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 Where is God in Japan?
March 20th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Finding faith amid disaster

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Around the world, people are still struggling to come to terms with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which have left more than 8,000 dead, thousands more missing and hundreds of thousand others homeless. The threat of a nuclear crisis only adds to the uncertainty.

In times like these, many people find comfort in their faith. But disasters can also challenge long-held beliefs. The CNN Belief Blog asked some prominent voices with different views on religion how they make sense of such suffering, where they see inspiration amid destruction and how they respond to people who wonder, “How could God let this happen?”

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author whose books include “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

Whenever a disaster like this occurs, I go back to the Bible, to the First Book of Kings. Elijah, in despair over the situation in Israel, runs to the desert, back to Mt. Sinai to find the God of the Revelation to Moses.

"And lo, the Lord God passed by. There was a mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. There was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake."

To me, that is the key: the Lord was not in the earthquake.

Natural disasters are acts of nature, not acts of God. God cares about the well-being of good people; Nature is blind, an equal-opportunity destroyer.

Where is God in Japan today? In the courage of people to carry on their lives after the tragedy. In the resilience of those whose lives have been destroyed, families swept away, homes lost, but they resolve to rebuild their lives. In the goodness and generosity of people all over the world to reach out and help strangers who live far from them, to contribute aid, to pray for them.

How can people do such things if God were not at work in them to lend a counterweight to a natural disaster?

The Rev. Tesshu Shaku, chief priest of Nyoraiji Temple, a Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land sect of Buddhism) temple in Ikeda City, Japan

Buddhism is called a religion with no god. So we don’t think God caused this, according to the Buddhist way of thinking. We think of the law of cause and effect, searching for a cause. It is the same approach as science. The cause of this earthquake is the friction between the North American plate and the Pacific plate.

The Japanese are more focused on relationships as opposed to faith, feeling the pain of others. I have witnessed this at the time of the Hanshin Awaji earthquake. [In 1995, the Great Hanshin earthquake on the island of Awaji killed about 6,500 people.] There were many people who came to the affected area to help and volunteer.

There is a word, “earthquake children,” for people whose perspectives were affected by the disaster. They became very active in community service or became Buddhist monks. So people will be more spiritual, feeling the pains and joys of others.

The Rev. James Martin, Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine and author of “The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything”

For the believer, there is no satisfactory answer for why we suffer. Each person has to come to grips with that. It’s not as if some magic answer can be found. But the idea of God suffering along with us can be very helpful.

The Christian believes that God became human and that God underwent all the things we do. Jesus on the cross cried, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” Christians do not have an impersonal God, but a God who understands what it means to suffer. People can relate more easily to a God who understands them.

Where is God? God is right there with the people who are grieving and sorrowful. In my own life, when I have felt great sorrow I have trusted that God is with me in this and that I’m not facing my struggles alone.

Oftentimes people become more religious in times of sorrow. They find that they are able to meet God in new ways. Why? Because when our defenses are down and we’re more vulnerable, God can break into our lives more easily. It’s not that God is closer, it’s that we’re more open.

Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances

These sort of natural disasters become the collective responsibility of all mankind to mobilize our compassion and resources to ease the pain of the people who have suffered.

This disaster is not the result of any sins of these people; we need to be clear that there is no belief that these victims “deserved” it for any of their actions. Rather, Muslims see these kinds of tragedies as a test from God. Muslims believe that God tests those he loves, and these tragedies also serve as a reminder to the rest of us to remain grateful to God for all our blessings and cognizant that we must support those in need.

These kinds of calamities should push us in positive ways. They should strengthen our faith in God and in his goodness. We attribute the things we don’t understand to his limitless wisdom and comfort ourselves that he is with us and he loves us, so there must be some meaning in what has happened, even if it is beyond our comprehension here at this time.

