September 11, 2007

wtcjpeg.jpgI don’t want to talk about the “lessons” of 9/11. I think that sounds too glib, professorial.

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post, not wishing to exploit the anniversary of 9/11 just so I can have great subject headings for “tag surfers”.

I was doing my morning prayer/meditation–it was six years ago today that the Towers fell so my mind, naturally, began pondering that and I started remembering… and discovered I had vivid recollections of what transpired—

We were in the midst of our morning routine. My wife was out of town on a business trip so it was up to me to make sure my sons’ lunches were made, their homework collected and their milk moustaches wiped off before I sent them to school. Their backpacks and shoes were by the front door, coats on the banister, ready to grab on the way out…I thought I was ready.

It’s was just about 8:00 so I had another ten minutes before the school bus pulled up in front—bus2jpeg.jpg

As usual, we were listening to CBC Radio, though the reception here isn’t that great. I don’t remember the actual announcement verbatim but Sheila Coles, the regular “Morning Edition” host, came on, sounding a bit baffled, taken aback:

We’ve just received a report that a plane has struck the World Trade Center in New York…” Details were still sketchy–

By then I had the TV on and was switching back and forth between our two stations, looking for more details. Because even at that point it sounded odd. Out of all of the buildings on the New York skyline, an aircraft had smacked into the Trade Center?

At first there was nothing. I started getting the boys kitted up—and then the story broke wide open and there were interrupted broadcasts, shaken anchors and then the first footage…my God. Those of us who looked on that morning will never forget, we don’t need the commemorative issues and anniversaries. That second plane zooming into frame and then disappearing into one of the most famous, recognizable structures in the western world. Christ, even King Kong had climbed the fucking thing in that terrible 1977 remake.


It was terrorism, no doubt about it. Hatred for our way of life, for our institutions and our hypocrisy. They hated us so that gave us the right to hate them right back. And we did. And do. We find it unforgivable that their tribal squabbles have led to carnage on our shores. We resent being victimized for other people’s historical (and evidently insoluble) conflicts.


Atta and the others were fanatics, monsters. Anyone who claimed otherwise (hello, Bill Maher) in those jingoistic early days quickly paid the price for their ill-considered observations.

blowbackjpeg.jpgBlowback. When an operation on distant shores leads to shit happening right here at home.

Over 50 years of ongoing failure at trying to achieve the partition of Palestine into two equal, independent and viable states. Which has resulted in the largest refugee population in the world, a diaspora that has had a destabilizing factor on the entire region. The plight of the Palestinians is one the greatest single failures of Western diplomacy since World War II. It is the symbol in the Arab world of Western duplicity.

Hate is a powerful force. Look what can be accomplished when it is wielded by a master. Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Hate and its allies intolerance and xenophobia have caused the deaths of tens of millions in the past century…and were unquestionably responsible for those who perished in the Towers, the Pentagon and that field in rural Pennsylvania.

And in the midst of my meditation, a thought: this is what we come to when we reject our spiritual aspects and defy moral absolutes, the kinds of teachings passed down by religious figures and enlightened individuals for thousands of years.

This is what happens when you kill God (figuratively speaking).

hitchensjpeg.jpgI’ll agree with Christopher Hitchens and all the folks who subscribe to The Skeptical Inquirer: religion (man’s truncated version of God’s divine plan) has caused incredible suffering and privation…but I also hasten to point out what happens when you remove God from the equation: our species’ unbridled cruelty and greed (no longer held in check by fear of judgement or operating under divine fiat) running rampant, resulting in mass murder and the subjugation and exploitation of great populations…

God wasn’t responsible for the witch hunts, the Inquisition, World War I and II, Dresden, Hiroshima, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the atrocities of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Charles Taylor. All were the result of human agents acting on behalf of a small cadre of brutal men. Am I simplifying or is this not historically accurate?

Put it this way: what possible part in God’s great creation could the horrors of Auschwitz play? The “killing fields” of Cambodia. The ghosts of Kigali. It’s ludicrous to suggest unseen hands at work when there is such overwhelming evidence of human culpability. Genocides occur because people are complicit by deed or negligence. Pinning the blame on God won’t wash, philosophically, theologically or any other way you want to look at it.

Every single religion I know of decries senseless bloodshed and counsels some form of tolerant co-existence with neighbours, even rivals and enemies. Each requires a code of conduct from its adherents and demands that they offer safety and shelter to strangers, charity and succor to those in need. None sanction cruel, lawless behavior and there are often stern punishments ordained (either in this life or the next) for those who fail to live up to the highest principles of their belief system.

skyjpeg.jpgGod did not cause 9/11.

What happened that day wasn’t divine punishment handed down by the vengeful god of Pat Robertson…and certainly not the true, revealed God (Blessed be His Name) of Mohammed Atta et all. God was not with Atta and his pitiless companions six years ago. He had been driven out by the hate that consumed them, distorting and withering their souls.

God is blameless, not responsible for the schemes of such men. They deny the message of the great scriptures, repudiate His will and desecrate the legacy of the teachers and prophets He has seen fit to send us.

It is God’s will that we flourish and thrive as a species.

If we falter, it is by our choice…and if we fall far enough, our savage natures and stupid indifference will consign us forever to a netherworld of perpetual fear and suspicion.

And even there, I think, God will not forsake us.





