August 28th, 2011
04:56 PM ET
My Take: God no longer in the whirlwind
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
As I am riding out Hurricane Irene on Cape Cod, I cannot help thinking about how differently New Englanders in colonial times interpreted these natural disasters. While we speak of the eye of the hurricane, they were ever mindful of the eye of a God who was watching over them, and sending storms their way as punishment for their collective sins.
A fierce debate among academics about secularization theory–the view that societies will become less religious as they modernize–seems to have been won by the skeptics.
Yes, secularization of a sort is happening, but only in certain places (western Europe, most notably). And it seems to be reversible (see the United States today vs. the United States in the 1970s). So simple versions of secularization theory seem just plain wrong.
However, one place where American society, at least, plainly seems to be growing less religious is in the realm of natural disasters.
When the Great Colonial Hurricane raced up the east coast and lashed New England in August 1635, its 130 mph winds and 21-foot storm surge were almost universally viewed in supernatural rather than natural terms—as a judgment of God on the unfaithful.
We still have Puritans among us today, of course.
Pat Robertson is notorious for turning natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Katrina into supernatural communications—God’s curse on Haiti or New Orleans for bad religion or widespread abortions.
And on the radio a couple days ago I heard a talk show host suggest that the one-two punch of the recent earthquake and hurricane were two thumbs down from God on the leadership of Barack Obama.
Still, American society as a whole no longer interprets natural disasters as signs of some coming apocalypse or evidence of some past misdeeds. And those that do (Robertson, for example) we generally regard as cranks and outliers—relics of a bygone age.
Some say science and religion are engaged in a battle for the soul of America. I don’t buy that.
I know there are bitter divisions over evolution and creationism, for example. But there are all sorts of spiritual arenas where science is mum, and vice versa. Science and religion run on parallel tracks far more often than those tracks intersect.
Hurricanes and earthquakes are one arena, however, where the language of science has almost entirely routed the language of theology.
Psalms 107:25-33 reads: “For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. . . . He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground."
Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans—including the overwhelming majority of American Christians—believe that when God has something to say He speaks in less dramatic ways, including the still small voices in our hearts and the slightly louder voices of the preachers in our pulpits.
When it comes to earthquakes and hurricanes, however, our authorities are geologists and meteorologists. Most of us interpret these events not through the rumblings of the biblical prophet Jeremiah or the poetry of the Book of Revelation but through the scientific truths of air pressure and tectonic plates.
As a result of this sort of secularization, we are much better at predicting the course of hurricanes. The Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 arrived as a surprise and took many lives with it, including, according to the report of the Massachusetts governor John Winthrop, those of eight Native Americans taken by the storm surge while “flying from their wigwams.”
So we are better prepared, thank science. Our stories are far less dramatic, however. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God. But their God no longer acts out his fury as in Bible days. Our storms have not yet been tamed. But our God has.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
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Secular America, you can't build nothing upon lies. Let's be honest and ask God to save you, since you've been evil.
Take your delusional nonsense somewhere else, thanks.
Your belief system is a pile of evil lies which is destroying your once-great country.
Europe and America were never great without Christianity. Europeans were sa-va-ges just like any others when they were pagan.
Okay, as an educated man: Please cite example. Give me proof. Win me over with FACTS.
I'll just sit here and wait...
Xenia: Oh yeah, let's not forget the Chrisitan Crusades and the War on Terror (driven by a right-wing elitist with strong ties to the moral majority). And last but not least, let's not forget Reagan.
@Stu-, the whole history of Western Civilization. All of it. The West has nothing worthy outside of Christianity.
So... That's your argument then...?
I'm not entirely convinced. Maybe you should ask your God for some sort of miracle to convince me.
What's that? There hasn't been one single miracle recorded ever since the advent of video technology?
Well I'll be a monkey's Uncle. No, I guess I'd hate America if I were.
how come your omnipotent sky fairy needs "pleasing"? What a self-centered jerk of a god that you've created. No thanks, keep your weird god fictions to yourself
Oh, it is the old good fred bad Fred game. One of us is making the other look bad..............oh, just like the discussions about God. Well, the truth is that God is holy and does not need pleasing. When a person decides to dedicate their lives to God then they should be pleasing othewise what is the use. One pleases God because they love God not because God needs it.