We are trained by our faith that every suffering, whether big or small, brings us closer to God’s mercy and forgiveness, to the extent that the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said, if you are walking and feel a thorn pierce your foot, you should know that even this little bit of pain brings you divine blessing and God’s forgiveness. These times of suffering give us an opportunity to demonstrate patience and faith, and therefore, become closer to God.

Every natural phenomenon challenges us as God’s trustees on this Earth, showing us that we should continue to study and explore ways of safeguarding humankind and all creatures from being subjected to this kind of devastation. It is the collective duty of all humankind to put resources in this and advance our understanding of how to respond to these disasters in a scientific way.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, writer and activist who founded the Unified Buddhist Church in France, and Plum Village, a Buddhist community in exile

As we contemplate the great number of people who have died in this tragedy, we may feel very strongly that we ourselves, in some part or manner, also have died.

The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body.

An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: We can live in such a way that they can feel they are continuing to live in us, more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, tasting every minute of life available to us, for them.

Sam Harris, author of books including “The End of Faith,” and co-founder and CEO of Project Reason, dedicated to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values

Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.

The only sense to make of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion.

Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, “this might be all part of God’s plan,” or “there are no accidents in life,” or “everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves” - these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this.

The Rev. Franklin Graham,  president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization

I don’t believe God does want this to happen. I don’t think it was ever God’s intention.

We know that there are going to be storms in life. No matter what happens we need to keep our faith and trust in almighty God.  And I want the people of Japan to know that God hasn’t forgotten them,  that God does care for them and that he loves them.

We care and God cares, and we’re standing by them.

CNN's Carol Costello contributed to this report

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • God • Japan

soundoff (1,886 Responses)
  1. KingOfErehwon

    Sam Harris is dead-on right. After all the wonderful advances we have made in science and philosophy over the millenia, so many still want to go back to simple explanations of the world even when they make no sense. No, there is no god, but there can indeed be a respect and love for the other beings that inhabit or inhabited our small world just as the buddist so eloquently expressed in the article.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  2. John

    It is wonderful to hear a Buddhist perspective on the disaster. As a Buddhist, I am more often than not dismayed how in the discussion of faith, Christianity, Judaism and Islam seem to be the only sought after players. It is a shame that this is not more often the case, that we include a true diversity of faiths in these discussions. I fully expected this article to be a purely Judeo-christian forum. I

    March 20, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • John

      I do think it is sad that this is not seen as an opportunity to see how different beliefs find solace and hope in the face of disaster and is instead seen as merely another chance to "be right". True personal faith has no need to defend itself. It can exist on its own alongside a differing opinion and even learn from that opinion.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Mary E

      Well said, John. If God exists for you or doesn't exist for you, what difference should it make what another person believes. In the end all we have is how we treat one another and respect one another. That includes allowing others the right to their own opinions.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • William Demuth

      Budda? As long as you aren't supporting any claim to the middle east I might consider the nomination, but only for one term.

      I still think the Incredible Hulk should serve at least four years as God.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  3. Reality

    The following says it all about "propheteering" evangelicals and rich "victims" of the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in their respective religions:

    Incomes:

    Glen Beck, $32 million in 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/08/glenn-beck-earned-32-mill_n_529903.html

    and from guidestar.org

    Rev. Franklin Graham $800,000+/yr.

    Rev. Billy Graham, $400,000+/yr

    Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, $331,708+/yr

    March 20, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • airwx

      Great concept... now how do you explain the idea of those who minister for free while atheist apologists make similar earnings from seminars, books and DVDs?

      March 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Reality

      And add Susan Jacoby, the "prophetess of atheism" to the list.

      March 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Redeemed

      Thats really good that you researched all of this but what does this have to do with this subject...???? They are humans....you dont know what they do with that money all you know is what they get paid like every other human being..If you are casting a stone at them for the money they receive the question you should be asking what are you doing with the money you receive are you giving it to poor people that live on the road? Or orphanages?

