This is not an attack, but rather a sincere quest for understanding. I've been noticing a number of avowed Christians frequenting our little forum here, and I'd like to tap you guys as a resource. As a longtime Christian---now former---myself, I have some pretty strong opinions/theories on this, but I want to hear what you guys have to say. I'm hoping the relative anonymity of message board posting will encourage more candor than face to face discussion sometimes does.
I'm honestly curious as to how Christians justify prayer in a situation like this, the current aftermath of the terrorist attacks. I just don't get it. I don't get the calls for prayer in this situation, in particular w/r/t the victims and possible survivors.
What I mean is this, why would you bother praying for protection and deliverance for victims to a God who couldn't bother to protect them in the first place?
Again, I am not trying to mock here. Honestly. I just don't get it. God--however you define him--let the attack happen. No matter what you think of free will or God's will or whatever, there is no way around that. Christianity holds God as both all-knowing and all-powerful. Therefore he knew about the attacks prior to their happening, and could have prevented them. He did not. He decided not to. Knowing that this is the case, what is the point of praying to him to deliver the victims? He's gonna do what he wants anyway, isn't he? Is prayer then only for human comfort? Maybe I could accept that as an explanation.
How do you justify prayer to yourselves? I really want to know.
And please, for purposes of this exercise, I really don't want you guys falling back on the "there's just some things we're not supposed to know" argument. I understand the nature of faith (relatively speaking). I understand that the party line in Christianity is that you just accept God's actions (or inactions) without question because of faith. Do you really accept that? If so, then honestly, what is the point of prayer? If there is such a thing as God's Will, and if "faith" is so vital, isn't prayer a heresy?
If not, and God's Will can be changed simply by praying, doesn't that seem rather arbitrary? Arbitrary because, "Gee, if we'd only asked you specifically not to let the World Trade Center be attacked, that would have made a difference?"
Perhaps some of this is semantics. Perhaps it is unfair to force the words of Christians in the midst of this horror to serve as defense for a religious policy. But when I hear a person say, "We'll pray for him, and if it's God's will he'll pull through," I can only think, "Gee, does that mean it wasn't God's Will for the other family's prayers to be answered?"
Every time prayer has been mentioned after the attack I have flinched. Listening to Billy Graham, Sr. this morning, as he raised the issue then used what I consider to be the "Christian Cop-Out" of I don't know, gotta have faith, I again just felt that sinking feeling.
By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 06:41 am:
Prayer brings peace and reassuration to most i think... it did for me, though i dont pray on my knees in a church mostly, i just pray to God like talking to him, hehe like a therapist i suppose? I dont want to sound like quack... but ten years ago i was very bitter about religion and God when my dad was dying from Cancer. His body was deteriorating very fast and we prayed (my family) everyday. During this time I thought it was all useless and meaningless. I didnt feel anything or some miracle or any good was coming from it.
But the day my dad died (about a year after we found out about his Cancer), i somehow had a realization. Some kind of assurance and peace. i remember the day clearly taking my dad to the hospital as he was having problems breathing that day... he went into the emergency ward, and at that moment i suddenly felt that realization. I didnt hear from the doctor that my dad died, but i knew he had. I didnt pray like on knees with hands, i just thanked God that my dad had a good life, and that i was thankful that i had a good dad... i felt a full reassurance at that moment... that God had really touched my soul and that it was going to be okay and that to just let it be.
I really cant explain the seeming injustices in the world and of religion. And i can see the point of view where some might say prayer is useless and doesnt do anything. But personally life made sense to me from that point on in a certain way.
well, I dont want to preach or look like a zealot...Im not really religious, I dont always do the right thing, hell i miss church most of the time! but i do feel a reassurance when i pray and thank God for what i do have. and im sure some people have similar experiences like mine...
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 06:51 am:
You bring up a lot of good questions...Hopefully I can give you a few answers that you might, at least, accept as being my view, whether right or wrong, or whatever.
While God does know all and see all, and is all-powerful, he does still give us free will, and doesn't (directly) intervene in our choices. It's always hard for any of us to understand why God allows (though I don't really think that's the best word to use, I don't know a better way to say it) people to die -- especially in tragic or untimely (not that there's ever a good time to die) ways. But, every time I hear someone say "I was going to take that flight, but then changed it..." or "I was sitting at my desk in the Pentagon, and went to get a drink of water, and then my office was smashed while I was gone," I know that God had some intervention there. I hate to say that when it's your time to go, it's gonna happen -- does that mean that for some 10,000 people it was their times? I don't know -- but ultimately, I think there's a lot of truth in that. Moreover, I think it has to do with God not interfering in people's lives. For all we know, God was trying to lure people away from the office that day (He speaks to us all, but can be hard to hear, and is always easy to ignore) and they didn't listen. He's not going to super-impose His will on your choices. I know, that sounds pretty pathetic an explanation, but it's the best I've got on that account. But, that's not really what you asked...
Prayer. I have seen some remarkable things happen through the power of prayer. God DOES still heal these days. I've seen a man with a broken leg -- as in, was x-rayed and casted the day before -- healed through prayer. Doctors couldn't explain it -- they just took the cast off and scratched their heads. So I know that prayer can make a difference. Why are some people healed and others not? I have no idea. Maybe one day, when I see Him face to face, I'll ask God, because I don't get that any more than you. Does God answer every prayer exactly like we want Him to? No. But sometimes he does. When you were growing up, did your mom or dad give you everything you wanted? Did that ever stop you from asking?
God seldom acts without people to act through. When people came to the disciples (and I use them rather than Jesus so that we're dealing with everyday people, not the Son of God) asking for healing, it was God's will that they should be healed. Yet, He didn't heal them until the discipled prayed to Him, because that was part of His will, too. So, that is how, as I see it, prayer figures into His will. He answers all prayers -- He just doesn't always say yes.
Perhaps all the people that survived that day survived because someone said "God, please keep my husband/wife/child from harm today." Perhaps the people that didn't survive didn't because they weren't following His will -- perhaps they took a job that He didn't intend for them to take. Perhaps, for some of them, it was just time for them to go.
Accepting the existence of God means that we must also accept the existence of Satan. And he certainly has power, too. A quick anecdote that might have some relavence here: Job was a godly man. The godliest in the land, I believe, who gave thanks to God for all things. Satan was basically negotiating with God -- "Job isn't as godly as you think he is. Let me kill some of his flock, and you'll see...he'll turn from you." So, God allowed Satan to kill some of his herd, and Job gave thanks to God for what was left. Then, through further trials, God allowed Satan to take his friends, his family, and his house, as long as Satan spared his life, to test Job's faith -- and it never waivered.
Sometimes, we need to be tested. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. We'll never understand why. And while I know that I have drifted a little off topic (I'm sorry -- I'm really tired...), I think I said most of what I wanted to say...
The short version: I have seen prayer make a difference in the lives of people. I have seen God grant the requests of His children, doing thing that I don't believe He would have done had no one asked. But, like a loving parent, sometimes He says no. But still, we accept that, and we continue to pray. Sometimes, he doesn't grant requests the first time, or the second, to test your faith and your resolve. But still we pray, and our prayers are answered.
Personally, I pray that God will comfort the families of those that died. Perhaps He will use the death of some of them to bring their families to Him. Perhaps not. But I pray that he will comfort them, because I know that they need it. I pray that He would give the leaders of our country wisdom to make the right choices, because they need it. I have seen prayers answered in the past, and I will see them answered again. And so, my friend, I pray.
Sorry this was so long...But I hope that it answers some of your questions.
By Jenny Murphy on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 09:02 am:
I hope to add a little more to the previous posts made on this subject.
To begin, no, I don't believe that prayer is a heresy. Prayer for Christians is learning the will of God. Through prayer we express our needs and desires, and hopefully we take the time to listen to what God desires for our lives and needs from us, too. A relationship with Christ is much like a marriage. Excuse the rather poor comparison, but my husband and I make dozens of decisions every day that effect the quality of our marriage. We could go through the entire day without talking with each other, or only making small talk, and go on about our business. In the end we would have a very weak marriage in which we both felt that we were insignificant to the relationship. If one of us was always talking and trying to communicate with the other person, but they had no interest in doing their part in the relationship, we would end up in much the same situation. In order for our marriage to thrive we need to be in constant communication and regard the other person's needs and well-being as more important than our own. Our relationship with Christ is much the same. Prayer is a way that God and I communicate with each other, each time Him revealing another piece of His personality and transforming a part of mine. We pray to become more Christ-like. My intention in talking with Him daily is to know Him and His will so that I can be inside His will for my life.
I don't think that it was that God "didn't bother" to avert this catastrophe. You understand that people have their own free will and that God will never impose on that will. I believe that on the morning on September 11 God spoke to many of the people who truly know Him and because they heard His voice their lives may have been spared. I know that it pains God greatly that so many people lost their lives, many without knowing His grace and mercy. He weeps with those of us who weep and mourns with those of us who lost friends and loved ones. People who don't know Christ cannot hear Christ, so while He would have loved to have spared their lives it wasn't possible without God intruding on their free will, which He would never do.
