Numerous questions are being asked about what would lead these men to do this. One popular answer, which Mark Steyn has written about extensively, is that the spiritual death of the West is leading many into the arms of Islam, which gives these young men a purpose that they don't receive from their native culture. While there is much truth to this, I feel it leaves a lot out of the phenomenon and doesn't completely cover why these men become so radicalized that they carry out to us what look like useless and futile attacks. After all, what does killing one man in a nation of millions do for someone's perceived Jihad against the West. In order to answer this question, I believe we need to take a step back, and try to answer, if we can, what man's purpose is in life, in a nutshell.
If you were to ask different people what our purpose in life is, you are sure to get a myriad of answers. Some would say our purpose in life is to reproduce and raise children. Others would say it is to love and be loved. Some might say it is to have a worthwhile career full of accomplishments. Still others would say it is to follow your dreams and simply be happy. I believe the one thing that almost all these answers have in common is they revolve around what I believe to be the main thing people strive for in life, and that is to be remembered after we die.
Much of what we do in life we do because of our mortality and the desire to be remembered after we pass from this Earth. We have children so we will have a line of descendants that can trace themselves back to us. We try to make a name for ourselves in work or charity so others will know about our accomplishments when we are gone. We seek fame, fortune, and create art so our names will be spoken forever. We want to be remembered, we have the need to make a mark that proves we were here, we existed.
Sometimes, of course, this desire to make a mark leads people to violent acts of evil and depravity. Spree killers seem to be motivated by the desire to commit an act so atrocious that their names will be remembered forever. Adam Lanza would appear to fit this profile to a T. The guy was an unemployed loner who seemed to have little chance of having a family or a career where he could accomplish something. He played video games such as Dance Dance Revolution endlessly in the hope of having his name at the top of the scoreboard. When he realized that was no path to immortality, he turned his sights to mass murder, keeping a scorecard of the death totals of other spree killers so he would know how many kills he needed in order to make it to the top and stay there, so he would always be remembered as number 1.
The Islamic terrorist attacks of the past week is what occurs when you have a desire for notoriety combined with an attempt to achieve immortality by joining an ascendant movement. The terrorists who committed the recent attacks undoubtedly saw Islam as an ascendant force that is going to sweep the globe. While their attacks might have accomplished little to help in that endeavor, their hope likely had to be that future Islamists will remember their names and what they did for the cause. In this way, they will achieve their immortality on Earth.