faith and doubt at ground zero
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discussion: reactions to the film...What did you think of Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero? Share your reactions to the film and its treatment of the central themes of God, evil, and religion.

We have received an unusually large number of letters in response to "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero," and we anticipate many more as the film continues to air nationally on PBS. As always, we welcome and appreciate your feedback, yet because of the large volume, we hope our viewers will understand that we can only post a fraction of the letters received, striving to represent the range of responses to the film.

Dear FRONTLINE

I'm thankful that Frontline tackled the spiritual dimensions of an event that in some ways has become commercialized by the media. After hearing where reporters were and what THEY were doing on 9/11, it was very refreshing for me to view a broadcast that had incredible depth and left me more convicted to act upon my beliefs.

One issue the "Faith and Doubt" broadcast touched upon was how we apply our faith when things go wrong. At those moments we question our faith and doubt our knowledge of its meaning. To the lady who lost her daughter and the lady who lost her fireman husband of 12 years, my heart grieves with them and I am angry that no one has reached out to them as they question God and their faith. I wanted to tell both of them that their husband and daughter wants to see them smile again as they did so brightly in their photos.

In this day of para-churches, we apparently are not doing enough to help people through their grief. Both of these women are obviously suffering alone - like so many others who are affected by a tragedy. I hope churches in this country view this broadcast and not have a pious attitude toward the religious leaders and scholars, but listen to the experiences of friends and relatives and consider helping those affected by a tragedy find a means to ease their crippling pain. It's going take those of us who have suffered and survived a tragedy to help them. Only we can relate and it's going to take us to foster them forward.

Many thanks to Frontline for presenting a comprehensive discussion of faith that networks would only dare to address.

liza brown
falls church, virginia

Dear FRONTLINE

Without a doubt, the most powerful and important film I have ever seen on PBS. I plan to purhace this film for family viewing to further my understanding of the events of 9/11 and all of the questions this program brings to light.

I think I could watch this film 100 times and learn more from it every time.

Roland Cooper

Dear FRONTLINE

After watching Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, I got off the couch to go to bed and thought, "PBS has done another great job. Oh, some people will find things to criticize, but it was an excellent effort at presenting how people are grappling with the ultimate questions of existence and reality, the questions about God."

I thought about it some more as I was preparing for bed, and I realized there was something important missing for me: the whole issue of introspection, the examination of our national conscience. Did we deserve this? You know the old adage: sin begets sin or evil begets evil. Not that John Doe or anyone else deserved to die in a tower. He or she is just another victim. Evil is evil precisely because it hurts the innocent, the guiltless.

And then I had another train of thought that completely surprised me: What about the millions of unborn babies who we murder each year in the wombs of their mothers? Who is mourning for them. For the boy who never had a chance to be a fireman or the girl who couldn't be a fireman's mother or wife? Who is mourning for them? Why did we kill them?

The thoughts surprised me because I'm not at all an anti-abortion activist. It's not high on my spiritual agenda. But, for whatever it's worth, those were the thoughts that came to me, and I haven't stopped thinking about them.

Thanks again for making TV worthwhile.

PS - God is mourning for them.

Walt Gartner
Nassau, NY

Dear FRONTLINE

I hope that all the Americans who watched your show tonight while they are reliving the pain of one day five years ago are able to realize and empathize with the Afghan and Iraqi civilians who are dying by the hundreds ever single day for the past five years either by the arms or under the occupation of the American military lead by our government and in a democracy by each and everyone of us American civilians. We are not only loosing the war, we are losing our soul. But I still have hope that our democracy, though far from perfect and badly damaged from enemies within is able to not only survive, but indeed regain its luster. For our greatness is not measured by the number of our weapons, but the character of our citizens.

Adrian Belic
Vallejo, CA

Dear FRONTLINE

I have been watching TV since my mid teens, about 50 years ago. This is one of the best things I've seen --- in the top 5 programs in half a century of viewing. This from a "godless secular humanist". Thank you.

Mary Aloyse Firestone

Dear FRONTLINE

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Sadly God's words, but man's legacy.

I lost faith not when I saw what happened on 9/11, but what happened later, with Bush invading Iraq and the majority of this country getting behind himm waving flags to fan the flames.

It's not OK when someone kills us, but it's OK when we kill others. Sept. 11 hijackers turned almost 3,000 people into dust, and we turn around and do the same to innocent people in Iraq with bombs larger than any plane. Disgusting. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

If God created man in his image, I oftentimes think I never want to meet God.