Our prayers go out for the families and the friends of the victims, not for the victims themselves. Their eternal destination has already been decided. We pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones and that out of this horrific deed people will turn to God and in their prayers will begin that relationship.
Please don't think that I'm trying to be preachy or holier-than-thou. This is the best way I know how to explain it to you. While the events of the past week sadden us all, we're praying for the light at the end of the tunnel. If even one person comes to Christ because of these circumstances all my prayers will be worth it.
And let's remember, it was the grace of God that caused one plane to crash in a deserted area in Pennsylvania instead of a densely populated area. And there were two more targets that weren't hit - Air Force 1 and The White House. While I mourn, I think that is worthy of giving thanks.
By Rob on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 10:59 am:
Wow. The subject matter and length of this thread makes me tremble. I love this forum, and read it constantly, but this last week has introduced threads that take 20 minutes to read each. I'm sorry I'm falling behind guys, but I can't find the time to keep up. Keep up the good work though.
By TomChick on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 03:07 pm:
I'm not a Christian, but I'm fascinated by the religion and have very strong feelings for it. I guess for me, this thread brings up a couple of things.
God is either all powerful and slightly evil, or all good and slightly weak. If you accept that He knows and controls everything, you have to accept that He's not all good. He allows the WTC to be hit and souls to be damned.
But if you accept that He's not all-powerful, it's easier to accept that He's entirely good, that He loves us and wants to protect us when these things happen.
I think this latter is the way most of Christianity conceives Him. God stopped breaking into history, violating the rules of physics and the known world, after He introduced his son on Earth. We're on our own now. Prayer is our forum for thanks, anguish, anger. It's not like we're placing orders for the things we want done. We're just talking to Him.
By XtienMurawski on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 03:25 pm:
First of all, I appreciate you guys taking my query seriously and answering with such thought and sincerity. I respect that the fact that you have taken the time to scrutinize your beliefs and further respect the courage you evidence in being so public and open with them.
A couple things I don't understand in your replies, that perhaps a closer reading of your words will clarify, but I'll ask anyway.
First, is one of the purposes of prayer a seeking to bend or change God's will? I understand your point, Jenny, concerning the aspect of prayer that is for you coming to an understanding of God's will. Your point is well made, and I think often missed in that people forget that part of prayer is listening. I'm asking if it is also, to you, a petition to change that will. I think of the apparent contradiction when Jesus was in the garden, asking that if it were possible the cup he was set to drink somehow be passed, while simultaneously saying "Not my will but Thine." I never understood that aspect of prayer, the aspect where we ask God to change his mind then say, "But you know best." When you pray, are you seeking to change his mind?
Last, I have to react to your last point, Jenny:
"And let's remember, it was the grace of God that caused one plane to crash in a deserted area in Pennsylvania instead of a densely populated area."
I have to confess a sense being deeply offended whenever I hear a Christian say something like this. And please, I do not mean to attack you. I really do not. I respect you for opening your heart on this matter. But I have never understood the temerity of this kind of statement, probably because I simply read/hear it wrong. To me, saying "the grace of God...caused one plane to crash in a deserted area" simply highlights the other cases where "the grace of God" did not allow something. Did his grace simply not apply to the other three planes?
I am reminded of a situation from a few years ago, when Pat Robertson led prayers during a hurricane scare on the East Coast. The hurricane missed our part of Virginia, and the prayer groups saw this as an answer to prayer, another example of the grace of God. I recall Christians farther north, where the hurricane did hit, expressing a sense of deep hurt and offense at the implication that God's grace somehow did not extend to them. As if they were somehow not worthy.
Again, I am seeking an understanding as to the point of prayer in the lives of Christians. I am really trying to define our terms here. I am not trying to attack, and I appreciate the time you have taken to answer my questions.
By Jenny Murphy on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 03:33 pm:
"God is either all powerful and slightly evil, or all good and slightly weak...I think this latter is the way most of Christianity conceives Him. "
It troubles me that you have gotten this impression. The simple fact that people could get that impression of the Christian religion means that we as Cristians haven't been doing our job very well. I would have to say that anyone who claims to be a Christian and thinks that either God is slightly evil or slightly weak needs to do a lot of thinking and spend a lot of time in prayer or reading the Bible. On behalf of all Christians who have given you this picture of the Christian theology, I sincerly apologize.
I believe that God is both all-powerful and incredibly strong. God does not control everything, though. Do you believe that God is in control of every part of your life? No, he's not. Please understand that I'm not trying to make any snap judgements, but my husband spends a lot of time on these boards and has told me that you do not claim to be a Christian. Because of that fact, God simply will not control your life. You have to surrender your will to His in order for Him to take control. He will never overtake your will. Don't misunderstand - God is more than capable of controlling your life, but that's not in His nature. Who wants to be loved by someone only because you're making them love you?
By Jason McCullough on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 03:45 pm:
The basic working assumption most christians have, I've noticed, is that god normally lets the world mostly go on by itself, but he occasional steps in and makes some changes.
If you survive a disaster by stepping out of the office, then god intervened in some way to keep you from dying. If you don't survive a disaster, then god didn't intervene to keep you alive. However, that's ok, because (choose one):
a) God has very mysterious reasons that he's not explaining and we'd probably all consider barbaric coming from anyone else.
b) Highly emotional appeals to change the subject.
c) Shut up and stop asking questions like this.
It's the same framework for prayer: if you get what you want, huzzah for god. If you don't, well, you'd better start rationalizing. Rats have a complete inability to recognize random payoffs in tests, and I think humans are pretty bad at it too.
I don't think any of the above is why people actually pray; they do so for the comfort of ritual and contemplation. It's like a 2000-year old version of therapy.
I'm an ex-Southern Baptist from Texas, so take of this what you will.
I will now be shutting up to keep from turning this into the obligatory atheism flamewar.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 03:51 pm:
If I may:
Firstly, I want to apologize to anyone who might have been bothered by my wife and I -- if we have been too "preachy," then I'm sorry; but, remember, Christien asked, and I don't think that, given the title of this thread, anyone could have expected differently.
Tom, I don't understand why God being all-powerful and Him being all good are mutually exclusive. I guess I see where you're coming from, but I don't agree. God is a just God, and He will never force anyone to do anything. To say that he "allows" bad things to happen -- especially when they are the direct result of humans' actions -- implies that one might ask him to control the actions of other people, and that's just not His way. As you said, He doesn't often defy the laws of physics these days (though I'm not prepared to accept that he never does), and He will never force anyone to do anything. He speaks with a still, small voice, and people don't listen as often as they should. But He will never control someone's actions. Saying that He can't be "totally good" because he did not control the actions of someone who was on a kamikaze mission is pretty ridiculous. He just doesn't work that way, but I don't see how that means that He's either powerless to stop it or semi-evil or apathetic because He didn't. He just allows us free will, and with that come things like this.
By XtienMurawski on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 04:19 pm:
Murph, there is no need to apologize. You are not being preachy. You are answering questions sincerely and quite well. Again, I thank you.
From my perspective the reason it is impossible to view God as both all powerful and all good has to do with the nature of both evil and pain. According to Christianity God conceived and created the universe and its laws. He created a world where evil could exist and where pain is used to teach us lessons. He made that decision. Whether he leaves the laws of the universe alone now is moot. He laid down the framework that dictates, according to Christianity, that we must experience pain and evil in order to fully experience the gift of free will.
I have never understood why a God who was supposedly all powerful could not have come up with a better system than that. Are you telling me that God, who is all powerful and all good, could not conceive of a universe in which we could have the benefit of free will without having planes crashing into buildings and babies being born with aids?
I don't know what a "better system of free will" would be, but I don't claim to be all knowing, all powerful, and all good either. If he were truly all those things, then he surely could have thought of a better way. Either that, or he chose this way for some reason. He chose a universe that allowed the presence of evil and pain. And furthermore, he created the creatures that exercise that evil, that pain, so therefore evil has to come from him. "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."
I think that is why someone might say he cannot be all powerful and all good, that we have to make a choice for what he is that allows for imperfection.
Finally, I don't expect you two to be the sole defenders of Christianity. I do not mean this to be an attack of Christianity. I was just getting upset with all the calls for prayer, and needed to hear what motivated so many to pray at this time. I find myself overcome with grief right now, and the thought of prayer makes me angry, even though I can accept the simple idea, put forth by both of you and Tom, that it is simply arising out of a need to communicate, regardless of petition. I just appreciate you for addressing my original questions about prayer.
By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 04:31 pm:
I'm like Tom, I suppose. My theology is personal, but not necessarily Christian, but I have an abiding fascination for Christianity above all others. Probably because I think the Christ story is the Greatest Story Ever Told. But that's neither here nor there right now.
For me, God is the natural world. Since the very basis of nature is death and birth, there really isn't good and evil. Life and Cruelty maybe. Everything in nature is cruel. And I'm well aware that "cruel" isn't the right word either, but I think assigning God motives based on fairy tale concepts of "good" and "evil" is way too simplistic.
