The Rev. Jerry Falwell made it clear that the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, were direct and divine retribution for American fondness of homosexuality and abortion. But I blame Jesus Christ for 9/11.
Certainly Jesus must be held accountable for the prominent role and grip on society religion maintains. Like all religious prophets, Jesus contributes to a fundamental truth shared by essentially every culture: religious dedication is a very positive personal attribute. The 9/11 hijackers were nothing if not fervent believers. Misguided as hell, but devout.
Let's turn to the cultural mirror and cartoon, "South Park," for spiritual insight. One episode focused on a fake prophet, one who defends and justifies himself by saying, "Everything I tell people is positive and gives them hope!" Stan Marsh's retort lacked tact and sensitivity, but he also might well have been addressing Jesus, directly: "You give [people] false hope and a belief in something that isn't real...The big questions in life are tough! 'Why are we here?' 'Where are we from? 'Where are we going?' But as long as people believe in a**hole douchey liars like you, we're never going to find the answers to those questions. You aren't just lying, you're slowing down the progress of all mankind; you douche."
On the record, certainly, Jesus was officially a good guy. And for millennia He has encouraged blind religious faith. His overall message makes it crystal clear that there is, that He sort of is, an eternal and all-knowing supernatural entity ruling over the entire universe asserting divine and Leviticus-defined commandments, including: breed ONLY purebred cows, and don't even think about wearing a poly-cotton blended t-shirt. Unpleasing to the Lord. He'll smite ya! And mainstream religion is the nourishing topsoil that cultivates people like the 9/11 hijackers; a foundation enabling them to grow, thrive, and then branch off the deep end. As prominent atheist Sam Harris put it, "religious moderation gives cover to religious fundamentalism."
The heathenous Harris continued: "Another problem with religious moderation is that it's not only intellectually bankrupt, it is theologically bankrupt. Because the fundamentalists have actually read the books. And they're right about them. These books are every bit as intolerant, every bit as divisive, as the Osama bin Ladens of the world."
Therein lies the problem. The extremist nuts are enabled by the free pass society grants them to be nuts, practically all the way to detonation before anybody says anything.
"Just think of how good a book would be if it were authored by an omniscient deity," Harris said. "I mean, there is not a single line in the Bible or the Koran that could not have been authored by a first century person. There is not one reference to anything - there are pages and pages about how to sacrifice animals, and keep slaves, and who to kill and why. There's nothing about electricity, there's nothing about DNA, there's nothing about infectious disease, the principles of infectious disease. There's nothing particularly useful, and there's a lot of Iron Age barbarism in there, and superstition."
Meanwhile, the most spiritual of Christians insist that our ethical framework, including Thou Shalt Not Kill, is Biblically-based. The pagan sort might argue, duh, we don't need an ancient text to know that murder's no good. But the theist disagrees. Sure, by 2012, he'll counter, that godly moral truth has for so long been sewn so strongly into our cultural fiber that even most (apparently not all) atheists understand the most basic ethics that God provides, even if they don't appreciate the divine origins of right and wrong.
Religious extremists are folks with an overabundance of faith. We can all agree Osama bin Laden was monstrously evil, but the root of his problem was an excess of piety towards his interpretation of God. Everyone knows the world would be a better place if bin Laden had been more secular, and a lot less spiritual. Because if you study the Koran or especially the Holy Bible, you absolutely can find a way to twist just about any twisted message from it that you desire.
Everybody knows nice religious people. But in spite of the many individual exceptions to the realities of theology, the greater truth remains: as a species, we are really bad at religion. Obviously, organized religion is supposed to be nice. In theory. But, obviously, the practical practice of worshiping is all-too-often simply a springboard to very bad things.
Returning us to America's favorite savior. It's tough to deny that Jesus' heart often seems in the right place; at least in the verses we hear in church. But you also have to figure He always knew what He was doing, and knew the consequences of pushing that particular lifestyle. He's Jesus, for Christ's sake. If anyone should know better, you have to admit it is Him; Jesus dropped the ball. Because despite all of that Good News, there really isn't any way around one very inconvenient corresponding fact for Christians: Jesus Christ paves the Road to Hell.