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. barnboy

    Finally some sense. Matt Lauer simply says "...and our thoughts go out to the people of New Jersey." during the Governor Christie interview this morning. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t hear the word “prayers” thrown in the mix. From all of us out here who are a bit tired of being inundated by all of the religious nonsense....Thank you Matt! The problem with the religious is that their beliefs and arguments are infallible. "God's will" and "He works in mysterious ways" is neither arguable or defensible. The difference between myself the those who are religious is that if there IS a heaven, when I die I'll be surprised, when the pious die and find out that there isn't one...they'll be bummed. (Of course they won't know they'll be bummed due to the fact that they will be dead.) Hmmmmm.....another conundrum. BTW...god made me an atheist.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • laodegan

      Matt Lauer is a d*ck.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  2. Kudrat

    Beware u d president of america that was d warning. Allah plz save the innocent peole,but teach a lesson 2 all d antimuslim americans

    October 30, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Acdsasf

      And please bless the illiterate mor*ns.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Thanks, Kudrat. That is a useful object lesson

      Okay Christians who have been saying all this gibberish about God's will and all that nonsense, now you can see how really stupid it is for yourself. Now we have Muslim saying it was Allah's will that America got hit.

      Now do you see how stupid your position was? Or is it only right if a Christian believes those things?

      October 30, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • laodegan

      That was lovely. Thank you for at least wanting the innocent folks to be saved. That's a huge relief.

      Atheists are d*cks.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  3. Acdsasf

    Why give the sk*nk Shirley Phelps any advertising?

    October 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  4. Kudrat

    Allah plz save the innocent peole,but teach a lesson 2 all d antimuslim americans

    October 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Yes Allakablam, save those peoles

      Wishing misfortune on people you don't agree with is the surest sign you and your religion is evil.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • MalcomR

      Allah, please teach a spelling lesson to all of the illiterate posters in the world.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Allah could send 20 Hurricanes up and down the American coasts and America would still be a better place to live than whatever dirt hole, backwards country you came from. Allah al Akba...shut up.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  5. MalcomR

    God put the rainbow in place to assure us that he would never again kill us all with a flood (clearly He invented refraction and internal reflection at that particular point in history). So obviously He is using US to flood OURSELVES with anthropogenic global warming.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  6. Christ will set you free

    Atheists don't know what love is.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Austin

      You must be trolling.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Burn!

      Atheists turned me into a newt!

      I got better . . .

      October 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Christ will set you free

      @Austin, not really, no. Most atheists don't even believe in love.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • MalcomR

      Atheists ate my cookies.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Acdsasf

      Obvious by that statement you've yet to find it yourself.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Austin

      And your evidence for this is...?

      I'm an atheist. I love my friends. I love my family. I love my atheist girlfriend, who also loves me.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • MalcomR

      I loved my cookies.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • bananaspy

      How many atheists have you spoken to regarding this matter that would qualify as "most atheists?" Though may I also point out that you can't necessarily "believe" in love anyway, because you can't properly define it. Love varies from person to person, so which version of it are you believing in?

      October 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Christ will set you free

      You said, "Atheists don't know what love is."
      Jesus H. fucking Christ! Are you really this moronically dense?

      October 30, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • bookaholic

      It figures, someone who will tell you they know what their god thinks also thinks they know what atheists think and feel. Love and religion don't have much in common, and you don't need religion to feel love.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Atheist love

      I love a parade,the tramping of feet,
      I love every beat I hear of a drum.
      I love a parade, when I hear a band
      I just want to stand and cheer as they come.
      That rat-a tat-tat, the blare of a horn.
      That rat-a tat-tat, a bright uniform;
      The sight of a drill will give me a thrill,
      I thrill at the skill of everything military.
      I love a parade, a handful of vets,
      A line of cadets or any brigade,
      For I love a parade.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  7. Franco

    God is real. The Earth is not heaven, remember we are meant to go through trials and tribulation while we are here, hopefully we all move on to a better place after this life or else all the suffering does not matter in the end of life, it makes no difference if you have a good life or a bad life here on Earth.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Francisco

      Do you have evidence of anything you said?