God "lets" cruelty happen because it happens. Reality is based on it. It's integral. Any meaning hung onto that is false, and really only there to bring false meaning to it. False meaning is comforting. That doesn't mean the "false" meaning isn't real, only that we're adding to, making sense of it, because we're thinking rational beings. We do that to stay sane in the face of madness and see "meaning" in a sunrise. The ability to see God in your daughter's smile is what makes us blessed, over the animal and insect kingdoms. Ultimately though, I can't concieve a God "human" enough to really care about whether or not baby birds survive the winter.
I don't think the dead or living were affected by fate. They were affected by wackos in planes and the people who planned this. But the Arab fundamentalists (I'm talking about regular folks, not the architects of this) take great pleasure in the meaning that God punished us by guiding those planes. And Falwell seems to be taking equally perverse pleasure in thinking we earned this on some sin-related quota system. Both are merely assigning meaning. But they're no more "wrong" than someone who believes they escaped the falling towers because they went to church last week.
That said, I hope there's some sort of punishment system in the afterlife. The irrational/feeling part of me hopes that a great deal.
The main reason we should pray and be urged to right now is because it can bring meaning to the meaningless. In our hearts. Ultimately it doesn't matter if God is really listening.
I don't mean to offend here. The only sort of Faith I don't respect 100% is the kind that can't tolerate others.
By Jeff Lackey on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 04:35 pm:
I tried to sit back and not jump into this - but I will throw in my imperfect two cents.
I went through a few phases. I was a Christian, went off to school (sciences), got a BS in Chemistry, kinda let go of many of my previous beliefs because I thought I had become "too smart" for it, then as I got my Ph.D. I came back to a renewed, though different, faith.
I can't answer the questions here, but I can give my thoughts and beliefs and let you see into the mind of one Christian.
First, you'd think someone with a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a strong training in Physics and Biochemistry would have every reason to NOT believe in God, faith, etc. But what I've found is that we, as humans, are incredibly arrogant. We think that if we can't thoroughly understand or explain something, it must not be true. We, by our nature, feel we MUST be able to understand everything. We think we are so advanced that we CAN explain and understand everything. Which is kinda like ants who discover their anthill is made of sand thinking they understand the universe. The result of this is we feel that God must conform to our mental capacity, must fit our mind's ability to comprehend. I have faith in God, both heart and mind, for reasons that are very real and go beyond what anyone wants to hear here. And I also accept that I can't understand a lot of what God does and doesn't do. I know from my science training that there are many things about the universe itself that we don't know, in spite of what we theorize, and much that may beyond our capability to know. But my faith is not a superstitious, "I've gotta have a God to fill the scary unknown" faith. Believe it or not, it's rational, and from both my heart and my brain.
As for prayer, we tend to treat God like room service: "Hey God, here's a list of what I need and want. See ya." "Hey God, would you please change the nature of the physics of the world and thus everyone in the world's life so that our family picnic will go OK?" I think that what we've been taught by the ways that God has chosen to reveal himself is to speak to God as in a personal relationship - expressing fears, desires, hopes, praise, questions, thanks, etc. I've had some amazing responses to prayer, but it was usually in the form of an understanding or revelation as opposed to lightening hitting the goalie on the other team so I could score the winning goal. ;) And I hate to bring it up, because it sometimes runs people away thinking I'm going to put my hand on their head, but I've seen a couple of absolute miracles. One I will relate - I had an uncle a few years ago that had cancer - started as bone cancer, quickly filled his whole body up. I saw the X-rays as I accompanied his wife, my aunt, in her discussions with the doctor. That was accompanied by a couple of doctors consulting and looking and re-xraying etc., and they gave him about 4 - 8 weeks to live. When you saw my uncle, you figured that this was optimistic. He asked my aunt if she thought it would be wrong if he asked God for a little extra time, he hadn't been home to see most of his family a few states away in about 20 years. She laughed and said "well, I wouldn't worry about it, if God thinks its wrong, I don't think you'll be worse off!" He laughed, and then they prayed. Just simply "God, I've got a few things I need to take care of, if there's anyway you could give me some extra time."
I went back home to Michigan, then about 3 weeks later I heard from my parents. The doctors took an Xray, and the cancer was gone. As in - none at all. They redid it, ran every test they could, threw up their hands and called it a miracle. Uncle Clarence was still weak, but he went home a week later, then went back to visit his family and get some things right. What was odd was that he never really thought of himself as "cured", even though the doctors said he was. About a year later the cancer came back and he died within a few weeks of it coming back. But he was ready and calm - and was sure that God had given him the time he asked for. Is there a scientific explanation? Maybe. Would God have been cruel to not have given him that extra time? Not in my mind. Why did Uncle Clarence get this miracle, when thousands pray for healing and never get it? Not a clue.
And that didn't answer a single question, I realize. Except a little into the mind of one person with faith, as weak as it sometimes is.
By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 04:38 pm:
"I was just getting upset with all the calls for prayer, and needed to hear what motivated so many to pray at this time. I find myself overcome with grief right now, and the thought of prayer makes me angry"
Christien, perhaps you should meditate, reflect, or maybe just write a letter to someone you love. Sounds corny, but I think all those things can bring the same meaning that prayer has for the devout. The calls for prayer are only partly religious. They're also psychological and they're the most common form of meaning we have as a society. Only the simple go to church for plain and simple answers.
I'm not religious, but I went to church with my family on Wednesday. The Mass was meaningless to me and I have too much respect for the Faithful to participate in Communion, but just being there in my nice clothes, wrangling my squirmy daughter, made me feel good. If a place of worship doesn't give you that there's someplace in the world or your hometown that well.
Similarly, my wife went to work afterwards. She works in homes for the elderly. She spent a lot of time just sitting and talking to these understandably lonely and scared people. Mostly about WWII, which is fitting.
Sometimes you can get comfort by giving it.
By Tim Elhajj on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 04:46 pm:
Great thread. I have a lot of things swirlling around in my head about all the comments being posted, but for right now I'm just going to say what I think prayer is good for.
For me, it's a way of keeping in touch with the spiritual. I really enjoyed and agreed with Jenny's analogy of a marriage with open lines of communication. That's what prayer is about for me. It pulls me out of my self and allows me to see the world with my spiritual eyes. When MLK says he's been to the mountain top, you don't really think he's literally gone up a mountain, right? You understand him to mean that he's seeing the world through a spiritual lens. This is the good thing about prayer, this is where prayer enalbes you to go.
Heh. Maybe we all can relate to this anecdote: It's like when I would be in a funk when I was a teenager, and my mother would tell me to make a gratitude list. Dincha hate that? Woudln't it just annoy you that much more? But I've come to realize that it works to get me out of the funk.
I guess what I'm saying is that for me, it's about attitude. I am better able to keep a good attitude with prayer, than without. I feel better with a good attitude, so that's the pay off for me.
That said, a crisis like the one those who lost people in the attack are facing (or in natural disasters, like storms, earthquakes, etc.) are always a personal trial. I dare say I've never experianced anything quite like what the people affected by the WTC crisis have, but I have had some personal trials (as have we all, I imagine) and that's probably the biggest testatment I have for the good to be found in prayer. It's kept me sane during the waves of anguish followed by the death of a loved one, the end of relationships, and an assortment of life-changing blows, big and small.
By Tim Elhajj on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 05:07 pm:
"I've had some amazing responses to prayer, but it was usually in the form of an understanding or revelation as opposed to lightening hitting the goalie"
Heh. I wholeheartedly agree with this. And the more you pray, the better you get at dealing with whatever comes your way. I knew a guy who called it "building spiritual muscles."
Also, Christien, I took your question to mean what good was prayer. I think prayer is concept central to all religions. But now it seems you're changing the question to, What good is *Christian* prayer. If you're really asking what good is prayer from Christians, maybe you should just let go of all the lables and try a little generic prayer and see if that helps.
Remember kiddies: all you need is a mustard seed. ;)
By Jeff Lackey on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 05:26 pm:
Tim - I blather for ten pages, and you say so much more in a few words.
I'd also say to those who wonder about prayer: just try it. God knows you better than you know yourself. Just get into a quiet place, and sincerely tell God "hey - I'm not sure I even believe or what I believe. But I want to try praying to you, and ask you to respond, in some way that I can understand. Oh, and let Lackey sell his novel."
OK - you can leave off that last part. ;)
By XtienMurawski on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 05:47 pm:
Andrew wrote: "perhaps you should meditate, reflect, or maybe just write a letter to someone you love."
A truly excellent suggestion. Thanks.
By Todd Klemme on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 08:20 pm:
On the subject of "maybe there's some sort of divine plan" for this tragedy, can anyone come up with some ultimate good that may come from this, other than the eradication of large-scale terrorism? As an example, perhaps using us as an instrument for liberating the Afghani population from a tyrannical regime is God's ultimate plan. For anyone who's read much about the Taliban it's hard to deny that the Afghani people have been suffering as much as anyone on the planet for quite some time.
As far as prayer goes, I believe most prayers I've heard this week from clergymen haven't been for protection or deliverance, as the original poster posited, but have simply been for comfort in a time of need.
By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 08:57 pm:
An excellent editorial re: your original question Christien.
