Monday, March 21, 2011

The so-called "wrath of God"

A former Phoenix Mercury (WNBA player) tweeted this Saturday on the subject of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan:

"What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes."

"u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can't expect anything less."

And, to add insult to injury, in a remarkable example of Christian condescension, she tried to apologize:

"I wanna apologize to anyone I may hurt or offended during this tragic time," the tweet said. "I didn't realize that my words could be interpreted in the manner which they were. People that knw me would tell u 1st hand I'm a very spiritual person and believe that everything, even disasters happen 4 a reason and that God will shouldn't be questioned
..."

Besides revealing the obvious fact that celebrities should self-edit prior to releasing brain droppings to the world, it brings up the more important subject of religion.

Now, I want to get this out of the way right now -- I'm not intimating that this is how all Christians think. But, by the same token, we all know that this isn't just the lunatic fringe that believes that disasters are God's retribution.

But that isn't even the subject of my post. My beef is with how religion is deemed to be the source of morality when statements like this show it to be something very different. People that are bigoted, or racist, or in Pondexter's case, remarkably ignorant, use the veil of religion to justify themselves. When you feel that God himself is behind something, you have the moral certitude to make statements that an atheist would be pilloried for. After all, "he makes no mistakes". And that's exactly the point. I have no problem with an atheist being judged upon his statements and beliefs. But that is how all people should be judged.

Godless people are deemed to be immoral and anarchistic, but I suggest that most are the exact opposite. I believe that all my actions and statements must be held to an even higher standard and must stand on their own. I don't have the luxury of misinterpreting some ancient text of dubious origin to justify a belief that outside the protection of religion would be considered bigoted.

If any other segment of society had done the atrocities to children that Catholic priests have, imagine what would have happened.

Within the framework of religion, it is considered godly and moral to be against gays, or to subjugate women. Under any other criteria, those would be hate crimes or speech.

I am not saying that religious people are universally immoral. I am saying that they are not moral because they are religious. Religion does not define one's morality. A religious person can be good or bad, as can an atheist.

And natural occurrences like floods, and hurricanes, and earthquakes are not caused by God. And they do not occur to present a moral or punish us for sin. They may present a lesson or warning to us insomuch as our actions or inaction may contribute to them or our lack of preparation leads to additional suffering. If one feels that God is infallible and omnipotent, then every happening has to mean something. But most things don't mean anything. Life can be beautiful and wondrous sometimes ... but it also can be a cruel bitch. Learn from life, but don't attach causality to random events. To think that God would punish the Japanese for Pearl Harbor while letting the US off the hook for Hiroshoma, Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq, etc. is an example of not only Christian blindness but also a scary kind of nationalism.

So, Cappie, keep your tweets and your religion to yourself. You are entitled to your opinion and your free speech, but you are also entitled to be criticized for such.

23 comments:

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: To think that God would punish the Japanese for Pearl Harbor while letting the US off the hook for Hiroshoma, Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq, etc. is an example of not only Christian blindness but also a scary kind of nationalism.

Indeed. How amazingly condescending that God would punish countries on behalf of the USA. Payback for Pearl Harbor indeed...... [shakes head]

wunelle said...

I suppose to give up that belief is to let go of the last tangible thing one can accredit to one's god of choice. To say that disasters are NOT acts of "god" is to relegate the supernatural to the theoretical (which is a death knell, I'd say).

It's depressing that in the present day we even have to discuss whether Zoroaster or Mazda or Shiva is sending us a message. Silly.

Sadie Lou said...

Hm. Lots to say here so I don't really no where to start. What that woman said was ignorant, insensitive, foolish and rude.

Natural occurrences like floods and hurricanes and earthquakes *are* caused by God but it would be wrong to assume they are designed to punish people for sin. I mean, if that were true...wouldn't all the believers be spared? And yet I think that intense storms claim the lives of all people; believers and un-believers. It's just wrong for people to assign purpose to something where God is clearly silent and speaking on behalf of God where he is silent is not a good idea. That woman bring judgment on herself for doing so.

It is actually NOT within the framework of religion, morally, to be "against gays" or "subjugate women". Just because religious people *do* that and justify it by cherry picking Scripture and misinterpreting it does not mean they are correct in doing so and they don't speak for the rest of us. I know you know that.

