My 9/11 Prayer

September 11, 2007 at 11:59 pm 16 comments

It is the evening of September 11th, 2007 – the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on American soil by Islamic Jihadists. I am driving home from work, listening to the ceremonies and tributes paid on NPR. I am nearly home. Just as I round the corner to an adjacent street, I see this new message on the church marquee:

Skyline Baptist Marquee

You are reading that marquee right. The good folks at Skyline Baptist Church have seen fit to place this threat of eternal fire to the heathen and the promise of eternal paradise to the saint to commemorate this anniversary.

Why does this make me so upset? Perhaps part of the answer is that I believed it myself for most of my 43 years on Earth. I was convinced that even the most devout believer in God was doomed if their belief was ‘misguided’, if their creed was not pointing to the ‘correct’ version of Jesus, or if they had a ‘heretical’ view of the Trinity. But there is more to my anger than this.

Some of you who read this blog regularly know that I am participating in a weekly series called ‘Blogging the Qu’ran‘ with Robert Spencer. Leaving aside Spencer’s politics which are not at issue here (and which I know little about anyway), I am trying to educate myself with weekly readings in the Qu’ran on what Islam really teaches, and what beliefs it holds. I am reading the entire Qu’ran, all in context, and Mr Spencer provides numerous commentaries and online helps to get the whole message across. Mr Spencer has personally answered every one of my questions regarding Islam, no matter how trivial, and I find his analysis to be fair. And so far in my readings, I get the impression that Islam is nothing more then a violent rejoinder to Judaism and Christianity. Over and over again, the Qu’ran commands the faithful Muslim to kill the ‘people of the book’, or at the very least to make their lives so miserable that they have no choice but to convert. And what is the ultimate incentive? Eternal damnation promised by Allah. It seems every third verse of the Qu’ran contains threats of eternal Fire, not only for the infidel, but the wavering Muslim who dares leave the faith.

I know very little about geo-politics. But I do understand religion. And religion is in large part why 9/11 happened. Some people were convinced that they would be rewarded eternal paradise at the expense of the infidel. Nobody can deny the terrible power of religion.

With that said, two weeks ago Robert Spencer began to promote his new book with a couple of video plugs. The title? Religion of Peace? Why Christianity is and Islam isn’t.

Oh dear.

In fairness, I have not read the book. But based on the some reviews and the interviews I have heard, I gather that Spencer argues that Islam is barbaric compared to the more civilized moral stance of Christianity. And I will not argue that. Christianity, a religion that I left after 40 years of devout belief, has many virtues and positive qualities. Islam, as we have seen in the past few years, and not just from the example set by 9/11, is violent in action and in belief. Christianity had its dark and violent days, and thankfully those are mostly days of the past. However, Christianity is in no way a ‘Religion of Peace’, and placing it in such stark contrast to Islam only exacerbates the problem, in my humble view. I maintain that any religion, belief or creed that includes a salvation premise, an elect few who will attain that salvation, and a majority who will be damned, cannot in any way be called a ‘Religion of Peace’. This includes Christianity.

But what incites that violence? What drives people to blow themselves to bits in the name of their god?

Do you see that marquee in that picture above? That is a threat. I am sure it is well intentioned, and I have attended Skyline Baptist several times. Pastor Warmath seems like a good man. Nonetheless, people who really believe that this life is nothing more than a trial by a judgmental god will do anything to ensure their place in eternity. This is what 9/11 is about. But Christians who believe in the same kind of judgment will, I believe, react just as violently when their backs are pressed against the wall. Belief in Heaven and Hell by any religious faith, including that stupid marquee, only perpetuates the wars that we are now fighting.

Don’t believe me? History is rife with examples, including wholesale genocide of the heathen. I believe that faithful people can, when pressured enough, ultimately drive themselves stark raving mad to avoid the tortures of Eternal HellFire and gain Eternal Paradise.

And who can blame them? If Heaven and Hell existed, I would too.

I have an atheist friend who claims that the most Evil contrivance ever invented by Humanity is God. I disagree. I am not an atheist, but avoiding that philosophical argument, I believe the most Evil contrivance ever invented by Humanity is the notion of an Eternal Afterlife. Eternal Reward for the saint and Eternal Damnation for the heathen. Forget Islam and Christianity. I don’t care if you are Protestant or Catholic. I don’t care if you are Shiite or Sunni. I don’t care what your religion is or what you want to believe. I really don’t! I am not anti-religion. But the belief that your own particular way of worshipping God is the only correct way, at the exclusion of everything else, and that God honors one narrow path only to doom everyone else is the bane of our monotheistic religious traditions. It is the one thing that makes our monotheistic traditions so powerful, so dangerous and so potentially deadly.

