Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricanes, earthquakes, apostles, and diarrhea

I think the hardest things for me to comprehend, as an atheist, are the tendencies of religious people to (1) be certain that they know why god does stuff, (2) figure god shares their political views, and (3) think that they can sway god to do whatever they'd like to see done.

Note that I do not include "believe in god" in the above list.  That one I can understand, even if I'm not a believer myself.  The idea that there's some kind of Celestial Order, that there's someone watching over you, has a real appeal.  I just don't happen to think there's any evidence that it's true.

But let's assume you do believe in a deity, for whatever reason you may have.  Why on earth would you think that said deity agrees with your views on anything?

I'm referring, of course, to the recent baffling statements coming from Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and Rick Perry.  From Bachmann we have the following, which she'd prefaced with some comments regarding reining in governmental spending:
“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians.  We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane.  He said: ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?  Listen to the American people, because the American people are roaring right now.’”
Really, Michele?  God wants us to reduce the deficit, so he hits us with an earthquake and a hurricane?  Amazing how someone who thinks that humans can't affect the climate is apparently convinced that liberal economic policies cause hurricanes.  Me, I think if there was a supreme being, and he was really that interested in our nation's finances, he'd be smart enough to find a more direct way to tell us.  Does she really think that people will look out at the flooding and wind damage, and think, "Wow, if I'd voted Republican, this never would have happened?"

Glenn Beck, of course, also had to weigh in, and he did it in his usual bizarre fashion:
"How many warnings do you think you're going to get, and how many warnings do you deserve? ... If you've waited [to prepare and stockpile food], this hurricane is a blessing. It is a blessing.  It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it's God reminding you you're not in control.  Things can happen."
Thanks for that, Glenn.  "Things can happen."  That's awfully profound.  You'd think a revelation from god would be more... substantive.  Given that god supposedly has knowledge of all things, past, present, and future, it's a little mystifying that his message would be so inane.  (Not to mention that he'd use a bloviating blowhard like Glenn Beck to deliver it.)

Then, we have Rick Perry:
"God has chosen an elite, his new apostles here in America, to rule over the land through great monied business associations whose sole purpose is to further their divinely ordained agenda: economic, social and political."
This one is so arrogant that it leaves me virtually speechless.  This guy's identification of his own agenda with god's is scarily close to someone identifying himself with god, isn't it?

Allow me to say, for the record, that none of this has to do with whether any specific policy is right or wrong, or would have beneficial or detrimental effects on our country; it has to do with the fact that we have public figures proclaiming that their own agenda is god-given.  Me, I find that concept terrifying.  I'd much rather have a leader -- conservative or liberal -- who knows that (s)he is a fallible human being, and is capable of admitting mistakes and then trying to fix them, rather than a starry-eyed true believer who thinks that every word out of his/her mouth comes straight from the mind of god.  The certainty that these people have about everything they say is not only baffling, it's deeply troubling.  I fail to see any real difference between their attitude and the attitude of the fundamentalist Muslim, who truly, honestly thinks he's doing god's will by blowing people up.

So, anyway, all of this is pretty depressing stuff.  Let's end on a lighter note, with an example of some people who think that if god hasn't come up with a good solution on his own, maybe they can suggest one to him.  From the UK Guardian (read the whole article here) we have the story of some monks at the Franciscan monastery of San Salvatore al Monte in Tuscany.  Angered by the theft of some bibles from their church, they posted a sign in the church that read:
"We pray to God to show the thief the error of his ways, that he might return our stolen Bibles to us.  If this doesn't work, we pray to God that the thief is struck by a strong bout of the shits."
Yes, you read that right.  The monks are trying to talk god into visiting diarrhea on the person who took the bibles.  Hey, if a hurricane and an earthquake don't work, maybe that's the next best thing, right?

1 comment:

  1. From someone who was brought up in the Church (yes, honestly!) you've raised some very thought-provoking points.

    It's the arrogance of such beliefs that is really astounding, isn't it? As you say, I highly doubt that if there was a God, and he was truly concerned with the fiscal affairs of America, he'd scoot around the issue by sending down hurricanes in the hope that everyone would correctly interpret his disapproval.

    That being said, maybe it might be worth investing in companies specialising in ship-building, just in case his wrath leads him to hit us with the Great Flood, Mark 2. And if not, then it'll be a good defense against the torrents of diarrhea that the monks intend to punish the thieves with, surely?

    Great blog!