September 18, 2001, (one week to the day after the Middle East terrorist's first installment to bomb us back to the stone age)
I know you think that I preach to you too much and I am sure that sometimes I do, but as you are about to enlist and go to war I implore you to please listen to me this one last time and bring yourself back home to us, alive and well. When you do, I promise I will not preach to you anymore ... ever ... (unless of course, you ask me to).
For starters I ask you to remember:
Everything has an ultimate.
The American spirit is the ultimate in freedom worship.
"I" is the ultimate form of "i".
i am a human being
i am an american
I believe in the American Constitution because it acknowledges my inalienable right to my own life.
i am an amateur philosopher, because i love thinking
i am an atheist, because i love applied thinking
i am a psychology counselor because i love self discovery
I am an individual rights advocate, because I love and cherish my own life and think everyone should love and cherish their own lives too.
I believe in the American Constitution when it says you too have an inalienable right to your own life.
I, as a thinking American, know that inalienable means: no one can give me this right unless they first take it away from me.
i, as an atheist by choice, fear ALL religions.
Osama Bin Laden types as ultimate religionists are proof that I am justified in this fear.
i, as an optimistic human being, think reason will win out in the long run.
i, as an amateur philosopher, know it will not win by accident but only by conscious choice.
I, as a thinking ex-Christian also know that what it will win out over is faith.
The only thing standing between us the American good guys and them the Terrorist bad guys is the human ability to reason, and its use for the protection, preservation, and propagation of same.
Whether you want to hear it or not doesn't matter anymore because the truth is this: the real battle, the ultimate battle is between reason and faith. If you still disagree with me son and say it is between good religion and bad religion and define the good to be that which is not extreme religion and the bad to be that which is extreme religion, then I applaud you for defining your terms but I (still) disagree with you.
Religion --properly understood-- means (ultimately) extreme faith. Religion without any faith is a contradiction in terms. And faith, properly understood, means making up one's mind based on the absence of evidence. The biblical story that "proves" this to the Christian mind son, is that of the Doubting Thomas (as reported in The Holy Bible, King James version, St. John, chapter 20, verses 24-29). Thomas, one of Christ's twelve disciples, doubted that Christ had risen from the dead and so he Thomas had wanted to see the once dead, nailed on the cross through his hands and sides, now allegedly alive Jesus for himself ... with his own eyes. Thomas wanted his own, first hand observation in the matter and then and only then would he believe: "Except I shall see in his [Jesus] hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.", said Thomas in verse 25. Then Later --in verse 29-- Thomas was intimidated by Jesus for not believing without sensory evidence: "Jesus saith unto him [quoting verse 29], ' Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: [but] blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.' ". Anybody son, with half a ... mental development under their psycho-epistemological belt (having not quite reached the age of 10) can easily get the message: accepting an idea based on the absence of evidence is superior to wanting your own first hand information before drawing a conclusion. Since reason is the faculty that we humans use to draw such a first hand conclusion --that is, reason is the faculty that integrates the material provided by our own senses to our own mind-- the "Doubting Thomas" story" is one --albeit, not the only-- anti-reason, anti-mind, anti-man message in The Holy Bible. That the degree of The Holy Bible's anti-reason, pro-faith promotion here might be less than that of the repetitiously inculcating, swaying back 'n forth, get-'em-while-they're-young Islamic method is NOT reassuring.
Can one be religious and not accept all the tenets of his chosen religion?
If your answer son is "yes, this is what it means to be not extreme: accept some but not all", of one's religious tenets, then I think you are confusing the not extreme with the hypocritical. And in so doing you eventually --ultimately, in order to untie the resultant "nots" in your stomach, you-- will have to answer a different question.
Can hypocrites be happy?
No serious thinker will answer yes to this question and so we can and must move on.
To you son who once accused me as an ex-Christian of not understanding Islam I say, you are correct: I understand the pitfalls in Christianity that can ultimately lead to a bunch of the faithful self destructing in Guyana along with their leader Jim Jones and who claim as victims: themselves and --yes, as horrendous as this is going to sound but which when one thinks of what that Judeo-Christian God demanded of Abraham in relation to Abraham's very own son one understands the Christian mentality that kills-- their own children. But, like I said, I understand Christianity all the way to its epistemological roots but what I do not know is the pitfalls in Islam that cause the same mentality to commit suicide and take me and my children --rather than "just" they and their children-- with them. I wish you would explain this one to me, my son, because you are the one who said Islam and Christianity, qua religion, are equally good. So, yes... it is true: I do not know which Islamic parable or parables promote the idea that faith is better than reason. In fact I don't even know if Islam has parables.
