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Online conversations around Sandy feature God, prayer and atheism
A church sign from Sunday in a town on Long Island, New York.
October 30th, 2012
04:54 PM ET

Online conversations around Sandy feature God, prayer and atheism

By Conor Finnegan, CNN

(CNN) – As millions of Americans begin to clean up from Superstorm Sandy, many will  turn to insurance companies to cover damages caused by an “act of God.” It’s legalese for natural disasters.

Some of the online conversation around Sandy have treated it as such an act, with the term “prayer” trending on Facebook on Monday, as the nation awaited the storm’s landfall.

We noticed four themes emerging that touch on God and religion on Facebook, Twitter and in CNN.com’s comments sections:

1. God bless: It was a message expressed by well-wishers around the world. Those spared by Sandy took to social media to show their support and sympathy as the images proliferated of New York’s flooded streets and New Jersey’s eroded beaches. Despite different faiths and nationalities, the upshot was the same: Our prayers are with you.

From Facebook:

Waleed Obaid My Prayers to all family and friends in NY and the rest of East cost OH Allah please help People to stay safe and no harm...

Darlene Guillen Bohorquez if this storm knocks you to your knees, you're in the perfect position to pray, and I will be praying with you. Keep safe and remember to help those in need in the aftermath.

Andrea Holmes My prayers go out to all the people who are affected by this storm. And praying does help. God is in control of everything whether you like it or not.

From Twitter:

Bishop Hanson ‏@bishophanson
Merciful God, for the millions who this night are experiencing the fury of Hurricane Sandy we pray for safety and comfort. Amen.

2. Thank God: For those caught in Sandy’s path, the conversation was different. More than 7.5 million in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast were without power on Tuesday. Those who could post online expressed gratitude, with “thankful” the 8th most shared term on Facebook by Tuesday morning. And from Twitter:

Demetrius Minor ‏@dminor85
Thanks to everyone who prayed for us during Hurricane Sandy. We were not affected. I thank God for that. Please pray for those who were.

Sam Gentile ‏@SamGentile
Thank God we escaped unscathed from Sandy except for power last night. This is unlike a lot of South Jersey that had lot of damage

3. God’s wrath: A small minority saw Sandy as God’s judgment.

This Tweet is from a leader of Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas congregation known for its anti-gay pickets at military funerals:

Shirley Phelps-Roper ‏@DearShirley
We bow in humble thanks 2 God 4 Sandy! Thank God for a plain message delivered to a puddle of states that proudly flip Him off! #FagMarriage

We found these on Facebook:

Nikola Ilievski 24.03.1999. – 10.06.1999. God remembers everything, your NATO bombed us, now enjoy. Greetings from SERBIA!

Hassan Chandio -Disrespecting others religion. and destroying others country killing thousand and millions of people in afghanistan, libya and syria . this is what you get

4. God does not exist: Some used Sandy to question religion or at least the idea of blaming the storm on God, employing science, humor and venom. A back and forth between believers and nonbelievers sparked a tense conversation in the comments section on CNN.com.

From Facebook:

Johnny Trujillo Praying won't do any good. Send some aid or go volunteer if you really want to help. Talking to your imaginary friend won't do anything.

From Twitter:

Anonymous ‏@YourAnonNews
No, #Sandy is not evidence of God's wrath. It's evidence of our refusal to even discuss climate change & global warning.

What do you think? What role should faith or God play in the conversation about Sandy? Post your thoughts in the comments section.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Comments • God

soundoff (2,260 Responses)
  1. Tiara Sedar

    Jurassic Park is a 1993 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is based on the 1990 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Martin Ferrero, Samuel L. Jackson and Bob Peck. The film centers on the fictional Isla Nublar near Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, where a billionaire philanthropist and a small team of genetic scientists have created a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs.,-.^

    http://www.healthfitnessbook.comBye for now

    May 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  2. perry

    there is no evidence that there is no evidence of god

    February 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • perry

      no one cries out to god when she is caught in a burning building when her only option is to jump 80 stories to die on smokey shards of steel and clear sharp slabs of glass on a perfect blue sun lit morning. no one

      that is proof god doesn't exist. listen to 911 atheists. very devout to science all the way down. serene and calm.

      February 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • perry

      who questions if god answers prayer? that has little to do with anything. it is his "no" we question

      February 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  3. Timawk33

    http://MrCleo3586.info

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    January 7, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  4. Yosaf

    Grant presents Because you want to make a mililon and meditate on it too | Prana Flow NZ posted at Prana Flow NZ, saying, You want to be a success in life, but you also have a

    December 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  5. Tindie

    God knows better than human so lets keep the americans before God as have we give him our heart full of his healing.