I don’t care what you believe. I have my own beliefs. But to the people who really think they are going to gain a heavenly reward of any kind, and that I am going to swim in a lake of fire simply because I believe differently than they do, I say the following:

Shame on you! for being so arrogant as to think only you and those who share your beliefs can win God’s favor!

Shame on you! for turning your God of Love into a monster that he is not worthy of becoming!

Shame on you! for perpetuating hate, fear, intolerance, cruelty and exclusion on those who perceive God differently from you.

Shame on you! for assigning me, a truly honest seeker of spiritual truth, into Hell because I don’t believe in your Savior, your Messiah, or your Prophet!

Shame on you! I have great respect for religion, but I have no respect for any belief that includes eternal reward and punishment based only on a system of faith.

Now that I got that off my chest, I offer you my 9/11 prayer. Based on past experience, I have little reason to believe that prayer actually works, but I will pray it anyway, if only as a self-affirmation of my hopes and beliefs. I prayed something very similar to this earlier today:

Dear God:

I don’t have any idea if you exist or not. But people say that you do, and that you are all-powerful and all-loving. And considering this beautiful universe that we have been placed in, I don’t blame people at all for believing in you. God, if you are out there, and you are listening to me, I ask that you consider us down here on Earth. People are killing in your name, because they are fearful of you. I guess they think you will be offended if we don’t have the right perception of you, and that you will throw them in Hell to burn forever if we don’t have that perception correct. Some people think that you will torture us forever if we recite the incorrect creed, or believe the wrong thing about Jesus, or Muhammad, or .. or Joseph Smith for crying out loud! That scares the wits out of people, and they are willing to kill for those beliefs. People have in the past, and I have no reason to think that they will not continue.

So on this anniversary of 9/11, I ask that people understand the diversity of their own humanity. I ask that people understand that we are normally going to hold on to beliefs, traditions and customs that they were raised into, are usually happy with those, and usually have no reason to convert. I ask that people learn from each other rather than issue the command to convert.

God, I believe that you are wholly unknowable. If you are out there, you are outside such petty conceptions that our minds can formulate. I believe that you could give a rip about The Qur’an, the Bible, or any other Holy Book. I believe that those are our feeble attempts at trying to understand you, our grasping for you, our trying to understand who you are and what you want, and how you want us to conduct our lives. I ask that we be allowed, as a human species, to continue that quest with cooperation and peace amongst ourselves.

I do not believe we have been placed here on Earth for your amusement. That we are just acting out some mock trial, and you will judge us based on which creed we recite. I do not believe you can be that cruel, that barbarous, that mad. I ask that humanity realizes that, while you may be awesome and holy, you are not a deity to be feared. I want humanity to not be afraid of their own beliefs, or of discussing their own beliefs among others, or afraid of you.

And above all, God if you are listening, I pray that this world never, ever, ever again has to suffer through the demands of your faithful. That people of all religious and spiritual persuasions never again have to hear the demand to ‘Convert!’ for fear of Death and Hell ever again.

I pray this, on this anniversary day, with all humility and sincerity.

Amen.

-HeIsSailing

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HeIsSailing  |  September 12, 2007 at 1:33 am

    Against my own better judgement, I just wrote the Pastor of Skyline Baptist Church informing him of this article I wrote. Sorry, but this whole thing really, really upset me.

    Here is the letter I sent:

    From : He Is Sailing
    Sent : Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:29 AM
    To : Pastor Warmath
    Subject : Your new marquee

    Dear Pastor Warmath,
    Driving home from work this evening, I was listening to tributes on the radio paid to those who died during the terrorist attacks 6 years ago. I then saw the new message on your marquee.
    “Paradise or Fire – Where will you spend eternity?”

    The contrast of this message with the religious ideology that perpetrated that terrorist act greatly upset me. I wrote a short article about my feelings and placed it online. I am letting you know this, not as an attack on your beliefs, but as an act of fairness. I am an apostate from Christianity, having been faithful for at least 40 years before rejecting the faith. As an apostate, I see messages like eternal damnation as perpetuating the problems that led up to 9/11 – and it upsets me greatly as a human citizen.

