But God told me to do it…

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the terror attacks on the United States at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A group of radical Islamic terrorists hijacked religion and jetliners and killed 3,000 people while transforming the New York City skyline and our nation forever.

I was on Marathon’s City Council at the time; as Vice Mayor, I was the designated speaker at the City’s commemorative vigil on Sombrero Beach. It was probably the singular most important speech I gave in my political career, trying to put into words the shock, anger, and sadness we all felt. Let us vow never to forget was the theme of the speech, and it still rings true 14 years after.  We can never forget the lives lost on that infamous day, as well as the thousands of lives lost in the subsequent wars fought in the Middle East.

What has always perplexed me is that the nutjobs who perpetrated and carried out this act of terror and murder did it in the name of God (Allah). It’s actually amazing and sad what people have done to each other for millennia, all in the name of The Creator. From the religion-based hatred that seems to be as prevalent as sand in the deserts of the Middle East, to the ethnic cleansing in Nazi Germany and Bosnia, to the my-Jesus-is-better-than-your-Jesus mentality of not-so-old Northern Ireland, the perversion of religion seems to know no bounds.

Let’s get this straight: God did not tell the 9/11 hijackers to fly jet aircraft into the World Trade Center. God did not tell Seamus to bomb Sean’s home. God did not tell the suicide bomber to detonate himself in the pizza parlor. God did not tell the Montana Freeman to shoot the abortion doctor. God didn’t tell the Westboro Baptist Church crew to picket soldiers’ funerals with signs stating that God Hates Fags.

I’ve met some people, and I’ve seen lots of others who claim that they have a “special” relationship with God, and that they can speak on behalf of Him. I don’t believe them. They’re either knowingly lying, or delusional. And, as we have seen all too many times, they can be dangerous.

We all hunger for some sort of meaning in this lifetime. Perhaps we want to know that we really are part of something larger and more meaningful. We long for some sort of essential significance, and deep down hope that this really isn’t all there is. But when human beings get caught up in the sacred and spiritual, just like in so many other areas, we tend to screw things up. And some do this maliciously, with evil intent toward their fellow humans. Others ignorantly follow along with their fellow misguided.

Many of the world’s religions have some basic tenets that are real spiritual truths. The Golden Rule — do unto others as you’d have them do unto you — is a concept that followers of many faiths around the world share. Unfortunately, we see every day how human beings really screw up this basic concept.

Planting a roadside IED is not an example of how to love one’s neighbor. Denying basic needs to people in a nation of abundance isn’t either. Using the Bible, Torah, or Quran to justify hatred, bigotry, and racism is a perversion of religion. When Jesus told his followers to give to the poor, feed the hungry, help the sick, and clothe the naked, I don’t think he was excluding Mexicans.

Philosopher Immanuel Kant coined the term “perversion of religion,” and noted four major problems with religion in his Critique of Judgment (1790): “1) Theosophy – which according to him alluded to the practice of obfuscating religious doctrines by wooly concepts; 2) Demonology – which according to him was the tendency to see Supreme Being in anthropomorphic terms; 3) Theurgy – which according to him is the belief that one could physically communicate with Supreme Being; and 4) Idolatry – which according to him is the belief that one can be in communion with the Supreme Being by practices other than personal morality.”

I’ll say a prayer as I remember 9/11. I’ll pray for more understanding and good will between people of different faiths and nationalities. I’ll pray for a real and lasting peace. And I’ll pray that God will save us from some of his wacko nutjob followers.

John Bartus is a singer/songwriter and former Mayor of the City of Marathon, former president of the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce and the Marathon Rotary Club, John plays this Friday (tonight) at Faro Blanco, and Saturday with Adrienne Z and Kris Estes at the Postcard Inn in Islamorada. Thursday finds John performing at Sparky’s Landing. www.johnbartus.com

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