      Of course not.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  8. Kudrat

    America most powerful in this world why such tragedy giving to the innocent people where is your defence.mr.america u should understand that power is in the hand of ALLAH.further if u r going on d thought of antimuslim ur country will be lost 4rm dis universe sandy's is d only warning

    October 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Austin

      Islam: the religion of peace, right?

      October 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Franco

      Nonsense. Muslim countries have had their fair share of natural disasters.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Allah don't aim those disasters very well.

      The 2004 earthquake and tsunami was right in the heart of Allahkablamistan: Indonesia. One of the ten deadliest natural disasters of the last 100 years was the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake in Turkmenistan: 110,000 dead.

      Tehre are no natural disasters of note in Israel sinc it became a nation

      October 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • in search of

      seems missing D warnings is not just an american thing, as you would like the world to beleive!

      October 30, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • bananaspy

      Yeah, yeah, we get it. Your invisible powerful man versus the Americans' invisible powerful man. While you are all busy praying each other to death, I will be focusing on real world issues.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  9. paul

    I wish the world would come to its senses & get a grip on reality. They shook Santa & the Easter Bunny. And they were the ones giving out the goodies!

    October 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  10. Don'tBeGullible

    It is true that gods do not cause anything to occur. Thor did not cause the thunder from the storm. It's just new movies and old books, they are pure fiction.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  11. clinky

    In the smaller picture, it is silly to say that God saves you from a natural disaster. What about all the Christians from past eras who died from the same kind of catastrophe? Are you saying God didn't "save" them? Why would they be left out? Obviously, the only difference is in bigger safety measures today. But in the larger picture, if you are a believer, God is infinitely greater than you. You might feel thankful to express awe over that force. But God does not pick and choose who will live and who will die through natural disasters... which is kind of a petty way to keep a balance sheet, when you stop and think about it.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Franco

      As a believer I agree with what you say. In this life bad things happen and the Earth is a very dangerous place from natural disasters to man made disasters of all kinds including violence.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  12. in search of

    Knowing many atheist, i feel they do not beleive in god because of their many misconceptions.
    1st- The bible is NOT a history of the universe, which they try to make it into! If it was a history book, you would be able to walk to pluto and back on it! Who could lift it, let alone read it???
    2nd they beleive in evolution...SO DO I...however I don t beleive monkeys are my kin! God does cause things to evolve!
    However atheist seem to forget there are billions of stars planets,etc. how did they evolve? From pebbles maybe? where did the pebles come from??
    3rd people site the discrepentcies in the age of the earth as proof the bible is wrong, I'm no expert, however it seems to me there is a big question of what the word EARTH really means! Is earth the rock that was created maybe long ago, or is EARTH what was named after life appeared and it became ALIVE?
    The bible is a guide for us to live our life in harmony with, what was intended to be! We are the one's whom have altered that which was intended! What would the earth really be like if all mankind loved their neighbors as they love themselves?
    How can that be a contridiction, would that be the wrong thing to do? how do we know that? How can we judge that which never has been?atheists can not understand the things that occur in someone's life when they become beleivers! How do you know what life with a broken leg is like unless you have had one?without experenece you can only imagine!! Atheist, what are you afraid of? Do you think your life will get worse if you beleive? Won't be able to get away with that which you have been doing? have faith you will no longer need the tricks,you hold dear to your happiness!

    October 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Commandant Fuzzkrik

      What about Atheists, like myself, who were already once believers, and finally came to their senses and realized how much of a brain washing religion is?

      October 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • someone else

      I like your view points, i myself am an Atheist, and have no issues with Religion. I have issues when people look at The Bible as fact and they make judgement based on it. It is a book of Moral guidance (albeit some things questionable in it) and can offer many things for people who are seeking. I am satisfied with my knowledge of life and the thought that after this there is nothing.
      I would never want to take away something that bring millions of people peace, I just wish that people on both sides of the argument shared me feelings.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  13. Bman

    If you think god had something to do with this storm, Climate change is going to get you.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • MalcomR

      God put the rainbow in place to assure us that he would never again kill us all with a flood (clearly He invented refraction and internal reflection at that particular point in history). So obviously He is using US to flood OURSELVES with anthropogenic global warming.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  14. God

    Look....I was too busy fixing the election to deal with the hurricane..... try blaming the other guy for once......