Does it? (And again time bears down on your leaving us and so we must move on. Perhaps you can let me know about this in a future letter?)
Unfortunately son reason and faith do not grow on trees like so much fruit that can readily be picked and discerned as distinct kinds. This is the sole reason why we Americans have a society that separates them politically. Politically, Americans --thanks to our founding fathers--are the smartest people on the planet and they are this because of --not inspite of-- but because of the fact that those founding fathers separated reason and faith by design, by intention, by choice, by law.
By WRITTEN law.
Our founding fathers didn't just say "render onto faith that which is faith's and unto reason that which is reason's". They did it.
They did it in writing and called it the Constitution of the United States of America.
They rendered, by written law, unto reason that which is reason's and they forbade faith from entering therein by separating it and its primary carrier --religion-- from being a legitimate part of reason. They made this separation explicit by adopting the first Amendment to our Constitution. An Amendment which prevents Congress --or any Group big enough to gain control of Congress-- from legally ramming religion down my throat against my will.
The Terrorists and their brethren-in-spirit don't believe in our Constitution.
Our Constitution, which you will soon be sworn to preserve and protect, makes us a nation --not of believers, but-- of reasoners. A nation of (written) laws, not men.
When we say we are a nation of laws what we mean is we are a nation of reasoning human beings who have the guts to call a spade a spade. We say what we think is reasonable and then we do not evade it but rather we put it down on paper and then defend it and debate it and change it where it needs changing by correcting its errors and weaknesses and strengthening its strengths.
Reason is not omniscient, but then no one ever really said that it was.
Religion worships the impossible, not reason.
This is why --to repeat-- we have separated reason and faith on paper and in fact and in law.
Reason with faith is dangerous but faith without reason is terrorism.
Terrorism, qua terror, is the ultimate in fear.
Fear, rational fear, is healthy because it has survival value. It is one way nature protects us from death.
Fear, irrational fear, is unhealthy because it asphyxiates our emotional capacity for survival. Which is to say, irrational fear ultimately leads to our death and destruction, not to our life and survival, that is why it is irrational!
That is, fear as survival mechanism is pervert-able.
Some human beings know how to use fear to control other human beings.
Terrorists are the Masters of fear.
And I say this here son, not to scare you but to help you draw a distinction.
Per the phone call you made two days ago on Sunday I could tell that you have absorbed the cultural vibrations that say the Terrorist soldiers are ferocious warriors and should be feared. That they should be feared I do not doubt and do not want to remove this kind of healthy fear attitude from you.
But what I do want to point out is that there is a vast difference between ferocious and fierce.
The voluntary American soldier is fierce. When fierce meets ferocious it is fierce that wins every time. Here is why.
Fierce comes from a soul that has been sharpened by the stone of justice. Justice --like reason-- is Reality's child.
Ferocious comes from a soul that has been dulled by hatred for mankind. Hatred for man, qua man, for man the good, man the valuer, man the excellent, man the hero.
Ferocious is loud yelling and throat cutting.
When ferocious meets ferocious it is the loudest yellers and best throat cutters who win.
But when ferocious meets fierce it is a different story.
Fierce is efficiency worship. Fierce is like a finger snap. Fierce is one bullet between thine enemy's eyes and let's move on.
Let's move on.
(Unless you want to pause here son and reflect on the obvious absence here of your religious 3rd Alternative which is turn the other cheek. I hope --now that you will soon be face-to-face with those who will want to kill you-- that my succinctness, my fierceness here will dissuade you from this attitude. Since war is war and you a soon to be soldier in that war you will no doubt face that moment in war, or rather that split-second in war when you will have to kill your enemy or be killed by him or her. Between now and that spilt-second in your future I want you to seriously ponder the question I am going to leave with you here. I will state the question and then immediately move on. Please think seriously about it and realize that your life depends on your answer. When a ferocious throat-cutter meets a passive cheek turner who will walk away alive?)
Some of us (but by no means all of us) may have at one time or another internalized the approach of using irrational fear for behavior control and now use it on ourselves and/or others to control behavior. But we have to pause and take note even here. We have to pause and note that this presupposes the existence of an alive ego --literally and spiritually-- upon which one can internalize.
Our job, or rather I should say son one of our (psychological) jobs, is to identify and separate out our irrational fears from our rational fears.
Nature does not do this for us.
It is rational to fear death and destruction.
It is irrational to fear defense of self. It is, in fact, moral to embrace self-defense.
I say it is immoral for me not to defend myself against another when that other wants to kill me and tries to kill me.
