Monday, August 20, 2007

Battered Wife Syndrome

That is what this article on the New York Times web site (registration required) made me think of.

The article reports that more than 60 people died in a church in Peru during an earthquake. And yet despite this, the article quotes church member Rita Cabrera, as saying "The only thing we can do now is pray and give thanks to God." Give thanks for what?

The statue of Christ that stood at the entrance to the church was undamaged, and evidently the residents of the town interpret this as some kind of miracle. Gee, let's do the tally here. More than 60 people die when their church collapses on them, but it is a wonderful thing that a Jesus statue survived intact. Wouldn't it have been better if the statue was destroyed and all of the people inside survived unharmed? After all, Christians believe that Jesus died for the sins of humanity. Why not let a Jesus statue be destroyed to save the lives of his worshippers?

It isn't news to anybody that people who have survived some tragic event will often point to any positive bit of news as a miraculous sign. And it is certainly not just a Christian phenomenon. Muslims in Indonesia exhibited the same response to the mosques in Banda Aceh, Sumatra that withstood the tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people in the province. It is a classic example of "confirmation bias", with religious people interpreting the survival of religious buildings or icons from disasters natural or man made as evidence of God's intervention.

But anyone who looks at the world with a clear mind can plainly see that events unfold just as we would expect them to without the intervention or even existence of a divine being. Natural disasters, diseases, accidents, and other calamities strike all people regardless of whether they are good people or bad. That nearly one in five Zambian children succumbs to malaria before the age of five, as described in this National Geographic article, demonstrates that the universe is indifferent to us at best, or at worst hostile, as described by astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson.

So, I imagine a Christian asking me, how exactly should the townsfolk in Peru react to the earthquake that destroyed their church and killed dozens of people who worshipped there? Would you deny them the right to seek solace in their deeply held religious faith? Of course I could deny them no such thing. But I would ask them to consider the following: If the government they lived under repeatedly failed to provide them with basic social services such as electricity, clean drinking water, an army to deter foreign invaders, and a police force to protect them from criminals, would they continue to have faith in that government? Likewise, if they were in a government building during the earthquake and the roof collapsed and killed dozens of the townsfolk inside, would the survival unscathed of a portrait of that country's president be considered a miracle from God? If the answer to both questions would be no, then why continue to retain a belief in a deity that apparently cannot protect their loved ones in a house of worship?

15 comments:

Poodles Rule said...

I have always questioned why it is gods fault when something good happens but not his fault when something bad happens.

JayG said...

Essentially because the world is broken.

I have always questioned why some think there is no ultimate justice, that the criminal and evil doer who gets away with his crimes and evil during his life essentially gets away with it all.

Anonymous said...

At an age of curiosity it be as most like with your nature that you asked your parents how your being came about ....not deceit knowing as child having limited ability to understand in depth.... Parents as then parent told you came from a place called heaven where GOD lived..Would one not do as such to one's own children ?... ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Point being it upon development of individual as understanding as how much truth reveiled be that of humanity its purpose the journey taken in Spiritual Development... The Universe created to sustain human form brain as heart equal's understanding as experience,keys opening door reveiling all...... Humanity one family it right all ever reaching out a helping hand.

Anonymous said...

You can file the "could have been worse" comment along with "Tomorrow is not promised to us" or "His will be done." All are weak ineffectual statements that would be laughable if they were not so pathetic. Of course, my sympathies are with the people of this tragedy. Yet, I know that the lives of believers are rife with this language. Every event, desire, and motivation--good or bad--is overlaid with expressions of fatalism. As a child of a Christian fundamentalist mother, I remember talking that way. Atheism helped to free me from that language, subsequently changing my view of myself in an 'indifferent' universe.

D.

Sheldon said...

"I have always questioned why some think there is no ultimate justice, that the criminal and evil doer who gets away with his crimes and evil during his life essentially gets away with it all. "

I have always questioned why anyone would presume that there is ultimate justice. I would like to hear an attempt at rational justification of that.

It is up to us, human beings, to do our best to make sure that no criminal or evil doer gets away witht their crime. That some do, is a shame. But that is no reason to believe that God will be taking care of those who escape our human justice.

bedrocktruth said...

Well that does it. Soviet Russia was right all along in banning religious worship.

Atheists just can't seem to get over the notion that the 90% of Americans who believe in a higher power do so because they're stupid enough to think God protects statues in Peru from earthquakes.

Actually atheism is a form of stupidity in and of itself in that regard.

Sheldon said...

"Well that does it. Soviet Russia was right all along in banning religious worship."

No, Soviet Russia was wrong in that. And you would be hard pressed to find an American atheist who would advocate such a thing.

The fact of the matter is, when a trajedy strikes, the religious often find a way to thank God, for any positive outcome, while excusing him for the negative.

Anonymous said...

Yep, the religious have a way of re-interpreting events to fit their view of the Divine. When I was religious--and I was very religious--I had a friend. I'll call her Dora. Poor Dora, she waited six years for a particular man to finally realize her love for him. Dora said that her wait was God's plan to teach her patience. I guess Dora's beloved failed to realize Dora's love as he married someone else. Poor Dora quickly switched gears. After her beloved's marriage, she stated that it was the Lord's will to blind the beloved to punish her [Dora] for some wrong-doing in her past.

Things like that and more severe occurrences drove me into a dark space relative to religion. Religion made me feel as though I were losing my mind. I did not magically become an atheist. My atheism grew as I learned how to think rationally. Finally, I had to admit my atheism. My belief in a holy no-body steadily eroded and I could no longer hold onto religious lies. I had to grow up.

Tommy said...

Thanks for your comments Anonymous.

Glad you were able to find your way to reason!

Anonymous said...

. . . and I can see how Bedrock(un)truth could equate stupidity with atheism. After all, BR(un)truth's reasoning is child-like, simplistic, and non-sensical. I understand because I had, in my past religious behavior, reasoned that way--constantly drawing inferences between unrelated events, overusing platitudes, and generally abusing any sound point in an argument. That is the way of the religious, the pseudo-science pratitioner, the divinely superstitious. They can't help it--it's their only defense in the face of hard facts, sound reasoning. When I was religious, my mind was so blocked that it hurt to think. One has to grow up, develop a mind, get on the road to mental health. Do it BR(un)truth, do it before it's too late!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tommy.

bedrocktruth said...

"One has to grow up, develop a mind, get on the road to mental health."

Thanks for that nonny.I want you to know I'm pulling for you in your obviously uphill struggle.

I rest my case...

Anonymous said...

Poor BR(un)truth can't take a little of the real thing. If, in your opinion, I appear to be engaged in an "obviously uphill struggle" then it's possibly that your perceptions are off because you're obviously on a speedy crash course to the bottom.

Religion, pseudo-science, pop-spirituality is the essence of a true struggle. It's a struggle against any unction of truth. One must work hard to stay blind. One must struggle not to 'grow up,' to remain a FOOL.

BR(un)truth, I'm afraid that you've got things turned around, upside down, and moving backwards. Blow off those cobwebs and put it in fast forward, the tape you're playing rewound itself long ago.

JayG said...

Sheldon,
We have a stalemate of presumptions. But why would it be in anyone's self interest to make the world a better place, when we all die. Why is it the right thing to do?

Tommy said...

Gee Jay, maybe it is because we care about our children.