Acts of Terrorism the Ultimate “Faith-Based Initiative”?

Statement on September 11 Terrorism

This statement was released by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based national association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) working to protect the constitutional separation of church and state since 1978.

Representing our national membership of freethinkers, as well as the 18.5% of U.S. citizens who are not religious, we join in the national mourning over the events on September 11, a horrible and senseless human tragedy.

However, Bush’s proclamation of Friday, September 14 as a “National Day of Prayer and Remembrance” shows the pitfalls of the “God is on our side” mentality, and the dangers of religious patriotism.

While it may be natural for religious persons to turn to religion or prayer for solace, it is not the role of the President of the United States, or his spokespersons, to urge citizens to pray, to go to church, to turn to faith, or to observe a National Day of Prayer with worship.

In fact, it appears that the terrorist disasters of September 11 may well have been the ultimate “faith-based initiative.” These terrorists apparently expected to find a reward “in heaven” and were bent on starting a “holy war” with our nation.

Our country should not fall into the trap of religious terrorists: Holy wars don’t have solutions, they just have body counts.

Religion is not the answer, it is probably the problem. As Pascal put it: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Prayer had its chance on September 11, and it failed. Imagine the unanswered prayers of hundreds or thousands of the victims of these terrorists. Official prayer will not solve any problems.

We believe it is appropriate for President Bush to call for a Day of Remembrance, but leave prayer up to individuals. Civil War Col. Robert G. Ingersoll reminds us: “The hands that help are better far than lips that pray.”

The nonreligious are among the victims and their families, and are represented in the ranks of the heroes, the firefighters and police officers risking or giving their lives to save others. It is offensive that the President of all Americans disregards the convictions, even the existence, of the more than 10% of the population that is not religious.

The “God is on our side” mentality was responsible for these tragic acts of terrorism. We must not compound the dangers by a “One Nation Under God” response.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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