A dual challenge many adults face this week is how they remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001 privately, and how they will explain what happened that day to children.
We discussed this issue (and others) in Tuesday’s video Q&A on ethical and moral issues in the news, which is embedded below. But I was unable to to address one great question due to a technical blunder on my part, so I have posted it below. It’s worth reading and responding to.
“Tell them the WHOLE truth. Throughout history, various religions have committed atrocities in the name of protecting their society. ... The 9/11 attacks were simply the latest in a long history of religious terrorism by many religions.”
I was asked how I reacted to this impulse to blame religion.
My reply: Yes, we need the “whole truth,” though I am not sure the questioner will like my understanding of what that is.
Read on after the jump ...
My short answer: religion drove those planes into the building. It’s painful to say, especially for a person of faith, but it is we who need to say it most. And, at the risk of being even more provocative, it is Muslims who need to say it the most among those who are religious.
There is a long history of hate and violence being done in the name of God, and failing to admit it means failing to fix it. It is not about one particular faith; it is about fanatical faith which sees its way as the only way. Any time that happens, we all suffer. But that is only part of the story.
As much as we must admit that fanatical faith has spilled the blood of millions over the centuries, it must also be admitted that as many were killed in the name of faithless ideologies in the 20th century, as all those killed in the name of God during the previous 18 centuries put together. Think I am wrong? Just repeat these three names: Hitler, Mao and Stalin.
So it’s not as simple as either those who defend faith or those who attack it would like to believe. Ultimately it’s about whatever fires up people’s absolutism, and the presumption that if we just get rid of some other group – racial, ethnic or religious – all of our problems will be solved. It has never been so, and it never will be.
And finally, it would be helpful if people — especially those who are most adept at pointing out the bloody history of religion — were equally adept at pointing out that no force has been as good at inspiring the most selfless, compassionate and healing acts as religion has. It’s really not about the faiths, it’s about the faithful.
Religion is like a fire – it can warm our homes and cook our food, or it can burn those same houses down and take a great many of us with it. It’s up to us. That’s what I’ll be thinking about and teaching about this Sunday, and every other opportunity I have.
The rest of the Q&A
Our live discussion also addressed the issue of financially strapped states such as Rhode Island considering sharp reductions in benefits for retirees, as well as for current workers. Is that legal? Is that ethical? Is balancing the budget at the expense of already-retired workers an ethical course of action for governments?
The answer to the first question seems to be yes, and so does the answer to the second two – if addressed very carefully. We as a society cannot expect to address our current financial woes on the backs of public sector retirees, but neither can they simply insist on collecting benefits based on facts which no longer exist.
Both sides need to come together, not to debate what it absolutely right or legally defensible, but what is practical and good. That is the ethical response – the one which will require give on both sides and keep state’s an local municipalities for simply hiding behind newly enacted bankruptcy laws.
The discussion moved on to Washington Post-ABC News polling which indicates that more than 60 percent of Americans disapprove of President’s handling of the economy and his overall approval ratings stand at new lows. But approval and success are not necessarily the same thing, unless the only measure of success is securing a second term.
People want to blame someone, and it’s easiest to blame the guy at the top. While President Obama certainly bears some large measure of responsibility, the issues which affect our economy are bigger than any one man or office. The President gets no free pass, but neither should anyone imagine that fixing things will be as easy as changing who sits in the Oval Office.