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Zoethe

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The devil made me do it [Jan. 10th, 2005|10:53 am]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |contemplativedisturbed]

I heard an interesting and disturbing news story on NPR's Morning Edition this morning entitled Reconciling Religious Faith and Natural Disaster. The reporter interviewed clergy and religious from a broad scope of faiths, from Hindu to Buddhist to Jewish to Fundamentalist Christian, asking how people of faith are coming to grips with the question of why God would allow such a natural disaster.*

My first reaction was, why are they dragging God into this? It's just a natural phenomenon. The responses made me realize that my view was certainly not shared by a lot of people who believe in a higher being.

It was fascinating to me to hear from such a wide spectrum of people the belief that, for reasons we don't understand, the 150,000+ people who perished deserved to die. Whether because of karma in this life or a previous one, or because their deaths somehow show the rest of us that we are unworthy and must come humbly before the Lord, or because God controls every molecule and therefore no one who didn't deserve to could have died (meaning, therefore, that all who died deserved to), there was a prevelence of belief that such things don't happen by accident and God did it.

What a strange and twisted logic this requires to make the world accomodate ones faith.

I liked what the rabbi said best: that G-d probably knew about the tsunami, but couldn't do anything because he just doesn't work that way; he doesn't interfere with the rules of physics that he has laid out. Innocents died, and it's tragic, but it has no impact one way or the other on G-d's love for his people.

So much healthier a view than one that embraces the notion of the deserved deaths of children and families and entire tribes.

I don't get why people have this need to reconcile the workings of the world with the will of God. It strikes me as disrespectful and lacking faith - unless I can twist you around to a way of thinking that I find acceptable, God, I'm not going to believe in you. And twist they do. Twist and torture interpretation like a prisoner on the rack. Until they wring an acceptable answer out of their imaginations.

To the Christian Fundamentalist, we are sinful creatures deserving punishment and only skating by on God's good will and if he decides to get medieval on our asses, well we didn't really deserve any better, did we. The Islamic interpretation was hauntingly close to this one, and the switch from monotheistic God/Allah to karmic retribution serves only to put more responsibility on the individual soul.

Why is it so hard to think that shit just happens, and it sucks, and that's the way of the world?

*Yes, I know there are generalizations here and not everyone of every religion looks at it the same way. I'm talking about general trends. Please don't try to engage me in the "but I'm a Hindu and I don't think of it that way" arguments. This is about trends. ("I'm a Hindu and I don't get it either" is, however, an acceptable response, and is "I'm a Hindu and this is why we feel this way." )
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[User Picture]From: hel_ana
2005-01-10 04:04 pm (UTC)
You might appreciate this essay on the subject:

http://www.aish.com/spirituality/philosophy/The_Tsunami_and_God.asp
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[User Picture]From: stone_
2005-01-10 04:28 pm (UTC)
Aish =]
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[User Picture]From: xforge
2005-01-10 04:05 pm (UTC)
My first reaction was, why are they dragging God into this? It's just a natural phenomenon.

A lot of folks, unlike me and apparently you, feel that God is a micromanager and governs every last tiny thing that happens to anyone and everyone in all of Existence.

I'm more the "He set it in motion and sat back to see what happens" or maybe even "He set it in motion and moved on to other projects" sort of guy.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-01-10 04:09 pm (UTC)
I'm more the "He set it in motion and sat back to see what happens" or maybe even "He set it in motion and moved on to other projects" sort of guy.

Me, too. I am always baffled when people say things like, "my wife/child dying completely destroyed my faith in God." Um, why? Did you miss the memo that everyone dies? It's tragic that you lost a loved one so early, but hardly unique. I don't mean this to sound harsh, just to point out that faith needs to be based in the reality of how the world works or it's gonna be easy to shake.
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[User Picture]From: demiurgent
2005-01-10 04:12 pm (UTC)
Before anyone else mentions it (of course, now someone will be typing this even as I am), I'm reminded of my favorite Marcus Cole speech from Babylon 5:

You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.



To me, this is telling. Now, I'm an agnostic -- I don't have a belief pro or anti. But I hope that if there is a divine power out there, he subscribes to that philosophy.

