Last Monday, I was reminded of my bright, feverish zeal for my nation while driving on the thruway. I was headed home from a camping trip when the night brightened with the explosion of fireworks overhead. I was so enthralled, in fact, that I passed and watched the fireworks fade behind me without a trace on my mind.
Oh right, I thought. Today is Independence Day.
That day when the Committee of Five, a secret cabal of the most enlightened men in human history, convened and drafted the Declaration of Independence from the British empire. All the progress of the Renaissance era – Greek philosophy, religious pluralism, anti-authoritarianism – came together at last in an hour of labor, with the grand intention to give birth to the first free society of the human race.
Together, these men were the Justice League of the Enlightenment era. And with independence as their guise, they conducted the most ambitious, radical experiment in the creation of a philosophical paradise – a State that ruled by objective principles, that would never infringe on individual liberty of its citizens, a State that would be held by checks and balances. Through the Bill of Rights, which would adapt the laws to the changes of technology and culture, this free society was formulated to last forever.
Words like “God” and “Allah” must go the way of “Apollo” and “Baal,” or they will unmake our world.
— Sam Harris, The End of Faith
Under a sky awash in blood and rust, a squad of rusty marines and I patrolled the outskirts of an obliterated city, hunting terrorists. A thin strata of ash covered what was once a road. Stripped trees pushed out from phosphorescent soil like mummy hands. A mushroom cloud lingered over battered skyscrapers, watchful archon of fire and hate.
I felt something small under my boot. I looked down. Beneath the ashes, a small gold crucifix glinted in the glow of a thermonuclear dawn. I knelt, picked it up, watched it sway hypnotically at the end of a thin, silver chain.
I once strangled a man in boot camp because I found him wearing one of these crosses around his neck. The corporal had me immediately promoted. Later, I learned he wasn’t actually a terrorist — just impersonating the terrorists as a joke around the other rowdy trainees. They don’t call me Cain for nothing.
I reported the rebel artifact to the corporal. Once intel confirmed the proximity of the terrorists, we were ordered to unleash the D.E.M.O.N. from the armored carrier — Divine Entity Mutilating Organic Necrobot — but we just called them demons. My heart sank. I instinctively dreaded the demon.