John Robert Gallagher was a Canadian who volunteered with the Kurdish forces in northern Syria to fight ISIL. He was reportedly killed in a suicide bombing Wednesday. This is an unedited essay [which] may contain content objectionable to some readers but is presented in its entirety to fully explain his reasons for going to war.
Gallagher volunteered to fight against ISIS to fight theocracy using guns not words:
For decades now, we have been at war. This war has been unacknowledged by our leaders, but enthusiastically proclaimed by our enemies. . . . Someday historians will look back and marvel at how much effort we put into deceiving ourselves about the nature of this conflict, and wonder how we convinced ourselves that it was not even taking place. . . . Like the American Civil War, World War II, and the Cold War, this war is about ideas as much as it is about armies. Slavery, fascism, and communism were all bad ideas which required costly sacrifice before they were finally destroyed. In our time, we have a new bad idea: Theocracy.
Theocracy is the biggest threat to human emancipation now that the the 20th century threats: communism and fascism, have been defeated:
Theocracy isn’t just as dangerous as fascism; it’s the model of fascism, and all totalitarianisms. Communism said ‘instead of god, the Party.’ Fascism said, ‘instead of god, the Nation!’ Theocracy simply says ‘God.’
Gallagher is correct when he says,
We are all on the front lines of this conflict, whether we know it or not. We can measure the causalities not only in the body counts of deadly terror attacks, ‘mass demonstrations,’ embassy assaults and assassinated artists; we can also measure it in the terror produced among cartoonists, satirists, publishers and booksellers, news media and educators who are being prevented from doing their necessary work of maintaining the machinery of the enlightenment. Not only have we all been threatened; in many ways we are all already casualties of this war.
Gallagher goes on to reveal a portion of his own fight for freedom from religion’s influence:
I was raised in a fundamentalist religious environment. If today I have any intellectual or spiritual existence worth fighting for, it is because it was impossible for the religious forces in my life to have their way and shield me from the assaults of reason and conscience. They could teach me that evolution was a lie, but they couldn’t prevent me from reading about it or prohibit the public schools from teaching it. They could tell me blasphemy was a sin, but they couldn’t prevent me from sneaking Monty Python and South Park. The mechanisms of society, in other words, gave me the tools by which I could make myself free. They saved my life.
Who safeguards the social machinery now? Only an overbred political elite and intelligentsia who burble about the urgent need to never give offense. This is not only a disgraceful failure; it is a national emergency.
Gallagher was “prepared to give [his] life in the cause of averting the disaster we are stumbling towards as a civilization;” he was reportedly killed in Syria in a suicide bombing on Wednesday, November 4.
Maybe that’s why the last paragraph of Gallagher’s essay appears to echo the voices in John McCrae’s First World War poem,
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep . . .
Gallagher concludes by saying,
With some fortitude and guts, we can purge the sickness that’s poisoning our society, and come together to defeat this ultimate evil. I’ve been fighting this battle in one way or another for my entire life. I hope for success. The rest is in the hands of the gods.
What is not clear is why he leaves any portion of the fight against theocracy “in the hands of the gods,” any gods.