It has not been easy. Everyday I look at the skyline to see if any more buildings are on fire, or if there's an airplane lowering itself towards Manhattan, rather than taking off. So, while I'm still afraid, it is through my faith that allows me to walk through my fear and deal with it head on. It is my faith which has deepened and my fear has lessened. My faith has jumped so tremendously this past year and I have been so in tune with God, that I now see my calling is to the religious life as a Catholic nun.
September 11 reinforced and confirmed my atheism. Religion has always been one of the most effective ways of making people hate each other. In every country where there is religious fundamentalism and intolerance, there is violence. Countries that practice religious tolerance don't have such problems. In the United States, the result of the rise of the religious right and their movement to impose their beliefs on others has been a huge increase in violence, against gays, against abortionists, against non-Christians. One of the lessons we should learn from 9/11 is to condemn religious intolerance of any kind--including the current demonization of Arabs and Islam.
Seeing Faith at Its Best
9/11 reinforced my appreciation of the fragility of life. A few hate-filled fanatics were able to wreak tremendous destruction and inflict widespread pain.It takes a far more tremendous amount of love, courage, commitment, patience and devotion to heal and re-build.
As for those who simply write off religion as an incubator for fanaticism...I would note the millions upon millions of dollars in help for the victims flowed through churches. Thousands of volunteers who went to Ground Zero and offered aid in other places and ways were motivated by their deeply held faith.
In my community, churches and synagogues collected money and blood, and we later gathered clothing and food in an interfaith relief effort for Afghan refugees. A recent study showed that people of religious faith gave a significantly higher amount of their income to secular charities (while also making donations through their churches, synagogues, and mosques) than did those who expressed no religious affiliation or belief. Red Cross volunteers have told me this is certainly true when it comes to blood donations. These are massive examples of the positive application of faith.
"Will I be stoned for not owning a flag?"
I am a Christian, and I have always been deeply suspicious of Patriotism as a religion--I was raised in an environment of idolatry of all things American. I have always rued America's sense of superiority. I am made nervous by shows of solidarity that seem to stamp out the ideals of democracy, ie will I be stoned to death if I don't own a flag? My love for God has not changed, though. I continue in my sense that God is moving history towards Parousia [the Second Coming]--no more tears, no more death.
But my life IS changed. September 11 was my daughter's first day of nursery school. Since her birth my heart has been peeled wide open with a sense of vulnerability that is raw and frightening. September 11 I have vowed to protect her from overwhelming imagery--we turned off the TV, almost entirely. I have not and will not discuss the event until I am asked.
I have to admit, my beliefs and practices did take an abrupt alteration after September, largely due to the fact that I had a bit of an extreme psychological reaction to the attacks. Up until then, I had considered myself a dedicated Wiccan, but the aftermath of that day left me shook up and more isolated in my spirituality; I wanted to learn more about other people's beliefs before I decided upon a concrete set of concepts for myself. But the main effect on my spiritual living after 11/9 was with regards to my thinking--I meditate a great deal more now. In the weeks (and even months) following the attacks, I would find myself in deep, absorbing thought for long periods of time. I write much more in my diary now, and have met/formed/got to know my Guardian Spirit through the writings and my own meditations. It's less about the ritual now and more about my learning, which I see as a good thing.
"I became a Buddhist"
I was entering my senior year of college, and was beginning to realize that the faith in which I was raised no longer held anything but a sentimental place in my heart...In the horror of that day, I saw the absolute rapacious and evil nature that man can devolve to, but I also saw (in the rescue workers) the pure acts of altruism and ultimate gestures of compassion that the human heart is capable of producing.