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Religious Extremists and Societal Indoctrination Still Threaten as National 9/11 Museum Opens

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It's the event the world will never forget: September 11, 2001. It's a day that forever changed America, and the world, as 2,983 innocent people lost their lives in the largest terrorist attack on American soil. And now, The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened for the first time to survivors, families and rescuers. A public opening is planned for next Wednesday.

The museum, built where the two towers once stood, will indeed serve as a place of remembrance, reflection and now the redevelopment of Ground Zero. President Obama said in his dedication speech, "All who come here will find it to be a profound and moving experience."

There's another critical lesson we must also never forget -- and one that threatens our very survival today: the dangers of radical religious extremist and societal indoctrination. That's not specifically calling out Muslims, Christians, Jews or any other faith or group -- but we must proceed with caution with any religious affiliation that is led by a calling capable of brainwashing millions of otherwise intelligent people to live a life devoid of logic and critical thinking.

These behaviors are not sensible and lead to harm and death like the 9/11 attacks. They lead to discrimination against people with different beliefs and lifestyles, such as the fight over equality for the gay community. These behaviors are harmful to society, a source of immoral acts and traditions, and a political weapon for social control.

In 2007, Connecticut Valley Atheists group erected a sign in a park in the town of Vernon that read, "Imagine no religion," that displayed a pre-attack image of the twin towers with the sun shining between them. A press release issued by the organization said, "Clearly, 9/11 is the work of fanatics. However, we feel that religion, even in moderation, provides a foundation for fanatical groups to thrive." And that's exactly the point!

Supporters of religion like to suggest there's no harm in people believing in God if it makes them feel better. And maybe that's true for the non-extremist. But what happens when that person in the middle becomes an extremist? It can happen anytime. Remember David Koresh, the American leader of the Branch Davidians? 54 adults and 28 children lost their lives in the fire at the Branch Davidian compound because they were brainwashed to believe that Koresh was the 'lamb' of God. According to a recent NY Daily News article, survivors in Waco are awaiting David Koresh's resurrection.

Standing in front of the National September 11 Memorial Museum is a steel-shaped cross, which was formed by steel beams used in construction and discovered at the World Trade Center site in the wake of the terror attack. Atheist activists want it removed, claiming the cross was included for religious purposes and that it should not be displayed. And they're absolutely correct. It should be removed.

Here's my critical thinking question: where was God on September 11, 2001? Our loving and omnipresent God was apparently unavailable to stop one of the worst terrorist attacks ever, and now the Christian community believes we should give thanks to Him and acknowledge Him as part of the museum? Where's the critical thinking in that? Almost 3,000 innocent lives were lost that day - mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends and neighbors- and we should fall to our knees and proclaim our love and devotion to God by allowing this steel-shaped cross to remain? Not only that, but why not build a Jewish star or a statue of Buddha and symbols of every other faith while we're at it? It's pure discrimination and clearly unfair to other beliefs. Whatever your take on religion, America is as diverse as it gets. We are a true melting pot of different religions, nationalities and cultures.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. The Board of Education, a landmark ruling that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. This paved the way for integration and was a huge victory for the civil rights movement. The point is time has a way of ultimately changing widespread beliefs. Today blacks and whites live in harmony in America.

A similar movement is taking place in the LGBT community. More and more states are allowing gay couples to marry - something that 15 years ago was unheard of. And 10 years from now, I predict that gay marriage will simply be marriage, and people won't even blink an eye over it. Societal beliefs that have been around for centuries have a way of changing; it's only a matter of time. And the same will hold true for religion.

Religion is in trouble. "Nones," or people with no religious affiliation, make up roughly 20 percent of the population, according to the Pew Research Center. As the younger generations keep researching and questioning ancient dogma, beliefs and rituals, they are quickly realizing they will be just fine without religion. The more we keep religion at bay, the less extremist in the world to cause these acts of violence and terrorism.

In the age of briefcase-sized bombs that can blow up a city block, religious extremists are getting more dangerous every day. America is the only country powerful enough to stop them. If we don't, they could destroy the world - maybe even in our lifetime. These people are not stupid or uneducated. These are smart people living in a world where God tells them to destroy. If the U.S.--the only country strong enough to stop them--is living a similar fantasy, who will save the world? Isn't it time we started thinking for ourselves? Isn't it time we started taking responsibility for our own lives and stopped relying on a supernatural savior? The savior is America--and the time is now.

It's time we band together as human beings to end the misery that visits so many. It's time to stop praying to an invisible man in the sky and start taking steps to reduce human suffering. Long stand the National September 11 Memorial Museum - and let it also be a reminder that we need to begin engaging in serious discourse regarding the future of this country and the world before it's too late.