Thomas Wictor

A hideously ironic editorial

A hideously ironic editorial

After losing eleven of their staff to murderous terrorists pushing a totalitarian ideology, Charlie Hebdo has published a hideously ironic editorial pushing a totalitarian ideology. Written by Editor-in-Chief Gérard Biard, “Will There Continue to be, ‘Yes, but'” shows that the survivors of the attack haven’t learned a thing.

For a week now, Charlie, an atheist magazine, has accomplished more miracles than all the saints and prophets together… What made us laugh the most, is that the bells of Notre Dame rang in our honor…

There is however a question which still gnaws away at us: Are we finally going to see the foul expression “secular fundamentalist” disappear from political and intellectual lexicon?

Are we finally going to stop devising learned semantic expressions describing equally assassins and their victims?

We will hope that as of this January 7, 2015, strongly defending secularism will be second nature for everyone.

That we will finally stop posturing for electoral reasons or through cowardice, legitimizing or even tolerating community separatism and cultural relativism, which lead to but one thing: Religious totalitarianism.

Yes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a fact, yes, international geopolitics is a succession of maneuvers and underhand blows, yes, the social situation of “populations of Islamic origin” in France, as people say, is deeply unjust, yes, we must fight unremittingly against racism and all types of discrimination.

Fortunately there are several instruments with which we can try to solve these serious problems but they are all inoperative if one of them is missing: Secularism. Not affirmative secularism, not inclusive secularism, not I-don’t-know-what-kind-of-secularism. Secularism full stop…

Pushing for universal rights, it alone, allows for equality, liberty, brotherhood and sisterhood. It alone allows for total freedom of conscience which all religions, as soon as they move from the arena of the strictly intimate into the political arena, deny, more or less openly according to their marketing position. Oddly enough, it alone allows believers and others to live in peace. All those who claim to defend Muslims, while accepting the totalitarian religious rhetoric, are in fact defending their executioners. The first victims of Islamic fascism are the Muslims.

Last but not least. We would like to send a message to Pope Francis, who this week, he as well, “is Charlie”: We will only accept that the bells of Notre Dame are ringing in our honor when it is the Femen who are ringing them.

Atheists always insult the religious. They refuse to hold their tongue, ever. Poor Christopher Hitchens was the same way. He derided Christians for praying that he recover from his cancer.


His final photos haunt me because he looks so afraid. I was present at the deathbed of a man who renounced his religion in a desperate attempt to keep from dying. I now believe that atheists are terrified of death. Atheism is as much an act of faith as believing in God. Saying, “I don’t believe in God” isn’t atheism.


Atheism is disbelief, not lack of belief. Disbelief is the opposite of belief, not the absence thereof. Atheists state that there is no God. However, the existence or nonexistence of God is unknowable. Not believing in God is perfectly logical; announcing to the world that there is no God is the same as announcing that God exists.

I know Christopher Hitchens’s’ story. It’s very sad.


His atheism was based on personal trauma; he was consumed by anger at what had happened. Like so many angry people, he took pleasure in destroying himself as his loved ones begged him to stop. And then when he finally got his terminal diagnosis, he wished he hadn’t lived the life he had. It’s one of the oldest stories in the world. What a terrible waste.

Nothing that Gérard Biard writes in his Charlie Hebdo editorial is true. He says secularism, but he means atheism. How can atheism bring solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, geopolitical turmoil, the socioeconomic situation of Muslims in France, racism, and discrimination? And the reason Biard hates the expression “secular fundamentalist” is because he knows it’s accurate.

The United States is both one of the most religious nations on earth and a paragon of universal rights. And guess what? It’s the only nation that has in its founding documents the notion that rights are granted by God, not government.

From the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Whatever government grants, government can take away. But if you believe that your rights are unalienable, a gift of the Creator, you won’t accept boots on your neck.

In 2006 I bought a Toyota Corolla. The salesman was a young African immigrant, as handsome as a model. As I test drove around, he mocked me for making him carsick. I hadn’t driven a car with a manual transmission for over twenty years, so it was a rough ride. The salesman was Nigerian, he eventually told me. He’d become a US citizen only a week earlier and had extremely ambitious plans.

When I decided to buy the car, the salesman introduced me to the financial officer. I knew he was a Saudi immigrant because of his accent and name. His eyes almost fell out of his head when he saw that I had a perfect credit rating.

“Don’t you have a life?” he asked. “Would you like to take charge of my life? Please?

He ran my credit score again, and then called over the sales manager, a Guatemalan immigrant. Again, I knew from his name and accent where he was from.

“Look at this guy’s credit score!” the financial officer said.

The sales manager did a double take.

“How’d you do that?” he asked. “I’ve never seen a perfect credit score in my life. What’s your secret? Your beard? Your hat?”

After we agreed that I’d buy the car, I was sent to the branch manager’s office to sign the papers. He was a Korean immigrant who seemed half-asleep.

“You deserve a reward for having a perfect credit score,” he said drowsily. “I therefore present you with this pen.”

And he handed me the ballpoint pen I’d used to sign the contract.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Now we can buy a lot more pens, thanks to you.”

That day made me very proud to be an American. My brother Tim and I were the only mostly-Caucasian people there, but nobody was tense, or condescending, or belligerent, or obsequious. We were all AMERICANS: native-born, immigrant, black, white, Latino, Arab, Asian, Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist for all I know. And atheist. There was probably an atheist in the mix.

You know why it works? Because for the most part Americans believe in “Live and let live.” The day I bought my car showed that all races and religions can get along WHEN WE STOP BLATHERING ABOUT IT. I felt very close to all those sarcastic, funny, irreverent Americans at the car dealership. Their races and religions meant nothing to me. What moved me was that they were so at home in this country that they had no qualms about giving me a hard time. They didn’t need my permission, because we were all equal. In my mind God gave them the unalienable right to razz me.

I’m a theist, which means I believe in God, but I practice no religion. Your religious beliefs are none of my business. I would never—under any circumstances—tell you that you had to renounce your religion because only secularism could save you.

How is saying that secularism is the only answer any different from saying that Islam is the only answer?

The real answer is to turn the world into a Californian Toyota dealership, in which a person’s race, ethnicity, and religion have no relevance to the task at hand, and nobody fears offending others because we’re all part of a whole.

E Pluribus Unum

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