JR'S Free Thought Pages
Acts of God
If one accepts the omnipotent, omniscient deity claimed by Christianity and Islam, are not all events that occur in the universe acts of God? Quite clearly a deity claiming the aforementioned attributes is able to prevent any event that does occur and ordain any conceivable event that does not occur. Consequently God is responsible for everything that occurs in the Universe.
An “Act of God” is a useful construct invented by religious apologists to explain away anomalies within the natural environment and by devious insurance companies to get them off the hook for huge claims.
Of course religionists tell us “God works in mysterious ways.” We should not try to understand tragedies such as the terminal illness of an innocent child and other gratuitous sufferings of God’s creatures.
Given their rejection of these questionable religious premises, I wonder if it is possible for atheists to buy insurance against these so-called “Acts of God” and then launch legitimate lawsuits against the offending deity.
Surely now that we have reasonable scientific explanations for these phenomena we can rid ourselves of childish neurotic longings. Admittedly, there are still many unexplained things that happen, things that people label as “miracles” or “Acts of God,” but they do not constitute evidence or sound argument. You cannot intelligently attribute anything that you do not understand to some supernatural source or pie in the sky. And simply because we cannot provide a rational explanation of some present phenomenon it does not follow that none exists.
For instance: at one time, there were many more “unexplained phenomena” in the universe, but gradually, one by one, most of those things have been explained by Science. Thousands of years ago, people believe that thunder and lightning were acts of an angry God, such as Zeus or Odin. And not too long ago it was acceptable to believe in an earth-centered universe. No enlightened person believes these things nowadays although many people continue to invoke the fashionable deities of Christianity and Islam to explain seemingly random events.
As is usually the case, when these “Acts of God” occur, people are killed. It isn't uncommon for falling airplanes, collapsing bridges, tidal waves, earthquakes, floods, fires, train derailments and acts of religious zealots to leave scores dead. The press delights in covering the survivors of these calamities and recording their testimonials. These survivors invariably express their thanks to God. The irony of this appears to be lost to most believers. Moreover, it is remarkably insensitive and obtuse. It's like saying, "Well, the guy next to me may have been crushed to death, but God deserves my thanks for not flattening me." Instead of the typical outpouring of thanks, it would seem more appropriate for believers to have an outpouring of rage. It might be more reasonable for religionists to show their own righteous anger at the Almighty. But, in the modern world, supernatural beings don't get the blame for such disasters. In the old days, theologians gleefully gave God credit for nearly every swarm of locusts and every swollen haemorrhoid. The reason for this modern shift has less to do with science than with the well heeled PR specialists and apologists that work out of every church. Demographics just don't support the vengeful god persona anymore.
After the recent fires in California, a Roman Catholic priest was quoted as saying; "I believe for all this hurt in Laguna Beach, God will bring forth great things." Of course, that's self-serving nonsense. Shrewd clergymen defend themselves, and the beliefs that sustain their institutions, from blame. Like slick political spin-masters, in post-disaster media sideshows, clergy bring in damage control for their Sky Daddy. They must appear to "accentuate the positive" and remain optimistic even when it is totally unwarranted.
I doubt that there are any victims of the fires who would have traded their home, property, or pets for the promise of an afterlife. The only thing that ever really mitigates these disasters comes from the secular realm: Government assistance, bailout and insurance claims. The worrisome thing is that one of these days, perhaps after the Big One shakes California; the insurance companies are going to play the trump card they've been holding since they began writing contracts. It's that little fine print provision which states that they don't have to pay if the disaster is an "Act of God." [Most people can purchase earthquake insurance for a separate fee.] To my mind, an "Act of God" conjures up a Monty Python cardboard cut-out fickle finger of fate popping out from behind a cloud preparing to flick a jumbo jet out of the sky.
People have a need to make sense of things that happen to them that transcend the banal and mundane machinations of Mother Nature. Saying something is "the will of God" depicts genuine tragedy as dishonest nonsense. The real danger of religionist apology for disaster is the helpless feelings it endorses. It can discourage people from examining the true causes of problems and engender a sense of impotence. (A councilman of a major American city recently announced that "only God" was able to restrain a bloody crime wave.) When people attribute destruction of lives and property to "Fate" or "the Will of God," action is futile. The doctrines of futility and resignation advocated by religious institutions are among the strongest weapons used in the fight against reason and critical thought.