America has learned nothing from 9-11 and 20 years of war in Afghanistan


Message from Rabbi Barry Silver


Today we mourn the loss of 1000s of lives and the sad tragedy that befell their friends and families and our nation, 21 years ago.


When our nation has suffered tragedies in the past, we often learned something from the experience to build a better future.  The Civil War led to the Emancipation Proclamation, World War II helped establish the United States as a bastion of freedom in the world and saw the growth of the middle class, and the protests of the 1960s led to the environmental movement and the march towards women’s rights.


Sadly, as we commemorate the 21st anniversary of the tragic 9-11 attack, America seems to have learned nothing, and thus we are no closer to avoiding such tragedies in the future.  In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, there was tremendous potential to gain understanding and move forward.  An increasingly unpopular President who served as fodder for comedians, in the days following September 11, President Bush’’s approval rating soared above 85% and America was ready to follow his lead to build a safer world.  He could have begun an interfaith dialogue to discuss how religion could be transformed to spread love rather than hate, he could have launched a concerted effort to make America energy independent so that never again would we be dependent on regimes that finance and support madrassas which teach terrorism and murder to children.


Instead, he inspired two protracted, bloody, doomed efforts to impose our will on others.  Not once did he or any of his generals seem to understand that we were not fighting merely on the battlefield of war, but on the battlefield of ideas.  As Bush said that Islam is a religion of peace, he spread his utter ignorance of the plethora of exhortations in the Koran to kill non-believers, which is a key theme of this and other so-called holy books.  


Even the name of our response, revealed the utter blindness of the President and his generals as they launched their decades long “war on terror”.  Terror is a tactic, and if you do not name the enemy, and for politically correct reasons, cannot even identify it, then trillions of dollars and thousands of lives will not succeed in imposing democracy in Muslim lands as our defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly reveal.


Many liberals take great offense for stating the obvious, that a book that demands that its followers kill non-believers wherever they are found and promises eternal bliss for those who kill in the name of Allah, will not bring about a peaceful world if taken literally.  And conservatives do not want to hear that these violent passages, like much else in Islam, come from the Biblical book of Deuteronomy, which provides a blueprint for ISIS and the Taliban with its depiction of God demanding that his “chosen people” slaughter non-believers and take their virgin daughters as booty for themselves.  Christianity doubles down on this violence as it depicts gentle Jesus, meek and mild, having all people brought before him so he can separate the sheep from the goats, where he not only slaughters the goats, but sends them to eternal torment in hell, which Christopher Hitchens observes, “is where the real fun begins”.  


Most Americans are unaware that on September 11, 1683, Christians mobilized their forces to repel a Muslim invasion of Europe after Islam had been spread by the sword throughout much of the rest of the known world at that time. If not for this victory at the Battle of Vienna, all of Europe may have become Muslim to this day.  While we may not remember such history, large numbers of people across the globe remember such events as if they happened yesterday. In the madrassas, paid for by Saudi Arabia with the proceeds of the sale of oil to America and the western world, Muslim children are brainwashed to kill to avenge such losses and gain entry to heaven for themselves and their families. If we do not understand this and continue to finance these incubators of violence with our purchase of oil, which simultaneously fuels climate change, then we will be doomed to more violent attacks and the destruction of our planet.


There is a simple vaccine available at no charge to every person to eradicate the virus of blind faith and it is free and available to all. The vaccine is called reason and it provides absolute immunity to religious indoctrination.  Sadly, reason and science are dirty words to large swaths of humanity, even in America, as they prefer delusion and fantasy to reality and refuse to take the vaccine of reason and science, the crowning achievement of our species.   As famously said in the movie “A few good men” they cannot handle the truth and prefer the illusions of religious faith.  We also have discovered the vaccine that offers a cure to hate, which is called love.  Love has no adverse side effects, is available to all and is free, yet many people refuse to take it. 


The alternative to blind faith is not no faith, it is rational faith, in which we teach our children to place their trust in facts, evidence, education, learning, reason, love, peace, kindness and other glittering ideals which are found in religious books alongside the calls to murder in God’s name.  I know that some will condemn me for telling the truth about religion, but perhaps one day political correctness will give way to science and reason.  Rational religion such as Cosmic Judaism, which is based on the vaccines of reason and love, can cure the worst plagues of humanity, i.e. ignorance, arrogance, intolerance and indifference, and can create a better world. 


As we approach the Jewish Day of Atonement, let us learn from and atone for our bloody past, including the violent passages of our own Torah, which have metastasized in the Bibles of Christians and Muslims to wreak havoc across the globe.  This is the best way to honor the memory of those who perished 21 years ago so that their death will not have been in vain.  Such acknowledgement of our own culpability in this and other acts of religious violence will also give us the moral authority and “street cred” to launch a spiritual transformation so that religion may be used to build bridges of understanding rather than walls of separation.  In this way we can learn from our past and help religion become a true source of peace, love and hope in the world.


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