Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Do you still believe in god?

Some readers of The Middle Stage have written in to me to ask why I'm not blogging about the disaster that has struck Asia. Well, I have posted a bit on it, but on my other blog, India Uncut, as it seemed rather more relevant there. But here's something which asks a broader question: Martin Kettle asks in the Guardian, "How can religious people explain something like this?"

The most common explanation, and one that I find repulsive, is that such natural disasters are punishment from God for something or the other. But as Kettle writes:

Certainly the giant waves generated by the quake made no attempt to differentiate between the religions of those whom it made its victims. Hindus were swept away in India, Muslims were carried off in Indonesia, Buddhists in Thailand. Visiting Christians and Jews received no special treatment either. This poses no problem for the scientific belief system. Here, it says, was a mindless natural event, which destroyed Muslim and Hindu alike.

A non-scientific belief system, especially one that is based on any kind of notion of a divine order, has some explaining to do, however. What God sanctions an earthquake? What God protects against it? Why does the quake strike these places and these peoples and not others? What kind of order is it that decrees that a person who went to sleep by the edge of the ocean on Christmas night should wake up the next morning engulfed by the waves, struggling for life?

Also read: Douglas Adams on atheism.

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