    My article is located on this blogsite:

    http://de-conversion.com/2007/09/12/my-911-prayer/

    If you decide to read it, I ask you to read it with an open mind, and to understand my intention in writing it. I am not asking for debate, or writing as a diatribe against Christianity – that would be foolish. I am writing as one who recently lost several members of my family who were in no way Christian, and are, according to your belief system, writhing in Hell. I don’t need that reminder, especially on this anniversary of 9/11.

    I understand if you will not take an anonymous email seriously. But as an apostate from Christianity, I hope you also understand my need for anonymity.

    Thank You for your time, Pastor Warmath.

  • 2. Epiphanist  |  September 12, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Well said. We are here on earth to live. We should not put anything off because of the doubtful prospect of an afterlife that might mean something in the terms that we use to understand this short existence. Nice prayer, but, if you don’t feel comfortable praying to God, just pray for love, and also try praying without words. Most of communication is non verbal !

  • 3. StaCeY  |  September 12, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Just as people need to LOOK CLOSER at what their RELIGIOUS LEADERS tell them about “heaven and hell”… (and everything else)…

    people also need to LOOK CLOSER at what their WORLD LEADERS tell them aobut 9/11… (and everything else).

    Illusions, ridiculous explinations, and erronious interpretations come in many forms and in-doctrinations.

    We are taught from a young age NOT to think… and see… and reason for ourselves. It is appalling how easy it is to fool the masses. We listen instead to the white coats and black robes invested in the money trees that finance the “big screen” “mediums” (media). Spin doctors, smoke screens, and impressive media shows… all blind us to the PLANE/plain truths that are right before our own eyes, minds and hearts.

    If anyone is interested….
    I have put up… and will be putting up more all week…
    a whole 9/11 TRUTH aTtributes section.

    So far I have covered explosives.

    ~Exploding Illusions~
    about a total of two hours of various eye wittness accounts,
    physicists, explosives/demolition expert testimony, slowed down footage of events so you can SEE clearly for yourself what happened that day, as well as (forced & downplayed) ADMISSIONS by the snakes themselves.

    I hope you are all interested.
    You should be.
    (that is just my opinion however)

    http://inthemidstofyou.blogspot.com/2007/09/deep-diving.html

    check back for more all week.(if you’re interested)
    for things like “crash” site lawns with no wreckage…
    and other assorted impossibilities…
    like impossible/incredible flying manuvers that would stall said planes..
    all achieved by incompetant /below average pilots to boot!

    http://inthemidstofyou.blogspot.com/

    I will also have my own personal 9/11 story up some time this week. (audio) Impossible Syncronicity (God) answered me “randomly” out of hundreds of pages in the bible… only to show me 9/11CLEARLY in the book of daniel… and answer the question I had clearly posed Him the night before the last election of GW. (needless to say he did not get my vote. neither did the democrat.) Mainstream leaders are either owned or killed. (my own observation)

    This post here is not meant to be an “advertisement” for “my blog” or anything. I genuinely CONCERNS me … how people trust the UNTRUSTABLE for the information that “holds together” their understanding of reality. (and thus their very realitiy itself)

    You wanna avoid the fires of HELL?!
    Why not start where you are.
    9/11 was hell… and so is war…
    and the loss of our rights one by one
    … as all good “patriots” get into the “act”…
    and lay them down at the alter of fear.

    Stacey.

  • 4. Jim  |  September 12, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Thank you for writing this, HeIsSailing.

  • 5. athinkingman  |  September 12, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    I found your prayer very moving. Thank you for expressing those thoughts.

  • 6. ESVA  |  September 12, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Well said. Thank you for sharing this.

  • 7. tobeme  |  September 12, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Interesting!

  • 8. LaShawn  |  September 12, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    I hope you keep us updated with the pastor’s response!

  • 9. karen  |  September 12, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Wow. Good on you for informing the pastor. That’s an incredibly insensitive message on such a day, for sure. I’ll be interested to hear if you get a response.

    Another terrific post, by the way. I hope you’re keeping these together – they’d make a wonderful compilation at some point. Perhaps a book: “Journey of an Apostate” ? Seriously – not very many books out there for deconverters, and the market for such is definitely growing!

    And so far in my readings, I get the impression that Islam is nothing more then a violent rejoinder to Judaism and Christianity. Over and over again, the Qu’ran commands the faithful Muslim to kill the ‘people of the book’, or at the very least to make their lives so miserable that they have no choice but to convert. And what is the ultimate incentive? Eternal damnation promised by Allah. It seems every third verse of the Qu’ran contains threats of eternal Fire, not only for the infidel, but the wavering Muslim who dares leave the faith.

