Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years since Sept 11th

I just watched a Discovery channel program on the building of the Sept 11 Memorial area at ground zero. It made be reflect a bit about that day. I was a student in my undergraduate studies at Mount Allison University, walking along campus when someone told me to go to the east lounge and look at the TV, that airplanes had hit a building. I went and saw and like most people on that day, saw something that would never be forgotten and would somehow impact life for all in the future.

For me it was an eventual reflection of the problem of religion as a factor in violence and terrorism. It was and still is a depressing fact of life, that bronze age mythological worldviews can play such a powerful role in war and terrorism. I think it was a wake up call for secularists all over the world, that although criticism of religion has had a taboo attached to it, that we unbelievers have as much right as the religious to voice our viewpoints as well, at least in secular democratic countries.

Let me make it clear that I don't think all religious people are bad or evil, but that a worldview based on superstition and myths can sometimes be dangerous, when morality and ethical systems are built on foundations of shaky reasoning and logic. I do hope that we as a species move away from superstition and metaphysical worldviews, and focus instead on an ethics and worldview based simply on love, reason, a healthy dose of skepticism and compassion.

I think education has a lot to offer in achieving these goals. I don't believe we will ever live in a perfect world, or a world without any violence, but hope that we can grow and become more compassionate as we seek to find truths in that which we can back up with reason and evidence rather than arbitrary beliefs and superstitions which often conflict with others superstitions or proven facts. Basically I hope we evolve into a gentler society before we destroy ourselves though war, greed or environmental disaster.

This of course seems too simplistic. There are paradoxes that must be wrestled with. As an educator I want to find that balance between being true to my own values and allowing the freedom of others to believe what the want. I do believe however, if we commit violent acts, or criminal acts in the name or service of those belief then we crossed a line and must be challenged. If you are killing people don't expect to stifle criticism of your religion by playing the respect religion card. If you are telling flat out lies because the truth of something offends your religious views then don't expect to silence me from my right to voice my beliefs. We all have the right to criticize and research in order to seek knowledge. That, at least should exist in free societies.

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