God and the tsunami, Part I

I heard from a female correspondent who thinks the horrible tsunami with its inconceivable 60,000 or more deaths and its perhaps millions of homeless proves that God doesn’t exist.

[Note: after Heather Mac Donald published articles in 2006 stating ideas identical to those stated by my correspondent in this exchange which took place between late December 2004 and early January 2005, I felt at liberty to reveal that my correspondent here is Heather Mac Donald.]

Correspondent to LA:

I’ve been tuning into Christian stations constantly, trying to get their explanation for this tsunami, and they are maintaining a stony silence, doing their usual Jesus programming unperturbed. I guess they’ve worked out such minor problems long ago, and feel no need to revisit.

LA to Correspondent:

They do have worked them out.

Besides, if 50,000 deaths from a natural disaster disprove the existence of God, then why not 1,000 deaths, or 100 deaths, or one death? By your logic, if a man on a golf course is struck dead by a lightning bolt, that would disprove the existence of God. Thus you are implicitly demanding, as proof of the existence of God, a world in which there are no accidental deaths. Which means that you are demanding that the physical earth be like heaven. But that would cancel out the very idea of a created world. The fact that the world is created by God means that it is not like God, otherwise God wouldn’t have bothered creating it.

Alternatively, if you do not believe that one or ten or 100 accidental disprove the existence of God, why is this so? Why do 50,000 accidental deaths disprove the existence of God, but ten accidental deaths do not?

What you are saying is that any created world, with its imperfections, accidents, and mortality, would prove to you that God doesn’t exist. Therefore the only way God could prove his existence to you would be if he hadn’t created the world at all. But then you wouldn’t exist either. :-)

Correspondent to LA:

Oh, I fully believe that the painful death of one or ten disproves the existence of a loving god who allegedly should be thanked for answering prayers when something good happens. If God has the power to intervene and answer the prayers of one cancer victim’s family, his decision not to do so in all the other cases shows extreme capriciousness or callousness in my view. But the sheer magnitude of this disaster, which is not from human evil, just brings the fact of his indifference to human suffering into starker relief. Or, is he hurtin’ bad inside, but is restraining himself from exercising his clear powers of intervention to teach us some kind of lesson.

LA to Correspondent:

Ok, you’ve confirmed my point. The only way you would believe in God would be if there were no tragedy, no pain, no war, no accidents, no sickness, and no death, or, at least, no painful or premature or violent death. In other words, you demand a non-physical world, i.e., heaven.

As I think I’ve said before, you assume that if God exists, that means that God’s will is directly manifest in every event on earth, and therefore any bad event on earth proves either that God is an SOB or that he doesn’t exist. But that is not what any religion holds, certainly not Christianity. The Lord’s Prayer says: “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” The petition would be pointless unless God’s will were not ordinarily done on earth.

You wrote:

“Oh, I fully believe that the painful death of one or ten disproves the existence of a loving god … “

Then for you the Crucifixion of Jesus disproves the existence of God. But of course Jesus’ very mission was to die a brutal painful humiliating death, alone and abandoned, and in that very act to show that for the man who follows God, nothing done to him on earth can separate him from God, and so Jesus showed us the way to live in this world, with its cruelties and accidental deaths, and also with the frequent feeling that we are separated from God, and to rise above it, to God’s truth and God’s world.

Jesus said to his disciples:

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
(Luke 13:4,5)

What I think Jesus is saying here is that the people who died in the fall of the tower did not “deserve” it, God didn’t will it, it was essentially a meaningless accident. But the meaningless deaths in that tower symbolize the death that, in one form or another, awaits every one of us, unless we repent, which means, unless we turn around and live our lives toward God.

Correspondent to LA:

All this is fine. I assume you don’t pray to God or thank him for producing a good event, which presumes that he does have the capacity to intervene for the good, in which case, one has to wonder why he intervenes in some instances but is content to allow such devastation in others. Someone who says: Thank you God for curing my cancer must have a heck of an ego if he believes that God deemed him worthy but not the young child next door felled by a devastating disease. If the seeming inconsistency in God’s intervention is because he is capricious and vengeful and unreliable—like the Greek pantheon, that is fine, too. What is not fine is to then say he is a loving god deserving our love and gratitude.

LA to Correspondent:

There have always been people, perhaps a majority, who have treated religion or God as being primarily about getting good things for themselves and avoiding bad things. But this is not what religion is about. The primary thing about religion is not “What is God doing for me, to help my external circumstances?”, but “Am I aligned with God, whatever my external circumstances may be?” No one’s external situation was worse than Jesus’s on the cross, yet he remained perfectly in tune with God through torture and death. God sent Christ into the world, not to help us with all our material problems, but that we might “live through him.” (1 John 4:9). Jesus taught that just as he lived in and through the Father, we should live in and through him. “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20,21.)

However, God does help people with particular problems, and the vast record of, for example, miraculous healings, both large and small, cannot be ignored.

But you are reasoning exactly like a liberal. The typical liberal attitude is to take for granted the achievements of civilization, and then complain that those achievements are not equally distributed.

Similarly, your attitude toward God is to take for granted all the bounties God has bestowed on the human race, and then complain that those bounties have not been equally distributed. You fail to note and be grateful for the fact of the bounties themselves. Why should there be any divine bounties at all? Why should the universe, with all its providential marvels, even exist? You ignore God’s gifts of life and the universe, and then complain that these gifts are not given equally to all people under all circumstances.

[The discussion continues at “God and the Tsunami, Part II.”]
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 28, 2004 09:01 PM | Send

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