Just reading this nonsense makes me realize that the terrorists did indeed succeed 10 years ago. America has become a nation of ignorant followers of make-believe Gods. It's now a one-party state of 'Patriots' versus 'America-Haters'. Quite ironically, the Patriots are the oppressive religious nutballs and the America-Haters are the people who truly do love their country and are brave enough to stand up and say 'I do not agree'.
America used to be what we other countries strived to be. Now you're just a shameful mess.
Here's 10 cents worth of free advice: Just like all the advanced, financially healthy "SOCIALIST" (scary!) countries in the world with low unemployment, free health care and generous social programs: Take a good look at your politicians. The milisecond one of them mentions religion... Kick their ass to the curb.
Here are some teachings that are close to the word of God, I hope they will be blessings to you…
The war is over
It takes some time to understand the bible, I will encourage you to read the book Unmerited Favor, Destined to Reign
You have already Got it, Sharper Than a Two-Edged Sword.
God's love is unconditional. May God bless you all abundantly!
Isn't that Donny Osmond? 😉
Excellent work double-talking! The super-rich are idolized by you evil religious monsters, but they're conveniently demonized for the purpose of your weak argument?
Yes, do read it. And start with the new testament, because the rest is just history
, best forgotten.
If the bible was created by God, it wouldn’t be the disjointed mess that it is
not sure what Bible you are reading but it actually flows together to the surprise of even the most harsh critics.
Atheists seem so proud they are atheists.
What meaning is there in the word atheist?
You say "think", be "logical, etc.
But you don't even appreciate your own existence.
Spoken like a good little brainwashed moron.
Written like a good American Taliban. No logic. No argument. Just nonsense.
Hey... While we're at it, why don't we let phony TV preachers determine overseas policy and make sure American millionaires don't have to pay taxes? Because we all know the filthy rich will take care of us.
The American middle class are slaves to the super-rich ever since Americans started scorning the Old Testament.
Yeah, that makes sense. Better let the Republicans know about that, because they will be in for a SHOCK.
Secular America's sickness id-en-tified: self-affirmation. They no longer have a working con-sci-ence; self is their filthy supreme. Only the Christian doctrines can save America from its insanity, as usual, and no other religion, ideology or worldview can.
Pat Robertson, is that you?
I'm a woman and not American.
You're also incredible stupid and seem to hate America to the point that you'd want to turn it into a Western version of Islam.
Stu-, you need Islamization. They are far better than you and taste what it means to lose the organized Christianity, you immoral Sodomites.
"Stu-, you need Islamization. They are far better than you and taste what it means to lose the organized Christianity, you immoral Sodomites."
Okay.. That statement barely qualifies as a sentence in the English language.
Actually, I have nothing more to say. Your profound stupidity says it all.
Oh, I don’t know about that. Seems Sweden keeps getting better and better as it has less and less christianity
Secular America's sickness identified: self-affirmation. They no longer have a working conscience; self is their filthy supreme. Only the Christian doctrines can save America from its insanity, as usual, and no other religion, ideology or worldview can.
Secular America built their nation. Religious America has destroyed it. You are not part of the solution.
Stu-, it's the other way. Secular Americans never read historic do-cu-ments; they just watch junk movies all the time.
I guess your argument wins this one, what with my movie watching and whatnot.
"Congress shall pass no law......"
AMERICA, STOP WORSHIPING SELF. It's your disease.
The cure for the disease is education. Which, judging by your spelling and grammar, doesn't seem to be a priority with the Lord.
Stu-, ESL people have rights to voice, you racist.
You are totally my new best friend! Nobody has ever made me laugh so hard.
with self I am something
And with God I am more
I am neither a 'crank' nor an 'outlier'. Rather I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ ever since God gave to me a new life. And because I am a follower of Jesus Christ I believe His Word, the Bible. Since God's Word reveals that God is Sovereign then yes, I acknowledge that He continues to sends the storms. And I am also grateful that He continues to calm the storms. To paraphrase the words of C.S. Lewis, God is good, but He is not tame. If God has been 'tamed' then such a god is merely a figment of one's imagination.
