poorest, and worst-educated minority.
The pull to Islam in general is not bad," says [LondonAbdul-Rehman
Malik, contributing editor at the Muslim magazine Q-News, based.] "It
gives [young people] a sense of identity and spirituality that is important to
Unfortunately, as Tim Lott wrote, these Muslims are believing a lie. There
is no Allah who is going to reward them for blowing up buildings and murdering
people. They may firmly believe that they are living and dying for a noble
eternal cause, but they are wrong. As Lott also points out, the great mass
of Westerners who spend their lives keeping themselves drunk and distracted from
the meaningless of it all are also wrong. There must be more to it than that.
But what? This is where Lott also goes wrong.
To his question of “Is there anything but illusion, any
truth about the world that could give the atomized, lost century a meaning
powerful enough to act as a buffer and a prophylactic against suicide bombers?
Are there truths worth living for beyond family, finance and fun?” he answers “I
believe that meaning is there – in the sacredness of life itself, in the deep
mysteries of science, in the magic of collective storytelling, in the cage of
time and space we all have to share.” He suggests that we get “mystical” and
turn to the “religions of non-religion” like “world humanist philosophies such
as Buddhism and Taoism. These schemes of thought have also been hijacked by the
religious, but at their root they do not talk about God, but man.” He goes on
to explain that the only hope for mankind is to rid itself of the “religion
virus” and find the meaning in our lives by focusing on its “mysterious” and
“magical” qualities, whatever that means.
What hogwash. There is no more reason to believe this
“mystical” worldview is true than there is to believe the terrorists or the
materialists. There is meaning in life but it is not revealed to us by looking
inward or by straining to see something ambiguous and mystical. It is found by
following the evidence where it leads: to Jesus Christ. His life, death and
resurrection (along with the rest of the revelation of scripture) show us that
we were indeed made for more than sex, drugs and sitting like a blob in front
of the TV our whole lives. But it does not tell us that we are to establish a
Muslim political kingdom on earth, either. The testimony of the Bible is that
we are in the middle of a supernatural war for our very souls and that our
eternal destiny hinges on what we do with the time we have on this planet. What
could be more meaningful than that?
As I wrote in my last post, people are feeling lost and
empty. The solution is not to try to fill the void with false religion, (as the
Muslims do and Mr. Lott suggests, even though he uses a different label) or
entertain yourself so you don’t have to think about it (as most Americans do),
but to seek the Truth. Then, when you find Him, (He is not far), follow.