"If any other segment of society had done the atrocities to children that Catholic priests have, imagine what would have happened."

What would have happened? I don't think anyone in their right mind outside of the Roman Catholic Church is comfortable with what happened. The RCC has lost most, if not all of the world's respect because of those issues. they are a nation unto themselves and rightly so. I was at a funeral for one of my husband's family members and we Protestants were not *allowed* or invited to take Communion with the Catholics while they observed it. We were asked to fold our arms across our chests to receive a special blessing instead. I neither asked for the special blessing nor felt disappointed that I could not be unified at the Lord's Table by their omission. It's not that I hold all Catholics responsible for the heinous acts committed within their Church, but I do judge that corner of faith for not being proactive with their discipline. The Bible tells us NOT to judge those *outside* the church but those *inside* the church.
I can't believe how far removed we are, as a whole, from that charge.
It's easier, I guess, for religious people to judge people who are not held to our standard. It's much harder to judge ourselves. Cowards!

Anyhoodles,
An insightful piece, Lance.

Sadie Lou said...

http://craftilyeverafter.blogspot.com/2011/03/ill-tell-you-who-is-tough.html

dbackdad said...

Sadie said, "Just because religious people *do* that and justify it by cherry picking Scripture and misinterpreting it does not mean they are correct in doing so and they don't speak for the rest of us ..." -- Indeed. An important distinction.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: Natural occurrences like floods and hurricanes and earthquakes *are* caused by God but it would be wrong to assume they are designed to punish people for sin.

So, what are they 'designed' for? Whatever it is it does seem to be rather indiscriminate.....

wunelle said...

To say that "god" causes disasters but does not pick his victims is to admit that he is arbitrary and capriciously cruel, or to admit that he's not what he is thought to be; if he cannot control these things, he is not god, and if he can and chooses not to, then we are right to blame him. To say that he has purposes we cannot understand is to cede any possibility of god as an explanatory device, any possibility of meaning, except what we create on "his" behalf. If he causes thousands of deaths--including children and the elderly--and massive suffering, he is responsible for that, no?

But when we know much of what really causes natural disasters, it becomes primitively silly to read the splattered guts for god's message, no? We should admit that gods and demons and sprites and angels and faeries are inventions of our problem-solving imaginations and stop applying our personal inventions to anything beyond our personal, internal lives.

dbackdad said...

Wunelle - Yep, that's it in a nutshell. Can't really improve on that.

CyberKitten said...

I can understand why people would *fear* such a god, but worship Him? That I find very odd.

If a human (or nation) had been responsible for such a thing it would be an act of war by a genocidal maniac. Presumably such things do not apply to deities?

wunelle said...

Furthermore, to say these disasters are the work of a god is to claim to know this somehow, and know the god and his mind, and to be able to identify and differentiate one's god from the myriad other gods and to claim that knowledge as something more than invention or simple background noise. None of this adds up. Better to just admit "we know X, which suggests Y, but beyond this we do not know."

Sadie Lou said...

I believe that the God of the Bible is Holy, Righteous, All Powerful, All knowing and He is the only being that deserves our praise and worship. If you don't believe in God, you believe in *something* because we are all believers. We all take in our surroundings and information and we process all of that and make choices. We all have idols that we worship.
I have found that the God of the Bible is true. He makes promises and He delivers. If He designed this earth and creation and set the course of history, and if I believe He is Holy and Perfect in all His ways, then I also believe that events like the disaster in Japan are of His doing. It's either that He orchestrated the event or He allowed it-either way, nothing happens outside His jurisdiction. For me to speculate as to *why* it happened, is to go outside God's revealed will. There is God's revealed will (The Holy Bible and its contents-what He said about His plans and purposes) and there is God's hidden will (like what He has planned for my life). I only get to see the plan for my life in present time. I don't get to see into my future. As I live my life, hindsight gives me perspective as to what God *might* have been doing in my life. It's like let's say something tragic happened to me when I was 11. I wouldn't understand why God allowed that to happen until maybe into my adult life when I form a victim's outreach and end up counseling hundreds of women and girls who had a similar experience in their pre-teen years. Then I would know that God had something very good come from my life altering experience. If we all viewed tradgedy in our lives as sacrifices for the greater good and as a means to grow in faith, character and humility...this world we live in wouldn't seem so hopeless and beyond our control. It's very powerful to know your life is not really your own and that you are being challenged to live your life to the fullest expression of a greater cause. I really believe that this life is but a vapor. That this is not really my home. My home is in my Father's Kingdom and this place is my one chance to bring others into this knowledge through my life, through my words, my actions...I glorify God. Or try to as much as I am able.
When I hear stories come out of Japan about people saving lives, persevering, loving each other, making sacrifices, concern for the greater good and for all of God's living creation-no matter how small...it's a refreshing alternative to what we hear so much in the news about rape, murder, malice, strife, crimes AGAINST one another. These huge natural disasters remind us of our need for one another. We remember all of humanity and we are forced out of our comfort zone-we stop looking at ourselves. We get out of our bubbles and we have great empathy and compassion for our fellow man in Japan. When else are we even thinking of them? Reaching out to them? Loving them?
I hear the miracles from Japan and I glorify my God. There was a little baby that survived for a few days on its own under a heap of rubble and was rescued. That is not an accident. The odds were against that baby but it was protected. Miraculous...

