Abbott's absolution of Islam has been echoed again and again by the likes of Barack Obama, David Cameron and other Western leaders following similar attacks on their soil. But I'm afraid such disavowals are starting to wear a little thin, particularly when the perpetrators of these acts make it abundantly clear (as the Sydney attacker did with his use of an Islamic slogan flag) that they are acting in the name of Islam. I'm sure it will be revealed that the monsters who perpetrated the Peshawar massacre were making some sort of statement about the education of girls and the teaching of non-Islamic disciplines such as modern science, just like the Boko Haram (literally 'books forbidden') group in Nigeria and the man who shot Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan.
Religion is at the heart of all these acts, as it is at the heart of much of the violence in the world today and throughout history. Fortunately for those of us who live in the originally-Christian West, Christianity has lost its potency as a motivator for violence, but Islam has certainly stepped into its shoes as one of the primary forces for evil-doing in the world.
The problem with religion is that it can justify any extreme of behaviour in the name of its gods. The scriptures of most religions include plenty of material to justify all manner of violent acts. Anyone who is seen as not being a sufficiently doctrinaire adherent to a particular faith can be struck down with little compunction on the part of the perpetrator. There is no compassion, empathy or guilt when you are acting in the name of the supreme being, for what is the worth of the life of child against the majesty of the creator?
Religious people believe they are moral, but really they are completely amoral. They substitute their interpretation of the words of an old book for the rational thoughts of their own mind. True morality is rationalism. True morality is about taking personal responsibility for, and thinking through the effects of, the actions you take. The rational person understands the horrible misery that killing a child brings to everyone who loved or cared for that child and thinks about how he or she would feel in the place of the victim. The religious person thinks only of whether their action will bring them distinction in the eyes of their god. I concede that evil is not confined to the devoutly religious, but religion enables its adherents to escape personal responsibility for their acts and in doing so makes it easier for them to commit evil.
On that rather depressing note, I would like to wish those who have read my blog posts this year a very happy holiday season. I intend to write more next year and hope that some of what I write interests and entertains you.
Thank you for reading and thank you most of all for your rationalism. It is a rare commodity.