However, over at Harry's Place, Brownie discusses religious faith in the light of the tsunami. This is something I will comment on.
A year or so ago, a friend of my wife had a daughter born with anopthalmia. That’s no eyes, to you and me. I recall asking how a just and merciful God could allow such a thing?
Six months ago, my wife gave birth to our second child. Two eyes, two ears, 10 fingers and toes and, it has transpired, no known affliction, defect or disease. I look at my new daughter and cannot be anything other than convinced of the existence of a greater power.
Kind of surprising to see that on a supposedly Socialist, egalitarian website, I have to say. The fact that your child was given an advantage over your friend's confirms to you that a higher power must be at work? Have you explained this to your friend? "When I look at my perfectly formed child, and I look at your child, with no eyes, I realise that there must be a kind and benevolent God at work." If a mere politician dishes out arbitrary and random punishments to the innocent, the bloggers at Harry's Place are rightly first in line with condemnations. But God did it, so it's OK.
Faced with such a human calamity, my preference would be for a colossal hand to have reached from the Christmas night sky to cup each wave and assuage the fury of the sea. But is this truly the role of an Almighty? To intervene wherever and whenever disaster beckons?
No, the role of the almighty would be not to cause the disaster in the first place. It's a bit of a get-out for Christians, that, isn't it? According to their religion, God controls the universe. Humans may have free will and I certainly see their point when they explain why God should not prevent human evil but planets don't; tectonic plates don't. Christianity has, for many centuries, been at the forefront of the battle against purely scientific explanations of natural phenomena. Then something like this comes along, and suddenly it's just a natural catastrophe, not caused by God, but merely potentially preventable by God. At the very least, this is a climbdown for the Christians. Does your God control the universe or not? The Bible says he does. The Bible says that he is perfectly willing to intervene when it comes to smiting enemies with vengeful wrath, no matter how many innocents may get caught in the crossfire. But, when it comes to intervening to save innocents, you want to make excuses for why he shouldn't have to bother.
Or must the world be rid of all sorrow before religious faith can be rationalized?
We're not talking about all sorrow here. We're talking about sorrow caused by God. According to your religion, that is.
There are many decent arguments against the existence of God, but the disaster that befell SE Asia in early hours of Boxing Day is not one of them
No, it isn't, but it is a logically unassailable argument agaisnt the existence of a merciful, benevolent, kind, omnipotent God. Kind or omnipotent? Pick one.
For every victim who blames God, there is a lucky survivor thanking Him and a desperately searching family member praying to Him.
Again with the selfishness. "Hey, God wiped out your whole family, but saved me. Isn't he wonderful?"
In the comments to Brownie's post, Polyanna reels out the usual stuff about ineffable plans:
If there is a God, why assume that he's benevolent from our limited standpoint? Might he not have plans for his creation which transcend our preferences, especially if (as the likes of Dawkins maintain) homo sapiens is only one current vehicle for the transmission of genetic information? Our species of large mammal is too egocentric sometimes.
This is a perfectly good argument for why the tsunami doesn't disprove God's existence, but it raises another issue, which Christians always seem reluctant to address: if God is acting in the interests of some greater plan that might just involve our extinction, why on Earth would we worship him? When a human behaves like that, he's a tyrant: Saddam had greater plans for Iraq that didn't involve the survival of individual Iraqis. Those silly Iraqi rebels, complaining about being tortured to death: couldn't they see that Saddam's plans transcended their preferences? They were just so egocentric.
If God can't do anything for us, I see no point in bothering with him. If God can help us, yet chooses to use that power to wipe out millions of people, then he is a despot, and we have a moral duty to rebel against him. According to the Bible, he wants us to believe in him and to worship him. That sounds to me like a bloody good reason not to.
God does not exist. But, if he does, he can fuck off.