People poisoned by faith attempt to extinguish one of the most noble lives.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths.  The valiant never taste of death, but once.” ~ William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Bullies are, by nature, cowards.A 14 year-old Pakistani girl, who was braver than I, and braver than every single member of the Taliban, may possibly die as a result of a gunman’s attack.

A 14-year-old Pakistani student who won international acclaim for speaking out for girls barred from school by the Taliban was critically wounded Tuesday by a gunman who boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, aimed his pistol at her head and fired, officials said.

The Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack on ninth-grader Malala Yousafzai, who gained notice in early 2009 when she wrote a diary about Taliban atrocities under a pen name for the BBC’s Urdu service. Yousafzai lives in Mingora, a city in the scenic northwestern Swat Valley, where Taliban insurgents imposed harsh Islamic law for two years before being routed by a major military operation in May 2009.

That girl had more guts than the lot of them.

Many Pakistanis view Yousafzai, who also promoted literacy and peace, as a symbol of hope in a country long beset by violence and despair. In 2011, the Pakistani government awarded her a national peace prize and 1 million rupees ($10,500).

She also was a finalist last year for the International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded by a Dutch organization that lauded her bravery in standing up for girls’ education rights amid rising fundamentalism when few others in Pakistan would do so.

If you thought this situation couldn’t get more sickening, you were wrong.

While school children throughout the nation held prayer vigils for Yousafzai, and many Pakistanis and politicians expressed revulsion over the shooting, major religious parties and mosque leaders were largely silent. Clerics frequently do not rebuke suicide bombings or sectarian attacks for fear of alienating their increasingly conservative congregants or provoking the Taliban.

What is there to type in response to that?  All I can think to do is shout “You fucking cowards!” as if I could be heard half a world away.  Her crime was her compassion and, for that, she was nearly killed.

We’re told that religion is supposed to make people better.  We’re told that morality cannot exist without being grounded in a god.  Anybody ever uttering those words should be made to look at this.  Yousafzai, who was a child not long ago, was brave enough to point at the suffering of others and condemn it, but religious leaders will stay silent for fear of alienating their congregations.  Bravery is a human quality, not a religious quality, and Yousafzai’s existence should forever shame any religious leader who watches the suffering of others with tacit approval.

And for what might she die?  For saying women are equal.  And for that, they found a young girl whose bravery might redeem that country and they attempted to kill her before boasting of it.  These people…they’re not even human.  Now look at me and tell me if believing god has vetted and endorsed their mission has contributed to their madness or mitigated it, because it’s sure as shit not neutral.

Irrationality is a poison, and it’s a poison that allows people to mistreat women and to murder a woman who had just begun to live because her compassion exceeded her fear.  I hate these people!  I hate the cultural irrationality that brought them to this state.  I may not make a huge dent in my lifetime, but I am happy to work with any movement seeking to wipe this kind of abject and institutionalized insanity from the face of humankind.

Yousafzai is in stable condition.  Thank you for the numerous readers who caught my mistake and pointed out, thankfully, that she is alive.

Although, this headline is confusing.

Headline saying prayers were answered.

Because the article says…

According to the Associated Press, a team of army and civilian surgeons have been treating Malala in a military hospital in Peshawar, where she was airlifted after the Tuesday shooting in her hometown of Mingora in the country’s volatile Swat Valley.

There are undoubtedly people praying for her death at this very moment, to the same god no less.  That would be the god who didn’t bother to tap Yousafzai on the shoulder and say “Hey, look out!  There’s a lunatic with a gun behind you!” like any of us would have done.

Let’s hand the credit for this one to the doctors and to the medicine conceived by human minds rather than god.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Wren

    Did she die? The last news I saw was that the bullet missed her brain and she was in stable condition. Is there other news?

    • Wren

      Not that I disagree with your article.

    • JT Eberhard

      She did not! Article fixed. Thanks, Wren.

  • Kyle

    The depravity of this act is simply sickening, another ugly reminder of how much social progress remains to be made around the world (not to mention North America…).

    Fortunately it seems that Malala survived the attack and the subsequent surgery to remove the bullet. If she manages to continue her efforts to confront injustices in her home country, she would become a living embodiment of courage and a true hero in my eyes.

    • Matt E

      Agreed. The sad thing is that if she survives and continues her efforts, my chances of living to 110 will greatly exceed her chances of living to 25.

  • Christoph Burschka

    From today’s news: Malala Yousafzai: Pakistan bullet surgery ‘successful’

    Hate that this is the sort of thing that qualifies as good news. :/
    But she seems to have survived.

  • theAtheistAxolotl

    The BBC also reports that she is in stable condition after a successful surgery. However, people affiliated with the shooter have made a public statement that she “would not be spared if she survived”.

    I just find it unfathomable that anyone could do this to another human being, let alone a child. I know that sounds naive, and that it obviously does happen, but I still can’t comprehend the state of mind that someone would have to be in to think that this was a good thing to do.

  • iknklast

    “That would be the god who didn’t bother to tap Yousafzai on the shoulder and say “Hey, look out! There’s a lunatic with a gun behind you!” like any of us would have. ”

    You’d think being god he could have done more than that. He could have grabbed the gun, or diverted the bullet harmlessly into space, or used a hyperimprobability drive to turn it into a whale (wait, that would be Douglas Adams…not god, better than god). No, the only good their god did looked suspciously like modern medicine.

  • NotAProphet

    It really does highlight the insecurity and inarticulacy of the religious that a young girl speaking out moves them to murderous violence, not to mention wrecking lives and cities over someone hurting their feelings on the internet.

  • smrnda

    Once you believe that offending God is a bigger deal than how your actions affect other human beings, you’ll become a monster willing to commit atrocities because you think your god must be throwing a hissy fit.

    This is one of the most disgusting acts I’ve read about in years, a bunch of backwards fundamentalists trying to kill a girl because she thinks she ought to learn something.