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: If you don't believe in God, you believe in *something* because we are all believers.

Such as? I don't *believe* in much at all....

Sadie said: We all have idols that we worship.

Nope. Not me. I worship no one or no thing. Am I the exception that proves the rule?

Sadie said: If He designed this earth and creation and set the course of history, and if I believe He is Holy and Perfect in all His ways, then I also believe that events like the disaster in Japan are of His doing. It's either that He orchestrated the event or He allowed it-either way, nothing happens outside His jurisdiction.

So... As part of God's *Plan* he kills 20,000 men, women & children (this time). That must be one *heck* of a Plan! You can just imagine the outrage if a real person promised heaven on Earth - but first we need to kill a million babies.....

Sadie said: I hear the miracles from Japan and I glorify my God. There was a little baby that survived for a few days on its own under a heap of rubble and was rescued. That is not an accident. The odds were against that baby but it was protected. Miraculous..

So one baby taken from the rubble is a miracle... and 20,000 dead people is what... acceptable loses?

For me the idea that God would kill 20,000 people for reasons unknown and we are supposed not only to accept that but to glorify it is frankly obscene. Not only is such a God unworthy of worship he is clearly contemptible.

Sadie Lou said...

Cyberkitten:
"Such as? I don't *believe* in much at all..."

Oh, you believe in stuff. We would just have to dialog a bit to flush that out.

"Nope. Not me. I worship no one or no thing."

That's not true either. Like I said, we all believe in something-we would just have to have a conversation about what matters to you; what's important. Sometimes our idols are in our relationships...or careers...ourselves. Most people worship themselves. That's what Jesus says to love your neighbor as you love yourself...Jesus knew who was the object of our affections.

Cyberkitten, you are aware of the fact that people die, right? I mean obviously. We all will die. Who is to say who gets to have long life, who dies young, who dies of old age, who dies in a car crash, who is murdered by another human, who dies in war, who dies in a natural disaster? I mean, God is cruel because people died? How else would those people die? Is God cruel because someone died of old age? I mean, what is the optimal way for people die? Or are you suggesting that God would only be worthy of worship if we all got to live like rock stars forever?

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: Oh, you believe in stuff. We would just have to dialog a bit to flush that out.

Then Sadie said: That's not true either. Like I said, we all believe in something-we would just have to have a conversation about what matters to you; what's important.

I'm impressed. After a few years of Blog conversations you seem to know me much better than I know myself [grin].

I like stuff, I admire things, ideas, even some people. I've even been in love (or at least thought I was in love) but I can't honestly say I have *worshiped* anything or anyone. Not my career [laughs], not any lover or myself. Or maybe we're just using the word 'worship' differently like some Christians abuse the word 'faith'..?

Sadie said: Cyberkitten, you are aware of the fact that people die, right?

Well, duh!

Sadie said: Is God cruel because someone died of old age? I mean, what is the optimal way for people die? Or are you suggesting that God would only be worthy of worship if we all got to live like rock stars forever?