    October 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  15. gdaym8

    Yes, human behavior can be odd during a "crisis", whether it be a hurricane or a predicted snowstorm or whatever. What will be even MORE interesting will be how human behavior plays out as we get closer to the date of 12/21/2012. Whether you believe something will happen or not (I personally don't think anything will happen), can you imagine what the human behavior out in public will be like as we get closer to that date? I worked for a major grocery chain for many years...everytime there was a (KEY WORD) PREDICTION of a snowstorm, all hell broke loose.....everytime.

    I am making plans NOW not to be anywhere out in public for at least two weeks prior to that date. I believe, like myself, most people don't think there is anything to worry about, BUT, as that date gets closer, more people are going to say to themselves, "Hmmmm, maybe I better stockpile on necessities......JUST IN CASE!"

    Yes, I believe human behavior is going to get very interesting starting about the middle of November! Good luck out there! I can GUARANTEE you will witness and hear about some very strange human behavior very soon........................

    October 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  16. Needreasoning

    So basically athiests are saying 86% of the World's population is false and they have no idea what they are thinking. It is more like 98% of the World since 12% is just non-religious. Can you explain that evolution. I'd imagine if we all evolved a few more people might be aware of that fact, or 86% of the World (6 billion) are not as smart as the athiests. I understand if there is no response. Hard reasoning.

    When was the first evolutionist recorded? Can't be the philosophers that had theories in both, but a full agreement that was accepted by the public.

    Evolution is a scientific theory. Theory needs to be duplicated to become a fact. Can anyone duplicate and prove the hypothesis of evolution? Creation can not be duplicated either. Which is fact or fiction.

    I'm not bring the bible or Christian beliefs or anything into account. Just facts that are available to everyone.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Wow, you know at first I was willing to take your word in an earlier post that you are interested in actual logic, but your complete lack of logic in this post, and your disappearance from your earlier post has convinced me that you are not interested in logic. Multiple fallacies, and completely irrelevant invocation of evolutionary theory, not to mention not a shred of evidence to back up any kind of god claim.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • No Romney

      Your stats on those who believe in God are misleading. Agnostics, who say they aren't sure, are listed as believers and huge huge numbers of people are agnositics. The lack of people who attend church every sunday gives evidence to that. IS there any proof of evolution beyond the grand scheme of human evolution. Yes. Abundantly, in fact, in our lifetimes some amphibians have evolved traits that were needed and some not needed based on habitat changes or climate changes. All species continually evovle. You obviously have spent absolutely no time looking into this, but I see you've formed your opinion already. How lazy of you. WHich is my biggest criticism of religion. It is an excuse. An "I want there to be a DAddy i the sky in charge of everything so then I dont have togrow up" Dont have to think about big things, dont have to take control of your life, dont have to deal with chaos theory ,that some things just happen, dont have to respect others choices as just that. their choice, that has absolutely nothing to do with you. It's a big excuse to behave badly, get forgiven so long as you suck up real good, and then be as lazy as you wish, dont have to actually be pro active in my life "jesus has the wheel"

      October 30, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • LinCA


      Just because virtually every 5 year old believes in Santa, doesn't mean he's real. Just because virtually everyone at one time believed the Earth was flat, doesn't mean it was. You are falling into the argumentum ad populum fallacy trap.

      The only real difference between a belief in gods and a belief in the Tooth Fairy, is that children are allowed to lose their belief in the Tooth Fairy, while they are dragged to a church, mosque or temple until they are fully indoctrinated.

      The fact that a majority believes some form of that nonsense doesn't make it any more likely to be true.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Bob

      It wasn't too long ago that 100% of the world thought the Earth was flat... Besides, 86% of the world don't agree on anything - your God isn't Islam's God isn't Hinduism's God isn't Buddhism's lack of a God.

