Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate

I just finished reading the Flight 93 transcripts. They start at 09:31:57, with the captain announcing Ladies and Gentlemen: here the captain, please sit down keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board. So sit.

And they end nine pages - and thirty minutes - later, with a chilling final five seconds:

10:03:04 Allāh-u-Akbar

10:03:06 Allāh-u-Akbar

10:03:06 Allāh-u-Akbar

10:03:07 No.

10:03:09 Allāh-u-Akbar. Allāh-u-Akbar

10:03:09 Allāh-u-Akbar. Allāh-u-Akbar

Allahu Akbar. God is Great. These words should not frighten, but they do.

My first reaction is that Dante should have added an extra ring in hell to make room for those who kill in the name of the Divine.

What frightens me is the shear irrationality of all of this - the suicide bombings, the attacks on mosques, the random killing of innocents. There is nothing there that we can argue or reason against. The men committing these crimes aren't so much monsters as just ... not men. Or at least, not thinking men. They chant, they follow orders, and they kill. There is no space in the equation for us to stay:
No. Stop. Think. Let's find a better way.

In Eichmann in Jersualem (1963) Hannah Arendt asked this:
Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining and reflecting upon whatever happens to come to pass, regardless of specific content and quite independent of results, could this activity be of such a nature that it 'conditions' men against evildoing?

I never accepted that religion and science were separate, or that reason and faith couldn't coexist. Now I'm moving beyond that, into thinking that it's necessary ... that faith without reason is a form of madness, if not of evil.

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