blue lily: MadArchitect, I think you're pathologizing suicide bombers unneccessarily.
Perhaps, and I may have been a bit unclear as to where the line is drawn. I wouldn't say it's at all likely that suicide bombers are, other than an inclination towards suicide, good little citizens. Even if jihad didn't offer a way out of the Islamic prohibition against suicide (again, can anyone confirm that prohibition? -- I'm worried that I may be assuming too much about the culture) these inidividuals would probably be lining up to serve the cause in one way or another. And that's to be expected -- the factors that lead to the sort of hostility that we see in jihadists are mostly the same factors that would lead Middle Easterners to feel grave dissatisfaction with life.
That said, I've seen a number of articles on failed suicide bombings and they sometimes convey the impression that the intended bombers were not, themselves, convinced of the righteousness of their mission. So there likely are some people who sign on for these sorts of missions with a less than assured connection to its political or religious intent. Suicide bombers are probably not all confused and manipulated, but some probably are. Either way, it seems reasonable to me so suppose that both the confused and the assured are acting out of a common emotional drive, one that directs them towards suicide. The bombing is secondary to them, while being, naturally, primary to those of us who may suffer the consequences.What you're suggesting is logically similar to arguing that all Germans participating in what we collectively call the Holocaust (so sorry for invoking Nazis but Harris did bring them up first!) were a certain kind of person either vulnerable to their leader's schemes, unaware of the full extent of them, or coerced into their actions.
There is some similarity, but I'd put the emphasis on the latent historical and cultural causes at play. Nationalism was the defining concern for the majority of German Nazis. That cause derived from a deep level of dissatisfaction with Germany's recent history, a longing derived from the myth made of more extended German history, and the perceived position of Germany and German culture in relation to the rest of the world. Those factors cannot be extended to 100% of the German population, but there's been enough quality research and work to confirm that it's true in broad strokes. I'd say something of a similar sort is at play in the Middle East, though, thankfully, it's not as comprehensive as Nazism became in Germany. I'm not arguing that your average Joe Nazi or your average suicide bomber are unusually susceptible to coercion -- what I'm suggesting is that there's something within the cultural mileau that portions of the population feel in common, and that certain elements in the culture have erected institutions or forms of conduct that have a great appeal for those who hold that feeling in common.
Ultimately, what I'm saying is that, given the fact that so many people have chosen what is obviously an unusual form of conduct, one that is marked by certain consistent elements that you don't necessarily find in other cultures, there is likely some common thread that unites most, if not all, of them.
And secondly, that if we were looking at suicide in almost any other cultural context, we'd assume almost as a matter of course that the intended suicide was extremely dissatisfied with the circumstances of their life. It's interesting to me that we don't assume it here, and that so many people are so willing to draw a causal link between the suicide and religion when religion itself is presumably explicit in its condemnation of suicide.
You do, I think, make a very valid point in saying that religion may be one of the factors that has contributed to this malaise. In that regard, I think it's worthwhile considering that Islam may have played a part in shaping the mentality of suicide bombers. That is, at least, a more fruitful and reasonable way of looking at it than assuming that Islam has explicitly mandated and justified suicide bombing.