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Judge, be judged and act accordingly
[September 9, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

When I was a youngster in grade school, I was not one of those kids on the top of the pecking order and occasionally, I got into the scrapes that come with such status. I remember once after mounting a rather ineffective defense against a playground pummeling, I was counseled by my principal that it was wrong for me to fight in self-defense because Jesus expects us to turn the other cheek. When I protested that it really stank to get beat up, I was told that I should not be concerned about the knots in my head because Jesus endured much worse.

Instead of a lecture on pacifism, my principal would have served me better by teaching me how to land a good left hook, followed by a solid hit from the right. There's something to the idea that a willingness to defend yourself is a powerful way to convince a foe to find a wiser use of his time. Thankfully, I was able to work though the conflicts wrought from the pacifism I was inculcated with as a youth. Yet when I consider the larger war facing America, I can't help but think how Christian pacifism and its secular counterparts still conflict many of us today.

Consider, for example, how many times have we heard that the war on terrorism is not a war against Islam. Oh, really? Faith in Islam certainly motivated the 9/11 attackers, who were willing to impale themselves on our greatest buildings to kill those they judged to be infidels from their religion. How many times then have we been told that the terrorists were acting out of a perversion of Islam and that it is wrong to hold the Islam itself responsible for the actions of its benighted followers? Perhaps too many times to count.

Yet an honest evaluation tells us that the terrorists are very much the product of their faith in Islam. They may contradict this part or that part of Islam (belief in religion is, after all, something of a contradiction), but the fact that terrorists acted out of faith is undisputed. Yet for all the excuses for and evasions of the beliefs of the terrorists, no criticism of faith itself is ever offered. The reason is intellectual pacifism: the view that it is wrong to judge the beliefs of others, even when those beliefs lead to actions that have deadly consequences.

Yet life demands we judge the beliefs and actions of others, so I offer this judgment in reply to my non-judgmental friends: faith is perverse. Faith means belief with out evidence or reason. There is no way to reason with someone acting out of faith; there is no fact that one can reference to refute a premise sprung from faith. That’s why faith begets violence; there can be no reconciling with a belligerent acting on the basis of his faith. And that’s why the Catholic faith of my grade school principal brought the world the dark ages, the inquisition and the trail of Galileo despite its pretense toward pacifism and charity).

It is crucial for us today to identify how faith drives our enemies to act against us and judge it accordingly. It’s our judgment that allows us to know who is our enemy, how we must to defend ourselves, and ultimately what we are fighting for. Right now, I fear we are missing the battle that is being fought with a tone louder than bombs: the intellectual battle between the west and Islam.

So instead of prayers and supplications on the 9/11 anniversary, I'd like to see our leaders highlight the real reason that the US was attacked: our culture is one of reason and our currency is intellectual freedom. We respect the individual rights of others and we seek no fight with those who seek no fight with us. That is the glue that binds America together and that's why we were attacked that terrible September day. In the light of that knowledge, let us rededicate ourselves to our defense.


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