      March 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  4. Roosterize

    The Bible clearly teaches that we are in a war. A war between God(Jesus Christ) and Satan(a created being who is in rebellion). A war between good and evil. This fact seems to elude our 'learned' religious scholars. Why not attribute the bad things that happen to the one that calls himself 'destroyer'?
    The sin(transgression of God's law-1John 3:4) of mankind has affected the whole earth. " And we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now." Rom 8:22. The earth is wearing out under the weight of sin. "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall become old like a garment; and its inhabitants shall die in the same way. But My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be broken." Isaiah 51:6.

    Jesus himself told us that: "For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places." Matthew 24:6,7

    The earth is fading fast, but there is hope. Jesus will soon return to deliver those who have placed their trust in Him and who obey Him. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matthew 24:14. Forget the words of 'learned scholars' – open the Bible for yourself and know the truth as God has revealed it.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  5. redjewel

    why does religion have to be twisted into every little thing that happens on this planet???
    could all these natural disasters just be the earth going through natural proccesses?
    proccesses that have gone on for thousands of years...no religion required.
    earthquakes,valcanic eruptions,floods have been going on long before humans
    arrived.oh and the ice age.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  6. Karen

    I mean, there are ways to talk about religious fallacy without calling people stupid. Religions that posit any sort of supernatural influence may make people more comfortable and happier; they may even make people better and more compassionate – that, I do not know.

    But they fail at what is, to me, the most important test: are they actually true?

    A feeling in one's heart doesn't make something true.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  7. Religious sects

    God is where God always is when anything happens.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Amused

      In your imagination of course...

      March 21, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  8. Jake Smith

    That was nothing but a very lame excuse. God didnt do it? Nature did it? And who created nature? Oh right, God did. I might as well build a bomb with a timer, and when it goes off and kills people, blame it on the bomb. Wake up people, either god is not benevolent, or he simply doesnt exist. Its obvious.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Gedwards

      That's an odd conclusion: God only exists if He makes Earth the same as Heaven.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Elaine

      There are mysteries in the world that science haven't yet or may not ever solve. Just because I don't know the answer to some questions doesn't mean my only choice is to buy into all the obvious nonsense in the Bible.

      March 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Redeemed

      sighI understand where your coming from but i suggest you read the Bible the answer is clearly there. Your answer starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation

      March 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  9. Karen

    Come on, CNN, the only atheist you could find is a callous jerk? Seriously?

    March 20, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  10. Penzidean

    I find it hilarious and sad that "Atheist's" have read this periodical and just started bashing on God and believers. Sucks ta be you. What if certain people did have proof that God existed? Personal PROOF. What if some people lets say an elect few have been shocked by the Holy Spirit? They lead simple everyday ordinary lives just waiting patiently for the END of DAYs. Nobody listens to them because they think they are crazy, uneducated, or that the proof they do have isn't tangible enough. I find its easier to believe in science and empirical evidence than to have faith. I also find it funny that the people that don't believe in GOD call themselves "EVOLVED". LMMFAO Science has corrupted most peoples way of thinking. What have atheist or agnostics EVOLVED to. Show me your PROOF of EVOLUTION. I'm not here to argue the Bible or any other religious book or belief. What ever you chose to believe in as long as you do good, awesome. Good for you keep up the good work. Spread LOVE not HATE. I'm just here to state GOD does exist I know this for a FACT. I have encountered him personally and I have encountered others that have as well. I'm not a huge religious person. I don't like organized religion and the business it has become. I feel that the body is the temple and whatever your beliefs creates your religion. But I can honestly say 100% without a shred of doubt that GOD exists. And I can wait until he finally shows everyone. There is going to be one hell of a show coming to a world near you. =)

    March 20, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Penzidean

      Sorry I forgot to say GOD BLESS EVERYONE AMEN !!!!!!!!!! =)

      March 20, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Nathan O'Fearraigh

      "Show me proof of evolution" .... alright:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_common_descent
      http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

