It may seem odd, but Osama and Karl have a lot more in common than you might think. Let me explain.
For centuries, people have debated the question of free will. Many claim that our behavior is determined only by our genetics and life experiences. They argue among themselves about which of the two is more important – nature or nurture.
In either case, humans are reduced to complex robots. And without free will, criminal responsibility is called into question. Many defense attorneys, and their hired expert witnesses, claim that the defendant’s low-life parents and unhappy childhood absolve him of blame for his crimes.
But if genetics and environment really determine behavior, why are these experts often badly mistaken in predicting behavior? Why do they often predict that an inmate has been rehabilitated and is no longer a risk, only to be proved terribly wrong when the person is released?
The same experts who claim that behavior is predetermined are themselves often unable to predict behavior. Their belief that free will does not exist is thus not a scientific theory, subject to being refuted by experiment. Rather, it is an irrational belief, depending on faith quite as much as do religious beliefs.
Religious people believe we each have a God-given soul and free will. Many secular people believe we are robots. But neither belief can be proved or disproved. The difference is that religious people admit their belief is based on faith, while secular people falsely claim their belief is based on facts.
The Bible tells us to judge trees by their fruit. Likewise, we should judge beliefs by their results. What results can we expect from each belief?
America was founded by people who believed – and proclaimed loudly – that all human beings are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. What resulted from these beliefs? A nation resulted that, despite its flaws, is freer then any nation in history. A nation resulted that, despite missteps, champions individual rights throughout the world – and is both admired and hated for it.
But what resulted from the belief that our behavior is predetermined?
The Nazis, like other racists, declared that genetics – "blood" – is the key determinant of human behavior and worth. They stressed nature, not nurture. Hitler, Himmler and Eichmann were their heroes. Auschwitz and Buchenwald were their crowning achievements. Their beliefs resulted in brutal tyranny and mass murder.
The communists declared that environment is the key determinant of human behavior, and tried to create the "new Soviet man." They stressed nurture, not nature. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were their heroes. The Ukrainian famine, the Gulag and the Cambodian genocide were their crowning achievements. Their beliefs resulted in brutal tyranny and mass murder.
Today, the communists’ unlikely heirs, the Islamic extremists, also believe in the power of environment. Instead of economics, they claim to be concerned with theology. But their aim is identical – forcing everyone into an ideologic straitjacket. Bin Laden and the suicide bombers are their heroes. It is too soon to say what their crowning achievement will be, but 9/11 and the Russian school massacre are strong hints. Their beliefs result in brutal tyranny and mass murder.
How can I compare communists, who are militant atheists, with Islamic extremists, who are fanatically religious? True, they disagree on theology, but they agree on many other things:
- They both believe that people’s behavior is governed by their environment, which therefore must be rigidly controlled.
- They both believe that people have no inalienable rights, and must be regimented by harsh rules that govern all aspects of human activity.
- They both think people can’t be trusted, and must be watched by a vast police apparatus.
- They both attract unhappy, angry, alienated people. Remember John Walker Lindh and the Beltway snipers?
- They both use schools to brainwash young people – Muslim schools in the case of radical Islam, universities in the case of Marxism.
- They both dehumanize nonbelievers. Marxists call their opponents "capitalist pigs," "racists," "oppressors" and "Nazis." Islamic extremists call their opponents "infidels," "sons of pigs and monkeys" and "followers of Satan."
- They both claim that nonbelievers should be converted by force, and those who resist should be persecuted without mercy – or brutally murdered.
- They both believe their role is to create a perfect society, so they are justified in using any means, including mass murder.
- They both hate Judeo-Christian civilization in general and capitalism in particular. The 9/11 terrorists could have destroyed a cathedral or a synagogue. Instead, they destroyed the World Trade Center. That tells a lot about their priorities.
- They both refuse to take responsibility for their backward, poverty-stricken societies. Instead, they blame others for their own failures.
- They both take the anger that should be aimed at their corrupt, incompetent rulers, and misdirect it at the West, and America in particular.
- They both believe they are entitled to control the world, and they hate America for standing in their way.
To put it another way, suppose Stalin claimed to be religious. Suppose he took off his military cap and put a bath towel on his head. Would that have made him any less murderous and evil? Or suppose bin Laden took off his turban and put on a military cap. Would that change anything?
Read the rantings of bin Laden and his supporters. Once you get past the exhortation to suicide bombing and the resulting 72 virgins, what you have left is anti-capitalist, anti-American propaganda that could have some from a left-wing European politician.
Radical Islam is a sort of Frankenstein’s monster. Its creators took the torso of medieval fanaticism, then sewed on limbs taken from the corpse of Marxism. Religious fanaticism plus political extremism – there’s a destructive combination: Religion without a heart, and politics without a brain.
Some people believe we are autonomous individuals and deserve to exercise our God-given free will. They produce free and prosperous societies. Other people believe our behavior is predetermined by genetics or environment, and we must be strictly controlled. They produce oppressive and impoverished societies.
Beliefs don’t exist in a vacuum. They have consequences in the real world. And by their fruits you will know them.
Parts of this article appeared on NewsMax.com. Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.