By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 09:00 pm:
In my college philosophy class, we studied a really good proof that shows that God (god) cannot be all-knowing, all-powerful, AND all-benevolent (all-good). It sparked a whole week of arguing because the christians in our class couldn't believe that God cannot be all three. But it's simply not possible, and there was a very good proof for it.
As for prayer, well, I'm not particularly relgious (anymore). But even so, I never understood it. We're supposed to have to TALK to God? Isn't he supposed to know what's in our hearts already?
I like George Carlin's bit about it. He said he started praying to Joe Pesci. "Because he seems like the kind of guy who could get things done. The results were about the same as with God, about 50/50."
I think prayer is more for the person praying than for the entity the prayer is to, or for.
By XtienMurawski on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 09:18 pm:
Andrew, thank you yet again. Fantastic editorial.
By Mark Asher on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 09:19 pm:
"But if you accept that He's not all-powerful, it's easier to accept that He's entirely good, that He loves us and wants to protect us when these things happen."
God, by definition, is all-powerful. If there's something that's not all-powerful, it can't be God. I think I still remember St. Anselm's definition: That of which no greater can be conceived.
I'm non-religious, but I think St. Anselm's definition makes sense.
By XtienMurawski on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 09:36 pm:
"If there's something that's not all-powerful, it can't be God."
Maybe it's just a problem of capitalization.
By Supertanker on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 10:05 pm:
"In my college philosophy class, we studied a really good proof that shows that God (god) cannot be all-knowing, all-powerful, AND all-benevolent (all-good)."
Doesn't God get to define what constitutes good? If I'm omnipotent, that should give me the power to set definitions. It may not match the moral ideas of some mortals, but it is their job to live in my universe, not the other way around.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 11:17 pm:
In my college philosophy class, we studied a really good proof that shows that God (god) cannot be all-knowing, all-powerful, AND all-benevolent (all-good).
Doesn't God get to define what constitutes good? If I'm omnipotent, that should give me the power to set definitions. It may not match the moral ideas of some mortals, but it is their job to live in my universe, not the other way around.
Its hard to swallow all the worlds sorrows and still believe in God. But many people do, and people in situations that are unbelievably terrible continue to praise God and ask forgiveness. Its puzzling sometimes, but ... the main thing i think is that its hope and faith...
I think the book of Job is the best book that represents this thread. Reading it, people will come away with different "opinions" on God. I personally feel that Job was cheated.. most would... but beyond that its beyond me...
I just take it that its not a perfect world and that there are things beyond any rational meaning.
By Mark Asher on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 01:45 am:
"Doesn't God get to define what constitutes good? If I'm omnipotent, that should give me the power to set definitions. It may not match the moral ideas of some mortals, but it is their job to live in my universe, not the other way around."
Exactly. God decides what is right and wrong and can change the definition anytime He wants. If He wants to make it so that blinding babies in one eye is the righteous act, so be it.
God isn't God if He's constrained by definitions of right and wrong he can't control.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 07:46 am:
God decides what is right and wrong and can change the definition anytime He wants.
It just goes to the definition of omnipotence. If something is beyond His ability to change, then He isn't omnipotent.
By Jeff Lackey on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 01:58 pm:
FWIW - I recall professors in college doing the old "Absolute proof that God cannot exist" and "absolute proof that God cannot be all-powerful and perfectly good." I used to have a lot of fun with those - they were usually in one of my liberal arts classes, and I was one of the few hard science majors in there.
While it's really neither here nor there, the flaw in those "proofs" is that true "proofs" do not include assumptions. Thus, when building a proof in math, e.g., you might start with "a true line defines an angle of 180 deg." The next block in the proof is required to build off of an absolute truth: "therefore, the adjacent angles of a line intersected by a line must add up to 180 degrees." Etc. etc.
The "proofs" that profs love to set up in college require the insertion of assumptions. For example, "perfect good cannot allow evil to exist" or some such. The problem, of course, is that in trying to fence God into human definable and human comprehendable terms, you have to make such assumptions. And by definition, that is no longer an absolute proof. But, they are a lot of fun, and I used to collect such proofs of all types.
Hey, I had a proof thrown out in college that demonstrated the universe cannot exist. It seemed undeniable, and the prof refused to show us the crack in the logic. Took me two years to finally figure out where the flaw was.
By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 02:48 pm:
>God, by definition, is all-powerful.
Depends on what you consider "god" to be. There are lots of religions with lots of gods.
Sorry, but I don't have that philosophy book with the argument against being all-knowing, all-powerful, AND all-benevolent. It's at my parent's house in Florida in a box somewhere. Even if I did, it's like a dense 8-page proof, and I'm not going to retype it. =)
The basic argument goes like this, though, if I recall:
You have to define terms first. All-powerful and all-knowing are self-explanatory, but all-benevolent means that he doesn't cause any more pain and suffering than is necessary, if any is necessary at all. It's pretty clear that a concious entitiy that purposely allows suffering is not ALL-benevolent.
Do we get to define "good" or "benevolent" (instead of god)? yes. The argument is not that god can do whatever he wants and call it "good." You could play that circle-jerk all day ... "well, god can define 'knowing'!" or "god can define 'powerful'!" The argument is that god cannot conform to what WE DEFINE as all good, knowing, and powerful. If god wants to senselessly kill hundreds of people and say "that's benevolent, I say so because I'm all-powerful" then our word "benevolent" is meaningless anyway.
The main gist of the proof is thus: if god were all three, there would be no intentional suffering or harm in the world. People wouldn't hurt each other, accidents wouldn't kill people, etc. God would have to know they would happen, be able to stop them, and if we was all-benevolent he would choose to do so.
"But what about free will? Doesn't he have to let us make our own decisions?" Firt of all, no. We don't have to have free will for god to fit those three criteria. Even if you think we do for him to be all-benevolent, he has the power to define human nature. He could just make it so that people - even crazy people - don't have the capacity to harm each other. Just like we don't have the capacity to fly or breathe underwater.
The defense was fun. It was a full week's worth of arguing - in college-level philosophy so it was arguing "by the rules" - whereby someone would come up with a case where there could be suffering and god could be all-G P B, and someone else would prove through perfect aristotilian logic that it voilates the combination of all three.
I wonder if a google search would turn it up?
By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 02:59 pm:
I've got a more succinct way to sum up the argument:
1. God is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. 2. Only such a being that did not have infinite power, knowledge, or goodness would choose to make the world (and indeed all worlds) anything other than the best possible - a world without evil. 3. This world is not the best possible - there is evil. 4. Therefore god cannot be onmipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
This is good:
By Jeff Lackey on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 03:18 pm:
Yeah, I particpated in that argument, back in honors philosophy (of course, God was much younger back then. ;) ) The soft spot in the debate is the term benevolent, as I recall. There's a difference between "good" and "benevolent". If you define benevolent as never allowing any suffering, then you've already finished your argument, by definition. (although as I recall, we argued for several classes - but then again, we were college kids who thought we were profound, led by a professor who was SURE he was profound! ;) )
When you try to define "Good", however (because someone successfully made the argument that benevolent as defined made the rest of the argument mute, i.e. the argument was self defined in a self supporting manner) it gets messier. Can an all powerful God who is completely good allow suffering?
If you accept the Biblical and Christian understanding of God, you accept that God has, for his reasons, allowed free will. In the little and the large. Rather than make people puppets. The argument that people made was that a truly good God would never allow truly free will. It gets very mushy from there on out. All of it, of course, it predicated on ensuring that God fits within our mental capacity to fully understand and approve of, i.e., it we can't explain it in our terms, it must not be so. Something that I still can't do with much of science and astrophysical sciences (yeah, I know the theories and understand the math, but it is still beyond human mental capacity to truly grasp.)
By Brian Rucker on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 09:32 pm:
When it comes to religion I tend to stick with Occam's Razor: one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything. I also operate under the principle that just because I can't understand everything doesn't mean I should believe in something nobody can understand.
At the same time I'm not an atheist because that requires an active position that God doesn't exist. We can't prove a negative.
The way I see it, and I won't pretend to be particularly educated on the matter, it's what we do in this life that matters for sure whether there's a heaven, a hell or potential reincarnation as a dung beetle by way of collateral consequences.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 11:35 pm:
Only such a being that did not have infinite power, knowledge, or goodness would choose to make the world (and indeed all worlds) anything other than the best possible - a world without evil.
Not to stray too far off the mark here, but how do you guys figure there could every be a good world without any evil in it? I mean, how does that work?
It's like if it were always day-time, you would have no concept of night-time. If you had no concept of night-time, day-time becomes pretty much, well, besides the point. To say that it is day when you know there will never again be a night is meaningless; without the night, it is impossible to make a distction between the two. You might as well just call it time from here on out.
Likewise, if you have a world with no evil, how do you define good? What is it? What does a world that's always good look like? Is that a painless world? I can think of plenty of situations where the lack of pain is really a very bad thing.