I don't think God is cruel for killing all of those people for the simple reason that I don't believe He did - *you* do. We are mortal creatures who are born, live and then die - just like every other creature on the planet. The only difference between us and the rest is that we know we're alive and know we'll die. This simple fact is probably the foundation of all religions.

It does amuse me that your God is portrayed as the God of Love and yet in the same breath you can say that He killed 20,000 people a few weeks ago. Is this your idea of a loving relationship?

wunelle said...

Sadie Lou:

What, exactly, do I "believe?" That knowledge is provisional based on the strength of evidence? Is that a belief? Is the science which theorized a nuclear reaction years before we were able to prove it experimentally a "belief?" Is mathematics a "belief?"

No, this is a cop-out. To say that my beliefs--what? that my wife loves me?; that I lead a fortunate existence?--are equivalent to your beliefs as you've outlined them above is to pose a false equivalency. And to say "It's OK that I believe stuff because you do too" is to let yourself off the hook much too easily. I am liable for what I avow and for the effects it has on others; if I advocate for smoking by denying what we know about it and my advocacy helps kill people, then I bear responsibility for it.

I can say about the Flying Spaghetti Monster exactly what you say about your chosen deity and by your own reasoning you would be powerless to make the slightest inroads against my claims. How, except by being told so by those will benefit by your fealty, can you possibly know that your god is "all-knowing" or "all-powerful?" How does he "make promises and deliver" in any way that differs from the occurrences mapped out on the bell curve of probability? When you get what you want, it's an "answer;" when you don't, then "we don't understand the god's plan." How does this answer any need?

You may be fine with the agonizing and torturous deaths of thousands of good Japanese citizens because "they were going to die anyway," but I could not look myself in the mirror and say that. If a natural disaster like this doesn't shake your faith, then this conversation is utterly pointless. I'm happy to have it, and I mean no disrespect--we're all just blobs of organic matter trying to make sense of this strange world. But if no possible turn of events can put you in a different place than you are now, then we are all wasting our time. Myself, I'm ready to embrace a different sense of reality when I have reason to do so. But everything I'm seeing here takes me further and further from that outcome.

dbackdad said...

Sadie said, "If you don't believe in God, you believe in *something* because we are all believers. We all take in our surroundings and information and we process all of that and make choices. We all have idols that we worship. -- Believers and non-believers alike need to be careful to not define the other side's beliefs through the prism of our own. Many Christians make the mistake of defining atheism as a religion and so cannot conceive of someone not believing in a God. "Atheism" literally means "without god". Not just your God, but any god. We are not substituting your God for Marx, or Nietzsche, or Darwin. The statement "we all have idols that we worship" could not be a more false statement and is offensive to atheists, though I know that is not your intention.

"For me to speculate as to *why* it happened, is to go outside God's revealed will." -- As a skeptic and a curious person, nothing is immune to analysis and study.

"If we all viewed tradgedy in our lives as sacrifices for the greater good and as a means to grow in faith, character and humility...this world we live in wouldn't seem so hopeless and beyond our control. It's very powerful to know your life is not really your own and that you are being challenged to live your life to the fullest expression of a greater cause. -- There are some universal things here that I would hope all could believe in. Most notably that tragedy is an opportunity for societies to do things for the common good and to develop character and humility. Where I diverge is that tragedy is a test of faith. It may be comforting to think that there is a reason for a tragedy. But that doesn't prove there is a God. That proves that someone needs a God. That's a God of convenience, not reality. It's odd that when things are going good, it's proof of God's grace. And when things are going bad, it's God testing one's faith. By that criteria, as Wunelle said, you could justify a belief in practically anything.

Sadie Lou said...

I decided to answer these comments in a blog post if that's okay with you wunelle and Lance?

wunelle said...

Sure. Seems fine by me. This is what blogs are for, methinks! :-)

dbackdad said...

Absolutely. That's why any of us post ... to open up a discussion. To teach and to learn.

Sadie Lou said...

Thanks Friends.

Sadie Lou said...

I thought I posted on here this morning but my blog post is finished.
:)

Sadie Lou said...

Flying Spaghetti Monster post is ready.
http://craftilyeverafter.blogspot.com/2011/04/fake-vs-real.html

shrimplate said...

Sadie Lou- Just stop it. Please.