Natural Disasters and God
With the Iranian city of Bam nearly obliterated by an earthquake and now buried in rubble, devout Muslims must be asking themselves how this latest catastrophe (40,000 souls estimated dead) fits into their God’s grand plan. Jews could wonder something similar about the holocaust, but that tragedy could at least be ascribed to the cruelty of humankind, not a perverse Supreme Being. Ditto the victims of Pol Pot, “The Crusades,” and the Spanish Inquisition, and every other mass murder of innocents at the hands of demented tormenters.
Natural disasters are harder to explain. Surely the “God moves in mysterious ways” explanation doesn’t provided much comfort (or cogent explanation) to those who lose loved ones in a massive shifting of tectonic plates. Surely God wasn’t eliminating an entire city of mostly devout Muslims in order to teach a lesson of some kind.
The world’s competing religions each use an identical sales pitch to lure and keep their customers: We’re the true path; the other guys are wrong. When a natural disaster strikes a city that is almost entirely comprised of one religious sect, the “evidence” can seem compelling to deluded eyes. Football bettors say that every score makes someone happy. We don’t mean to suggest that the Catholic team cheers when, say, the Hindu team suffers a loss. But there is an unspoken comfort at these moments in being on the “right” side.
Those of us who don’t subscribe to any religion realize that we ought not ask for whom the bell tolls. When an entire city is wiped out — whether or not God had some “reason” for the mayhem — it’s a loss for all of us.