Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Strange Creed of Unbelief

Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard, writes today in the L.A. Times:
The writer G.K. Chesterton once suggested that atheists were "balanced on the very edge of belief — of belief in almost anything." I was reminded of this critique last week by a report of a conversation between one of the would-be London bombers, Muktar Said Ibrahim, and a former neighbor of his in Stanmore, the suburb of North London where he grew up.

Americans tend to assume that what is going on in Europe today is a struggle between Islamic extremism and Western — or Judeo-Christian, if you will — tolerance. But this is only half right.

"He asked me," Sarah Scott said, "if I was Catholic because I have Irish family, and I said I didn't believe in anything. And he said I should. He told me he was going to have all these virgins when he got to heaven if he praises Allah. He said if you pray to Allah and if you have been loyal to Allah, you would get 80 virgins, or something like that."

Now, it is the easiest thing in the world to make fun of the notion, apparently a commonplace among jihadists, that a suicide bomber who successfully blows up a decent number of infidels is rewarded in heaven with 80 virgins. (Wouldn't you prefer, say, two desperate housewives?) But is it, I wonder, significantly stranger to believe, like Sarah Scott, in nothing at all?

1 comment:

atheling2 said...

I think it's stranger not to believe in anything at all... I think that human beings are wired to believe in something - to have some supernatural facet in their lives.

People who don't believe in anything are either mentally lazy or spiritually dead.