Cheryl Kirk

Dear FRONTLINE

Without a doubt this as the finest TV program of the entire year.

One would hope it would be repeated again and again.

robert fosse
palm springs, ca

Dear FRONTLINE

I agree with Father George Rutler. There is a spiritual evil which affects humans. There has always been good and evil in all things on the earth and in spiritual beings. It depends on how it affects us. But that which affects the evil in humans are evil spiritual principalities and powers. God is a good spiritual being. God does not cause evil. God showed His love toward us by giving His only begotten son to die for our sins. But Christ was greatly rewarded for it. It's something that had to happen for a greater good. But God did not kill his son, it was an evil on the earth that did it. God knew if He would send His son to the earth, we would kill him. But it wasn't just the bad side of human nature that caused this evil, but evil spiritual beings that tempted the evil in human nature to oppose the good. When tempted, it's up to the human being to choose good or evil reactions. A human being has the ability to resist evil. God does not intervene in human actions unless he is asked to in faith. God created human beings and not robots and each person will recieve their reward one day. Humans allow evil and not God. But God allows humans to be human and to choose. There is a heaven and an earth. Earth is not heaven and heaven is not earth. Evil exists on earth. There are certain humans which we consider evil such as Hitler and Castro, because their evil side of human nature was/is affected just like Eve when tempted in the Garden. The evil side of human nature could be considered as anger, greed, vengeance, jealousy, strife, etc. The good side of human nature is love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, patience, etc. Self defense is not evil, but turning the other cheek is a greater good such as Christ did during the crucifixion. Evil can be very cruel. That is why those who choose the good over evil receive a great reward in heaven, just as the theif which was crucified next to Christ did. It's never too late to choose the good. It is not easy, since human nature has two sides, but possible. Even the law defines good and evil. Good and evil will continue to exist until evil is done away with in humans and evil spiritual beings are removed. The commandment is love. Love, a good side of human nature, is the answer for human beings to live in peace on the earth. This is an opinion on God and evil.

Oscar Sandoval

Dear FRONTLINE

How self-absorbed we Americans are! Why is it that all of a sudden we have discovered the evil of the killing of non-combatants? This happens every day in many countries throughout our world, and yet, we have not agonized about "where is God?" in the midst of the horrors endured by the rest of the peoples of the world.

I do not direct this comment at the family members of those killed on 9/11. Their legitimate grief gives them license to ask this question. But as for the rest of us, perhaps we should spend more time reflecting on contemporary tragedies---the killing of innocents in Iraq, Palestine, and Israel; the genocide in Darfur; the AIDS pandemic in Africa....

Grow up, America.

Pastor Kimberly A. Rapczak

Kim Rapczak
McKees Rocks, PA

Dear FRONTLINE

The reactions of your diverse audience to "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero" posted here are as interesting and thought-provoking as the documentary itself. And this, to me, is of great value.

Obviously this documentary has made many people think more deeply about many things, religious and otherwise, and in a presentation that was honest, beautiful, moving, challenging, and open-ended. That is what makes PBS so great! Most of TV is a wasteland that feeds neither the mind nor the spirit nor the heart. This program fed all three.

I can agree as well as disagree with many of the statements made here by your respondents. But agreement or disagreement is not the issue in the critical search for understanding, compassion, inclusivity, and progress toward building a more just and peaceful world. Listening to one another, withholding judgment, feeling one another's pain, transcending our ego and our faith or no-faith position, working toward solutions cooperatively, and expending one's self in caring for others are so much more useful in the attainment of the kind of wisdom we need in the face of life's difficulties and challenges and yes, tragedies.

I would suspect that this program has helped ratchet many of us up several notches in the quality and clarity of our thinking and feeling and acting. I can't think of a more Godly outcome! Many Thanks!