      "What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof." – Christopher Hitchens

      March 20, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Religious sects

      I have "pesonal proof" that aliens exist & are here on earth. I have met many other people who have "encountered them pesonally". I am not a huge Alien person but I can't wait 'till they come, it's going to be a great show coming to a world near you....
      Now, I expect you to believe in Aliens & I berate you for not believing because you do not believe my "personal proof". You ask Atheists to "Show me your PROOF of EVOLUTION" yet you show not proof, you just state that God is FACT. Choosing to believe does not make it fact for anyone but you.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Nathan O'Fearraigh

      Religious sects has done an excellent job at unveiling your immense hypocrisy. You claim to have personal proof that a god exists and claim that to be evidence enough. Yet when confronted with evolution, you demand physical, empirical evidence. Shouldn't we both be on the same playing field? If it only takes "personal proof" to "prove" a deity, than why shouldn't we only need "personal proof" to prove evolution (forget the fact that we actually *do* have physical, empirical evidence for evolution)? But I think I know why we can't be on the same playing field: You do not have any actual proof of your god's existence.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Nathan O'Fearraigh

      Yeah... that "than" should be a "then"

      March 20, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Redeemed

      Penzidean forgive me i didnt read your post i was reading the post replys to your post...and all i have to say is that having faith that there is a Creator is far less complicated than having faith that everything as complexed as it is, came from nothing.Which brings us to both world views...If there is no God whats the point of living seriously? If there is a God there is a given purpose right..Also if there is no God why do you argue that there is no God???? And science in itself proves itself wrong continuously its kinda of funny...for instance they claim there was no beging or cause of beging ...then years later they said that there was a Big Bang that randomly happen.. I fdont know thats pretty complex than just saying oh we are here because some1 Created us. Also if there is no God and we try to prove God wrong puts us in the place to where we believe we know all which puts us in a position saying that we are god because we know all and know there is no God but really we dont know everything. the True God Loves you man

      March 20, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Penzidean

      Sorry Nathan O'Fearraigh you miss interpenetrated what I meant. People on this page have been saying they are atheist because they are evolved human beings. What makes them more evolved than anyone else? Religious sects sure I believe there is a possibility of Alien life. Why not? I have never seen one or never met one personally but there could be other life out there in the universe. I wont say your right or wrong. The thing is Nathan O'Fearraigh is that evolution is science and one of the definitions of science is the systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. So for one to say they have evolved shouldn't their be some empirical evidence of such a evolution. Sorry if I have any grammatical errors I'm in a rush to do some studying for some of my classes. I have quite a bit of PROOF personal proof if you would like to take a look. Sorry a lot of it I have saved on my computer and on my BLOG for records. My real name is Michael Jendrzejewski by the way.

      http://jendrzejewski.net/michal.html
      http://penzideanmotzart.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-run-in-with-devil-and-race-for-my.html
      http://penzideanmotzart.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-one-move-chess-game-with-satan_13.html
      http://penzideanmotzart.blogspot.com/2011/01/maria-ozawa-pics-from-my-one-move-chess.html
      http://penzideanmotzart.blogspot.com/2010/12/can-anyone-tell-me-why-this-is.html
      http://penzideanmotzart.blogspot.com/2011/01/you-tell-me.html
      http://penzideanmotzart.blogspot.com/2011/02/message-to-meaning.html?spref=bl

      oh and check this out

      http://twitter.com/#!/Azazelzz

      I don't expect you to believe me what so ever. You have your proof and I have mine. You can think of me as CRAZY but I know what happened and I have other people that can vouch for it. Its not logical and it completely defies science but IT HAPPENED. I'm not ling one bit. Redeemed thank you for your words. Nathan O'Fearraigh we are all on the same playing field we all live on this EARTH together and we are all going to DIE. I truly hope you can find GOD before we all get washed away.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Penzidean

      God BLESS AMEN!!!!!!