As an American who travels about and has enjoyed the freedom to do so and as one who has been to New York more than once I feel very very convinced that I could have been in either one of those Twin Towers and now be dead. Others may feel this same way about the Pentagon or the airplanes that were hijacked, crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the soil of Pennsylvania and that killed absolutely everyone on board. But for me, as a retired professional engineer who used to travel and attend conferences and meetings in modern, high rising, skyscraping buildings like the Twin Towers I feel more of a personal connection to those victims. That is, I feel that there is where the evil terrorists would have gotten me. This feeling I feel here is a double edged sword for me personally son because I am not 100% sure that I would have felt that the building was going to collapse. As an engineer I should have known this, but as I watched those Towers burn on TV I did not predict to myself that they would collapse, hence, had I been there...well, you do the math. I am afraid I might have concluded that the safe thing to do was to stay put. I am not going to make that mistake twice. So I completely and totally empathize and cry practically every time I think of those people that went down with those Twin Towers and were killed. I reveal this about myself because I think it is important for us to do this. Important that is, if you value human life in general and your own life in particular. You must search your own soul now --while the issues are the clearest-- to see with whom and/or what you fundamentally empathize and use that empathy to animate you in the coming months and years ahead. Those terrorists have marked you as an American for death and it is only a matter of time before they try again to get you and your neighbors.
As to me, well right now (September 18, 2001, one week to the day after the Middle East terrorist's first installment to bomb us back to the stone age) I feel as if those terrorists killed me in the Twin Towers.
So in a way son you could say i am writing to you from the grave.
And this is what I write: it is immoral for you to not defend your self against another who wants to kill you and who tries to kill you and who says he is going to kill you. The terror-ists have tried to kill me, they have tried to kill you and they have succeeded in killing some of us.
They will not stop.
They have to BE STOPPED.
Over time, the immoral among us will say, turn the other cheek, love thine enemies, pacifism will win the day (this is predict-able) and they will be immoral because what they are advocating is that the Bin Laden's of the world have a right to kill me but I do not have a right to self defense. This is an immoral position to take and anyone who takes it is not mis-guided, they are immoral.
My parents, your grandparents, by living in this country prior to my birth, entrusted my birth-right of self defense to the government for them to use to preserve and protect my inalienable right to my own life (all immigrants in this country who have become naturalized citizens have already done this explicitly, voluntarily on their own and in this one way they could be more American than I, but by the end of this letter I hope to be caught up with them in ALL rational pro-American ideals.). I had no choice in the matter back then but since then I have had a considerable amount of free(dom) time to think about the issues of rights and liberties and freedom and have come to the conclusion that I love freedom, I want freedom and I will do whatever it takes to keep my freedom. Also during these many years I have looked around the world for freedom's best prospects and have come to the conclusion that because of its strengths and inspite of its weaknesses America is still the best country on the planet. The new Italy may be on the verge of becoming the third best (being the first to offer us Troop support if I can believe the media), with Britain, because its Britain, remaining second and so on, with the new Germany maybe moving down to fourth or perhaps some other hierarchy of good could be argued (unfortunately we can't include Netanyahu of Israel in here because even though he has heroically fought terrorism for us these many past decades we can't consider him as a Country named Mr. Netanyahu, Sir! and place him first or second in here). But as far as I am concerned son, they can fight and argue amongst themselves for these runner up positions. We just need to know that they will get on board with us because they are good and know the value of rational human life, including their own. And they know this as well as they know that Americans are the most rational-moral people on earth and that when someone's murderous actions stir a rational-moral man to self-defensive action they call hell down upon themselves. (As the old Germany and the Axis Powers learned the hard way during the Second World War when those glorious Americans of that time period and their friends and Allies took the Nazi's and their friends to task and defeated their evil designs. And yes son, by evil I always mean it as: that which is against rational human life here on this earth while it actually lives and exists.)
And as far as I am concerned son, this sentiment --inspirationally-- against evil scum (or curs as they were called in the Old West) was said best by Kurt Russell, in the character of Wyatt Earp, in the movie "Tombstone". Since we just re-watched this together last week son you may remember it. It was the scene near the end when Wyatt --having been pushed over the edge by the mongrel dog outlaws-- told the whining, crying Ike Clanton laying on the ground at the end of Wyatt's gun barrel begging for his miserable life that Clanton and his red-sash wearing gang of thugs was done, "When I see a red sash I'll kill the man wearing it, run you cur", said Wyatt displaying his United States Marshall Badge, " run you cur, tell all the other curs the law is coming, you tell 'em I'm comin and hell's comin with me you hear! Hell's coming with me."
