March 29, 2011

God Shouldn’t Be Used As A Scapegoat

The following was probably written by someone who is an atheist or agnostic as the tone seems to suggest, but it offers a valuable critique one rarely encounters when Christians give over-simplistic answers to highly-complex issues and how non-Christians view this.

Bethany Breeze
March 29, 2011

The tragedies of the earthquake in Japan March 11 were, to most people, unimaginable. Yet with images of the disaster flooding in, disbelief was able to turn into compassion, and compassion into action.

Simultaneously, Russian Orthodox priest Alexandr Shumsky published an article title “The end of the Japanese Miracle” March 14. In this, he wrote the earthquake and tsunami were God’s way of punishing Japan for offending Russia because some protesters had recently burned Russian flags and destroyed portraits of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Among the support, unity and care of fellow human beings shown in wake of such a disaster, where exactly does the concept of God lie? An argument for “free will” as a necessity for an omniscient presence, and any other of the accompanying weak justifications for human suffering, simply fall flat in the face of reality.

So it is those who carry the name of God — religious figures and followers — that carry the God concept into situations of human pain and suffering.

“In the Judo-Christian tradition, the believers see the vengeful hand of God in any disaster, be it natural or social,” said Father Konstantin Kravtsov, a priest of the Annunciation Church in Moscow, Russia.

Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo’s governor, said, “I think (the disaster in Japan) is tembatsu.” Tembatsu is a Japanese term that means “divine punishment.” His remarks are reminiscent of the New Orleans’ mayor in 2005, Ray Nagin, who said, “Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane.”

I am not an environmental science major. But I have enough education and common sense to see the stupidity in these comments. These people are using God as a scapegoat. If something positive occurred in Japan, or New Orleans, at these times, I think it is safe to say these leaders would not be giving the credit to, or passing all the responsibility to God.

A website said blatantly, “such events shake our confidence in this life and force us to think about eternity. Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realize how tenuous their lives really are and how life can be taken away in an instant.”

To say such a thing from a comfortable office far from devastation is both uncaring and disturbing. And now not only are earthquakes a divine punishment, they are a commodity. They can take advantage of people’s insecurities to create converts.

This superstitious cop-out technique, which is scientifically absurd and humanely disrespectful, can still be seen in many areas of our society we like to consider developed. It is simply exacerbated by discomfort and pain, as people need someone or something to pass the responsibility to and blame. Hurricane Katrina had nothing to do with the climate we have damaged if God was just feeling a little grumpy.

This is seen tragically in the face of dire illness as well. As my beloved 18-year-old cousin is currently fighting cancer for the second time, she deserves more than an “I’m praying for you.” This is the ultimate cop-out, and every time I see it I struggle to imagine how hearing this may feel when something as serious as cancer has a hold of your body. It is the ultimate denial of reality, passing of responsibility to actually help while building righteous pomposity.

If you are one to still seriously think a God created the tragedy in Japan like the disillusioned Shumsky, try going and telling that directly to a Japanese woman who has just had her entire life and family washed away. And if you think a God is controlling the illness of a loved one, try telling them straight to their face. Ignorance is easy from an armchair, but it’s a little harder when you are actually faced with reality.