Is it a world where no matter what happens, everyone comes out a winner? Well, heck that's not really any different than what I learned way back in Catholic grade-school: no matter what happens to you in this life, you're a winner because you're a Catholic and you're going to Heaven in the end (as long as you die in a state of grace, confess regularly, and tithe 10 percent of your yearly earnings. ;)
By XtienMurawski on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 04:34 am:
"Saying that if God were all-good he wouldn't have created a world where there was evil is pretty crazy -- especially since we essentially created the evil, ourselves."
I refuse to accept the idea that humans are responsible for the existence of evil in this world, if the god you are talking about exists. I find this to be an egregiously offensive statement. It makes about as much sense, from a standpoint that respects justice, that me having to pay for the sins of Adam does.
I can respect you for engaging in this forum and for seeking to answer my initial questions about prayer, but I will not accept statements like that.
Do you honestly believe, Murph---honestly---that we are responsible for creating evil in this world? If so, how is it possible that the creator you envision bears NO responsibility for the actions of his creations? Come on.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 06:14 am:
Okay, perhaps that was badly stated, but here's how I meant it:
1. When God creates man -- as He did with the angels, one of whom betrayed Him and was cast from Heaven basically becoming evil incarnate -- he gave us free will. (At this point, there is no evil yet on earth.)
2. God gives us His plan for our lives -- the good path -- to follow. As long as we're following His plan, we are doing good.
3. We don't follow his plan. Lack of good equals evil.
Now, granted, at this point, Satan's here on earth -- yes, he is evil incarnate. But he became that way by plotting against and disobeying God -- both things he chose to do, of his own free will. But he wasn't evil when he was created.
Really, from a Christian standpoint, at the beginning of time (if there was a beginning of time, which a tough concept) there was no evil. There was just God. God is 100% good. (Okay, so some don't believe that, but we're going from the Christian viewpoint.) He creates the angels. At this point, all of them are good, but have free will, just like humans will once they're created. Using the free will and intelligence that God gave them, some of them plan to overthrow God. This is the birth of evil. It begins as mild disobedience, evolves into deceit, and eventually becomes full-blown evil.
Sure, God knew that it was going to happen -- He's known everything from the beginning of time. He could have not created the rebellious angels. One might wonder why he did not. But, I suspect that, ultimately, had it not been them, eventually it would have been another. Such is the result of free will.
Bottom line: Until Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they had no knowledge of good and evil. At this point, man was 100% good. When they disobeyed God, just like Satan did, he inherited evil from Satan. Unlike Satan, however, God a plan to redeem man.
What I'm trying to say here is, and I think I've said it before, evil wasn't something that had to be actively created. God didn't create it. Man didn't create it. It wasn't created. It was a direct result of having free will. As far as God's concerned, it really all boils down to His 100% good plan. Man can choose to follow or not, because he has free will. Following is good. Not following is evil. There could have been no way to give man free will without evil erupting -- but this doesn't mean that evil was ever "created."
So, to answer your question, Christien, no, I don't think man created evil. But neither did God. Sure, Satan, and therefore evil, were around long before the earth was made, so obviously man didn't create it. But God didn't, either. It was simply the result of free will. He could have prevented evil from ever existing, but not without depriving His creations of free will, which He just would not do.
As a side note -- man was created only to glorify God. Period. That's the only reason we were created. (To "tend the garden" -- which was to glorify God.) If there were no evil -- if man couldn't choose not to follow God -- then there would be no glory in man following God. So, there has to be evil. All along, evil had to be, at least, a possibility.
By Frank Greene (Reeko) on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 10:50 am:
Excellent post Murph, especially the side note.
Any arguments about God's will being good must start with the concept that man is not perfect. Whether you believe in God, or Buddha, or tree spirits, this is true. If man is not perfect, then his thought processes are also flawed.
It is a little rediculous for us as imperfect beings, who really have a hard time grasping the concept of an infinite universe, to try to understand the perfect will of an omnipotent being. We simply cannot. God lies outside the realm of five senses and our brains are not equipped for it.
We have no idea what omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient really mean. And we only get a slight glimpse of his love for us in the way we love our children.
By Jason McCullough on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 12:33 pm:
Um, not to quibble here, but: Murph, do you actually think there was two people named Adam and Eve who ate fruit forbidden to them by God, with no interpretation or allegory?
By Tim Elhajj on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 01:11 pm:
"Murph, do you actually think there was two people named Adam and Eve who ate fruit forbidden to them by God, with no interpretation or allegory?"
Oh, and what's this supposed to mean?
I'm going to try to give you the benefit of the doubt here Jason, but I find this question offensive and I'm not even that religious. What's your point?
By Land Murphy (Lando) on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 02:44 pm:
I'll step in for Murph, yes, Jason, I do believe. I believe the Bible is the Word of God and every bit of it is true. I believe Adam and Eve were as real as you or I, and I believe that Noah boarded his big Ark to survive the Great Flood.
I also believe that you have the right not to believe.
Don't take offense, but the truth is. Period. Either it is true or it isn't, whether you or I believe it is irrelevant (at least for now).
By Jason McCullough on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 03:06 pm:
I asked the question mildly out of shock that anyone with exposure to modern science, that I'd been talking to on a fairly erudite gaming board, can still consider the biblical creation story literal truth. I'm not going to get into it more than that.
Hey, it's a free country.
By BobM on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 04:13 pm:
"But he [Satan] became that way by plotting against and disobeying God -- both things he chose to do, of his own free will. But he wasn't evil when he was created."
This is the crux, Murph. God is all-knowing. He must have known, when he created Satan, that he would become evil. Thus God created Evil. Get it? [ps. that's not my point, I'm just elaborating for others.]
Philosophizers have been "studying" this problem for ages and its "solved." Do a google search on the "Problem of Evil".
Anyway, just for the record, I was raised Roman Catholic, had a bout with general Christian-dom, and now consider myself a diest. Something pretty much specifically prescribed against in the Bible. I believe there is a God, that we can understand him by studying his creation, and that all revealed religions (ie any organized religion, the bible, the koran, the torah, etc.) are bunk.
By Jenny Murphy on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 07:32 pm:
"I asked the question mildly out of shock that anyone with exposure to modern science, that I'd been talking to on a fairly erudite gaming board, can still consider the biblical creation story literal truth. I'm not going to get into it more than that."
And I think that on the reverse side, we're mildly in shock that anyone who has read the Bible can truly think that it is not literal and true. Not to be rude, but the word faith implies that we won't be able to explain every part of it. If we could, it would be called science. Do I profess to be an incredibly intelligent person, able to speak eloquently on all subjects? No, I do not, but I consider myself nonetheless intelligent. With a 3.8 GPA and a 29 on the ACT, I think that's a fairly safe assumption. And can I accept on faith that God does exist and that the Bible is His inspired word? Yes.
The bottom line in this discussion is this: This argument is all based on one of two points, either you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God or you don't. I do, but since you don't there is really nothing else that I can say on this matter. But I would challenge you to read it with an open-mind and see how so much of what was written 2000 years ago is so true today. Read Revelation and see if you find America and the world today in some of the circumstances found there.
Ultimately, there is nothing that I can say that will ever convince you of the truth of God's word if you are unwillng to consider it, so I will not continue to argue it. I think perhaps my time could be better spent praying that someday all will know what I hold to be true. After all, what do I have to lose?
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 07:55 pm:
Murph, do you actually think there was two people named Adam and Eve who ate fruit forbidden to them by God, with no interpretation or allegory?
This is the crux, Murph. God is all-knowing. He must have known, when he created Satan, that he would become evil. Thus God created Evil.
Philosophizers have been "studying" this problem for ages and its "solved." Do a google search on the "Problem of Evil".
'There are lots of holes in science. There are no holes in the Bible.'
Okee dokee. Back to Diablo II for me.
By XtienMurawski on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 08:30 pm:
Thank you for addressing my point Murph. Once I again I appreciate the time you took and the thought involved. I disagree with many of your points, but appreciate you for making them.
I had a long protracted reply to your point about God creating us only to glorify him, but I've scrapped it now that we're on to the infallibility of the word of God. I set it aside before posting it and went to play basketball--my church--when I realized my disclaimers were getting a little thick.
In the final analysis, I think you and Jenny are right, it comes down to whether or not you believe the Bible is absolute truth. I have read it, more than once, and with an open mind, so I think I'll follow your lead and just say that we've reached an impasse.
In the end I appreciate the clarification as to my original question. I respect you both, and many of the others who contributed to this thread. This was a rare gift.
By Denny on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 08:35 pm:
To accept every word of the Bible as Truth rather than allegory, though, requires one to ignore all the translations of the text over the years. And all the political (both state- and church-related) influences on the various translations over the years.
Unless, of course, you also believe that God spoke through the translators in addition to the original authors. But any knowledge of the history of the revisions of the Book over the years makes that seem a bit of a stretch.
After the events of last week, I really wish that I felt in my heart all those lost went on to a Better Place, and that there is an afterlife. But the destruction of 5,000+ people didn't do much to sway my belief in that direction.
By Sparky on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 08:37 pm:
I savor the irony of your name and the subject of this thread. :)
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 09:14 pm:
'There are lots of holes in science. There are no holes in the Bible.'
Okee dokee. Back to Diablo II for me.