Things happen. Some of them suck. We come together when it does, and we move on. End of sermon.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-01-10 04:23 pm (UTC)
I relly like that quote. A lot.
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From: drooling_ferret
2005-01-10 04:14 pm (UTC)

As...

Why is it so hard to think that shit just happens, and it sucks, and that's the way of the world?

As someone who does think that way, I wonder why people bother with any sort of "god" at all.

I suppose it's like asking junkies why they keep up their habits: "yes, I get that it feels good, but is that good feeling actually worthwhile?"

I suppose the answer is yes, from their perspective, but I can't help thinking that it's a dangerously skewed one to have.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-01-10 04:24 pm (UTC)

Re: As...

I do have faith, though it's not conventional. But I can't see how their faith makes them feel good - maybe smug, that they weren't killed, but not good.
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[User Picture]From: meihua
2005-01-10 04:21 pm (UTC)
Why is it so hard to think that shit just happens, and it sucks, and that's the way of the world?

Why, if shit did just happen, I'd have to accept the chance that it could "just happen" to me!

Fortunately, it won't. It will just happen to all those bad sinful people while I reap the fruits of a virtuous life.

Hand me that remote control, would you?

;)
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[User Picture]From: hel_ana
2005-01-10 04:26 pm (UTC)
Good point, and this may be at the root of the "shit happened and it destroyed my faith in God" people that zoethe mentioned in reply to xforge.

If the basis of your belief is that it won't happen to you because you've got God's favour, when it does happen to you it may be easier to abandon belief in God than it is to keep the belief with the attendant idea that you're a crappy person who deserved it.
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[User Picture]From: adjust_56
2005-01-10 04:29 pm (UTC)

blame

It seems to me that we as humans ( and not everyone) often try to pass the buck. Like you said it's the devil that made me do it or Adam pointing the finger at Eve for the apple. To me part of Growing up is accpeting things for the way they are, even when natural disaters make us cringe. The masses seem more comfortable blaming someone else for their woes because it takes responibility away from them even when there is no responsibility to be had." Enlightened beings" like the Buddha saw thing as they were without opinion of right or wrong and apparently lived much more at peace in the midst of earth's natural changes. Apparently this way of thinking is harder to do than blaming.... what's up with that?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-01-10 04:38 pm (UTC)

Re: blame

Iraq blew up the World Trade Center. Doesn't matter how many times you tell people otherwise, they find their scapegoat and they hang on tight.

I think part of being civilized, intelligent beings is the need to organize and understand the world, and that we are compelled to look for justice and fairness. For some people, it's really hard to understand that you can't always find it.
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[User Picture]From: warlordkittens
2005-01-10 04:36 pm (UTC)
oh, that's a terrific answer. and i don't even believe in god!
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[User Picture]From: samwize
2005-01-10 04:55 pm (UTC)

2 cents

Well, this is just a variation of the classic theological question of "The Problem of Evil". ie "Which of these statements is false: God is all powerfull. God is all loving. Sin exists." When confronted with this problem in the abstract, most believers say that there's no logical contradiction and then make a lot of noises about "free will" and generall just confuse themselves to the point where they think they've answered the question. But when confronted with unmistakable, undeniable reality of a big-ass wall of water moving 400 miles per hour come to squeegee their civilization off the planet, such circumlkocutions lose their comforting power.

In the words of the immortal Bill Hicks: "How could anything, ever, throughout the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, _oppose God's will_? The question's ridiculous, just on the face of it."

Humans are really, really bad at dealing with the concept of randomness in every incarnation. We're neurologically wired to 1) find patterns and 2) ascribe _meaning_. (Seems to me that this is one of the psycholinguistic root causes of the entire religious impulse.) Hell, if you don't believe me, go to Vegas, or your local church's bingo night.

As a profound agnostic, I make no claims about the existence of God[s] (though I do think it likely that that there's _something_ out there) and am even less willing to venture an opinion on him/her/their/it's motivations and capabilities. But it seems to me that 1)even within the judeo-christian mythos God is perfectly free to think "You're all dead in the long run anyhow, what difference does it make when?, or 2) what seems more likely to me, God doesn't _run_ the universe anymore than my outlet runs my computer. It keeps it all going, but doesn't actively change the way it works (usually, barring the occaisional "miracle" caused by a brown out or power spike).

