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The blame for the terrorist attacks has been variously directed at God, Satan, the American people generally, certain elements of the American population, extremist Fundamentalist Muslim terrorists, and all Muslims:

bullet God engineered it: Jerry Falwell, a Fundamentalist Christian tele-minister, initially blamed God directly for organizing the attack; he blamed certain American groups as the indirect cause. Later, he reversed his stance, shifted total blame onto unknown terrorists, while he criticized the media for taking his words out of context and distorting his message. Bill Koenig agreed that God sent it as a message to the American people; but he disagrees with Falwell as to the exact message.
bullet God allowed it to happen: Pat Robertson, another Fundamentalist Christian tele-minister, appears to believe that God was the immediate cause of the tragedy, because he decided to removed a shield of protection from America. That allowed radical Fundamentalist Muslim terrorists the freedom to attack.
bullet Satan did it: Michael Youssef, conservative Christian author and pastor, appears to hold God innocent of any blame; he accuses a personal evil entity, Satan, as being ultimately responsible.
bullet Terrorists did it: The U.S. Government, and many other individuals and organizations, appear to blame the atrocity directly on a group of radical Middle Eastern terrorists.
bullet Entire Muslim countries are responsible for it happening: Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of the conservative Christian and Jewish group Toward Tradition feels that whole nations share collective guilt for the attack of a few terrorists. Thus, entire countries -- men, women, children, infants -- should be bombed in retaliation for the terrorist strike.
bullet All Muslims are responsible: A very small number of North Americans seem to blame all Muslims, including loyal, flag-loving American citizens, as being equally responsible for the attack.

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Jerry Falwell:

Jerry Falwell is the Senior Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and the Chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

On the Pat Robertson's "700 Club" TV program for 2001-SEP-13 (two days after the tragedy), guest Jerry Falwell said that "God will not be mocked." Falwell  blamed the attack on Pagans (presumably Neopagans like Wiccans, Druids, followers of Asatru, etc), those working to maintain he wall of separation between church and state, abortion providers, feminists, gays and lesbians. He concluded that God became sufficiently angry at these groups in America, that he engineered the terrorist attack -- presumably to send Americans a message.  Full details of his statement, clarification, & apology and of reactions from the public.

Robertson's statement is supported by one of the main themes of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) --that when the Israelites consistently departed from the will of Jehovah, then God eventually retaliated with severe punishment. A few applicable quotations from the King James Bible are:

bullet Deuteronomy 31:17-18: 'Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods."
bullet Proverbs 1:24-28: "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me."
bullet Proverbs 21:12-13: "The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness. Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard."
bullet Isaiah 1:15: "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
bullet Jeremiah 1:16: "And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands."
bullet Jeremiah 11:14: Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.
bullet Jeremiah 44:23: "Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day."
bullet Lamentations 3:6-16: "He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer....He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes."
bullet Lamentations 3:44-47: "Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through. Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction."

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Bill Koenig:

He distributes Koenig's International News to Internet users via Email. He agrees with Jerry Falwell, that God engineered the tragedy because he wanted to send a message to the American people. But, according to Koenig, God's message is different than Falwell's. It is that God had reserved the land in Palestine for the Jewish people and sealed it with a covenant during ancient biblical times. According to an article in the New York Times, In early 2001-SEP, George W Bush had decided to back statehood for the Palestinian people as part of a comprehensive peace settlement between the PLO and the government of Israel. By this reasoning, since God does not use Email, telephone, fax, telex, or a postal connection, God sent in the terrorists.

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Pat Robertson:

There seems to be a slight difference between Pat Robertson's position, and Jerry Falwell's initial statement. Falwell seem to suggest that God directly inspired the terrorist attack as punishment for the increased secularism in America. Robertson stated that God had simply removed his protection from the U.S., thus exposing the country to outside attacks.

Pat Robertson wrote: "We have imagined ourselves invulnerable and have been consumed by the pursuit of financial gain. The focus of many in America has been on the pursuit of health, wealth, material pleasures and sexuality. Sadly, those in the churches have been as self-indulgent as those in the world."

"We have allowed rampant pornography on the Internet, and rampant secularism and the occult, etc. to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered by our society."