    November 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  6. Aroobaduka

    burp

    November 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  7. Mark

    Blessed are the Cheesemakers wrote,

    "Mark,

    Than start refering to your belief in a more specific way. But my point was it doesn't matter what version of christian you are, you still refer to the contradictory immoral writings of the bible as if they were inspired by a diety. Original sin is just one of many."

    BATC,
    Where does the bible ever promote the doctrine of "original sin"? Again, you didn't get that from the bible, you got that from some man. Stop blaming God for man's twisting His word to say something it doesn't.

    November 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • the AnViL

      original sin refers to when the imaginary adam disobeyed the imaginary god and ate from the imaginary tree of knowledge.
      the concept stems from the idea that all mankind shares the imaginary adams imaginary sin. a number of biblical theologians propagated the idea based on verses in the books of romans and corinthians.

      but you can relax.. it's all hogwash.

      November 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  8. Cesar

    @the AnViL

    They are only dead-ends if you reject Aristotle's metaphysics—specifically on act and potency. Much of science today borrows off from this distinction between act and potency, and even the arguments themselves operate on the question, "What must a world be like to be scientifically discoverable?" There is no solid objection to them if you read through the arguments clearly and understand each premise and the terminology—with the exception of Kant's critique on metaphysics in general, and how we should be skeptical about such arguments that delve beyond the empirical.

    Imaginary gods (ones created and are only present in the mind) are indeed contingent, but honestly, this is little more than a red herring; the arguments that theists make are intended to show that God is *not* imaginary, but real. Contingency is simply the possibility of something to both true and false. In the case of a rabbit, it is logically possible that such an animal could and could have not existed. The Principle of Sufficient Reason then call for us to explain why one is the case over the other—why does the rabbit exists rather than not exist. But the reason we give for the rabbit—birth from its parents—also falls under being contingent; it is logically possible that the rabbit's parents couldn't have existed either. So thus we are called to ask for a reason for that, and then for the next, and so on and on and on. This chain of causality cannot be infinitely long though, for if it was, then nothing is ever truly explained, and thus there is no reason by which these contingent things exist, which means that these contingent things should not exist (e.g., ex nihilo nihil fit). In the end, we are left with *something* which existence is logically necessary, which means its non-existence is logically impossible.

    Of course, this by in no way reaches the traditional omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God that mainly popular religions subscribe to; from there, theologians carve out these traits as being necessary descriptions of the necessary thing. Nonetheless, the farting-rabbit is a poor response to these arguments, as is the popular "rebuttal" coined by New Atheists, "Who created God?"

    November 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • the AnViL

      thomas aquinas and his five ways was an excellent example of stacking presuppositions, glaring false dichotomies and heinous circular logic.

      as for aristotle... once again – we've evolved since then. we can accept a great deal of his metaphysics – but that in no way validates thomas aquinas five ways.

      aristotle was imperfect – he made laughable claims about physics. his system of logic is now seen as having historical value – because it describes how we got where we are at present... but mostly – his logic was limited – and eventually obsoleted by calculus.

      the rest is all twaddle... rubbish.... refuse.... garbage.... trash....

      there is absolutely no compelling evidence of gods in reality. all gods are imaginary – they exist in only one place... between the ears of gullible, delusional, ignorant people with virtually no critical thinking skills.

      November 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  9. Cesar

    @GodFreeNow

    "However, should I turn out to be wrong, I feel that god would be totally knowable and predictable and subject to the laws of physics."

    Then most theists would respond by saying that simply isn't God; many religions—and simply theism in general—have described and attributed God as being transcendent and "above" the laws of physics. They even attribute Her to being the very thing that sustains the activity (and even existence) in the universe (and thus the laws of physics), much like how Thomas Aquinas flushes out in his work, the Summa Theologiæ.

    "Wherever god is mentioned, I instead insert a magical bunny that shoots rainbows out of its butt that formed the universe we live in."

    The difference between the bunny and God is that the bunny is contingent being while God has already been flushed out as being a necessary being. Something that is contingent relies on something else to explain its existence. As another example, I am (as well as you) are contingent; it is possible that we may have never been born, and thus, it is then called into question *why* do we exist. To answer that, we turn to our biological parents, but then, we must ask why our parents exist, and so on and so forth. You probably will recognize this argument by what is called the cosmological argument—which argues that there must be something that is *necessary* to explain everything. Your bunny would not simply fit the criteria, and as such, it is not a strong rebuttal.

