Saturday, September 22, 2001

RENOWNED SCHOLAR WILL SMITH, enunciating for us stupid people, said in the telethon for America that "it was hate, not religion, that motivated the horrible acts of September 11th."

Point No. 1: Do you hate anyone or anything enough that you'd get behind the controls of a jumbo jet and plow it into a building, killing yourself, to annoy that person or thing? Oh, there was plenty of hate behind the attacks, but not religion? Pretty hard to believe.

Point No. 2: The people associated with the big religious franchises are pretty cavalier when it comes to telling other people that their religions aren't religions at all. The word "cult" is offensive for this reason ("We, quite sensibly, eat the body of Christ every Sunday, whereas those cult people are crazy!"). It's as if the Chi-Chi's people could barge in on your local Salvadoran joint and tell the owners that they aren't really making tortilla chips.

This will sound strange, but in a way religion is like journalism. It's a huge freedom-of-the-press issue that, because the government has no business issuing licenses to denote who is and isn't a journalist, anyone acting as a reporter is accorded the constitutional rights granted the writers of The Washington Post and The New York Times. Similarly -- and this should be even more common-sensical -- who is anyone to decide whether another person's worship practices actually constitute religion? With all the splintering that has occurred with the major faiths, how can any of them assert that the buzzer has sounded on new ideas? If the despicable suicide bombers thought they were acting in the name of God (and clearly they did), that's what they thought. Who on earth could prove that's any less valid than the silliness that comes out of Christianity, Judaism, "true" Islam and the rest of the theological franchises?

STILL, IT WAS GREAT to see Muhammad Ali and Paul Simon, two of my heroes, on that same program. And Neil Young did a nice version of John Lennon's beautiful "Imagine," which articulates my heretical ideas much better than I could before it veers into hippie-commune territory (No possessions?). Will Smith didn't sting him like a bee or anything. Aren't free speech and diversity of thought wonderful?

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