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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

Look inside Nissim Dahan's book Selling a Vision of Hope with Google Books.

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Obama pushes for global trade deals in face of opposition

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the opening of the Hannover Messe industry fair in Hannover, northern Germany, Sunday, April 24, 2016. Obama is on a two-day official visit to Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
HANNOVER, Germany (AP) ? President Barack Obama mounted a strong defense of international trade deals Sunday in the face of domestic and foreign opposition, saying it's "indisputable" that such agreements strengthen the economy and make U.S. businesses more competitive worldwide. But he acknowledged that the clock is ticking on his faltering trade agenda.

Listen to an interview with Nissim Dahan on the Tom Marr Show.

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Vision of Hope
file under: extremistscommon sense 29 Aug 2007 4:30 PM
Why Would Anyone Strap On A Suicide Bomb? Posted by Nissim Dahan

It is exceedingly difficult for some of us in the West to fathom how a young man or woman could become convinced to blow themselves up in the name of a cause they believe in. Our Western minds have a hard time making sense of the phenomenon of suicide bombers. And yet, we may well have to probe the minds of these fellow travelers, and understand how they think, in order to figure out how to best deal with them, and how to counter the threat they pose.

 

Some of us naturally assume that a suicide bomber must be necessarily poor or uneducated. We rationalize to ourselves: Only a desperate person with nothing left to lose would be willing to give up his life for the sake of any given cause. But there is plenty of evidence out there to suggest that this is not the case. Many suicide bombers are well educated and well off financially. The 9/11 hijackers are a case in point, as are the recent British doctors. Poverty and ignorance do not explain the dynamics of suicide bombers.

 

More than anything else, my hunch is that it is religious faith and belief that drives the suicide bomber to do what he does. His worldview is such that he is able to step out of the bounds of social norms, and into a mindset in which extremist thinking and self-destructive behavior become rational and even inspiring. Once he assumes this frame of mind, blowing himself up for a cause he believes in begins to make all the sense in the world.

 

Many anthropologists have come to believe of late that our species is hardwired for religious belief. It was difficult to understand, at first, why people would subject themselves to all the rigors of religious ritual and belief. But recently, many noted scientists using the Darwinian model of natural selection, have come to the conclusion that the propensity for religious belief was "adaptive" for our ancestors, that it helped them to cope with the difficulties of life and death, and that it was therefore passed on as a genetic trait from generation to generation.

 

So his religious beliefs are what motivates the suicide bomber, and what allow him to transcend his natural fear of death. His beliefs mold him into the person he must become to fulfill his destiny as a martyr: his belief in Islam, in violent Jihad, in martyrdom, and in the promise of paradise.

 

It is precisely because we, as human beings, have a need to believe, and have a propensity to act on our beliefs, that it becomes exceedingly important for us to come up with an ideology, a belief system, that makes sense, and that helps us to sustain ourselves on this good earth. In a world that is becoming increasingly technological, dangerous, and complex, and where people are becoming increasingly dependent on one another economically, it becomes even more important to embrace an ideology which keeps us safe, and which allows us to deal with one another without fear or mistrust.

 

In the past, we may have gotten away with believing whatever we wanted to believe in. Scores of millions of people died unjustly in the name of false belief, but we kept on going as a species. But such is not the case today. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of jumping to false belief. It has become too dangerous to do so. We cannot allow ourselves to hang on to outdated modes of thinking, to beliefs which threaten our very existence.

 

Yes, we are all entitled, by virtue of our very humanity, to worship as we please, and to believe as we wish. But it is incumbent on all of us, if we are to survive as a species, to screen our religious beliefs through the filter of common sense. I say "all of us" because if we are honest with ourselves, there is extremist thinking on all sides of the ideological fence. If an idea makes sense, we can believe in it wholeheartedly. If it makes no sense, we owe it to ourselves to let it go. Wouldn't such an approach be more in keeping with how God designed the universe? Isn't common sense more in keeping with His intent?

 

All religions contain scriptural passages or scriptural interpretations which are not palatable to the modern mind, and which make no sense. It is the mark of a reasonable person to ignore such passages and such interpretations even as he holds on to his religious beliefs. To do otherwise would subject us and our children to the insipid onslaught of irrational thought and destructive behavior, and would bring into question the prospects for our very survival. Such a disastrous outcome could not have been God's intent for the creatures He created in His own image.

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