Let's stop saying they weren't cowards

This is something I've wanted to get off my chest for nearly nine years now, and I've never had a place to vent about it until I found this place. In an odd bit of synchronicity, I was reminded about it twice in the last week to boot. About a week ago, I saw a video again of Bill Maher saying that whatever else we want to say about the 9/11 hijackers, we can't call men who willingly flew planes into the sides of buildings cowards. Then just today, I was listening to Sam Harris's The End of Faith on tape while I was working out, and Harris made the same point.

Bullshit, says I.

Imagine you see a little runt of a fellow go up to a big bruiser of a guy in a bar and start a loud argument in which he derides and degrades the big guy, his wife, his mom and his dog. He stands his ground even though it looks like he could get his head popped like an overripe whitehead at any moment, and when the bartender comes over and cools things down by offering free rounds, you breathe a sigh of relief and think "that guy sure was brave."

Now what if you knew he had a pistol in his back pocket, and what if you found out that he fully intended to pull it out and put a bullet between the big man's eyes the minute he stood up in anger? See, for me, that changes the scenario completely. He's no longer risking his own safety; he's got an out, an "equalizer" of a type that the other guy can't possibly prevail against.

Since I've obviously built what I consider an appropriate analogy here to the hijackers, what then, did they have that was comparable to the gun? The box-cutters they had on board? The planes themselves?

Nope. It was their belief in their own martyrdom.

See, they were so convinced of the advent of their own soon-to-be enhanced cosmic status that they weren’t risking anything. The plane explodes...poof...they’re eating grapes with a passel of nubile sex slaves for all eternity. The definition of bravery, to me anyways, is being willing to risk everything for something important. What were they risking here? By their own belief systems, they had everything to gain and nothing to lose,

But since we’re all atheists here, don’t we all realize how deluded they were? They didn’t get their black eyed virgins. In all likelihood they only achieved premature non-existence. I don’t think that matters. If the scrawny guy in the bar’s gun wasn’t loaded, but he didn’t know it, he would still be acting from a sense of security in knowing he was not in any personal jeopardy.

So I’m sorry Mr. Maher, Mr. Harris...I believe those guys were cowards. The worst kind of cowards to boot...those that harm others purposefully while secure in the notion they themselves cannot be harmed. If you want examples of unbelievable heroism, look to the firefighters who ran into the towers to save people. Some of them were doubtlessly atheists or theists with serious doubts about god and an afterlife, but they risked...and lost...everything to help their fellow man.

Rant over.

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Comment by Rich Lane on July 22, 2010 at 11:00am
I agree they have to overcome instinct, but you have to do that to jump off a high dive as well. We overcome instinct for numerous things on almost a daily basis that we don't consider heroic.

You touch on something I didn't though, Prog Rock Girl; I merely explained why they weren't brave. You explained why they were cowards. Thanks for sharpening the point better than I did.
Comment by Prog Rock Girl on July 22, 2010 at 10:37am
Even if someone does believe a great afterlife awaits them, it still takes a lot of overcoming instincts--the instincts to stay alive and to avoid excruciating pain--to kill themselves. A lot of people have chickened out from suicide for that reason. But in another sense killing someone and then killing oneself is cowardly, b/c it's a way of avoiding being punished for the crime.
Comment by froggystyle on July 22, 2010 at 10:26am
It's sorta cool this way though...it still makes as much sense as it did before
Comment by Rich Lane on July 22, 2010 at 10:00am
Apparently the guy Froggy and I were debating either pulled his comments or was banned. He had about five on here, so if some of the comments below don't make sense now, it's because they are in reference to stuff that's disappeared.
Comment by Rich Lane on July 21, 2010 at 6:01pm
You proved nothing other than trolls exist amongst atheists just like everywhere else, Richard. Have a nice life.
Comment by froggystyle on July 21, 2010 at 4:41pm
My favorite part is when you actually call someone else delusional.

"Hey kettle...it's me, pot - you're black"
Comment by froggystyle on July 21, 2010 at 3:55pm
I didn't imply any such thing. Let me know if you have a response to my actual statement, rather than imagined implications, ok?
Comment by Rich Lane on July 21, 2010 at 3:22pm
No human being is born intrinsically evil, we are all equal at a basic human level.

Since no one said that these guys were evil, that's a straw man argument.
Comment by Rich Lane on July 21, 2010 at 3:21pm
If you actually think that they lacked courage to get into a plane that they knew they were going to die on, your delusional.

Bullshit. Their own delusions are what made them cowards. They had a "get out of death free" card that they believed in with all their hearts. The fact that it wasn't real doesn't change that.

They actually believed that if they died they were essentially going to a place that had everything they never had and always wanted

You just made my point, thank you very much. What they did wasn't anymore heroic that moving out of a rat trap apartment and trading up to a mansion, or someone willing to undergo some physical discomfort to get a nose job. How willing to die would they have been "for the cause" if they thought death equaled oblivion? If you doubt they would do it, then your argument is moot.

Your problem seems to be that you can't see things from a different point of view, theirs.

Please refrain from trying to read my mind. I am seeing it from their point of view. If I were positive I knew I would be upgrading my existence by performing an act which required a few moments of pain...and I mean if I absolutely knew it with the uncritical certainty that zealots have...there are no acts that would be too frightening to perform.

And for the sake of polite discourse, please refrain from the ad hominem attacks. One, they're obnoxiously immature and lacking in social skills, and two, they do nothing to advance the idea that you should be taken seriously. I don't know you, and the level of hostility you are showing an absolute stranger is bizarre.
Comment by froggystyle on July 21, 2010 at 3:20pm
I don't remember saying they were evil...

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