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.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Acts of god

On Friday, September 11, an enormous crane collapsed in the Grand Mosque in the city of Mecca, killing 107 people and injuring 87.

The Grand Mosque of Mecca [image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

The more prosaic amongst us attribute the collapse to the wind from a violent thunderstorm.  Others, however, have called this an "Act of God" in retribution for the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001.

A writer who goes by the handle Dom the Conservative, and bills herself as "a Christian conservative, mother, and wife" whose purpose for writing "is to inform, anger, and unite 'We the People'" had the following to say:
(A) devastating attack of a seemingly supernatural kind has taken place in the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the largest mosque in the world and the same location to which Muslims make their hajj pilgrimage each year...  Whether you believe in God, Allah, or any supernatural force, the symbolism is eerily sinister, especially on the day that true Islam, the Islam of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, reared its ugly head in West.
The people commenting on her post were not nearly so circumspect.  Unsurprisingly, "God works in mysterious ways" was said more than once.  When a commenter suggested that the victims were innocent people, he was immediately mauled by a string of vitriolic comments like "What do you think the people killed in the WTC were guilty of, asshole?" and "No Muslim is innocent.  They all want to kill us" and "If they hadn't been in their mosque worshiping Satan, they wouldn't have died."

None of which is very surprising, honestly.  The attacks of 9/11 are still raw for most Americans.  I know more than one friend who took a few days' vacation from social media so they wouldn't have to be bombarded by reminders of the horrific events of that day and the days following.

But still.  It appalls me that there are people who honestly think that a divine being would work that way.  Do people really believe that the deity that at other times they call "all-loving" and "the prince of peace" would look down at a group of people, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, and say, "Ha!  If I smash a bunch of them, that will teach the rest of 'em a lesson!"

Apparently, the answer is "yes."  But you have to wonder why anyone would think that such a god would be deserving of worship.  If there is justice in the world, it does not come in the form of killing random people to avenge the unjust deaths of a bunch of other random people.

But then I realized; that is exactly how the god of the bible operates.  I recall being vaguely unsettled by this even in my churchgoing days, and actively avoided reading the parts of the bible like the following:
  • God killing 14,700 people in a plague, because there was too much complaining about how many people god had killed (Numbers 16:41-49)
  • God killing 50,070 people for peeking into the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 6:19)
  • God sending two bears to maul 42 children to death for teasing the prophet Elisha about his bald head (2 Kings 2:23-24)
  • God sending divine fire to kill 51 men for no particularly obvious reason (2 Kings 1:9-10)
  • God killing a man and his wife for not donating enough money to the church (Acts 5:1-11)
And so forth and so on.  And that's not even counting the most famous instances -- the slaughter of the firstborn children in Exodus, and the horrific drowning of nearly every living thing on Earth in Genesis.

To me, a god like this doesn't sound like anything I'd be even slightly inclined to worship, even if I believed he existed, which I don't.  I'm more inclined to agree with Richard Dawkins:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
So it's not to be wondered at that people who take the bible seriously think that the collapse of the crane in Mecca, and resulting deaths of 107 innocent people, is the hand of god at work.  That's precisely how the god of the bible does work.

Funny, isn't it, how many of these same people question atheists' basis for morality, when their own moral code is based on the behavior of a deity who evidently considers such an action just?  But that, of course, is far from the only morally questionable stance you find in this belief system:

I'm not trying to be offensive, here, it just really strikes me as baffling.  I'll leave you with another quote, this one from the Greek philosopher Epicurus: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing? Then why does evil exist?  Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?"


  1. Excellent post.

    There's also a paradox at play in all of this:

    How are people afforded the opportunity to repent for their sins if God kills them before they have a chance? If anyone can be forgiven if they repent, then God shouldn't actually be killing people with giant cranes (or anything else), because he's negating their free will to repent, there-to-fore!

    So that means the people killed by the drane will be able to repent after death? If we can repent AFTER death... Well, that's great! Now I don't need to waste my finite time on this Earth concerning myself with God or Religion!