I'm feeling a bit philosophical at the moment, a bit contemplative. When we talk about how could God allow 5000 people to be killed, a truly good God wouldn't allow that - what number of people would a good God allow to be killed? How many people are killed in auto accidents in the US every year, about 30,000? Should those be prevented? Would it fit people's desired profile of God if he prevented 5000 from being killed in a terrorist incident, but allowed a father of 5 to fall off a ladder at work and be killed? Or would accidents be OK, just not malicious deaths? No murders, no manslaughters, etc.? Not attacking anyone, just wondering aloud at how people can decide that a big incident is a blemish on God's record more than a small one. I'm a believer, but I went through a phase of self-challenging when my kids were small, and I wondered how God could allow any child to be assaulted.
Item 2: I can already see that this could turn into an evolution thread - let me get my two cents in. I'm probably one of only a few here who deal with gene transfection, biological vectoring of drugs, etc. on a daily basis as part of my job. Went to school for a gazillion years in this stuff, been working in it for a gazillion years. I would have no conflict with evolution vs. my faith, I used to believe in evolution until I got into biochem pretty heavy. I don't believe in evolution for purely scientific reasons. Adaption, sure - but evolution requires far too many leaps for me.
Back to Xtreme Air Racing.
By Denny on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 09:42 pm:
Actually, although I share few of your viewpoints, I've found your posts and Jenny's to be very enlightening, as far as explaining the more fundamental Christan view. I don't think anyone thinks you a hypocrite or zealot. You're simply answering questions about particular beliefs, and I (and I'm sure others) find your answers very interesting whatever our own beliefs.
Just one comment on your evolution post... It makes a supposition about the scientific viewpoint that's not true. You say "We could not co-exist with apes in the same environment if we evolved from them." Actually, evolution doesn't suppose that we evolved from apes as they exist in the world today. Rather, it supposes a common ancestor WAY back that led to both species. Man and ape can exist in evolution in the same way that a housecat and a cougar can, or the tiny sagui dwarf money and the silverback gorilla. There are many cases in nature of different species within the same genus that have widely different characteristics, intelligence, and societal behavior.
Most of all, though, I think Genesis can easily be translated to an explanation of a big bang/evolution creation that could be understood by the people of 2,000 years ago.
Not trying to argue against your viewpoint, but rather to explain mine. :-)
By Denny on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 09:49 pm:
Jeff has Extreme Air Racing and I don't? There *is* no God!
Jeff, anything I could say about why Sept. 11 shakes my on-again, off-again faith so much has been said before, up-thread. It more or less boils down to wondering if God does exert any influence on the events of our world anymore, after such an event could happen to so many people who lived good lives, prayed, and were prayed for.
Now where did I put that copy of The Portable Neitzsche from Halstead's class? :-)
By Jeff Lackey on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 10:08 pm:
Denny, I think folks have done a nice job of explaining their thoughts and positions, and in a far more respectful manner than you expect online these days. Kudos to all. I completely understand why this could shake some people's faith - it doesn't mine, but there are things that do make my faith weaker on some days and stronger on others. I guess that's why it's called faith.
And - when you get Xtreme Air Racing, let's rumble. We'll get Gordon involved just to have someone to laugh at.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 10:19 pm:
I've tried hard not to offend anyone, and I spend way too much time here for everyone to start ignoring my posts, thinking "Oh, there's that judgemental religious nut again..."
My name's not Jerry Falwell...
By denny on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 10:34 pm:
My wife (to her regret) spent her first year of college at Falwell's Liberty University. Scary place -- she got demerits for having a Richard Marx album. (Perhaps that does deserve demerits, but not for theological reasons. :-)
She's moved to a far more liberal philosophy nowadays (like Jeff, a heathen Deist to a degree), but she maintains more traditional spiritual views than I do, and she did have a conservative Baptist upbringing.
This makes for some VERY interesting discussions as we try to understand eachother's viewpoints. I really enjoy them, though. It's actually very enlightening to have reasoned, calm discussions about religous views. Something I never managed to pull off with my more spiritual friends when I lived down south.
Interestingly, my confused spiritual beliefs (not believing in the literal Christian interpretation of God thanks to disillusionment with organized religion, but admitting there must be a Greater Force) originally bugged her when we were dating. But she eventually realized that, despite our very different *belief* systems, we had almost identical moral and value systems. The reason I bore you with this trivia is just to point out that I see that even those of us with very different religious backgrounds and beliefs can still be very similar on how we live our lives and treat those around us.
This is getting way too chummy, though. Let's get into a spirited discussion about how to jibe a literal interpretation of the earth-centric focus of the Bible with the immense size of the universe around us. :-)
By Tim Elhajj on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 11:25 pm:
Jason: this morning when I read what you wrote I thought you were just being rude.
Now it occurs to me that maybe you're just really young or too inexperienced to know that most Christians, educated or not, take the bible literally.
By BobM on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 11:52 pm:
Jenny Murphy said "And I think that on the reverse side, we're mildly in shock that anyone who has read the Bible can truly think that it is not literal and true."
Have you read other religous texts? There are lots you know. Why aren't those the word of God? Please keep in mind that I have read and studied the bible. I spent 12 years in a private religous school.
Mr. Murphy said "Not at all. This problem is far from being "solved." There is no "solving" this problem. Hooey. (Coincidentally, my wife did a google search, as you suggested, and the first three links argued more in our favor than yours. After that, she giggled, and stopped reading. Specific references would help...)"
Hehe. By solved I meant that greater minds than ours have argued themselves into circles. That's why it was in quotes. I don't quote lightly. I quote for effect. The whole thing revolves around how you define the assumptions. It's pointless. As far as which links, that first one on Liebniz is good. And there is no "me" in this arguement. I think the whole thing is bunk. Bunk, I say.
Murph again: "Now, I would like to take a second to thank everyone participating in this discussion. There aren't many message boards where people could discuss things of this nature...intelligently."
Try the Gone Gold forums. We've accumulated quite a tolerant and intelligent community there. We also have several quite devout christians. Hec we had an Islamic man post regarding the recent bombings. That alone is worth stopping by for. (it's in Everything but Gaming->I am a Middle-Eastern man.)
Not sure who said this one: 'There are lots of holes in science. There are no holes in the Bible.'
Uh.. define "hole", because I think the Bible has them. If it didn't why do we have a hundred different christian denominations?
Murp said: "We could not co-exist with apes in the same environment if we evolved from them. "
Well, that's easy. We didn't evolve from apes. No scientist says we did. We may however have evolved from a common ancestor. These are called "Straw-man Arguements" and I will not reply to another, not to be rude, just that I don't have time or inclination to unlearn the evolutionary fallacies you seem to have, and teach you proper evolutionary theory. Also again be aware, I don't believe in evolution as-is either, but for different reasons.
Denny said: "Most of all, though, I think Genesis can easily be translated to an explanation of a big bang/evolution creation that could be understood by the people of 2,000 years ago."
A jewish scientist wrote a book doing just that. Interesting read, but you have to accept a non-literal translation of the bible, where 'day' is not defined as '24 hours / 1 rotation of the Earth around its axis.' Here's the hinkfo: Genesis and the Big Bang : The Discovery of Harmony Between Modern Science and the Bible by Gerald L. Schroeder
By William Harms on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 11:54 pm:
>Now it occurs to me that maybe you're just really young or too inexperienced to know that most Christians, educated or not, take the bible literally.
There are varying degrees to how "literal" the Bible is viewed among Christians. (And this is beyond the various "political" fights that have shaped the Bible over the years; some Bible contain books that others do not.) Some believe the world was created in six, 24-hour days, while others (such as myself) believe that the notion of six days is nothing more than a literary device, a simple explanation for a very complex event. The same goes for evolution. Some Christians believe that evolution is an affront to God, while others (again, such as myself) believe that evolution is a very real thing and merely supplies the "how" to God's "why".
As a Christian, there are two things that I constantly wrestle with that seem relevant to this discussion:
1. If God is all-knowing and knows all events, past and present, he also knows that before they are born that certain people will be condemned to Hell. This gets back to age-old argument of pre-determination, and is something I wrestle with. If God knows a soul will be condemned to Hell, why does he create that soul? (And the "free will" argument doesn't even come close to answering this question because free will has nothing to do with it. It comes down to God already knowing what your choices are going to be before you make them.)
2. All non-Christians will go to Hell. I know believing in Christ as saviour is the foundation of Christianity, but as a human being I have a hard time swallowing the fact that an all-loving God would condemn 2/3 of the world's population to Hell.
(A final note: the Catholic Church teaches that the six days creation story is a literary device and that evolution is fine as long as it keeps God in charge of the flow of evolution. See Life in Christ for more info.)
By Jason McCullough on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 12:33 am:
'Jason: this morning when I read what you wrote I thought you were just being rude.
Now it occurs to me that maybe you're just really young or too inexperienced to know that most Christians, educated or not, take the bible literally.'
Here's a reference to a Gallup poll indicating one third of the US considers the bible literally true. http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr000615b.asp
Here's a religious makeup survey:
The US population is 280 million. 238 million call themselves christians. 92 million state the bible is literal truth. Therefore, 38% of christians, as a lower bound, state the bible is literal truth.