    Interesting. I just finished “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an apostate from Islam (she made a film with Theo Van Gogh, who was killed by a radical Muslim in Holland). Fascinating book. She makes the same conclusion that you do, above, and her take on Islam is awfully dreary – particularly for women!

    Of course, just as with Christianity, there are those who take the Koran literally and precisely, and those moderates and liberals who don’t. Unfortunately, just as with Christianity, the “fundies” are far louder are more dangerous than are the moderates.

    Christianity had its dark and violent days, and thankfully those are mostly days of the past. However, Christianity is in no way a ‘Religion of Peace’, and placing it in such stark contrast to Islam only exacerbates the problem, in my humble view.

    Sam Harris makes the point (I think it’s Sam) that the reason Christianity can (mostly) today be called a religion of peace has nothing much to do with its actual theology and everything to do with the influence of secularism that came about following the Enlightenment. It’s the nonreligious thinking that helped transform the religious thinking into something less barbaric, and allowed Christianity to adapt and evolve.

    But for hundreds of years Christianity engaged in horrific, bloody purges of apostates and violence between Protestant and Catholic and other minor sects, just as Islam is engaged now in the Sunni – Shiite conflict. It’s just that Christianity was in Europe and thus influenced by the Enlightenment over the last 400-500 years and the spread of secularism that started with philosophers like Hagel. Islam, physically distant and culturally separated from Europe, never had that exposure to secular thinking.

    I don’t know how valid that theory is, but it makes sense to me. I’m sure Salahudin will correct us if we’re off base here. ;-)

  • 10. HeIsSailing  |  September 14, 2007 at 10:21 am

    LaShawn sez:

    I hope you keep us updated with the pastor’s response!

    Karen, LaShawn, thanks for asking. No reply from Pastor Warmath, and no indication from the WordPress stats that the link I sent him has been clicked on. Ah Well, that is no biggie – I was not really expecting any reply back, and he probably has much better things to do with his time.

    And I am not that upset anymore after I had a chance to vent here, and to my wife.

    I really think I am onto something here though. I think that sometimes the faithful acts like nuts the way they do because they are so damn afraid of their own god. I can just see so much neurosis that stems from that because I sure felt the pain of it for so many years. HA – I guess in a way I am still feeling that pain, otherwise I would not have been compelled to write this article, huh?

    Karen suggests:

    Perhaps a book: “Journey of an Apostate” ?

    Oh dear!! No, No, thanks for the compliment, but these are just my own rants and raves that are among a growing number on the internet. I am content to leave them here, and hopefully in the future some Christian who is really hurting from the pain of having to believe their unsaved relatives will burn in Hell will Google something like “Doubting Christianity” and find some use and comfort in what we have written. Honestly, that is what I hope for, because that is part of my own story.

    Karen:

    Sam Harris makes the point (I think it’s Sam) that the reason Christianity can (mostly) today be called a religion of peace has nothing much to do with its actual theology and everything to do with the influence of secularism that came about following the Enlightenment.

    That is because people gain their morality from outside, secular influences and interpret the Bible to fit that morality. And as I see more young Christians embrace worldly values, like going to the movies and listening to pop music (things that were absolutely forbidden to us Christians when I was young), I am more convinced that I am correct about that. But I think before the Enlightenment, back when the church had political power, people really were driven stark raving mad for fear of Hell, and for fear of their god.

    Robert Ingersoll made this point better than I ever could back in 1874:
    “Give any orthodox church the power, and to-day they would punish heresy with whip, and chain, and fire. As long as a church deems a certain belief essential to salvation, just so long it will kill and burn if it has the power. Why should the church pity a man whom her God hates? Why should she show mercy to a kind and noble heretic whom her God will burn in eternal fire?”

  • 11. HeIsSailing  |  September 14, 2007 at 10:36 am

    StAcY sez:

    I will also have my own personal 9/11 story up some time this week.

    I am anxious to hear it, Stacy. But you should know that every time I click on your website, my computer freezes. It just comes to a crashing halt. Just so you know…

    StaCy sez:

    Impossible Syncronicity (God) answered me “randomly” out of hundreds of pages in the bible… only to show me 9/11CLEARLY in the book of daniel…

    Stacy, just so you know, that was random. Have you ever heard of Jack VanImpe? That man is truly amazing. He has memorized an enormous part of the Bible, and has this amazing talent for taking any newspaper headline and matching at least 5 scriptures to it to show how the Bible ‘predicted’ it. After reading so much Hal Lindsay in the 1970′s (Remember when the Soviet Union was going to invade Israel, anyone?), I think I have gotten pretty good at that skill myself.