    "Once you have awakened to evidence-based reality, you can no longer seriously be an agnostic."

    Are you imply some form of logical positivism—that all beliefs must be based on evidence to be valid? If so, what is the evidence for that belief being true? Such a philosophical stance has already been sharply criticized and majorly abandoned for its self-refuting idea.

    If, however, you do want evidence and a strong argument for God, then I suggest you read Thomas Aquinas and his Five Ways—all which derive God from little more than two basic facts which I'm sure you would accept happen in our world: (1) there is change, (2) contingent things require explanations. And afterwards, I would then advise you to read up on Immanuel Kant and his rebuttals to all metaphysical arguments for God, and then see why not only does this affects theism but atheism as well.

    "To me, agnosticism is just intellectual laziness."

    Actually, it is (as I said before) skepticism of the conclusions of both sides. One side claims the existence of something by which we can never gather evidence for (and yet there are strong logical arguments for it) and which tries to prove something that is transcendent in nature, while the other proclaims that because we cannot view it with our senses, then therefore it most likely does not exist—even though much of science (the tool used) deals with studying the physical word, which means it is all but useless when we inquire beyond that.

    If you want to know what is intellectual laziness, it is that when atheists begin placing so much authority in science (e.g., scientism) even though there are still glaring problems that it has, and when theists (mostly the fundamental religious sort) start to stray far beyond the realm of logic and start considering personal revelation and/or faith as applicable and valid reasons of belief.

    November 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • the AnViL

      "Thomas Aquinas and his Five Ways" is HARDLY good evidence for god. all five ways are dead ends. i think it's a great idea to aim people at that "work" – if only to expose it as the series of very flawed arguments that theists might attempt to use to prove evidence of their imaginary gods. we've evolved since aquinas.... none of his positions hold up.

      as for "contingent beings" – if any thing were ever contingent – it's imaginary gods.... as they require the minds of men in order to exist. a magical bunny that exhibits refractory anal extrusions is just as good as any imaginary gods.

      November 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  10. Atheism is for everyone

    Public offerings of prayer is a great way to do nothing while at the same time giving yourself the satisfaction as if you did.

    November 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  11. stevie68a

    Religion is delusion. We really are in a New Age, and religion is part of the old. Time to grow up.

    November 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Jesus is Life to all

      stevie68a, Jesus is not religion! He is the true God who created you!

      November 2, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Judas Priest

      Crystal twittery, spiritualistic twaddle, and similar newage are delusions also.

      November 2, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • sam stone

      Jesus is life: Say it all you want, but Jesus is a messiah in the CHRISTIAN RELIGION and no other. So, yes Jesus IS religion

      November 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Rob

      Garfield is life too! Doorknob is God! RoadRunner is the true God who created you, or was it Allah or Zeus? Or was it your mother?

      November 3, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  12. MCR

    @Doc Vestibule,
    The same goes for your breakdown of "atheism". If correct, we would have something called "atheismism", which we don't. By English break down "atheism" in your isn't actually a word.

    November 2, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  13. Chat Pata

    As usual, religious manipulators will manipulate a human misery to sell their snake oil i.e. their god

    November 2, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • MCR

      Most religious people sincerely belief in their god or gods. Demonizing them as snake-oil salesmen in desperate times is not going to help your case. The only thing that takes people away from the gods and religions that have dominated human history are real alternatives. The reason that more socialized countries have moved past religion is that they offer alternatives to praying for people to escape disaster and poverty. In the US, there are relatively few government offerings, so religion still plays a role. Remember that religious belief is deeply biologically rooted, and genetics predict one's level of religiosity. As a culture it may decrease overall, but that only happens with significant social changes.

      November 2, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Damocles

      @MCR

      I'm not sure what you are saying.... the more govt handouts there are the less religion there is?

      November 2, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • MCR

      @Damocles,
      Handouts is your word. The more one can turn to the government for help, though, the less religion. That's why Saudi Arabia uses religious organizations for all it's social services work...and one of the reasons the Republicans would like to do the same here. It's a fairly well studied response to real or imagined help from a god or religion.

      November 2, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Damocles

      @MCR

      I can't take credit for the word handout, but thank you. I see what you are saying though.

      November 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Judas Priest

      MCR, this was not an attack on believers in general; he did single out religious manipulators. There are many people who do seek to manipulate the sincere beliefs of others for their own ends.

      November 2, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • MCR

      @Judas Priest, Chat Pata's comment was a general response to a story about people saying "god bless" and thanking god.

      November 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
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About this blog

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.