      As to the idea that evolution can't be duplicated, of course it can. Take a species with a short life cycle (bacteria is a classic experiment), expose it to different environments, and watch it evolve. College kids do it all the time. Oh, but that's not MACRO-evolution, right? We can't run an experiment showing MACRO-evolution, at least within your criteria, because it takes millions of years, right? Therefore, since millions of years haven't passed...really, the more you go down the rabbit hole of this silliness of yours, the less sense it makes.

      Look, I wouldn't mind if you were honest - so be honest. You will literally believed anything - anything - to avoid having to avoid the facts. You'll twist logic, lie, believe utter nonsense, and do everything else you can to avoid just saying to yourself "I was wrong." Instead, why not just be honest? You don't care about the truth - you're happier with the lie. So just say to yourself "alright, I don't care that evolution is so obviously proven...I'm just going to believe something else because I'd...just rather believe something else. Facts don't matter to me."

      October 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • boris

      There was a theory that it was the Earth moving around the Sun. This theory is now accepted by many without someone duplicating an Earth and a Sun as proof of that wild theory. Evolution has been supported by evidence just like the Earth moving around the Sun was supported by scientific evidence. Evolution is a well proven theory without duplication of the entire process. Have a good day.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • DrJimby

      Dear Needreasoning – do you think that science is a matter of percentages? If 86% of the World's population does not understand the basis of refractive index, then that means that lenses and light guides do not exist? If 86% of the world was muslim (or mormon), does that prove that christianity is false? It's clear that you do not understand what a scientific theory is. Theories do not have to be "duplicated" – theories are a higher form of organization than facts – they explain large numbers of facts and allow predictions to be made. Experiments are what is "duplicated". Evolution has been "duplicated" by literally thousands of experiments. I read a very nice paper in the latest issue of Science magazine just yesterday on how gene duplication (which is PROVEN to occurr frequently) leads to the evolution of new genetic functions. THis was OBSERVED through sequencing the DNA of a series of bacteria that EVOLVED – you can actually see the evolution through the change in gene sequences. The trouble with idiots like you is that technology has passed you by so far that you are standing in your ignorance while our understanding advances day-by-day. This was just one proof of thousands of studies. You are simply spreading the LIES of the ignorant buffons who DENY evolution, global warming, or any other scientifically established FACTS because you are ignorant.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • DrJimby

      Just admit – "I believe in an invisible magical sky fairy who was his own father and who lives on the other side of a magical brass dome that covers the flat Earth and who can read my every thought every second." This sky fairy only wants us to "believe" in him, even though he refuses to show himself to us, but if we "bleieve" in him, then we will live forever and ever in a magical place just on the other side of the brass dome.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  17. Red Team

    Shelve the whole God existance debate, those hands you use to type with are connected to veins. Those veins carry blood that you can donate to the Red Cross. Do that, save 15 minutes of trolling for 15 minutes to save a life.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • laodegan


      And atheists are still d*cks, even if they do donate.
      (You should donate anyway.)

      October 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  18. Harald

    Neither has the hurricane something to do with the will of a God nor has the ability to deal with the disaster.
    When will people finally learn to take fate in their own hands and not rely on some supernatural nonsense ?

    October 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  19. Bruce

    When someone survives a disaster and thanks god for sparing their life yet their neighbor dies in the same disaster. What do you say about that? How does the family of the deceased feel when they here you say "god spared us" while they mourn the death of their relative(s)? You were good enough to be spared but god didn't bother to spare your neighbor? Oh wait- that was in "god's plan". I know many religious people and respect their beliefs as long as they respect mine but I wonder if they actually really think about what they say...

    October 30, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • ron

      Of course they don't think about what they say.. If they did, their entire belief system would completely fall apart...

      October 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  20. thedpr

    The question "what role should faith or God play in this situation" is absurd. Your own article answered the question before it was posed: it plays a different role for every person. "Should" isn't an idea that should be applied in this case. It's interesting to see the different viewpoints outlined in one article, but the question you ask only serves to dredge up the same old arguments that everyone around the globe has been having for millenia: my god, your god, no god. Why? Because they all think that what they believe is what is correct, and what everyone else SHOULD believe.

    October 30, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
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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.