  1. azahar

    Yes, God is blameless for this atrocity even if you believe in any of the monotheist versions of God. I don’t happen to be a ‘member’ myself, though I was brought up RC Catholic so I know a bit of what that’s about.

    Are you actually religious and a believer yourself? You mentioned being in agreement with Christopher Hitchins. I don’t think the two things are exclusive, which is why I’m asking.

    But yes, the atrocities that have been carried out *in the name of God* are always simply political and self-serving justifications for behaving extremely badly.

    Well, isn’t that why people invented gods and religions in the first place? To be able to justify how certain humans behave?

  2. Vladimir Gritsenko

    You have a funny way of defining God. I wonder if you actually believe he exists and is partial to the ways of men (although he doesn’t influence them, according to you), or just see him as a metaphor for absolute values.

    The former version makes God a sort of sadistic bastard, who could help out but doesn’t, preferring to see the human tragedy unfold while eating his divine popcorn. Thus Auschwitz etc. do indeed have a place in his plan – entertainment.

    The latter version doesn’t work well as an incentive for moral behavior. Even supposing divine retribution is more than just a metaphor – is it the only thing keeping your from robbing your neighbor and raping his wife? I didn’t think so.

    Either way, whatever you may say about Atta, he certainly did believe that God was with him, that he did His will and that he would end up in paradise. He believed in absolutes, just not your absolutes. Frankly I don’t see why your God, or anybody’s God or Gods for that matter, take primacy over his version. After all, is it not a matter of personal revelation?

  3. Ariel

    In response to Vladimir –

    Maybe the difficulty arises in the very act of choosing absolutes and personalizing God, believing that a Big Daddy in the Sky is necessary for moral behavior. To assume, a priori, that God takes a keen and proprietary interest in the doings of humans is also a pretty big assumption.

    My personal pantheistic preference is for a individual revelation of a peaceful, immanent, but not necessarily transcendant or omnipotent God. Divinity as a Becoming as opposed to a “Has-Been” Creator.

    Then the burden of responsibility for our behavior falls squarely back on our own shoulders, which I believe is the main point Cliff was making all along. It’s up to us to make the world in our image…which is precisely what we seem to be doing, for good or ill.

    Atta could believe what he liked, just as any of us do; he is still responsible for his personal choices and actions.

  4. Darshan

    Nice piece, Cliff.

    As I read, I considered points here and there which I might have had some disagreement with, some questions left. But really I got to thinking. How significant are these differences, truly? And why is it that humans so passionately need to split spiritual hairs, point out the errors of the knowledge of the Divine. Speaking on a topic other than god, the person who did that would be considered incredibly insecure, superficial and arrogant. (Consider Christopher Hitchens for example) Is it a lack of imagination or an unwillingness to learn which allows humans to ignore the significant similarities in every spiritual system? Wouldn’t acknowledgement of these similarities make for fertile common ground? Respect? Love even?

    Even before I got to reading the comments offered, I got to thinking about what strikes me as the ultimate act of hubris amongst human beings: the concept of the “Personal God”. Bumper stickers that advertise “Our God is an AWESOME God”, or the righteousness of MYGod over any other God has always struck me as nothing more than willful ignorance. And in meditating on this sort of spiritual bigotry, I don’t have any problem believing in a human being’s ability to draw security from the idea of children in a distant land dying beneath falling bombs or a lack of proper water. If not for security’s sake, it is so easy to turn away from the daily atrocities of war, apathy and hatred with personal knowledge of a God that loves one being or group exclusively, and separate from all others who would call God by a different name.

    The Hindu have a greeting, Namaste which essentially means “I acknowledge the divinity within you”. People will often simultaneously bend with hands in prayerful acknowledgement of that sentiment.

    What if everyone acknowledged the divinity in every other being? How much comfort could we carry with us knowing that divine beings everywhere were dying in the name of oil, greed, security or perhaps most ironically, God?

    What if?

    Namaste to each and every one of you. . .


    “When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”

    –J. Krishnamurti

  5. Daniel I Russell

    Hi Cliff.

    Thanks for stopping by the blog. Always nice to meet new people.

    Be interested to know your take on the whole ebook thing. I see that you are a well seasoned writer yourself, and have been in the game a hell of a lot longer than me. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan. I reviewed ebooks for a website and found reading of a screen a nightmare. I read primarily in the bath or on the bus – not somewhere I would take a computer!

    I signed a deal with Wild Child Publishing in the knowledge that the book would be released in this format. I was in it for the editing experience, which I have greatly benefitted from. When sales reach a level to cover an initial run, the book goes into print.

    My main bugbear with ebooks is that over here in the UK, there is no market whatsoever. I’m finding it very hard to market the book, especially with my day job taking up so much time too.

    In the defence of ebooks, I have recently downloaded software from Mobipocket that allows ebooks on a PDA, which is quiet useful.

    I do prefer ‘dead tree’ versions. I like my shelves cluttered with beaten old paper backs! Plus, how do you sign an ebook?

    M E Ellis helped me get my foot in the door at Wild Child, and her husband Paul creeates the covers. He’s won a quite a few web awards and works very closely with the needs of the authors. Great bloke, great covers.

    Oh, and glad to hear from another Bentley Little fan! My next planned novel is giving him a sly nod – several more surreal and visual deaths! Knives, axes and drills are good to a point, but I want to stretch my wings with this one.

    I’ve prattled on for too long. What have been your highlights of writing thus far?


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