You know what really pissed me off about 9/11? You know what got under my skin more than anything else...more than all the flag-waving, more than the fact that we dropped all those food packets in minefields, more than the regular sight of John Ashcroft on television? More even than the bombing itself?
What really pissed me off was the news that Mohammed Atta and Co. went to a bar in Florida three days before the attack--and got drunk.
Witnesses confirm that Atta and several of the other hijackers piled into a bar called Shuck 'Ems in Opa-Locka and put away about six mixed drinks apiece. At the end of the night, Atta complained about the bill, even threatening not to pay. "They were pretty wasted," the bartender recalled.
Here's an example of what the Koran has to say about alcohol:
"2.219: They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: 'In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.' They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: 'What is beyond your needs.' Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider."
Here's another passage:
"5.90: O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination, ...of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper."
That's just fucking great. Here's this guy who's willing to slaughter 5,000 people in the name of God, and he can't even follow the simplest rule in the whole damn Koran. And it wasn't like he slipped in a moment of weakness - he went out, with all of his true-believer buddies, and had himself one last bender before his big date with Allah. It was planned.
That was the last straw for me. Before I read that, I had a live-and-let-live attitude toward God people. Since childhood, when my parents dragged me to Catholic masses so that I could watch grown men mumbling in unison while some old drunken priest with burst capillaries in his face waved his arms around under his silly white dress, I have believed very strongly that any person who believes in God is certifiably insane. However, since there were so many of these people, and since people who shared my general point of view seemed mostly to feel sorry for Believers and adopt a position of tolerance in regard to them, I never went so far as to believe that every last churchgoer should be committed to asylums or concentration camps. But I've changed my mind now. After 9/11, I'm certain: every last person who believes in God should be swept off the streets, captured with big nets, thrown into maximum-security institutions, and forced to knit oven mitts and play Lite-Brite with each other until their deaths.
Despite what you may think, God people are not just incredibly stupid. They're dangerous. They make possible every kind of human idiocy. Why? Not just because they tend to be zealots who try to force their point of view on other people (indeed, most religions consider non-believers lost or damned); not just because they do things like level the World Trade Center or strap dynamite to themselves and walk into abortion clinics to kill teenage girls they don't even know. No, the big problem with God people is that they make patent absurdities a central fact in the lives of entire populations, so that if anyone by chance wants to live a reasonable life, he has to do so in private, apologetically, like a man walking half bent-over through a crowded subway car because he has an erection in his pants.
When thinking about religion it's useful to imagine what our world would like to a person looking back at us from about the year 3000 or 4000. That's what I do from year 2001; I close my eyes and try to imagine myself, the same person I am now, living in Egypt under the Pharaohs in 600 B.C. All around me people are sacrificing animals and chanting and burying their dead cats in sacred receptacles, and I'm keeping my mouth shut, taking long walks along the Nile, volunteering to do the dishes rather than linger in on an after-dinner discussion... Basically life isn't all that much different today. You can't call people who believe in God lunatics in public - you can only think it in private. When you go to a guest's house for dinner, and someone says grace, no one asks you if you want to participate, and you just sit there moving your lips, pretending to pray. Even the most famous atheists of modern times tend to be remarkably respectful and apologetic toward the Other Half. They always state their case in terms of their own preferences, as in their personal right not to believe in God - never pointing a finger at the next guy and calling him crazy, even if they obviously think that. Bertrand Russell is a classic example. His famous 1927 collection of essays, "Why I am Not a Christian"a sort of bible of atheismwas structured as an elaborate defense of Russell's atheistic beliefs, as opposed to an accusatory deconstruction of the beliefs of others.