Holy Terrors: Thinking about religion after September 11

Holy Terrors: Thinking about religion after September 11

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"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say: " you helped this happen. This could be if we all fast and pray this could be god's call to revival"

Jerry Falwell's thoughts on the September Eleventh terrorist attacks.

The average person might hear all those words spoken out of hate and total disrespect. However in Fallwell's mind his religion deems those words not only necessacary but truthful. Fallwell according to his religious beliefs Fallwell does actually believe that the September Eleventh attacks were committed because said groups brought on gods wrath. This is one of the main points brought up by Bruce Lincoln throughout the book, Holy Terrors: Thinking about religion after September 11. The book attempts to "think" through the nature of religion in order to identify its main components: Discourse, Practice, Community, and Institution. Lincoln attempts to specify religion historically changing relation to other aspects of culture. Lincoln also explains his take on how religion is practiced in two forms The Maximalist and The Minimalist approach.

The religious Maximalist approach to religion Lincoln notes, rather than "fundamentalist" a Maximalist believes that religion should permeate all aspects of social , indeed of human existence"(5). Basically what Lincoln is saying that Maximalists believe religion should take precedence in our social order and not be constrained to any singular facet of our social world. Lincoln also uses the term Minimalist which is more or less the opposite of Maximalist. Minimalists, believe that religion should be "restricted to an important set of (chiefly metaphysical) terms, protects its privileges against state intrusion but restricts its activity and influence to its specialized sphere"(5). The Minimalist makes sure that religion stays within its own "sphere" and does not spill over into economical or political order.

Lincoln then sets out his definition of what a religion must consist of, and split it up into four parts. The four parts being Discourse, which contains the verbal and textual examples of "transcendence", Practice which contains the rituals done religously, Community the people practicing said religion and construct their reality around it, and Institution recognized as understanding and representing the religion.

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Lincoln deems all these parts necesscary to call something a proper "religion."

The Mohammad Atta letter is discussed and dissected by Lincoln as a sort or religious text. It is a chilling thing to read, to know people will act out such acts of horrific terrorisim in the name of their religious cause. Lincoln identifies arguments made to "sanctify and justify" acts of terrorisim which is a function of religion. "When the hour of reality approaches … wholeheartedly welcome death for the sake of God. Always remembering God. Either end your life while praying, seconds before the target, or make your last words, " There is no God, but God, Muhammed is his messenger,"(10). Lincoln then discusses what exactly Al qaeda was trying to accomplish by this act of terror, "to show the world how awesome the form of power it was they possesed"(17).

The paralells that Lincoln draws between Bush and Bin Laden are very insightful. Citing how in both Bin Laden's speech and Bush's speech both men are religious Maximalists Bush is just more subtle. Both men, "constructed a Manichean struggle where Sons of Light confront Sons of Darkness"(20). Both men touted themselves as protectors of the weak. They use their religious Maximalist views in their speeches appealing to other Maximalists of their shared religion. Bin Laden called for Islam to stand up and fight against the infidels. This is similar to Jerry Fallwell's call for a "revival."

On September 13th 2001 Reverend Jerry Fallwell appeared on the 700 club, a religious television show, Fallwell is a staunche supporter of the Religious Right and the Moral Majority. One of the most analyzed tirades is located in the very beginning of my review. Where Fallwell attacks homosexuals, the ACLU, and various other "heretic" groups for playing a role in the Sept. 11 attacks. Claiming that because we had angered god, god had then lifted his "veil of protection" and allowed these attacks to happen. Fallwell concluded due to his religious beliefs that these actions, the planes crashing into the WTC buildings, for what the bible calls a time for religious revival. Changing the way we lead our lives because what we were currently doing had angered god so much that he allowed such atrocities to happen to prove a point. After the show aired and after receiving Scrutiny from the Lay Press, Fallwell made several recats to his tirade but never fully withdrew his statement.

Lincoln finishes his book with the transcriptions of Fallwell, Bush, Bin Laden, and the instructions for the hijackers of Sept. 11th. Lincoln manages to pull off the religious neutrality of a scholar and maintains his academic credibilty by not allowing his own religious views to manipulate his views. The most interesting part of this book was how people will use religion to justify violence and even catastrophic acts against humanity in the case of Sept.11th. The face that people can be such Maximalists is a frightening thought in these days of terror.
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