    But there's the kicker. Got to get you into church and participating in your own salvation, my son! ...and be scared, for Pete's sake! God might take you before you've had a chance to repent! There's your sense of urgency! But if he denies you free will in the form of all future opportunities to repent (because he killed you) then that also means that there is no sense of cosmic justice, because it would also mean that not everyone is afforded a chance at redemption, which is half the point of religion and mysticism in the first place, right?

    So ultimately, I can either wait until death to repent (coinciding with finding out "he" exists) or I can't, but he's judgemental and vengeful anyhow so... chaos theory is still a dominant factor of the Universe, and I might not be given a chance to right my wrongs, no matter what I believe!

    Which... further distilled, means that I don't need to waste my very finite life trying to decide which logic holes to accept or ignore.
    Humans could have so much more potential if we shelved the mindfuck that is Religion. Any gains to collective humanity are negated by the division amongst us that it creates.
    God does exist... as a concept. That concept may kill us all.


  2. Since you have opened yourself up enough to admit confusion, I will explain to you why the event worked out as it did. I must first baffle you further with circumstance, then clear it up with verdict and consequence.

    The circumstantial evidence:
    First, the event happened on the anniversary of an act of aggression carried out without provocation.

    Second, the destruction was not the result of the storm directly, but rather the impact of the equipment owned by the family of the aggressor.

    Third, the impact occurred at one of the least busy times, in the preparation activities ahead of the full ritual schedule, meaning the number of participants affected was minimal.

    Fourth, the rituals in the schedule are not for peace, but for destruction of enemies (performed in effigy), with no mercy, even to fellow participants who happen to be in the way, with almost 14 times as many dying from trampling in 1990 as from the toppled crane in 2015. The irony being that the construction doesn't eliminate the spirit of hatred, it only makes room for more participants.

    Fifth, the organizers of these rituals (which include the family of the aforementioned aggressor) organize rallies around the world celebrating the attack of America, who they consider their greatest enemy. And why? Because the family of the aggressor accepted too much help from America to fight off enemies, culminating in American military bases in their homeland; the irony here being that those who were cozy with America are the ones with the contracts for religious facilities.

    Sixth, both Islamic leaders and their books of worship from the first leader on condone all of the destruction described above as the will of the their god and the command of their prophet; so the adherent's view regarding those crushed by the aggressor's equipment is that they be considered martyrs who enjoyed death in the for faithfulness in jihad against enemies, especially America and Israel.

    Seventh, those who practice Islam (as originated from an Ishmaelite) in orthodox form declare as enemies their own brothers: the physical (Israel) and spiritual (Messiah-follower) descendants of Ishmael's brother Isaac, in envy over the birthright of Abraham as determined by God.

    The verdict:
    From the inconsistencies and blind hatred in evidence above, it is reasonable to conclude that any participant in the above is lunatic; this is in fact so, for the god of Islam is the moon god (represented by the crescent on the flag) and their holy object is a space rock. Thus, they are guilty of deluded worship of the creation rather than the Creator, as well as destroying without cause neighbors, relatives, and Creator's chosen ambassadors.

    The consequence:
    The Creator did as only the Creator is capable of doing: performing an action beyond human power. The coincidence with the celebration of the aggressive act shows that it was a response to that act. The target of the event was the aggressor and his supporters, demonstrating retribution. The minimal-damage result demonstrates a less-than-due much less overwhelming consequence, which in turn demonstrates mercy. The timing being ahead of the full ritual schedule indicates disapproval, as a prompt to cease their disrespect of the Creator.

    As an important corollary, this event should also be seen as a warning to the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose tactics are worse than their Saudi brothers, especially through continued assault of even conciliatory opponents.

    When you apply the same logic as above consistently to the circumstances of the Bible, you will be able to see clearly why the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can't leave the guilty without consequence, how restrained God is in judgment, and how merciful He is toward those who are not arrogant. As such, signs such as these should lead people to repentance and seeking the forgiveness that can only come from the Son of God, who came in a body so that He could yield His life unto death as redemption price for all who yield themselves to Him as Creator and Owner.