You've wasted your life. God is as real as the Easter Bunny.
What? !!! ... the Easter Bunny doesn't exist?... what a bummer.
I guess I'll have to find another deity to worship ... what do you think about Santa Claus? ... I've heard good things about the guy.
He promotes a liberal agenda of giving. He obviously hates freedom.
Now, if there were ANY valid, verifiable evidence to support the claims about this god, or any of the thousands of other gods ...
the article (and many of the comments made after it), might actually mean something.
Secular America's sickness identified: self-affirmation. They no longer have working conscience; self is the filthy supreme. Only the Christian doctrine can save America from its insanity, as usual, and no other religion, ideology or worldview can.
The Christian Doctrine saving America from insanity = Catholic Priests saving America from pedophilia.
While I do indeed believe in a creator, I don't push it on anyone and I never tell others they're wrong. To my way of thinking, to attempt to dictate to others what they SHOULD believe is a great sin in itself. It's perfectly fine to think what I may think of others' beliefs in my own mind, but I won't tell an atheist they're wrong, or even a satanist for that matter. We were all born with free will; that is, the ability to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. This is our god-given choice. I think if everyone looked at it this way, we'd have fewer conflicts and suffering on this planet.
Amorality = downright evil
Rex, your philosophy is of Pontius Pilate.
Xenia: Well, I guess according to you then, I'm evil. I honestly don't care what you think or say, and this is exactly the point of my argument. Jesus once said: Let he with no fault cast the first stone. Well, it's been an avalanche coming out of your mouth, so I guess you must be Christ himself?
Rex, be a man. Refusing to stop evil is a hideous evil. Jesus also said, "Sin no more." It's not being judgmental but being right.
Xenia: Listen my Son, it is not my job (or anyone else's) to stop evil. We are supposed to avoid it and not do the Creator's job for him, as we're quite sure he can manage just fine without our help. People like you frighten me.
Rex, I'm a woman. You are another morally lazy Western man. A lots of Jews died under the Europeans whose thinking was like yours.
Xenia: You're female? Could have had me fooled... listen, I may not agree with your point of view, but there's no need to compare me to Hitler, ok?? Maybe you should go get your head examined or take the medication(s) you forgot to take earlier. Thank-You.
Religiosity = downright retarded
There will be a day where science will stay behind and GOD almighty will come forward the end of days will be like the days of Noah I pray for those people who think this is mother nature the wrath of the living God is coming are you prepared. The only thing os that no One knows the hour and time of his coming not even meteorologist
No... Sorry, but that day will never come. Because God is not real. Now why don't you go outside and start accepting a wee bit of personal responsibility for your life?
the noah flood story is a myth, can u ask critical questions about the story to figure out why? i'll let u think that one out for yourself.
What I find most entertaining about this is that this is only the first major hurricane of the season, and already people are bringing the question of faith into this equation. I'm a believer, in a higher being, and an eventual end to all this nonsense of earth, but the real disasters are yet to come. If this is indeed part of the cycle of events mentioned in the book of Revelations, we are only scratching the surface of what's yet to come.
No one is immortal on earth. Most of us have only several decades left to live. This is why the secularism's folly is especially pitiful. Sometimes I wonder if these Americans, after making worthless comedies as many as possile, would attempt to say sorry in the last minute and get away. Life does not work that way.
I didn't realize all secularists didn't know what "death" means. You should get out more, your bubble is distorting your view.
Facts: America's problem is demanding God to accept them for their five cents charity, all the while fattening themselves and indulging in all kinds of immoral pleasures, calling moral and normal people fundamentalist. They think they are good enough in their own eyes. Criminals don't admit their guilt until getting caught. Only Christians are honest and intelligent to admit humanity's depravity and the need of God's Savior.
I was with you up to the word "Facts." What kind of nonsense are you smoking? And thanks for simplifying some of the most complicated problems into a nation-wide, solve all, "people need faith" compartment. It really shows how simple your brain is.
So what you're saving is that Christians are the only humans who will be forgiven? What a selfish faith you practice.
