Captagon is an amphetamine popular with ISIS (Daesh) kamikaze terrorists. It is apparently very effective in producing a “high” of euphoria and an illusion of power, coupled with the ability to stay awake and alert for long periods of time. It is also a source of Dutch courage, as was Dutch gin in naval battles centuries ago, and rum on the killing fields of World War I and in the many wars that have followed the one we call Great. Fear of an officer’s bullet in the back, fear of being accused of cowardice, a Band of Brothers camarderie (“mateship” for Australians), personal altruism, patriotism and genuine courage – there are multiple causes of battlefield bravery. Facing possible, probable or certain death calls for a courage which some find in themselves and others in bottles, in either liquid or capsule form.
Daesh has been called a Death-Cult. Much of its appeal and efficacy come from the conviction inculcated in recruits that death, including religiously motivated suicide, is a mere passage to another, better life and its promised rewards. The same conviction is the principal belief shared by all religions. Christian tradition goes so far as to speak of a Saint’s death as his birthday into eternal life. The solidity of this cornerstone of both established religions and extremist sects like Daesh, is unlikely to be shaken by the absence of any evidence of the reality of an afterlife. Non-Christians are understandably unimpressed by Christ’s “Resurrection”, to say nothing of His Mother’s “apparitions”. Believers believe that Heaven exists because their holy books say that it does, and that’s good enough for them.
There was a striking example of all this recently on French TV. An “orthodox”, “moderate” Muslim was explaining that though his blog condemning the deformation of True Islam by Islamist terrorists had resulted in Daesh death-threats, he was not afraid to die – “if it is the will of Allah”.
The example underlines the source of all religious belief, including that which motivates suicidal, terrorist assassins (the word, we remember, comes from “hashish” …) : death is just the door to eternal life. There is no need to be afraid of dying; a better life awaits us – to the point that some people want to jump (pardon the pun) the gun. Death ? The sooner the better !
We atheists do not fear death. Suffering, yes. A long, drawn-out, painful terminal illness, yes. But death itself is the end and there ain’t no more. So let’s do what we can to have it happen as late as possible (or to make it happen if life becomes unbearable). Both good believers and evil fanatics, after they die, will never know how wrong they were.