Assume that no Catholics think the bible is literal truth, and remove the 60 million of them from the christian set: 51% of non-catholic christian state the bible is literal truth. This can probably be considered an upper bound on the percentage, as this is really the only self-proclaimed christian church I can imagine anyone disagreeing about.
So, it's a pretty safe assumption that christianity in the US is evenly divided or worse over biblical literalism. You can do the "who's a real christian" debate to knock the participation rates down a bit, but that's neither here nor there.
Take the set of christians. Limit this set to the gamers. Further limit this set to those who are obsessive enough about their hobby to regularly read gaming sites; then those who will read webboards; then those who will post to webboards. You can slap the inverse statistical correlation between education/enjoyment of writing and religion on there, too.
I humbly suggest the number of biblical literalists who post to religious arguments on the QT3 webboards is within the margin of error. Hence, my surprised, snide comments. Sorry about that.
On a vaguely unrelated note, those two links are full of useful population makeup information.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 12:47 am:
And the "free will" argument doesn't even come close to answering this question because free will has nothing to do with it. It comes down to God already knowing what your choices are going to be before you make them.
"If God knows a soul will be condemned to Hell, why does He create that soul?"
If all souls wound up in Heaven, why would he even bother creating Earth? He created us to praise and worship him. Someone worshipping him when given the choice not to worship him is what is most pleasing.
This leads to the question, did God love Adam and Eve less after they ate the forbidden fruit. The answer is no, he loved them just the same.
This theme is carried over in the New Testament in the story of the prodigal son. The son was given a great inheritance and squandered it. He humbly returned to his father's house, intending to be a lowly servant. The father was so excited that his son returned that he held a large feast to celebrate. We are told that God is very pleased when one of His lost children finds their way to Him. This is why he allows us to fall away in the first place, so he and the entire population of heaven can rejoice in our eventual return.
At least, that's my unprofessional opinion.
By Tim Elhajj on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 01:13 am:
William: A final note: the Catholic Church teaches that the six days creation story is a literary device
I was only in the Catholic system during grade-school, but this is not what was taught back then. Perhaps this is a recent development or only taught in secondary schools?
By Supertanker on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 01:17 am:
"To accept every word of the Bible as Truth rather than allegory, though, requires one to ignore all the translations of the text over the years."
Some problems aren't even translation issues. Here is an example:
"Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of 30 cubits did compass it round about." 2 Chronicles 4:2 (KJV).
Circumference of a circle can be calculated by either 2 x Pi x radius, or simply Pi x diameter. In this biblical example, with a diameter given of 10, either formula gives us 31.4 (2 x 3.14 x 5 = 31.4).
Personally, this verse makes it impossible for me to accept the doctrinal position of literal Biblical truth. The verse says the object described is 30 cubits around; no more, no less. Simple measurement or calculation shows it would be 31.4 cubits.
In my interpretation, this means the bible either contains at least one error, or it allows for some estimation and approximation. I'll take the approximation idea, and view the Bible as allegorical.
By Tim Elhajj on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 01:19 am:
"Hence, my surprised, snide comments. Sorry about that."
I'm going to drop this, but your mean-spirited comment surprised me. This didn't start out as a "religious argument" but an honest question about people's belief systems. You're welcome to post about your own system--I'd actually love to hear it--but when you start mocking people for theirs, I get a little PO'd.
By Jason McCullough on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 01:39 am:
Just for reference, I didn't get mean-spirited until my third post to this thread. Touchy, touchy.
By William Harms on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 01:50 am:
>And don't confuse Him knowing what your going to choose before hand with Him pre-determining what you're going to do.
But that's the catch--by knowing what you're going to do, God, in effect, is pre-determining your fate when He gives you life. It's not an easy question (as witnessed by the fact that the issue of self-determination versus pre-determination has raged for centuries) but simply saying it's free will isn't a satisfactory answer for me.
>Perhaps this is a recent development or only taught in secondary schools?
From the 1996 edition of Life in Christ, a Catechism for Adult Catholics, page 37:
"Question: Does the biblical account of creation teach us that the world was made in six days?
"Answer: The six days are a purely literary device, i.e., a manner of speaking that made it easier for the audience to understand and remember."
There is a more detailed explanation following the paragraph I quoted above, but it's just additional reinforcement of the literary device statement.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 02:08 am:
Personally, this verse makes it impossible for me to accept the doctrinal position of literal Biblical truth. The verse says the object described is 30 cubits around; no more, no less. Simple measurement or calculation shows it would be 31.4 cubits.
Okay, more on the circle thing:
I think perhaps the note about the line of thirty cubits encompassing it is an indication that it was not a "perfect" circle. We're talking about a lake, here. Reading in "non-KJV" translations talks about how it was "circular in form," but I don't know that's meant to imply a perfect, geometric circle.
And, honestly, I can't think of any reason, taking the verse in context of the story, that it tells about the line of thirty cubits encompassing it; it serves no real purpose -- other than, perhaps, to indicate that it's not a perfect circle. I think it was probably recorded using the best measuring devices that they had, and I seriously doubt that they had the "technology" to make a perfectly round lake. Perhaps they measured it, as best they could, and those were the measurements that they came up with -- very literally. There measurements were crude, at best. They had no way of expressing a radius of 4.6325 cubits. It was four, or it was five.
If you put yourself in context that this was written some 2,500 or more years ago, it can be taken very literally. They didn't have rulers, man.
By Supertanker on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 04:19 am:
"Nevermind the fact that when the Bible was written, that mathematical equation probably hadn't been figured. It probably wasn't a perfect circle, either -- and it never said that it was. Still, I do see your point."
"There measurements were crude, at best. They had no way of expressing a radius of 4.6325 cubits. It was four, or it was five."
"If you put yourself in context that this was written some 2,500 or more years ago, it can be taken very literally. They didn't have rulers, man."
See, this is where the "literal truth" doctrine starts to fall apart. It says that the Bible is divinely inspired and without any error. I think that means we can reasonably expect extreme precision and accuracy, because God himself guides the hand of the human authors. It doesn't matter if the ancient author didn't know geometry, surely God knew it, and that geometry formulas would be known to future readers. If we have to limit the Bible to the knowledge of its human authors, then we have strayed from the doctrine and opened up some serious questions. How many other portions of the Bible must be limited or discounted because of the time they were written? (I vote for all of Deuteronomy - pass the ham, please.) How many other portions of the Bible are mere approximations? (Jesus feeds the 5000, more or less; God creates the world in six days or so.) The bare text doesn't give us any clue how to differentiate the precise portions from the allegory.
Do I think this means we toss out the Bible? No. Despite having discarded the idea of literal truth, I still believe the Bible contains spiritual truth, and I have received great comfort from it.
Finally, I have to defend the lowly cubit. Cubits were actually pretty precise. There are many different cubits, but the standard Hebrew cubit is 44.45 cm, while the common Egyptian cubit measured 44.7 cm (see New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, p.1247 (Tyndale House, 1962)). These are the measurements used to build the pyramids, walled cities, and other significant engineering feats.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 04:38 am:
Well, then just accept that it wasn't a perfect circle!! ;-)
You certainly have made some good points, and it's worthy of consideration.
I still think it's very possible that they made a lake that was circular in form with a five cubit radius, ten cubit diameter, that would still fit inside a thirty cubit "line" drawn around it. I don't think the Bible meant to imply that it was a perfect circle -- it was just trying to give you an idea of the dimentions. I think you can take it literally -- heck, very literally, because it should have said that it were a perfect circle, if you're gonna expect that -- and not expect it to add up, as I don't think it was a geometrically "perfect" circle.
By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 07:03 am:
lets talk Politics with religion...
are you Democrat or Republican?
Do you like Rush and Bill O'Reily?
Is Clinton a hellspawn? was it his fault for the WTC incident?
Are all liberals bleeding heart pansies?
Are all conservatives Nazi's?
Is NPR really just for lesbians?
By BobM on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 08:45 am:
Here's a tongue in cheek history of pi. I thought it was interesting.
Way back over 3,000 years ago before the before the advent of modern miracles like sliced bread and aerosol cans are Pi's roots available for finding. The Egyptians after countless years of losing in battle due to having square wheels on their chariots decided to solve this wheel thingy once and for all so after many committee meeting and much arguing Pi was decided to be 3 1/7 and a certain bored scribe known as Ahmes recorded it in 1650 B.C.. The Egyptians remained the most powerful country in the area for many years mainly due to the fact that their neighbors, when they did decide to have round wheels, insisted that the ratio of circumference of chariot wheel to the length of spokes was exactly 3.
However it was the Greeks who really had too much time on their hands and devoted what time they were not watching soap operas to various arcane mathematical amusements. It was thus that around 500 B.C. a certain unknown would be burger flipper came up with the idea that by putting a polygon inside a circle and calculating the polygon's area and dividing by its circumference they could get a rough estimate as to the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle (aka. that irrational, Pi) and eventually if the polygon had enough sides it would be a circle. In the 4th century B.C. a certain oddball who like to chant 'Eureka!' in the streets of Syracuse by the name of Archimedes estimated Pi to be between 3 10/71 and 3 1/7 using a 96 sided polygon. Nearly 500 years elapsed before a 'civilization' had enough of a breather to devote human resources to the Pi problem. So it was Claudius 'the sun revolves around me' Ptolemy that discovered Pi was darned close to 377/120. Two century later the Indian, Arbhyata estimated Pi to be 3.1416.
