Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bikinis and Earthquakes

A lot of people have been talking about the claims of some Iranian Clerics that scantily dressed women cause earthquakes.

I don't know what the Koran says about this, but I do know that even though this kind of talk is forbidden by the Bible, Christians like Pat Robertson do it all the time. In the book of Job, Job's comforters go on for pages trying to explain why Job is suffering, telling him it must be because of his sins. God appears in a whirlwind, and rebukes the comforters for several pages, telling them that human ignorance makes it impossible for them to account for any of Gods reasons for doing anything. The point being that yes, God has a reason for why bad things like earthquakes happen, but we are specifically forbidden from speculating as to why they happened, and certainly forbidden from using people's bad luck as proof that God is punishing them. My guess is that somewhere in the Koran or the Hadith it says the same thing, as Islam is always stessing that we must accept that God's will exceeds our understanding.

Personally, I think we should recognize that there are not just these two positions on the issue 1) The Universe is a meaningless mechanical process 2) Everything is deliberately planned by an Omnipotent God. I think it is at least possible that there are ordering forces in the universe which shape our destiny, but that they don't control every sparrow's fall, and therefore sometimes shit happens. That's what the ancient Greeks believed, and I think that's very plausible. It would account for the fact that Universe appears to contain both meaningfulness and absurdity, by saying that this appearance is accurate. Speculations about a blind watchmaker require us to claim that the meaningfulness is an illusion, and speculations about an omnipotent God require us to claim that the absurdity is an illusion. I think Occam's razor favors a position which says the world really does contain both meaningfulness and absurdity. On the other hand, I also think that our ignorance of theology is so great that Occam's razor should be used with a grain of salt (to create a painful mixed metaphor.)


  1. earthquakes are caused by natural "law"--the Quran says there are "laws" that govern creation. The "laws" that govern earths crust/tectonic plates...etc result in earthquakes in some instances. Are these "laws" beyond God's powers?---ofcourse not----so why would God not prevent the suffering resulting from disasters?

    Sometimes, disasters caused by man (his ignorance,and arrogance) far outweigh the damage from natural disasters. For example,after an earthquake, the government of a certain country refused to build earthquake -proof school buildings even though the designs were available because those designs were from a different country. There are military and scientific equipment all accross the pacific seabed---but no one informs the countries concerned of an impending tsunami because "its a military secret" or because "we didn't know who to tell" excuses. A tsunami that hit the shore of a certain country, devastated the beaches and killed many people---because in their greed, the developers of the beaches had cut down the mangroves that protected the beaches and the population.....I could probably go on....but you get the idea. Human beings can be their own worst enemy.

    But what about God?---Natural disasters often have the potential to bring humanity together--as opposed to man-made disasters such as wars. Natural disasters happen because all creation, including human beings, live by "laws". We are born, we live and we die----our time here on earth is both a gift from God and a test. Some of us may have less time than others. For those who suffer on earth, God balances it by his blessings in the life after. Those who have blessings in this life, have a higher responsibility to share those blessings and alleviate the sufferings of others---for we will be held accountable for our intentions and actions in the life after.

  2. Both of the responses you gave above can be found in the Christian Theology of Augustine. Some suffering results from Human Free will, and a world with Free will is better than one without. And suffering caused by natural disasters acts as "the refiner's fire" which makes us better people. I know that much, perhaps all, of the suffering in my life has at least given me an opportunity to be a better person, which I may or may not have successfully utilized. But I also know that I've been pretty darn lucky, as humans go, and that my suffering is not an accurately random sample of human suffering as a whole. Consequently, I still leave open the possibility that sometimes shit happens that no one wants, not even God.

  3. "shit happens that no one wants, not even God."
    ---That would mean that God is not omnipotent, omnicient, which would go against my concept/understanding of God. (However, an omipotent,omnicient God does not mean "interfering" ---rather, God allows us to excercise our free-will to the fullest extent possible, yet, this does not mean a detached uncaring God either.)

    Both blessings and sufferring are a test.

    I like this understanding from Lao Tzu

    The Tao gives birth to all beings
    Nourishes them, Maintains them,
    Cares for them, Comforts them,
    Protects them
    Takes them back to itself,
    Creating without possessing,
    Acting without expecting
    Guiding without interfering
    That is why the Love of the Tao is in the very nature of things.