"We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said, 'We are going to legislate You out of the schools and take Your commandments from the courthouses in various states. We are not going to let little children read the commandments of God. We are not going to allow the Bible or prayer in our schools.' "

"We have insulted God at the highest level of our government. Then, we say, 'Why does this happen?' It is happening because God Almighty is lifting His protection from us. Once that protection is gone, we are vulnerable because we are a free society." 7

His essay contains some amazing estimates: He predicts that the total number of deaths is three or four times higher than the current official figures. His estimate of the number of active terrorists roaming around America is incredibly high compared to the FBI estimate of about 34.

[Editor's note: We do not include Pat Robertson's figures here because they are so inflammatory. If people seriously believe him, they might well panic, and attack a lot of innocent people.]

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Michael Youssef:

Michael Youssef is the founding pastor of the 2000-member Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, GA. He hosts both a radio and television program. He is probably best known for  his 13 books, including "If God is in Control, Why is my Life Such a Mess?" 3

He was invited to participate in the Focus on the Family radio broadcast for Friday, 2001-SEP-14, three days after the tragedy, in order to discuss the "Biblical implications of Tuesday's attacks." 4 When the host, Dr. James Dobson, asked who was to blame for the tragedy, Youssef replied: "...I think [that] one of the most important things for us -- especially those of us in the media -- is to begin to educate Christians to the fact that God did not do this. Satan would love to pin this on God. They need to understand that there is a personal devil, a personal Satan in the world. God is not the author of evil. Our God is a god of mercy and a god of love. But he, in his sovereignty, is able to take these shreds that we see on TV and these rubbles, and he turns them around. He brings good out of them, especially for those who love him."

According to AANEWS, Rev. James Merritt of the Southern Baptist Convention agreed. He called the destruction "Satan's handiwork" and urged prayer for the victims. 5

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The majority position: total blame rests with a currently unknown group of extreme Fundamentalist, Middle East terrorists:

This is perhaps the simplest and most obvious assignment of responsibility for the tragedy. Many government, religious and media representatives have delivered eloquent speeches justifying this position. Fundamentalist Christian R. Albert Mohler', Jr.'s response is particularly notable. He is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is considered by many to be a main spiritual leader of the Southern Baptists. In an address on 2001-SEP-13, two days after the tragedy, he gave an address at the Seminary's Alumni Memorial Chapel. 6

He said: "We dare not lack the moral courage to call these acts what they areómurderous acts of mass terror. We dare not dignify the murderers by explaining their cause. No cause, however righteous, can justify such acts. And, no righteous cause could produce such acts."

He admits that humans cannot know the full truth: "We dare not speak on Godís behalf to explain why He allowed these particular acts of evil to happen at this time to these persons and in this manner."

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Response of Toward Tradition: Entire Muslim countries are responsible:

Toward Tradition is a national coalition of very conservative Jews and Christians. They oppose secular institutions which they believe "foster anti-religious bigotry, harm families, and jeopardize the future of America."

On 2001-SEP-28, they issued a press release calling on President Bush "to draw strength from the words of the Bible." Their president, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, commented: "It is the season of war. I am concerned about the doubts felt by many good Christians and Jews who worry about the morality of retribution. They worry about the deaths of noncombatants. They ask: 'Would it not be more in keeping with religious tradition to counter hate with forgiveness, rather than with violence?' "

Rabbi Lapin believes in the concept of collective responsibility. His is feels that the responsibility for the terrorist strike extends beyond those who plotted and carried out the attack to include entire Muslim nations. Thus whole nations -- men, women and children -- must be punished because of the actions of a few.

"Some of us allow, 'Let us punish the few hundred attackers'; but they feel unease at inflicting agony on whole countries." He concludes by reading the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes that "These Americans should understand that nations are organic entities; in unity a nation enjoys benevolence and triumph, but in unity it must also endure retribution and destruction."

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Response of religious bigots: all Muslims are responsible for the acts of a few terrorists who happen to be Muslim:

There have been many attacks by a scattering of American and Canadian citizens attempting to terrorize Muslims in the U.S. and Canada. Individual Muslims, their places of businesses, and mosques have been attacked in the few days following the terrorist attack on New York City and the Pentagon. There have been two attempted murders, and a number of fire-bombings. Some youths in Chicago IL organized a march on a local mosque.

Perpetrators appear to believe in the concept of collective responsibility: that because a few members of a very large group committed an atrocity, that all members of the same group are equally responsible for the crime. This is analogous to blaming all Christians for the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, by two terrorist militia members who happened to be Christian.

