Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Ask Religion?

One of the arguments you will almost always see deployed against relying on rational thinking alone, is that religion deals with big questions that can't be answered by science. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Why do bad things happen to good people? And so forth. The problem is that when religion offers answers, those answers aren't based on any evidence, but on the interpretation of holy books, ideas about God, religious philosophical tradition, and other explanations based on faith. If you have an active imagination, you could easily come up with your own answers that have just as much real-world validity -- none.

I was reading some articles about Haiti, and I happened upon "Haitians in the US Turn to Religion for Answers." Because theologians are obviously the best people to go to for explanations of natural disasters.

After last week's disaster, many of New York's Haitians are turning to religion for answers. But spiritual leaders have few to offer in the aftermath of a tragedy so overwhelming and incomprehensible.
Theologians admitting they have few answers is actually a positive step.
One of the questions so often repeated in the last 10 days is why this catastrophe struck a country already struggling under the burden of natural and man-made disasters, from hurricanes and floods to military coups and a string of unstable governments.
The problem with this question is that the question itself shows how religion promotes irrational thinking. Asking such a question implies that the earthquake was either directed in some way (such as the Pat Robertson assertion), or a thinking entity rather than a natural phenomenon. The fact that Haiti was already in pitiful shape has nothing to do with why an earthquake struck. The earthquake wasn't picking on Haiti. If you need an example of a major problem with religion, look no further than the fact that this question is so common. One theologians responds to the question,
He tells people they cannot ask why the earthquake struck Haiti because to do so implies that it should have struck somewhere else, that it should have caused some other country the pain and suffering that Haitians feel now.

Yeah, that's a great response. I guess it's just too difficult to explain that sometimes earthquakes strike along fault lines, that the proximity of the quake to Port au-Prince, and the lack of earthquake-resistant structures is what caused the massive devastation.

As usual with such disasters, a wiser minority question their faith.

"The question that people ask, 'Where was God when my brother was suffering, where was God when my mom or my loved one was struggling to breathe air when these rubbles were falling on top of them. Where was God?' "
Apparently observing and doing nothing to help. But of course theologians see it differently.
God is always there for people who are suffering.
That's great. Too bad he's still just observing and letting them continue to suffer. 

As a final note, when religion isn't offering made-up answers to difficult questions, or ignoring rational explanations for natural events,  it's giving God credit for positive human actions.

the response from the international community is an example of God's love.
Really? It looks more like it's an example of human beings helping other human beings in distress. Somehow God isn't responsible for the bad things such as all the death and suffering that he could have prevented completely if he wished -- being all-powerful and such -- but he is responsible for all the good things that happen, such as people surviving under rubble, or the massive charitable response. That's awfully convenient. It's almost as if God were an imaginary being who could simply be cited as an explanation for anything in particular, depending on one's outlook.

No comments:

Post a Comment