America's trouble is simple to solve. Nation-wide repentance. Your troubles are jokes comparing to other nations'. And you are foolishly puffed up against the holy almighty God.
Rex, yes, Christians alone admit the total sinfulness, accept the Divine atonement as any honest humans should do, and sacrifice themselves to help others. Growth has some variation. On the other hand, you guys are all worshippers of filthy self.
Oh good, maybe you should write a personal letter to the President. Hey look Obama, the entire problem our country faces is simply that of faith? If you honestly believed in anything about God, you'd realize that He "disciplines those He loves" just as much as your supposed punishments. So for all you know–and I'm guessing by your interpretation of America that it is VERY limited–our entire country could be closer to God than you. Repentance does not mean the end of hardship. which is why this focus on natural disasters and equating them with God's wrath or God's blessing is stupid. If you really believed in a Sovereign God, you would accept that the hurricane happened for some reason, and trust that it is right. And if you don't then to you the hurricane was just a terrible act of nature. End of story.
Don't use words when you have no clue what they mean. Get a dictionary and look up the word "fact", which is something that can be proved. You don't seem to know the difference between that and the word "opinion". Research will help you.
Xenia: I have to disagree on the simple point that just because the word Christianity has the word Christ in it, that all its followers are the only ones who would be spared come judgement day. You are forgetting the billions of others who have good hearts, want piece, are honest, hardworking, and caring individuals. To state that Chrisitans are the only chosen is what sets of alarm bells when one starts to entertain the notion of cults.
Rex, you got it wrong. It's all about honesty to the Creator God. Humans are all depraved and cannot save themselves and need the atonement of Jesus. Only honest humans admit that. There are no good human individuals whatsover, though God takes care of the victims.
Xenia: That may very well be true, but let each come to it (or it come to them) on their own terms and in their own way. Don't judge 'lest ye be judged.
Rex, we are not to judge petty things yet to judge everything regarding moral issues. Read the whole I Corinthians chapter 6. The "Do not judge" phrase made stupid secular Americans stupider.
generalization...... tool of the ignorant...
I'd lay-off the America bashing... you have bigger problems, believing in a mythical sky daddy for one..
I don't know why I keep doing this... I read an article in the "Belilef" section, then read the comments. I then become amazed, appalled, disgusted and disillusioned by them – almost ALL of them – both Christian and "secular."
It has long been my belief, borne out by life experience, that those who most loudly proclaim themselves "Christian" are anything but. Many of the people I know who most closely follow Christ's "teachings" are not religious in the least, yet many of the most "religious" people I've known have been the ones to mock, condemn, vilify and abuse those with whom they disagree. I've often wondered why, but have come to the realization that I will never truly understand the underlying motives.
What I DO understand, however, is the impact these so-called "religious" people want to have on my way of life. They feel that they are the only ones capable of determining how I should live, whether I should live, where I should live and when I should die. They seem to feel that they are the only ones qualified to determine what I read, hear, see or do. I don't feel that I should run their lives, so why should they feel that they should run mine?
I give to charities, I work within my community, I help youth, my children are polite, well-mannered and educated. I go out of my way to assist those in need, I try not to talk down to those less educated than myself, I am generally accepting of people from all walks of life. I'll hold the door for others, say "Bless you" when people sneeze, let people cut in line at the stores... but if I don't toe the line in this "God" business, I need to be dictated to by those who do? I find it mind-boggling that there exists a sect of people (fundamentalist Christians) who truly believe that they alone know what is good for all – especially when I see so many of them willfully NOT following Christ's "teachings."
This whole fundamentalist thing is getting out of hand when the politicians of one party seem to feel that it is their ticket to advancement. When politicians pander to one sect at the detriment to the majority of the country, it's past time for the educated among us to rise up and make our voices heard. It's past time to set aside the raging, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred espoused by this sect and start truly living as Christ supposedly taught – and whatever did happen to loving thy neighbor as thyself?? When did that become passe? Seriously, I fear my country's would-be leaders (TPers and GOP alike) greatly – especially when they come cloaked as the Lamb of God yet carry enormous sticks behind their backs.