John G.
Burdett, NY

Dear FRONTLINE

I have been deeply affected by "Faith and Doubt". Even after a week, I think about the message of this production daily. My eyes have been opened like never before on the issue of spirituality vs. religion. I think the backlash against the Lutheran minister for praying with Jews and Muslims is a focal point in the entire production. The hatred that can be mustered in common people by the "Powers and Principalities" of religious leaders is, and has been, frightening. Religion has been used throughout history to subjugate and control entire populations. From my view Islam, a beautiful expression of faith, is at a point now in the Middle East where Christianity was in the Dark Ages. As a deeply spiritual Christian, I have always grappled with "There is no other way to the Father than through Me Jesus". Does this mean Gandhi is in hell? Does this mean Moses and Abraham are in hell? During my "quiet time" this week, it came to me: Who is Jesus? He IS the Father! He is the same God who all people of faith worship. Rather than commemmerate 9/11 as a patriotic day, I propose that 9/11 be called Unity Day. It is the day that the people of the World woke up and were shown that Religious division on cultural, denominational, and even basic theological grounds is at the root of Satan's master plan. If I could, I would be proud to hold hands and pray with my fellow believers on this day to show that through love, all evil can be conquered.

Mike Smith
Sulphur Springs, TX

Dear FRONTLINE

Thank you for your excellent program on Faith and Doubt. It was very thought provoking. Unfortunately, in the selection and order of comments aired, I think there was an over-emphasis on cynical viewpoints. These generally fall into two categories: Agnostic and Pantheistic. The Agnostic view would be that God if he exists cannot be known personally and must be distant and uninvolved in human affairs. Therefore, what happens on earth is entirely up to us. The Pantheistic view is that everything is God, we are a part of God, and the emphasis again is on human determinism. Though stories of faith were present, they were either brief or immediately deemed foolish by the next interview. He who speaks last and most seems right.

I greatly appreciated the comments of Muslims. I think theirs were the most honest and soul-searching. I hope Americans from a Judeo-Christian background will also examine how our religious traditions have affected our views and foreign policy towards Israel and the Muslim world.

Finally, I would like to point that that there is a vast chasm between religious ideas about God and personal knowledge of God. The former will not stand in the face of inexplicable tragedy; the later will comfort and guide us forward. If our religious leaders are so uncertain about the character of God, where are they leading us? I would encourage a prayer for God to be close to us in this time and reveal to us who he is.

Greg Campbell
Bethesda, MD

Dear FRONTLINE

I am a Catholic priest and a teacher of several students who lost loved ones at the Pentagon, including one boy whose mother was a flight attendant on that flight. I and the entire school community were profoundly affected by the events of that terrible day.

As we approach the anniversary I have been reluctant to view the extensive coverage, seemingly plastered all over the media, almost as crassly as Christmas decorations in a mall in November. However, I caught your program this evening, and was riveted to the TV screen. The diversity of views, from the entire religious spectrum and from nonbelievers as well, the voices and witness of the common man and woman, of scholars, and artists, clergy, rabbi, fireman, mother, son, daughter, all of this was so helpful to me and so healing: For once I have found a tv medium take seriously matters of faith and the spiritual realities that surround us. I thank you. I thank all of your contributors. You have helped me make sense of many of my own very confused and disjointed feelings since that awful day. And if there is any way to pass along my thanks, please tell the Orthodox Rabbi who has composed chants of phone messages left by the victims, that his words about God as mystery were perhaps the ones that best capture my own beliefs. I felt a soul mate there.

Gregory Eck
North Bethesda, MD

Dear FRONTLINE

At last the questions and thoughtful responses I have been looking for since Sept. 11. As a student of film, this was superb. As a student of philosophy, this was intellectual bravery.

At last, there is more than flag waving and one-dimensional egotistical response to horror. Thank you, thank you for the inspiration beyond my greatest hopes.

Carole Marlowe
Tucson, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE

I've watched this program several times. It is full of depth and insight.

Probably the most moving moment for me is the chanting of the messages of the dead by the Rabbi. He has finally understood what most of us don't - we are all one.

I wish there had been more mention of religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Jainism and all the other beliefs that help make up the American landscape for many of those traditions have a wealth of tradition that deals with death and transitions and have much to offer.

Marsha Graham
Bradford, MA

Dear FRONTLINE

I found "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero" to be a well-balanced presentation. I was particularly moved by the interviews with Monsignor Albacete, Kanan Makiya and Rabbi Hirschfield; in fact, I have downloaded copies of their full interviews. I think the phrase that will remain with me, though, was one attributed to Vladimir Putin by a journalist: "We are as dust to them." I, too, have come to the conclusion that terrorists of their ilk do not see the rest of humanity as humans but as candles lit for another religion/way-of-life that contradicts their "religion" and, therefore, are deserving of extinction.

As a personal note, I practice my faith as a Catholic and that faith has been neither strengthened nor weakened because of 9-11-01. I have, however, had more serious discussions on good v. evil, God and religion since then.

Anne Lerner

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