      March 21, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  11. MAREE JOHNS

    If god is the creator and in doing so gave us the gift of life, then why would he allow such a disaster to take so many innocent lives....the creator should be able to control his creation and not allow harm to take away so many good people....just a thought to ponder....

    March 20, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Redeemed

      Maree you are awesome instead of Pointing a finger you ASKED a question 😀 I suggest you also read the bBible it totally explains "why " its soo. God dos have and can take control of His creation. But read about Adam and Eve in the Bible ..also realize what was happening there..also read about how God sent Jesus and also read what Jesus is gone to do in the End..Its very much all in control you just got to read it and realize whats going on. God Loves you im serious about it im soo happy for you. Search it out XD

      March 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  12. mike

    CNN, this is not news. As usual, you don't report, yet opinionate and attempt to "stir" a pot or two.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Fail

      this is a blog donkey

      March 21, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  13. DanB

    God knew that this was going to happen, and god killed many nonbelievers who he KNOWS are going straight to hell. Yea right... He is such a forgiving guy

    March 20, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Redeemed

      Yup He is a Forgiving God its all in our choice though we had years to choose to Belive in Him or not but if we lived a life of sin..and God clearly speaks against sin and we did nothing to change it whose fault is it when the cord is pulled?...Think about it read the Bible it clearly speaks of how He disliked sin... Love you bro/sis XD

      March 20, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  14. AAG

    God is with those who surived. His hands coved those who were burried and lived. His hands carried those who were hit with the waves to safety. Wake up atheists. This is your call to feel God and find empathy for our fellow humans. In those tears you shed for the victims-God sees and feels our pain.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      AAG.. you cannot truly believe what you have written can you? what a ridiculous god you pray to. And you want to spend an eternity with this monster.. good luck..

      March 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Redeemed

      Uhh...im a Christian and you got it messed up dude..read the Bible again man. If God has called us not to be partial why would He Be partial no matter what you say we are all guaranteed to die rather by a wave or age regardless if that person was good or bad. Again its all about the eternity after this life. See the big Picture

      March 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  15. lordpet

    >>How can people do such things if God were not at work in them to lend a counterweight to a natural disaster?<<

    People are resilient, that's how. What, you just roll over and die because something bad happens?

    March 20, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  16. pierre

    im glad i can see some awaken peoples here expressing their open mind about god,faith and religion.thinking is the key...
    religion bring u far from thinking and bring you to dreaming,in reality the disaster happene even when the tragedy is not even happend.as intelligent peoples we know that we have to be prepare for the next tragedy,health system,prevention eyc.
    religion is a burden for mankind,it make u beleive that someone somewhere will help you when itragedy will happend....
    the less religion on this planet,the better.intelligence we are gifted,use it,this is the gift from what u call god.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  17. Believe

    Believe
    Receive
    Be set free
    spread the word
    Pray that the blind and the deaf may see and hear

    March 20, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • heashon2000

      There is no freedom in religion. The day I became free and happy is the day I quit believing and started thinking for myself.

      March 20, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  18. Just me

    All these learned men giving their explanations about how God is loving and perfect as he stands by and watches thousands die.
    It like children asking their parents how Santa Claus can go to every house in the country in one night, slide down a chimney (which most homes don't have) and put presents under a pine tree. People can explain anything.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Tom

      The author and one of the respondents are female.

      Buddhism – the faith of the 3 of the respondents – does not have a concept of god.

      March 20, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Jonathan

      I've never really met a happy atheist.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Jonathan

      I hear over and over again, "If God is so great/loving, etc, why does he let bad things happen?" First, I should say that this is not an erudite question. It is, rather, an extremely unsophisticated question. One could just as easily ask why God lets good things happen and get no further in understanding. As a believer, the way I understand it is that God provides me with a moral imperative to help those in need and to offer compassion to victims of tragedy. So then, the question I ask as a believer is not, "Why did God let this hapen?' but ,"What do I do about it?"

