September 5, 2002
4:10 PM   Subscribe

If you missed the very powerful Frontline "Faith and Doubt" on the spiritual implications of 9/11, check out the PBS site with the full script and interviews with priests, rabbis, an Islamic scholar, a professor of Middle East studies, an English professor, a British novelist, a psychoanalyst, and the photographer who documented Ground Zero for the City of New York..
posted by semmi (9 comments total)
I saw it, and it was an excellent piece. What struck me was the different way people were affected: some religious people found their faith severely challenged by the events of September 11, while others found their faith strengthened; conversely, some who were not religious found faith, while others were even more secure in their unbelief after September 11. One person, rather oddly I thought, still believed in God afterwards, but no longer seemed to believe in a benevolent, loving God.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:35 PM on September 5, 2002

People's beliefs have a large random element; this is further evidence of it. If there were somehow valid "spiritual implications" to be drawn from such a man-caused act of hatred, anger and desperation, one would expect a more uniform response.
posted by rushmc at 4:48 PM on September 5, 2002

I'm reminded of this short piece, written just a few days after 9/11 and which I was struck by at the time: "Witnessing hell has made me a born-again atheist."
posted by homunculus at 5:01 PM on September 5, 2002

All the "God Bless America" signs all over town in the weeks . . . and months following September 11th made me so angry. God clearly blessed America with plane-bombs. Who needs that God?
posted by mikrophon at 6:32 AM on September 6, 2002

I'm not surprised when people believe in a god that created the universe. I find it strange that so many believe in a god that influences the world. A huge distinction in my mind. Events occur because of chance or human influence.

I find it especially disturbing when people thank god when they survive any sort of accident or disaster. What does that say to the families and friends of those that didn't survive? God thought I was special and saved me. Too bad your loved one wasn't special.
posted by quirked at 6:54 AM on September 6, 2002


Is that anything like emo?
posted by y2karl at 9:15 AM on September 6, 2002

This is so long that no one will ever read it, but here goes:

The issues here aren't new and for the modern student of theology, there are a number of approaches you can take to the problem of theodicy (the "why do bad things happen to good people" question).

First off, it should come as no surprise to anyone that bad things happen. Has there ever been a time in the history of the world when terrible tragedies did not occur? If we are to believe in a loving God, we must accept that such a God is willing to accept tragedy as part and parcel of life.

An assumption you might make about God is that if God is a loving God, then the tragedy exists for a reason. It has a purpose. If God is truly eternal and can offer an eternal life of peace, then suffering on Earth is not as large a matter as it would be if there were nothing else beyond our lives. We see death as tragic because we don't believe there's something better afterward: the promise of eternal life seems jejune to us. But that promise wasn't naive to Jesus, or to Buddha. The notion of eternal peace, in some form or other, is central to most religions.

In that sense, our lives on Earth have meaning precisely because they are fraught with danger and couched in free will. Without the ability to do evil, our acts of good would be nothing short of puppetry. And without danger, life is no more engaging than a video game. If you spend a minute trying to imagine a life with no danger, no evil, no threat, you immediately begin to see how tedious and pointless such a life would be.

God lays out God's plan against a backdrop of chaos and turmoil. God's will rises from the inchoate madness of matter and energy. I believe that God's plan for us on earth is not for us to be safe, or to be comfortable, or to be free from conflict, but rather to engage that world on its terms, discover that world's meaning and beauty, so much of which is wrapped up in the fragility that is that world's defining characteristic.
posted by vraxoin at 11:29 AM on September 6, 2002

Well that was a breath of fresh air on a usually amateurish and tired discussion. Thanks, vraxoin.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2002

We see death as tragic because we don't believe there's something better afterward: the promise of eternal life seems jejune to us. But that promise wasn't naive to Jesus, or to Buddha

....or the hijackers who flew the planes into the towers.
posted by semmi at 9:45 PM on September 6, 2002

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