New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks to focus on the victims and their families — not on God or the heroes who rushed into the burning towers to save as many as they could.
Let’s forget that there are more than just Christians in the United States. Let’s forget that the first amendment of the constitution establishes a separation of church and state making it inappropriate for an elected official to engage in a religious activity as part of his duties as an elected official. Let’s forget Congress’s blatant refusal to help the “heroes who rushed into the burning towers” when they needed our help, not our thanks.
The statement here is we should be thankful to God. For what? For helping the heroes of 9/11 save over 20,000 lives? So I should be so condescending and arrogant as to say that they could not have done that themselves, that they required intervention from a supernatural deity to accomplish what they did? No. I will not do that. They were heroes, they put their own lives at risk. They ran into the buildings everyone else was running out of. And many of them were still there when the buildings collapsed. Many did not come back. I will not dishonor them that way.
So what else should we thank God for in regards to 9/11? The 3,000 victims? Surely not. The author, despite his irrational convictions about the supernatural, could not possibly be that insane.
Perhaps what he is trying to say is that God was present and helping out on 9/11. Nobody saw him, of course, but why not.
So, why didn’t God stop the planes?
Perhaps the almighty supernatural creator of everything helped save lives that day. Why did he allow 3,000 others to die? Why did he not prevent the disaster in the first place? Surely that would have been trivial for him. The firefighters and rescue personnel on the ground could not have stopped the planes from hitting the building so they did everything else they could to save as many lives as they could. But God could have stopped the planes, couldn’t he?
So what answers might a theist give in response to this?
1) God works in mysterious ways/We cannot know God’s purpose/etc.
I hate this one. It’s probably the most common response of all, too. It’s a cop out. It’s a way of saying (and rationalizing) “Something bad happened and God did not stop it, so he must have had some greater purpose in mind that I just don’t understand.” Replace “God” with “Zeus” and the sentence means just as much. Muslims worship the same God, the God of Abraham, and on that day certain Muslims were rejoicing because God had struck a blow against the evil west.
2) God allowed it to happen to bring people back to God. There was a resurgence of religion in the intervening years.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Replace God with a man’s name and see if the sentence still sounds great. “George allowed 3,000 people to die in flames and horrible crushing death so that people all over the world would worship him and proclaim his glory.” George sounds like a sick bastard to me. A god that allows thousands of people to die a horrible death so that I might love him? Pass.
3) God works subtly. He could not work overtly because we must have faith.
The “God can’t tip his hand” argument. If he stopped the planes in midair and placed them gently on the ground, we would have definitive proof that he exists, and we are required to love God without proof. This one never made sense to me. If it has to be my decision to “love God” of my own free will, what does that have to do with being given proof that he exists? I have no more proof that Yahweh exists than I do of Zeus. Who do I pick? Do I convert to all religions just to be safe? They all have equal validity.
This is the kind of warped logic we use to attack each other politically these days. We are in grave danger of becoming a Theocracy. Every day we behave more and more like the Christians of the 14th century, or like the Muslims of today. 9/11 was not about God except to the Muslim terrorists. Whether you believe in a God or not, he wasn’t there that day.