What is overlooked in the rush for revenge is that:

bullet The alleged perpetrators are not simply Muslims. They are very small minority within Islam: radical, Fundamentalist, Muslim terrorists. They form a miniscule percentage of all Muslims. Moderate Muslims claim that In no way do the terrorists reflect the historical teachings of Islam. They are viewed as having twisted and inverted the meaning of their holy book, the Qur'an.
bullet As historian Karen Armstrong has written: "It would be as grave a mistake to see Osama bin Laden as an authentic representative of Islam as to consider James Kopp, the alleged killer of an abortion provider in Buffalo, N.Y., a typical Christian or Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 worshipers in the Hebron mosque in 1994 and died in the attack, a true martyr of Israel."

In her book, "Islam: A Short History," Karen Armstrong explains that terrorism and other forms of religiously motivated violence are political tactics used only by the most desperate and extreme religious fundamentalists. 9,10 She wrote: "As they struggle to rectify what they see as the damaging effects of modern secular culture, fundamentalists fight back. In the process, they depart from the core values of compassion, justice and benevolence that characterizes all the world faiths, including Islam."

bullet Muslim countries in the world are themselves terrified of these same terrorists.
bullet Dozens of Muslim organizations in Canada and the U.S. have sincerely condemned the terrorist attacks.
bullet Christian leaders -- from the conservative, mainline and liberal wings of the religion -- have issued statements asking for unity and peace. They have specifically asked that individuals not terrorize innocent persons. For example, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. issued a statement saying that: "We especially urge churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to join in prayer and practical help. We must stand united against the temptation to retaliate against innocent persons."

The two attempted murders, multiple fire-bombings and shootings at mosques, and countless instances of harassment are quite troubling. However, the backlash against Muslim and Arab-Americans might have been much worse if it hadn't been for a concerted attempt by religious, government and media leaders to plea for unity and avoidance of stereotyping.

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Response of Evangelical Christians in America:

Christianity Today conducted an online pole of the visitors to its web site. Since the magazine is the leading Evangelical periodical, it is probably safe to assume that most of the responders to the poll are Evangelical Christians. The webmaster asked "What best explains the events of September 11." They gave 13 possible responses. Results by 2001-OCT-4, sorted in decreasing order of popularity, were:

bullet 21% We won't know why until we get to Heaven.
bullet 12% Evil and tragedy are the price of [humans'] free will.
bullet 12% National security measures were too lax.
bullet 8% Demonic forces were at work.
bullet 7% The terrorists handed themselves over to evil.
bullet 7% Global terrorism had to eventually hit the U.S.
bullet 6% End-times prophecies are being fulfilled.
bullet 5% God removed his hand of protection from the U.S.
bullet 5% Personal freedoms have overruled public safety.
bullet 4% America was targeted for its Christian character.
bullet 4% There is no reason for such senseless actions.
bullet 3% God judged America for its sins.
bullet 1% Even to ask this question is insensitive.

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Related essay on this web site:

bullet Attacks on Muslims and their facilities

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  1. "PFAW President, Ralph G. Neas, addresses divisive comments by religious right leaders," People for the American Way, 2001-SEP-13, at:
  2. "Statement by Jerry Falwell on 700 Club comments," 2001-SEP-14, at: This is a temporary posting.
  3. Micheal Youssef, "If God is in Control, Why is my Life Such a Mess?," Thomas Nelson (1998). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  4. "Recent Broadcasts," Focus on the Family radio program, at:  This is a temporary posting. However, a audio tape of the program can be ordered from the Focus on the Family web site at  Look for "Prayer in the Wake I-III" broadcast on 2001-SEP-12 to 14.
  5. "Evangelists blame Americans, demand prayer and revival." AANEWS commentary, 2001-SEP-14,
  6. R.A. Mohler, Jr., "Truth-telling in a time of tragedy: What words dare we speak, when we dare not be silent?," Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at:
  7. "Pat Robertson's statement regarding terrorist attack," Christian Broadcasting Network, 2001-SEP-14, at:
  8. "Ecclesiastes and the Season of War: Comments from 'Toward Tradition'," at:
  9. David Waters, "Ban use of 'Islamic' before 'terrorist',", at:
  10. Karen Armstrong, "Islam: A Short History," Read reviews or order this book

Copyright © 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-SEP-14
Latest update: 2001-OCT-5
Author: B.A. Robinson

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