There is vindication for the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of families who have been affected by the reign of terror that Osama Bin Laden presided over the past few decades. The terror attacks he masterminded killed thousands, including Muslims, and then of course there are the men and women overseas who have died in defense of our national security, and their families. And the men and women of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies, and those of agencies abroad, who have worked tirelessly to finally see this moment come to pass.
Presumably, for many of them, there is satisfaction not only in knowing that bin Laden is dead, but in knowing that he is being judged — harshly — by God, because for many, he is almost certainly in Hell.
But for atheists like me, who don’t believe in Hell or an afterlife or judgment, we might be inclined to feel a little short-changed right now. Had we captured Bin Laden alive, at least we could have brought him to justice and sentenced him either to a painful death or to serve out the rest of his pathetic life in a hellish prison somewhere terribly unpleasant, where hopefully he might have even been slapped around a little as he awaited the inevitable in prolonged agony, preferably while plagued by incontinence, bed sores, and rectal bleeding. I would also have made sure his prison cell was amplified by a looping track of Black Eyed Peas songs and video of the Kardashians playing on a big screen TV. But that’s just my personal hell.
Instead, he was buried at sea, like some pets and grandparents. And this, after he apparently was living a life so many of our most evil mass-murderers are treated to in exile, in a posh and sprawling mansion that is a far cry from the cave conditions we were all assured he had submitted to. When we think of the gruesome ways so many died at the hands of Al Qaeda — Daniel Pearl and other hostages, the 9/11 victims — his seems a little unfair. For those of us who do not believe in meet-your-maker justice, it may seem like he was let off a little easy.
But I’m one atheist who is choosing to believe that while he may not have endured hell on earth at the hands of our justice system, penal system, prison system, or the Kardashians, in the end, he got his. Trust me.
According to reports, an elite team of US Special Forces rappelled down from helicopters in the middle of the night, stormed his palace in a sea of firepower, and cornered him, and felled the terror mastermind with a precision shot to the head. Now, if you’re familiar with the kinds of men who make up our Special Forces, these are badass dudes. I’m intimidated by traffic cops. Most of us have thankfully never had to stare down the business end of a military swat team of 40 trained killers who have been dying to take our head as a trophy. Bin Laden, I assure you, was wetting himself. And in that moment, there was no peace of mind that he was ascending to heaven where 72 virgins awaited him, or that he would be vindicated as a martyr, or that he was dying for a just cause. There was no calm, no steady heart beat, no warm white light. There was nothing but fear.
When I think about the pathetic excuse for a man who spent much of his adult life in hiding, a man whose “faith” must have been little comfort in the dead of night when his mansion became OUR Ground Zero, I am certain that he was totally alone in his own private hell. Even if just for a matter of minutes.
Now those minutes of sheer terror and cowardice won’t compare to the lifetimes of pain and suffering he has inflicted on us — for that there is no justice great enough to erase the heartbreak many American and Muslim families have endured at his hands. But in delivering such a perfunctory and immediate death, in the ignoble and utterly average setting of a sparse bedroom in a suburban Pakistani house — a cave would have been too biblical, too noble even — we robbed him of the one thing he hoped he’d get. Glory. He went out with as much fanfare as he deserved. And for that, I will sleep easy knowing that he is not in hell, and he is not with 72 virgins. But he is shark bait.
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