Clearing my RSS feeds this morning I came across this video.

It’s a standard enough peace in the battle between free thought, and reason and the opposing perspective of faith, credulity and religious coercion. The song (lyrics here) is harmless enough.

What originally caught my eye though was the question: “What do we believe”. I have been asked it myself by the religiously inclined. The assumption behind the question being that if you don’t believe in God you don’t believe in anything. Well, I believe in lots of things. God(s) just don’t happen to be among them. I’d agree with the sentiment in the video which I would summarise as “no truth without proof”. Though when asked by the particularly insistent type of faith peddler I say “I believe people should think for themselves”.

The other thing that caught my eye in the video was about 4 seconds of imagery at 2:10 into the video. It is a clip of the second plane slamming into the Twin Towers. Nearly 10 years on that is still a shocking sight. Maybe it’s that specific clip, but the speed of the impact, and understanding of the physical size of the aircraft and the huge building make it so arresting. Seeing it again stopped me in my tracks*.

In one way it is scary to think we live in a world where people believe their religion gives them justification to do such a thing**. And on the flip side, you also have to look at the outcome of that event as well. It could have been a trigger for change, an opportunity to turn a tragedy into a wake up call, and a movement to a better world. Instead it was squandered for personal and political gain by so many and led to a decade of fear, and war.

Still, looking at events in Tunisia and Egypt, there is hope that people can make things better. Despite the fears of worst case outcomes you have to hope for the best, and bet that the values we believe in most strongly will win out in the long run. What are those beliefs? I would say:

I believe that people have the right to personal freedom, and to be let find their own way in life, without coercion from dictators, fundamentalists, or others who think they know better.

Looking at the long course of human history, despite occasional setbacks, that is the way humanity been going – to greater freedom. And that’s why I remain an optimist.

* It also reminded me of a pithy quote I collected in the years since:

“I’m not convinced that faith can move mountains, but I’ve seen what it can do to skyscrapers.” — William Gascoyne

** I’d never make a suicide bomber myself. Apart from the fact I don’t have strong enough convictions, and I believe it’s more important to live for a cause that to kill/die for it, I would be too curious to find out what was the fallout of my actions.