Some have blamed 9/11 on Islam. Atheists blamed it on religion in general arguing that all religions are bad because they inspire "senseless violence" according to Gibson's write-up.
Religion is often defined by one's personal experiences. Wikipedia defines it as follows: "Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and moral values. By another definition, religion is an attempt by humans to establish contact with a conceptualized and referred higher power and they do this for protection, but also due to a certain degree of fear."
So far, so good. I don't sense too much terrorism that can arise from that kind of pursuit. The problem arises when we mistakenly take it upon ourselves to act on behalf of the higher power we have connected with in a way which seeks to eliminate those of other religions.
It is at that point that we need to recognize two different groups of religions -- Category One or those that seek to proselytize or share their love for their religion and recommend it to others while in the meantime loving others as best they can, and Category Two or those that insist on everyone converting to their religion and never having freedom to leave it. Rather than coming up with a third group for those who also want to eliminate an entire race (known as Jews) off the face of the earth and also wanting to bring to its knees the evil West and its leader, the U.S. of America, we'll stick them in the second group. So, at least, we have two categories of religion, if not more.
Understanding that allows us to clearly and correctly answer the question "does religion cause terrorism?" with the following answer: "Yes and no. It depends whether you are in a Category One or a Category Two religion.
Some actually refuse to believe that religion is at all capable of causing terrorism. Instead they simply blame the various "symbols, images, and justifications" communicated as "absolutes" that facilitate terrorism and violence. The problem is that we cannot always separate a religion from its symbols and images.
We also have to deal with the fact that Islam, one of the major religions, has as its holy book, the Qur'an (Koran), which contains direct instructions as to the killing of infidels who do not accept Islam or who want to leave Islam. We just can't ignore such writings in a religious text. In fact, I believe that the majority of Muslims do seem to ignore them and only the minority radicals are attempting to live their lives in accordance with the edicts of their holy book. Of course, the same is true of Christianity -- the majority of Christians do not live by its holy book, the Bible, and only a few attempt to attain that. The major difference of course between the two religions is that one teaches that we must "love God, and love our neighbors (and enemies) as ourselves" and the other teaches that infidels and those who convert away from the faith must be killed. Again, does religion cause terrorism? Taking this argument into account, the answer is both 'no' (in the case of Christianity) and 'yes' (in the case of a Category Two religion). At least that is how many of us see it.
There is a need, therefore, at the very least, to have a united voice or at least a clarification from the Islamic general movement as to whether or not Islam is in Category Two. But is that possible? I think not. No such answer will ever come from the various segments of the Islamic spectrum -- from liberals or progressives, to moderates, to radicals. There are many reasons for that not the very least being that there is no single one human head of Islam today since Mohammad is long gone.
I am not suggesting at all that Christians are all united in total thought. Jews too are not united in total ideology or approach. So why ask of this from the Muslims? The answer is simple: because neither Jews nor Christians have it as part of their religious culture, goals, objectives, and idealism to eliminate Hindus, Buddhists, or Muslims, for example, while Islam, to listen to the radicals who call themselves "Islamic radicals" and "Islamic jihadists" do in fact proclaim the need to issue fatwahs against Jews and others. If you don't believe me start with Ahmadinejad of Iran and his utterings. (He wants to finish off what Nikita Kruschev only threatened when he took off his shoe and slammed it on the podium during a U.N. speech decades ago shouting, "We will bury you!"
Some religions do not teach hatred and some religions do. There are those that say that Islam's apparent hatred of others (Jews and Americans, e.g.) is not due to their religious doctrine, but rather to the social aspects of their religion ("you know, there's Muslims and there's Jews and we're not like them and therefore don't like them" kind of thinking). That's convenient but it is not based on any fact and it still does not deal with the issue of the Islamic holy book's sections regarding the murder of infidels and those that want to leave Islam. Others see the involvement of so many Muslim youth in jihad activities being simply a 'cool' way to show one's frustration with one's enemies. As one writer put it, today's youth prefer to make war, not love.
So now, what can be done about all this? The problem is that since we're not getting a clear and united statement about "Islam and violence against Jews and others" from a single source of Islamic leadership because there is none, we are caught in the unfortunate position of not knowing our "enemy" when it comes to "Islamic terrorism". Many of us consider Muslims to be peace-loving people. I believe most Muslims are, but let's not confuse that with their religion. Their holy book so far says they are not. And anyone that is telling us otherwise does not address the opposite view expressed by the Koran. Still, we need to know.
The only way for us to get a straight answer therefore is to keep asking for it and not assume anything other than what their official book tells us -- unless they all get together and say that is no longer the official case and "we implore those radical Islamists brothers to immediately stop all terrorist activities". And furthermore, "we'll join the world in forcing them to stop". Now, we'd be getting somewhere.
Still though, we would have a responsibility to not fight fire with fire. I'm not suggesting that we go out and eliminate our enemies physically, for three reasons. The first being, we'd be killing too many innocent people. Secondly, our aggression will only give rise to more aggression on their part. Thirdly, that's not what most of our religions call for.
But to better know "who our enemy is" would allow us to be more united in how we approach the problems that it presents us with. Simply saying "it's complicated" in reference to the link between religion and terrorism is fine if we really believe it to be perplexing . It is not fine if by saying it we are trying to avoid an answer that is 'politically incorrect' to verbalize.
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