Consequently, I now voluntarily, explicitly of my own free will and choosing entrust to my government and to you my son and soon to be soldier of that government my moral right of self defense and I expect you and them, nay I implore you all to act on my behalf by killing as many terrorists as you can rationally identify and kill. And if you can't RATIONALLY identify them because (either, it can be a very difficult thing to do or --more probably-- because) the terrorists are such sniveling cowards that they make Ike Clanton look like a brave guy, then at minimum round 'em up and bring 'em in for trial (while never ever forgetting to give yourself --not the terrorists-- the benefit of the doubt in any encounter. And give it neither to the common men and women on the streets who allow terrorists to prosper in their countries.). If my government wants me to help in the round up, just tell me where to report to and I'll be there.
I'll be there that is, if they tell me that what I am fighting for is my right to defend my own life and freedom. A freedom that includes the right to disagree with faith based religionists and to promote --by persuasion and peaceful, non-force initiating ways-- the ideal that says reason is better than faith. If however, they want me to fight a religious war then I won't like it, I will vehemently disagree with it but in order to protect my own valuable, precious life and freedoms, I will fight. But only until the current emergency is over. An emergency which, unfortunately --given those swaying back 'n forth Islamic youth images periodically seen on TV-- could last for a very long time.
Since I am 56 years old son I probably won't be solicited for my physical abilities on the battle field. However, I do not pretend that if the worst happens that somewhere sometime my life will not depend on my ability to defend myself physically. This is what those terrorist lovers of religion --the Bin Ladens of the religious world-- have accomplished.
And to clarify by repetition by "those" terrorists I mean those who have in fact tried to kill me by destroying New York's Twin Towers and the people in them along with those they killed at the Pentagon and on the highjacked and crashed airplanes. And by "those" terrorists I also mean "those" of "their kind". That is, those who have demonstrated in fact that they carry out their threats, which is to say, "those" who say they are going to ultimately kill me whether I like it or not.
And if my government fails to protect me --that is me, Gary Deering actual existing human being and legal citizen of the United States of America-- and my most fundamental right to life because they are gutless and/or incompetent --neither of which I believe at this time to be true of my government but may be true of some (small number) of my fellow countrymen-- then I am not only in severe danger but the severest of dangers and I will have made a grave mistake.
Some of my "sentences" in the beginning here have no periods at their end and it is reasonable for you to observe this evidence first hand and conclude that they should be there. This conclusion is not a matter of faith but of reason. It is a reasonable conclusion to argue they should be there because periods as visual-sensory signs in reading are information for the mind to use to know that this is where one of the author's thoughts end and another begins.
And to your Missouri-Synod Lutheran friends son, whom --contrary to my wishes-- you have chosen to follow (and to whom you know that I was born under and raised up as) I say: please, please, please don't insult my intelligence by trying to tell me that my definition of faith as the absence of evidence is really the definition of blind faith because the definition of blind faith is drawing conclusions --not in the absence of evidence but-- in OPPOSITION to the evidence. For a demonstration of this see the OJ Simpson trial.
One Final comment son and then I will stop my preaching as promised and begin looking forward to your reports, successes and safe return form the front lines.
The American freedom to disagree --as I and my religious friends and acquaintances do all the time-- has one large, enormous, gigantic, colossal, pre-supposition. That pre-supposition is this: the two people disagreeing are alive.
Dead people don't disagree.
Irrationalists, religious or otherwise, can't stand disagreement. Whereas we, qua reason worshippers, many times don't like disagreement, we still at other times, sometimes, can and do actually enjoy it. But those who evade reality --the irrationalists-- ultimately are afraid of reality for that very reason and are --as the Terrorists have demonstrated in spades-- a grave threat to those of us who don't evade and aren't afraid.
Ultimately the terrorists have no choice: they have to kill us because we are the only thing standing between them and their dream of that non-existent reality that is subservient to their view of their god's will.
So please, please, please I beg you do not allow those murdering thugs to succeed in killing you. Rather --I beg you-- be your sharpest, most rational self-valuing self that you can be and bring yourself home to us, alive, and well, and successful.
The terrorists have started this war and since war is war you now are faced with a choice that most men never have to face so directly and the choice which really isn't a choice but which is: kill or be killed.
And hence I now too, as the father of a voluntary American soldier, have to face a choice and I voluntarily make it as I say: kill those terrorist bastards my son and get home as quickly as you can.
Because of one question that I've evaded so far here and because I am convinced that my answer to it is true, I fear for your life son and I will live with this fear until I see you once again --smiling and standing-- upon our door step.
Can the religious soul be fierce?
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