For those that might wonder, yes, I do believe that there must be some "higher power" that we have yet to identify. Do I believe the tales in the bible? Nope – written by men after hundreds of years of oral tradition, it is far too flawed and fallible. It was relevant for its time, but no longer – just as I believe that the precepts upon which our founding fathers created this nation were relevant for their time. The world has changed, human life has evolved, and our ways of governing must evolve with that. Those that do not realize this would send us back over 200 years, and make their apocalyptic prophecies self-fulfilling.
Beautifully and fairly set out. Good work.
Most beautiful post of a person just wanting to say he or she is a Agnostic that votes Democrat.
Much respect, I disagree with some parts but I highly respect and admire how you posted it. 🙂
Well said indeed
Welcome to the Jehovah's Witenesses 😉
CNN is gays and atheists' news network.... People these days watch the "news" which is pure propaganda... until they start blindly following... Unplug the signal and start thinking, and by the way who are you to say that you can tame God?
Alex, you are right. They only tamed ideas, nothing real. Secularists enjoy watching the religious suffer from the stupid blasphemies. Secular Americans are evil.
I guess that makes you a gay Atheist. Why else would you be on here reading and posting? Coming out and denouncing God all at once: now THAT'S a bold statement! Well done!
FAUX news is for retarded religious nuts. Pure right wing propaganda cr*p.
America is in the whirlwind of economy, their mammon god. American secularists tamed nothing in this world, NOTHING. They just suceeded to pollute the planet and promote perversions.
The evidence that most people don't really believe in god lies in this article. People reform their beliefs based on knowledge of the real world. Based on the bible/koran etc. this is forbidden. The bible says god did it, so you must believe. You can't go changing your mind every time facts and common sense come into play.
When there are natural disasters in the world, many people have mistakenly concluded that it is of the works of God. According to the Bible, in the book of John 10:10, Jesus said: "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." We are now in the covenant of grace (unearned, undeserved, unmerited favour) through Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, by faith. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. At the cross, Jesus took the wrath of God which we all deserved and bore the sins of the world, i.e. our past, present and future sins once and for all. In Romans 5:6-8 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. I encourage everyone to read Isaiah 53 in the old testament that prophesied the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross. Our Father in heaven is at peace with humanity because of what Jesus has done for us all.
John 14:7 Jesus said "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." When Jesus was on earth, He never condemn or punish anyone. Jesus had great compassion for the sinners and people who were ill. When the Samaritans rejected Jesus in Luke 9:51-56, His disciples James and John saw this, they said,"Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." In Hebrews 13:8, it is written Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. There are many wrong teachings out there that confused people about God. John 8:32 You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. God is love. John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace (unmerited favour) and truth came through Jesus Christ. Many people have mixed up the wrath of God in the old covenant with the new covenant of grace today. Luke 5:36-38 Jesus spoke a parable: "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
The reason why the natural disasters today are less dramatic than the stories mentioned in the bible because they are not from God and we are in the new covenant of grace. I am very sure that through prayer of faith in the name of Jesus has weaken the storms. But there is a time when the covenant of grace is over, no one will wonder if it is of God. God is a wonderful, loving God and a faithful friend. God is real and if you truly want to seek Him from your heart, He is always there for you. Just talk to Him…
John 12:24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.
God may be "real" for you...but do not claim what exists in your mind is "real", as in, real for others. Others do not see or hear a God and see no evidence of his/her/its existence. Doesn't mean you are wrong and others are right...only means that you (and others like you), alone, have this sense of what's "real". Point at a tree and you may say, "that's real" and we'd all have to agree. Point at nothing and say there is something and we need not all agree. Get it?
And, just think, all of this (Religion)...originating from an ancient band of hunter-gatherers having happened upon a particularly good patch of mushrooms.
Summary: America is in the whirlwind of economy, their mammon god. Humans tamed nothing in this world, NOTHING. Just suceeded to pollute the planet and made the defenseless creation world suffer.
Secular America's sickness identified: self-affirmation. They no longer have a working conscience; self is their filthy supreme. Only the Christian doctrines can save America from its insanity, as usual, and no other religion, ideology or worldview can. America needs Christianity.