      That, I believe is the real question of my faith.

      And BTW – humankind has let plenty of bad things happen. Should I therefore condemn all of humankind? Plenty of wars have been fought in the name of religion, but just as many wars have been fought in the name of NO religion. (Or, rather, they've been fought in the name of Statism, which is itself a form of religion.) "If God is loving, why does he let bad things happen?" is besides the point. If humans are the end-all-be-all of understanding, why do they let the same bad things happen over and over again?

      Those clever atheists never do look at these questions too deeply, do they?

      March 20, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • JonathanL

      Never met a happy atheist? Do you live in a small one church town? I am a happy Atheist. I suppose this is awakens you to that the limits of your perceived world do not encompass the entirety of the Universe. I grew up in a big city and I also know many happy Atheists and they tend to be among the smartest and happiest people I know and most are at least as nice as religious people if not more, but I also know some nice religious people so just because you are religious doesn't mean you are a bad person. Remember we are human first. That determines most of how we are, not what you believe or don't believe.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Jonathan

      JonathanL:

      I live in a big city as well (nice of you to assume I live in a small town, not that there is anything bad with small towns). My personal experience (and I say PERSONAL experience) with the New Evangelism of Atheism is that it is ironic that it has become so militant exactly at the time when mainline Juedo-Christianity has decided to become more secular. My experience with the more militant among atheists also detects a dangeous moral equivalency that smacks of intellectual laziness. Some religions have proven over time that, despite hiccups here and there, they can peacefully coexist with and even contribute to secular democracy. Some religions (I can think of one, especially) have proven to be anathema to secular democracy. Atheists refuse to make this judgement call, which requires real thought. Instead, they lump all religions together wholesale in the misguided, Utopian hope that one day there will be NO RELIGION. The hope that one day humankind will drop religion alltogether is more naive than any belief in God, and shows a complete lack of understanding of human consciousness. As long as humans have an existential and ontological impulse, some of these humans will turn to the concept of a 'Higher Power' to answer or satisfy this impulse. There are some questions that science will never be able to answer. Most of the world's top scientists believe this.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Irisrose

      @Jonathan

      "I've never really met a happy atheist."

      Well, I'm one and I'm pretty darned happy. 95% of my friends are religious. Some are not happy people, yet some are. Should I then conclude that I haven't really met any happy religious folks? Perhaps you are painting with too broad of a stroke?

      March 20, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Jonathan ...I am a very happy atheist, great life and family..... your statement is usual of an Evangelical, which i think you are. In order to maintain the belief that only god fearing, believing people are happy, you have to believe that god makes you special, which of course he /she does not You are start dust, and are a product of evolution.. read a little something about it and put your intellect to work....the world will make more sense for you,, and you sound to young to go through the rest of your life with out understanding it.

      March 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Redeemed

      Hey just to let you know its not about this life on earth my man..Be aware no matter what you say we are all gone to die.. Its whats gone to happen after we die that counts. We are merely just a mist we arent guaranteed tomorrow but we are guaranteed an eternity..the question is where will we spend that eternity. It in our choice. search it out in the Bible God bless

      March 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  19. TS

    Notice that Sam Harris claims that religious people will interpret the disaster by saying "it's part of God's plan" or "these people got what they deserved," but in fact NONE of the religious people quoted here say anything like that. They almost all say that we don't have any idea why this stuff happens, but it gives us an opportunity for compassion and for connecting with fellow humans–just about the same thing the nonbeliever says. The fact is that most educated, thoughtful people of faith don't and can't believe that the earthquake is "part of God's plan" to give anybody "what they deserve." People who believe that aren't really thinking about the implications for their theology.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Megan

      TS-excellent observation. I also noticed that all the replies were compassionate to their community of believers and not hostile in any way to others. Except Wells. So the scientific way by itself is to be cold and dispassionate? And is it also important to provoke those of religions as if we are all mindless? No thanks Sam. I choose a loving God who cares about me over a religious-phobic position that espouses intolerance but screams against cultures of peace, humanity and faith. Thanks for reminding me, in a few brief words, about everything that is right with mt faith.

