Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings. - Victor Stenger
I posted this as my facebook status, fully knowing that it would probably turn into a flame war. And of course, it did. But I wasn't just trying to piss people off - I think this is something people seriously need to think about, especially on 9/11.
A mildly religious friend responded that this wasn't all religion, just the fanatics. This sort of view is a problem, really just a one true Scotsman fallacy. They say, bad people of religion aren't really religious - they're just abusing real religion, which is good. But do you just get to conveniently draw the line between religion and fanaticism so it arbitrarily suits your needs?
You simply cannot deny that so many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion - to do so would be delusional. This is different than a religious person just doing something bad, or someone who happens to be an atheist committing a wrong. There are good and bad people whether you look at theists or atheists, but who has ever heard of killing in the name of atheism? Religion doesn't corrupt all to the point of suicide bombings, but the fact that it occurs at all should make us care.
The thing I find most interesting is that these so called fanatics - the evangelical Biblical literalists, the fundamentalists of Islam - they are the ones most accurately representing their religion. They take their holy books at face value and don't allow for metaphorical interpretations or loop holes. They're not the ones who use doublethink to tell themselves God is good when he's ordering genocides, that slavery is bad even though it's condoned in the Bible, that anal sex doesn't really count as losing your virginity (yay saddlebacking). While I'm glad these people aren't subscribing to archaic views, they're also being hypocritical in saying that certain groups aren't "real" religion.
September 11th certainly was caused because of political reasons, but we cannot ignore the religious aspect. Would these people go fly planes into buildings if there was no reward of eternal afterlife? Would we have had the initial political divide if we didn't have this mentality of Christian nation versus Muslim nation? If anything, being an atheist makes it all seem sadder to me: people who believed in something that doesn't exist died and murdered thousands for a reward that doesn't exist, and the one solace of their families is that they've gone to a better place...which doesn't exist. To say religion played no part in the deaths of thousands of Americans cheapens that tragedy.