Which is all a longwinded way to say: the tsunami happened for the same reason that we don't ever see hot snow fall up: because F=MA and that's just how the universe works. If you live on a planet made of matter that has tectonic activity and water, you're just GOING to have the occaisional big splash.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
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[User Picture]From: lyssabard
2005-01-10 05:03 pm (UTC)
When I hear this stuff, I am reminded of the fact that most Christian's don't get the story of Job.

Job got the same deal--He was *innocent*. Yet, shit happened. Lots of shit. Bad shit. And his wife says to curse God and be done with it. His friends say, "Surely, you screwed up BAD, dude." However, Job knew he was innocent--and adhering to that, he wants an accounting from God.

It is only when he sees and hears the Voice from the whirlwind that Job is overwhelmed and it smacks him on the head: God does not follow human morals, giving good for good and evil for evil. God is creative and destructive, all those laws of physics and the very dynamism of the universe itself. (Lyssa inserts her own thoughts and interpretations here.) Or, as Steven Mitchell put it, "If you want a God who is a bean counter...you will have to make him yourself. For that is not MY law."

Me, I like the book of Job because it is about faith and strength in the midst of adversity, and realizing your small-and yet, I think, great--place in the pattern of it all.

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[User Picture]From: kagomeshuko
2005-01-10 05:19 pm (UTC)
I love the book of Job and doing studies on it.

Stein Auf!
Bridget
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[User Picture]From: kagomeshuko
2005-01-10 05:09 pm (UTC)
As I'm sure you've guessed just from some of my comments, I am very Christian, and I indeed find those answers disturbing! I'd have to agree most with the Rabbi as well.

God made physics and ordered seasons. . .and well, the people were there, and it's tragic. I don't think God ever looks down and says, "these people deserve to die more than these people do."

When Christians get like that, it really gets on my nerves.

Stein Auf!
Bridget
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[User Picture]From: leanerbean
2005-01-10 05:25 pm (UTC)
Now you've strode into my particular minefield. If you'd like to discuss it further or ever have a question about religion, particularly concerning monotheistic ones, I'm your person. I don't ascribe to any of them (at least not anymore), but used to, and have spent a decade studying them. At this point, I consider myself both deeply sympathetic and deeply averse to all 3 major monotheistic religions.
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[User Picture]From: springdew
2005-01-10 05:27 pm (UTC)
There are some strains of Christianity wherin adversity and disaster are seen as a means of change, that God has a special plan that requires great strength or courage from a particular people, so they have to first be tempered like steel so they'll be ready for the mission. When combined with an idea that innocents are automatically "saved" such a worldview can be a comfort in a world of grief. It allows the survivors to move on and grow strong, while feeling comforted that their deceased loved ones are happy in the arms of a loving God.

It also introduces the idea that the people are being chosen for something special, rather than cursed or somehow sinful. It means that God has faith in -them-, that they are worthy to take on something big and important. Certain Christians see Jews in this light.

I find the idea somewhat attractive, though I don't personally subscribe to it, except maybe in a generally all-over concept of natural selection.
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2005-01-10 05:27 pm (UTC)
My dad is one of those people who believe that anyone who died in the tsunami deserved it. I think it has to do with superstition, a large part of the culture he grew up in. There's good and bad karma, and people pay for their bad karma, either in this life or from previous ones. So he would say that it would be bad luck that killed the tsunami victims.
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[User Picture]From: tfcocs
2005-01-10 05:38 pm (UTC)
I agree with you wholeheartedly on this matter. Some people on my reading list commented that they (okay, one person, s/he) believed that the tsunamis were a means of population control. To me, that sounds dispassionate and clinical. My take, on the other hand, is more akin to yours, People perished in the tsunami because---of nothing. There is no rhyme or reason for what happened; it just IS.
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[User Picture]From: sarahshevett
2005-01-10 05:39 pm (UTC)
Well bottom line for me.
I can't go for any god called "he".
If men are godlike and women are not, I want nothing to do with any thinking along those lines.
Talk to me about they or it, and maybe I'll listen.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-01-10 05:43 pm (UTC)
I specifically used "he" in this because male is the prevalent godform for the major religions.
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