What Really Riles Muslim Extremists?

Bombing in Peshawar i i

hide captionPeople gather at the site of an explosion Wednesday in Peshawar, Pakistan. A car bomb tore through a marketplace in northwestern Pakistan, killing 86 people hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the country.

Mohammad Sajjad/AP
Bombing in Peshawar

People gather at the site of an explosion Wednesday in Peshawar, Pakistan. A car bomb tore through a marketplace in northwestern Pakistan, killing 86 people hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the country.

Mohammad Sajjad/AP

More insurgent bombings in Iraq. More Taliban strikes in Afghanistan. What's up with these people? Just Wednesday, a deadly car bomb exploded in Peshawar, Pakistan, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad. Is Islam the problem? Many atheists, and even some believers, would like us to believe that Muslim fanatics are doing this in the hope of going straight to heaven, so that they can enjoy the company of 72 virgins there. Some go as far as saying that religion itself is to blame, because it makes people susceptible to fanaticism, terrorism and violence.

But this accusation against religion is nonsense. Even against Islam, it's questionable. Robert Pape's study of insurgency and suicide bombing shows that these actions have nothing to do with promises of heavenly reward. Rather, extremists are motivated by more mundane motives: they invaded our country, they stole our land, they raped my sister, and so on.

Whether or not this is true, Islamist terrorism is a special case. The original suicide bombers, the Japanese kamikazes, were not motivated by religion but rather by fanatical loyalty to the emperor. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka conduct suicide attacks in a desperate struggle over land and self-determination. If religion is the problem, where are the Buddhist suicide bombers? Nor has anyone been able to identify the Christian bin Laden, the Christian equivalent of al-Qaida or Hezbollah, or the Christian country today run along the lines of post-Khomeini Iran. Most people in the world believe in God and the afterlife, yet hardly any of them launch suicide attacks in the hope of going straight to heaven.

Dinesh D'Souza

hide captionDinesh D'Souza's new book Life After Death: The Evidence is published by Regnery.

Courtesy of Dinesh D'Souza

The atheist attack on religion fails. But even more significant, it boomerangs on the atheists. To see why, you have to understand the larger atheist critique. For two centuries, atheists have said that belief in the next world detracts from the pressing task of improving this one. The afterlife, in other words, is anti-life. We see this in the subtitle of Christopher Hitchens' book, How Religion Poisons Everything. But the most famous atheist to make this accusation was Karl Marx.

Marx famously said religion is the "opiate of the people." He meant that religion is a kind of drug that numbs us from being aware of social injustice. Marx's call to eradicate religion was taken up with a vengeance by a host of dictators: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ceausescu, Enver Hoxha, Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-il. These despots have collectively killed millions more than even bin Laden could ever dream of orchestrating.

Beliefs in God and life after death have proven far less dangerous to society than the attempts to establish the God-free utopia. Fine, let's listen to the atheists who say we need to watch out for heaven-seeking Muslims bent on blowing up civilians and flying planes into buildings. But let's be just as vigilant against atheist fanatics who are willing to murder millions in order to establish their version of heaven on Earth.

Dinesh D'Souza's new book Life After Death: The Evidence is published by Regnery. Visit him online at dineshdsouza.com.

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