      March 20, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Jonathan

      Well said, TS. Faith lies in compassion and help. I know few, if any believers who attribute natural or man-made disasters to God.

      And, as Protagoras said: 'Man is not the measure of all things.' I shudder to think that humankind is the end-all-be-all of understanding and intelligence.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • JonathanL

      FYI – the scientific way is full of wonder and things that are so amazing that you don't need to pretend in hokey gods and miracles and other things we made up in the dark ages. You say "I choose a loving God who cares about me over a religious-phobic position that espouses intolerance but screams against cultures of peace, humanity and faith. ". To me that you choose to believe in a caring loving god just means you just will not wake up to reality. There are many people who won't face truth, and even more who try to escape it. So though your beliefs may be false I am sure that is where you find comfort and you are not alone. But remember as soon as you decide to go 'faith based', you have to set aside you ability to think logically. Hopefully you will someday you will choose common sense over pillow dreams.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Redeemed

      Hmm...Im kinda confused at what your getting at here but anyway...Realize that God is infinite and undescribable and we as humans cant comprehend how Awesome He is. Not event some "Well Educated" Bible schoalar can explain how great He is. Realize that this guy is also a man annd we are all not perfect. The Bible very much explains why all of this is happening..so i challenge you to read the Bible it has all of the answers in it. Dont rely on some man to tell you who God is search it out for yourself. Its your job to seek it out you wont know if you dont look. God loves you man & He wants you to seek out How much He does. But again the answer is in the Bible and im sorry for anyone who judged you or you loved one and claims to be a "Christian". For even they themselves misinterpreted the Word. God Bless you man

      March 20, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  20. John Richardson

    Kushner has been struggling inordinately with the fact that swell guys, as he seems to consider himself, suffer in a world that was simply never created as anyone's pleasure garden. Even if nature could "know" that someone is a nice guy according to certain human standards, why would it care? This was a NATURAL disaster made worse by some questionable human decisions regarding where to locate nuclear power plants. Good people, bad people and everything in between died. Good people, bad people and everything in between survived. There is no mystery as to why. It's what happens when forces that don't know good from bad or wouldn't care if they did act. It's time for Kushner to admit that his conception of god is so hard to square with these sorts of events simply because his conception of god has nothing to do with reality.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • KingOfErehwon

      You couldn't have said it better. But, the poor rabbi will never be convinced and will continue to struggle with his questions as long as he lives.

      March 20, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • JonathanL

      He should put Voltaire's 'Candide' on his reading list. Voltaire drives home this same point and if he has any glimmer of ability to reason, he will conclude beyond doubt that you are correct. I guess the age of enlightenment may have been only for those who had this ability (since so many people didn't get it). I put aside the concept of god. It was harder to quit cigarettes. It isn't a big deal, about on par with realizing your parents were lying about Santa Clause. Move on (to the real world)!

      March 20, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Reality

      Rabbi Kushner appears to have forgotten what is in the New Torah for Modern Minds, a book he co-edited where the contributors to the book express significant doubt that Moses even existed.

      From his commentary above:

      "Whenever a disaster like this occurs, I go back to the Bible, to the First Book of Kings. Elijah, in despair over the situation in Israel, runs to the desert, back to Mt. Sinai to find the God of the Revelation to Moses."

      From:

      : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      "New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      "When I grew up in Brooklyn, congregants were not sophisticated about anything," said Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" and a co-editor of the new book. "Today, they are very sophisticated and well read about psychology, literature and history, but they are locked in a childish version of the Bible."

      March 20, 2011 at 9:12 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.