When the exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan, the event was greeted with a bomb attack that killed 136 and wounded hundreds more. Bhutto says Islamists were behind the attack. This certainly would not be the first time (and I fear not the last) that violent attacks would be the work of those who claim to have God on their side.
As an atheist, it would be tempting to say that, without the concept of a personal God (plagued by seemingly very human biases), all this violence would just disappear. That if we as a species all admitted that we have no clue how we or the world came to be, and certainly no idea what a Higher Power might expect from our behavior, that we could just go about the business of living. But only a brief look at humanity would prove that false.
The fact is, humans kill and torture and maim on a grand scale, limited only by our technology's ability to inflict pain. And we routinely employ justifications far flimsier than "God says we must." When Nazi "scientists" dropped Jewish prisoners into tanks of icy water, they claimed it was to learn how long a downed pilot could survive in the North Atlantic, and that the results of these "experiments" would help them design better flight suits. Of course, this was not science. It was torture and murder dressed up to look like science. And even those who contemplated gaining some value from the findings (despite the obvious moral repugnance of the idea) found the Nazi "data" useless. Any four-year-old child could have told us that. Because science was not the purpose. The purpose was to inflict suffering and death upon a group of people.
There's been alot of talk about the "value" of torture lately. Our President has said that the United States does not torture. What he has neglected to mention is that we have little trouble handing over suspected terrorists to people and nations who do. The justification given by those who choose to defend the practice is that if we can save 100 American lives by torturing 1 suspect, that it is worth the price of crossing the moral line.
The problem with this logic is that the purpose of torture is not, nor has it ever been, the extraction of useful information. The purpose of torture is to punish, to inflict pain and physical damage, short of death. The purpose of torture, for the torturer, is to bring pleasure. And for the tortured, the object is to make the pain stop, at any cost....in this case to provide one's tormenters with plausible, albeit false, information. I doubt gravely that any useful or timely information has ever, or will ever, be gained thru torture.
The sad truth is that hatred, in all its many forms, has become a hobby, a fetish that people roll lovingly between thumb and fingers. Hatred has become something so familiar that it sits across the dining table from us and we do not recognize its face.
So, God or none, man continues to kill, maim, and torture. Take away the Bible and the Koran, and it would go on unimpeded...justified by excuses of science, or politics, or security. It is what it is. What we are. The monster within.