January 3, 2005

Was the tsunami an act of God?

Needless to say, the recent tsunami has shaken even those strong in faith. How could God have allowed such a thing?

The BBC asked a number of religious thinkers to explain how they have come to terms with the events in south Asia. Specifically, they spoke to a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist--and (thankfully) an atheist as well. Here are some excerpts:
Atheist - Hanne Stinson, executive director of the British Humanist Association.

Religion cannot provide an explanation for the tsunami, and while prayer for the victims may comfort those who pray, it will not provide practical help to the people whose lives have been devastated by this appalling disaster. Science can explain earthquakes and tsunamis, even if we are still unable to predict where and when they will happen. Our response to this and other disasters, as compassionate human beings and regardless of our religious or non-religious beliefs, must be to provide whatever help we can.

Faith in god does not protect people from disasters or give the victims what they need to survive and rebuild their lives. We need to accept responsibility for our fellow human beings. We need to put our efforts into practical ways of preventing disasters when we can, preparing for disasters that cannot be prevented, including investing in early warning systems for tsunamis, and helping those affected by disasters. We cannot rely on any god to solve the world's problems. We - the people of the world - are humanity's only hope.
I found the Buddhist response utterly unsatisfactory, most because I'm more of a secular Buddhist, and this answer smacks of some of that ol' time religion:
Buddhist - Lama Ole Nydahl

We all die, sooner or later. Some have conditions for living long lives and some for short lives. That is your karma - the total effect of one's actions and conduct. What might have precipitated the tsunami was a lot of people coming together who had the karma for a short life and, to an extent, this is perhaps a reflection that these areas were over-populated.

The shifting of tectonic plates is inevitable, but fewer people in the areas affected would have led to a much smaller loss of life. When watching the TV news, reading the papers or thinking about the tsunami, we are thinking about the Buddha we like the best - perhaps the Red Buddha, the Buddha of limitless light. We do this so that when those who died in the disaster wake up from the shock of dying - we believe it takes about three days to do so - they will be sent up to the Buddha we have in mind. Buddhists think the mind is indestructible so, after a while, if one wants to and is able, they will have the choice to take rebirth in society as beings who help others.
Be sure to read the entire article, especially the reader comments at the end. You won't want to miss out on such zingers as,
"I believe that God has everything in hands and that He permitted this disaster to happen in order to punish human beings for their sins and for not believing in His Son Jesus that will come back soon to judge us all according to our deeds. So I believe that we have to give these events the proper attention to avoid them happening again." -- George Tudor, Romania.
In other words, God punished the heathens out there in south east Asia--they had it coming.

1 comment:

STAG said...

I read on some blogs that Phuket, hardest hit by the Tsunami, was a paradise for Gays and Pedophiles. Quite famous for it in fact. Clearly, it is "God's Judgement" in action. Funny that they don't explain the dead children, but hey....thats what happens when you let your faith do your thinking for you!