A Thirty-Year War

On September 11th 2001 the world entered a new era of violence. In the end there will be less religion in the world, just like in Europe after 1648, when humanism and the Enlightenment unfurled their victory banners. Before us lie bleak years.

The attacks on Paris and Beirut prove that Islamic terrorism hasn’t been defeated, the opposite is the case. September 11th was the prelude, the beginning of the war. The jihadis of Al Qaida, Boko Haram, and IS believe wrongly that they are in possession of a comprehensive truth. They enforce, so they claim, the will of Allah and his mission for us. In this truth chaos and decline are part of the equation. “They love life, we love death” writes the perfidious terrorists on their flags. It’s not just Christianity, not just the refrigerator or Coca Cola, they hate everything that does not bend to their wretched views and their apocalyptic furor. The largest victim group is still Muslims, who in the worldview of these radicals are an eye sore.

There is no mistaking: we, in the East as in the West, in land of the rising sun as well that of the setting sun, can only beat these twisted people through force, by the use of soldiers, drones, with the help of secret information gathered by intelligence agencies, and with the knowledge and sad understanding, that their will be many casualties, sadly including civilians. The greatness of our culture would survive, so long as it can retain its form, if it can put the brakes on, not meeting absolute terror with the absolute abandoning of its virtues. This hasn’t been successful in the US, and many countries in the West still struggle with moderating between the pulls of freedom and of security.

But it’s clear: there is an enemy, and this enemy wants to destroy us. “Us” is everyone who orients themselves in their lives with humanistic values. That is the majority, in Paris and Beirut, the latter of which in Europe is called “the Paris of the Near East.” We may have different cultural and religious heritages, but we are all still human.

They love life, we love death

This original humanity, treat others as you would treat yourself, the meaning of the Golden Rule, which not only can be quoted from the New Testament, but can be found in similar forms in all religious texts across humankind. Any form of categorizing people in order to discriminate against others, is a departure from the universal compassion that we have for one another. Tears cried for loved ones lost in an attack are universally understandable, tearing down our walls of separation. We are all human beings, in Beirut and in Paris.

Because of this, violent radicalization stands in contradiction with religion, for this maxim of the Golden Rule applies for all religions, including Islam. The point is not for Muslims and non-Muslims to try to weigh and counterbalance the violent passages in the Quran against the peaceful ones, in order to explain how the text is to be understood: the violent surahs of the Quran themselves are a massive contradiction to the essence of the Golden Rule in every apparent religion. The majority of Muslims feel the same way as Christians feel; it’s visible even for non-religious people with a sense of reason. It’s not about the medium of the Revelation, but to whom it addresses: people. It’s the sentiment, I hope, that many Christians and Muslims feel alike, when people are tortured and killed in the name of religion. The criticism of religious revelations lies in the revelations themselves: since if man adheres to the maxims of humanity, he’ll perceive every call for violence in his holy scripture as nothing short of falsehood and reject them. He doesn’t desire to go against God, but rather against the Orthodoxy of the written religion, which in the course of history, let’s not kid ourselves, has done a better job at separating us than bringing us together. For us Christians in the West, this connection has become painfully clear over the centuries.

People have always had much to gain from discrimination

Islamism is a malformed offspring of globalization: the fear of others who are coming ever closer to us through new means of transportation, the Internet, and real-time communication across the globe. Those who believe that the benefices and clerics hold exclusive knowledge in their hands must see now how their power is dwindling. Therefore violence breaks out everywhere in the world; there are desperate attempts to stop us from coming together. Because certain people have always had much to gain from discrimination.

The new growing humanism we are experiencing at the same time is, however, the most noble of globalization’s children: in seeing and recognizing others who are like me that live only a mouse click away, there is the potential that all the barriers of race, religion, and the rest can be driven from the world forever. Did we really believe that we could achieve this without a struggle? Did we really believe that the old and new representatives of exclusionary ideologies and worldviews would ignore our efforts?

The resurgence of nationalism and religious fanaticism is being celebrated from India to Brazil with a vengeance. The radical Stone Age Islam is the worst ulcer among them, the Bubonic Plague that wants to take possession of our human civilization. But also the verbal armament against refugees that we experience in our European society has already long been a piece of this armed conflict, which, thank God, has not yet arrived on German soil with its bombs and casualty count. We have refugees who are beaten and whose emergency shelters are set on fire. This is a perfidious and false form of negating globalization. Because here the proximity is not in Facebook chat or on a TV screen, it’s real.

Peace without God

The refugees from Syria and Iraq are coming to us because they are fleeing precisely those people who in their home countries are aligning themselves with their bomb belts and their hatred against the newly emerging human family. And those refugees are being welcomed in Germany with iron bars and incendiary devices, by those of us who, with the freedom that is offered to them, try to deny that very freedom to others. The refugees, so we must continually remind ourselves, do not come to us because they are globalization’s losers, but because they are the victims of those who see globalization as they greatest threat to their narrow world view.

At stake in this Thirty Years War is nothing less than if the modern world can remain a place of freedom, or if this final bemoaning performance of the intolerant will succeed in ending the freedoms of the Modern era, and bomb us back to the near-forgotten darkness of earlier times. In the end there will be, so we want to hope, a large space for empathy and coexistence, which will be determined by tolerance and by a social contract, esti Deus non daretur, as if there weren’t a God. If we succeed in this, then we succeed in our modernity, by destroying the targets through which the jihadis today pull us into war.

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