Kudos to eighteen-year-old CJ Pearson for his excellent narration in his first PragerU video (see below).
Pearson aptly recounts what happened on 9/11 and correctly identifies a cause of the attack. But he does not identify the fundamental cause.
Let’s zero in on that.
As Pearson explains, terrorists attacked America on 9/11 not because they “disagreed with America’s Middle East policy”—and not because they were “poor and hopeless” (they were from wealthy or middle-class families)—but because they despised America’s values, especially its freedom.
But this raises the question: Why did they hate America’s freedom? What caused this hatred? The answer to this question will bring us to a deeper level of understanding and, perhaps, help us to prevent further atrocities of this sort.
The terrorists, including the planners of the attack, were not mere terrorists; they were jihadists—warriors for “Allah.” They hated America’s freedom because it enables people to live their lives as they see fit, including by acting in ways that contradict Islamic scripture and Allah’s will.
According to Islamic scripture, everyone must worship Allah and submit to his commands—and Muslims (“submitters”) must convert or kill infidels (“disbelievers”). The Koran makes this clear: Muslims must “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war” (9:5); and “Fight them until all opposition ends and all submit to Allah” (8:39).
But in America, people are free to reject Islam completely. Indeed, we are free to reject all religion and to act in accordance with our own judgment, regardless of what any religious scripture or authority says. For instance, we are (substantially) free to produce wealth and to spend it on our selfish values and desires; free to engage in consensual (adult) sex with partners of our choosing, including same-sex partners; free to dress however we prefer; free to idolize anything or anyone we choose, even ourselves; and free to speak our minds and express our views regardless of what anyone thinks or feels about them. What we are not free to do is violate people’s rights by initiating physical force against them.
The 9/11 jihadists hated America’s dismissal and violation of Islamic law. But America’s clash with Islam was not the fundamental cause of the attack, either. Something still deeper was.
How did the jihadists “know” that Islamic scripture is “true”? What was their means of “knowing” this? The answer to this question exposes the fundamental cause of the attack on 9/11.
The means by which jihadists accept Islamic scripture as true is: faith. Faith is acceptance of ideas in support of which there is no evidence. If you accept ideas as true based on evidence, you accept them by means of reason, not faith. (We have the two different concepts—reason and faith—so that we can differentiate between these two different ways of accepting ideas. Reason denotes acceptance on the basis of evidence; faith denotes acceptance in the absence of evidence.)
Whereas reason operates by means of perceptual observation, conceptual integration, and logic, faith has no corresponding faculties or mechanisms. It is literally “just believing.”
Well, if faith is a means of knowledge—if just believing something to be true makes it true—then a jihadist’s faith that he should kill infidels is knowledge. It is truth. And acting in accordance with the truth is morally correct.
You see the problem.
There is no getting around this. If faith is a means of knowledge, then faith is a means of knowledge. If so, and if a jihadist’s faith tells him that he should convert or kill infidels, then, that is, as a matter of fact, what he should do.
This is the fundamental reason why the jihadists attacked America on 9/11: They accepted faith as a means of knowledge. This enabled them to believe that Islamic scripture is true. This, in turn, caused them to hate America and its freedom for enabling people to ignore Islamic scripture and disobey “Allah.” And this, combined with the jihadists’ faith-based “knowledge” that they must “Fight and kill the disbelievers” until “all opposition ends and all submit to Allah,” motivated them to murder nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.1
Conservatives often say, “If there is no God, anything goes.” This is not merely false. It is perversely false. The truth is that if faith is a means of knowledge, anything goes. And it is high time for Americans to recognize and embrace this truth.
The fundamental cause of the atrocity on 9/11 was acceptance of faith as a means of knowledge. This cause set all of the other, derivative causes in motion.
If we look at reality and think about it, we can see that this is true. But we have to think with reason. It’s our only means of knowledge.
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1. It’s worth noting that acceptance of faith as a means of knowledge caused even more harm after 9/11, as it retarded the thinking of many Americans, including American presidents, who accept faith as a means of knowledge. It blinded the faithful to the otherwise clear truth that religion—the source of the demand that people accept ideas on faith—was responsible for the atrocity. President George W. Bush, for instance, insisted after the attack that “Islam is peace” and a “noble faith.” This led him to use kid gloves on the Islamic theocracies that sponsored the jihad, notably Iran and Saudi Arabia. And President Barack Obama said that “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance” and that “Islam is not part of the problem” but “an important part of promoting peace.” He, too, left the state sponsors of Islamic jihad untouched.