It took 1100 years for the value ascribed to pi to make progress to the fact that people kept unaccountably dying from plagues and the people who survived were far too busy farming sugar beets to pay attention to mathematical matters and it took a brilliant high school dropout named Adriaen Romanus to calculate 15 correct digits of Pi.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 09:11 am:
Bob, please, tell me: Why do you know this?
Fascinating stuff, really, and extremely well-conveyed (Pi has never been so entertaining -- except when it's pie...).
By Denny on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 10:43 am:
Here's a serious question, posed not as argument against a literal interpretation of the Bible, but as an attempt to understand it...
If you believe in a literal word-for-word interpretation of the Bible, do you believe the universe is really composed of billions of stars in each galaxy, with billions+ of galaxies?
It seems odd that God would would create billions and billions of stars, with we assume billions and billions of planets around them, and then set the timing of the creation to the rotation of the third planet from the sun in our little solar system.
It was actually thinking about the fact above, way back in elementary school science class (and as a far more traditionally Christian kid), that made me decide that Genesis must have been an allegorical description rather than a literal description.
To believe otherwise seems to demand that one believe either:
1) Earth IS populated by God's chosen people, and everything else is based around this planet, despite all the others out there.
2) There are no other planets with intelligent, God-worshipping people, despite the fact that our planet's significance in the size of the entire universe is akin to a single grain of sand on a beach compared to every grain of dirt and sand on the entire surface of the world. After creating this gigantic universe, God created only this one special planet populated with people created in His own image.
3) Scientists are wrong about what all those stars and galaxies out there are, and our own system is somehow unique.
If you don't believe one of the above, it seems that the "days" in Genesis would have to be allegorical descriptions of time, rather than "Earth 24-hour days."
See? These kinds of goofy questions are what get generated when you let a kid loose in the science and science fiction sections of the library at a young age. :-)
By Rob_Merritt on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 10:58 am:
Times like this I'm very glad I'm an atheist. I don't have to worry about if this fits in god's plan, or if we are worshiping the wrong god, or if we are being punished, etc etc. I just deal with the crisis and move on. (I'm not saying that christians aren't moving on or aren't dealing with it. I'm saying that religion can cause more personal confusion that it solves if you let it)
By Jeff Lackey on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 11:11 am:
FWIW - I have always looked at the creation story in Genesis as somewhat allegorical, in that the term "day" to me has meant a period of time. This was done frequently in the Old Testament, where a period of time was often symbolic (although there are also many places where it is meant to be precise)and the readers of the day understood that, as it was a common practice.
What amazed me, quite frankly, as I went through my scientific training, is how accurately the writer of Genesis, thousands of years ago, described the order in which things happened. Which is why I never had a religious problem with evolution, just a scientific one. If you read the other religious manuscripts that were written at that time (did you know Jac Tharpe at USM? Linguist and philosopher extrordoinaire, and he helped me do this, and he was a devout atheist) you find even more unique characteristics - for example, when we went through a variety of religious tomes written in the general time frames, there are so many things stated as fact that are so blatanly incorrect (the sun is a chariot on which the gods ride, the earth is a flat chunk of dirt riding on the back of a turtle, the moon is much farther away than the sun, etc.) simply because those things were accepted as the best scientific facts of the day, and there was no reason to doubt they were true. We quibble about details in the Bible, but it is really remarkable when compared with the other texts of the time, which are completely filled with such things.
One other thing that is quite different about the Bible compared to other religious texts - the heroes are all terribly flawed people. Moses was a murderer, David had a man killed so he could have his wife, Abraham lied about his wife to a king who wanted her so he wouldn't be killed, Jacob fooled his poor blind dad so he could get the birthright, etc. I'm not aware of any other religious thome that reveals its heroes to be so human and flawed. Just a FWIW. ;)
Late for a meeting...
By Tim Elhajj on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 04:21 pm:
Wow, thanks for posting that Jeff. I had never considered any of this before and find it pretty interesting.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 - 11:54 pm:
Yeah, that's a great post, Jeff. Thanks for pointing out those issues.
Denny, you brought up some good points. Perhaps I'll say something about some of them, but I'll have to really think about them, first...
By Denny on Wednesday, September 19, 2001 - 12:16 am:
Jeff, I never had a class with Tharpe, but I did know him. I know the other students had great respect for him. That was one of the great things about that Honors College crew -- most of the profs encouraged you to research topics and form your own opinion. Few of them tried to force-feed their own. (Well, Halstead did tend to ridicule things he didn't agree with, but the guy was an amazing teacher.) Shame they turned the HC faculty into a rotating vitae-builder.
By the way, Michael, as I look back on the thread, I just want to reiterate that my responses and questions are because I'm genuinely curious. I'm not trying to argue against other beliefs. It's so rare to find a place where you can have a civil discussion of science and religion! :)
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Wednesday, September 19, 2001 - 12:20 am:
I assumed as much -- which is largely why I would consider responding. I'm not looking to argue with anyone, but hope that through this discussion several of us -- myself included -- might come to understand something a bit better.
Thus, if I have any thoughts, I will contribute.
By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Friday, September 21, 2001 - 02:52 am:
I have created a monster.
If the bible is to be taken as literal truth, I feel sorry for God. He created a world with his chosen people on it, and the majority of them are either not religous, or believe in a religion in which God is a different one than that which made the world in 6 days and divinly inspred Man to write about it.
By the way, I never meant to spark off a big "does god exist?" type discussion. To me, personally, it's kind of a waste of thought - I'm happy to find out when I die. In the mean-time, I'm a scientist at heart, and as such I don't make assumptions in the absense of evidence.
By Jenny Murphy on Friday, September 21, 2001 - 04:38 am:
"If the bible is to be taken as literal truth, I feel sorry for God. He created a world with his chosen people on it, and the majority of them are either not religous, or believe in a religion in which God is a different one than that which made the world in 6 days and divinly inspred Man to write about it."
Here goes the fanatic, I honestly feel sorry for the people who are in that majority. Of course, that's a very Christian view, but it's the way I see things.
By Brian Rucker on Friday, September 21, 2001 - 07:50 am:
Whatever I may think of religion, personally, I can distinguish between folks who answer difficult questions posed to them as reasonably as they can and folks determined to impose the tenents of a faith on others without regard to reason or the sensibilities of those others.
I haven't seen any fanatics here. Just good folks that believe different things and want to understand each other.
We need a helluva lot more folks like that in the world.
By ethan leung on Friday, September 21, 2001 - 12:29 pm:
im not a christian, im not american either, but i was in a methodist church school from k to high school, and i spend 6 years in the States and many americans i met then still have contact with me. so that means i understand the religion and feel the same, tho not as 1st hand, sorrow and shock and sense of vulnerability after the incident.
i must clearify that im not a person good with words, and im planning on saying something that might seemingly offend you as an american or a christian, but please keep a cool head and really think about this...
i remember the story of Moses, before he got the Ten Commandments, the people were wicked, they worshiped idols, false gods and such... so god punished those people... same thing happened in the story of the Arch of Noah, tho in an even larger scale... today when u look around, how many people are devouted to the religion? how many can really say they love HIM without lying? the numbers are few compare to the total population that know of christianity. when within 10 hours of the incident, ebay had to ban some people from selling debris of the site, that tells you something whats wrong now. our world doesnt allow poverty, all our children grew up knowing how great credit cards are, and material is everything. we, as human, are not defined by how rich we are in wisdom or in hearts but in our banks.
such a shocking thing happened, but i havent seen anyone, not one at all, that would calm down and think for a moment about 'our' life now, about stopping the hate, about our own problems... only bloodlust and revenge... isnt this another problem right here? did god tell anyone to hate? did god ever say killing someone would solve any problem? in fact, do we really need a bible to answer these questions?
christianity teaches us to be good, no matter god exists or not, theres no doubt about it. it holds wisdom that many dont understand or even appreciate. hope im not off topic here, if so my apologies...
By Jenny Murphy on Friday, September 21, 2001 - 08:25 pm:
"such a shocking thing happened, but i havent seen anyone, not one at all, that would calm down and think for a moment about 'our' life now, about stopping the hate, about our own problems... only bloodlust and revenge... isnt this another problem right here? did god tell anyone to hate? did god ever say killing someone would solve any problem? in fact, do we really need a bible to answer these questions?"
Perhaps you haven't seen anyone, but I know that everyone in my church started praying for all of these things corporately the day after the attack, and I know thatmany people I am close to started praying for them immediately. We don't want American to strike back in anger, we don't want collateral damage. I still don't know what I think about the approach we're taking as a country. But I do know that I pray daily that we will look to God for strength and wisdom, that we will mourn, not rage in anger, and that we will not lash out against Arab-Americans unfairly.