    I am interested to read your story Stacy, but the Bible has no more prophetic or fortelling power then your local newspaper horoscope. You know how you can fit any horoscope reading to fit nearly any personality? Same with the Bible. Really.

  • 12. karen  |  September 14, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    After reading so much Hal Lindsay in the 1970’s (Remember when the Soviet Union was going to invade Israel, anyone?)

    OH, sure! We hung on every word in the news that touched on either country, and interpreted every flutter in the breeze as a harbinger of this apocryphal invasion. Gog and Magog, and battlefields running with blood, the seven years of tribulation, the Antichrist taking the throne of an international government, the Mark of the Beast, and on and on.

    Of course, we’d all have been raptured by that time, so it was pretty much armchair entertainment for us. As Dave Dickerson says in the radio segment I mentioned on the other thread, conservative evangelicalism is appealing in part because it’s scary. And exciting. And scary and exciting all rolled up together! ;-)

  • [...] HeIsSailing : My 9/11 Prayer [...]

  • 14. CheezChoc  |  September 12, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    HeIsSailing, that prayer is very moving. I’m going to save it.

    That church marquee reminds me of a Baptist church near my home; every week they’ve got another scary saying on it.
    One week it was: Your Sins are due on judgment day/and there will be hell to pay.
    Another week it was: What if God doesn’t think of you as good as you think you are? [bad syntax, I know]
    And recently it was this: Not preaching about hell doesn’t make it go away.

    I can’t fathom why anyone would attend church or return to it because of this fearmongering—but that’s me.

  • 15. james jocobsen  |  March 17, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Christ was a ransom. That simple. The threat of hell wouldn’t bother anyone, if it weren’t a possibility. Jesus didn’t start a religion. He brought the truth to all who would listen. He didn’t force anyone to believe Him or accept His grace. He said, ”follow Me” to those who will. So, if you choose to blame the adherents of the ”religion” to justify your disbelief, so be it. Jesus said…….”‘ I Am that I Am”…………Ingersoll ranted many times about the false teachings of Christ and His disciples and the lack of credibility of scripture, but he also perverted the scriptures to fit his rantings. Anger and misunderstanding is understood. But he went further than just condemning. He judged Jesus and His followers. So be it. It didn’t sway me one moment. Hell is the separation FROM God. It is made very clear in the scriptures. You seem disposed and sad. That is a hell. The hell fire is a literal fire in the valley of Gehenna. That was were trash was burned and carcasses of dead animals and some humans. Jesus did not come to bring peace. Peace cannot be restored until Chrsit returns. The spirit of Satan rules this world and creates doubt and distorts truths to separate man from Christ. Many things will be said against Jesus and His words will be defiled and His very existance will be questioned. He will be cursed by men(Ingersoll0 for not saying what they wanted Him to say or explain. Anger is nothing new. I too, get very angry. Who doesn’t? But that doesn’t justify my disbelief. It simply proves my failure to understand, as a child, the simple gospel of and about Christ. There are many who plunder the scriptures. There has to be absolute Truth. We simply will never know it. When Jesus appeared on this earth in the flesh it changed the world for the better. Jesus demanded LOVE and forgiveness to those who seek it. He never allowed violence to be a solution to His grace. The wars you speak of………Crusades, etc…………had nothing to do with Jesus.Not one………….Stalin, Hitler are perfect examples of atheist thouight and dawinian philosophy that attributed to massive murders BEFORE wars began. To look at the past of human sin is no excuse to blame Jesus or anyone who truly believe in Him. It’s our failure and lack of understanding as well as impatience to recieve our reward. Many want peace NOW! Peace is a very desirable goal, but a terrible price will always be paid until the Lord comes end ends all wars and hatred. You can not equate Christ with decievers of false gods. You may have left your religion for the reasons you stated. But you left the Grace of Christ and with free will created your own god with no heaven or hell. Question is. If you don’t believe in a heaven………..why waste your time writing about a god of any faith? The answer is obvious………..You are still seeking the Chrsit you keft but with your conditions of Grace………..What more can Jesus do for you or me? Your call………………James

  • 16. james jocobsen  |  March 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Forgive my errors………I am partially blind and a terrible typist.YOu are still seeking the Christ you left but with YOUR conditions of Grace………James

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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