religion and suicide bombers

The Atheist Ethicist is still blogging the Beyond Belief 2006 conference (thanks!) and posted today about Scott Atran’s complaint that no one seems to be giving good scientific evidence for their claims that religion is at the base of (many) world’s ills. His example is suicide bombers who are more influenced by their close-knit group of ‘brothers’ than by their religion.

Alonzo Fyfe (the Atheist Ethicist) sides with Sam Harris, one of the panelists, countering that religious beliefs, simply because they do exist, must have effects and consequences. The point is obviously true, but also way to general to be of much use.

I doubt Scott Atran is trying to deny all causal effects of religion in the world. He is rather making the point that there might be more important causes behind suicide bombers than religion. Or he might only be making the point that religion is not the only cause. And such a point is true, but also valuable. Blaming Islam for suicide bombers is, in end effect, unconvincing because there are so many muslims who aren’t suicide bombers. There obviously are other causes at play and the one that turns a good muslim into a bad one can obviously not be the muslim religion itself.

Islam might have violent tendencies inscribed in its texts or its history. And it certainly seems to be writing that violent history at the moment. But the solution is obviously not to do away with the muslim (or any other) religion, but to rigorously figure out what specific elements, be they religious or not, are inducing violence – and counteracting them.

Moreover, it is not religious people who are being violent, but certain types of religious people. And in the case of suicide bombers, it seems evident that the best description of the suicide bomber will not only be a religious one but also a psychological one (likely also an economic and social one). Addressing any one of those reasons would help solve the problem. Concentrating on religion is using it as a scapegoat.


2 Comments to “religion and suicide bombers”

  1. *Standing Ovation*
    Excellent post. Thank you for taking the time to clearly describe the possible causes in convincing someone to become a ‘suicide bomber’. It is so unfair to simply blame religion.

  2. Yes.
    Do Harris and Fyfe simply ignore the religious compulsions behind Gandhi, King and Tutu…?

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