When the tsunami struck I considered writing something about god, but decided it would be inappropriate as it might read as gloating atheism. But the country’s top believer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has opened the debate with words spun by the Telegraph into an admission his faith has been shaken, so I think it’s open season.
It fell upon the Muslim Council to invoke the ‘mysterious ways’ argument in the Guardian which also reminded us that Emperor Justinian explained away the plague as a punishment of sin. This latter position surely remains the most intellectually consistent: ‘We told you how to live / you’ve not done it / now face the consequences’. Yet such a principle, if it exists, has been applied so inconsistently and so indiscriminately, it may as well not exist. (Manchester’s Anglicans – the city’s largest faith group – expected just two per cent of the population to attend one of their Christmas services, yet some were treated to a white Christmas all the same and the city continues to prosper.)
A rather self-centred suggestion is that the tsunami is ‘softening our hearts’ to the world’s poor (i.e. they suffer so we can become better people), but many Christians close their ears to this brutal intellectualism. The Archbishop says it’s best not to think about it: ‘If some religious genius did come up with an explanation of exactly why all these deaths made sense, would we feel happier or safer or more confident in God?’ No, is his answer, so lets have blind faith.
So it’s a lot easier to be an atheist and simply accept human knowledge and power are limited and that natural disasters don’t need reasons. But if there is a god, I think it’s rather egotistical to presume he’d be that bothered about us. Having created so many other solar systems beyond ours, surely he’d look on us in the same way we look upon machines we’ve made. It’s not the end of his world.