I’ll start by stating clearly that I deeply dislike war (of any sort) and I find terrorism a major contemporary threat.
It so happens that I sometimes come into contact for long periods of time with people from the Middle East, and they seem to believe (although they avoid expressing this belief) that terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslim extremists are somewhat justifiable.
Once in a while I come across with open minded, educated people originating from the Middle East, and they too show the same attitude. The general feeling is that the West has caused and is causing the Muslims a lot of injustice and suffering, and a guerrilla war initiated by the most active representatives of a large population against the West oppressor should not be dismissed as an insane act equivalent to what Ted Kaczynski or Timothy McVeigh are notorious for.
But what about the innocent lives of the civilians killed in these attacks? I often ask. I have received various answers to this question, but one particular reply really baffled me: Many of them are just panting dogs. At first I thought I didn’t hear well, but the explanation came right away: Many of the non-Muslims killed in the attack are not even Christians (for whom a Muslim could nurture some limited respect) because a lot of westerners are atheists at the moment.
Okay maybe, I said. But they’re still people like you and me.
No, they’re not, the argument went on. Atheists insist that any system of value is relative and the society cannot impose any values on the individual. To an atheist, any value is purely subjective. From an atheist point of view, human life does not have an absolute meaning or value. There are even atheists who contest the superiority of human life over other forms of life, or the superiority of human intelligence over other forms of intelligence. Some even claim that people do no make conscious choices and there is no actual “I” in any person. Therefore, killing an atheist would not be worse than killing a bug, from the perspective of the atheist himself.
What about the law? I objected. It is still illegal to murder those people.
I usually hear a snort - sometimes a laughter. They say: In the West, the law is a matter of negotiation and compromise. The Muslim law is clear and uncompromising.
And thus we get back to the essential question: Can atheists provide any rational arguments that taking their lives is wrong?