The world has always been a dangerous place, and everyone, to some degree, has experienced the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and perhaps even deliberately inflicted damage to our person, our families, our possessions. Every generation has had its Grumpy Old Men saying that things are getting worse, that the world is going to pot, and that they long for the “good old days”. But in recent decades we have become conscious of new, or at least an intensification of, threats to our health, physical integrity and very survival.
The two threats that terrify us most are the inexorable deterioration of our environment, and the irrational violence of unpredictable terrorist attacks. Non-atheists pray that God will intervene to remove these threats to our very existence; in God they trust. The ecological threat has a religious dimension for those who believe in God as Creator and the responsibility He is said to have given us to preserve His creation for our own welfare. The terrorist threat is multi-dimensional, with its sources in international history, national identities and geopolitico-economic interaction. But its roots are in religion, rendering it perhaps a threat even more formidable, if not one beyond our power, to eradicate.
9/11 spawned more major, sophisticated terrorist attacks than we can remember. But in the last few years we have become conscious of the quasi-permanent danger of the weaponizing of cars and trucks mowing down unsuspecting pedestrians on sidewalks and bridges, and of our vulnerability – and that of uniformed police – to the lone-wolf, armed only with a kitchen-knife or a hammer, screaming “Allahu akbar !”.
Our grandchildren and theirs will be, all their lives, the subjects – and some of them perhaps victims – of this new, home-made terrorism. Future generations’ freedom of movement will be progressively restricted by security measures that can never provide the protection they will, and we already, need. Only when enlightened leaders of Islam succeed in converting their radical, fanatical co-religionists who find their murderous motivation in an archaic reading of the Koran, will the world recover the sense of security the terrorists have stolen from us.