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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. Religulous

    Well, if there is a God, it must hate religious people. Look at where all the tornadoes and hurricanes hit... The bible belt. Yet the areas with the most atheists, Washington state, British Columbia, Sweden, etc. rarely if ever experience natural disasters.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Sin Breaker

      A decent amount of volcanic activity in each of those regions, that is just waiting to explode.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Religulous

      Uhhh, yeah. 1 in the last how many hundreds of years? And St. Helens only took out a few people who were foolish enough to ignore the weeks and months of warnings.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • laodegan

      Everyone knows that the few folks who failed to heed the warnings about Mt. St. Helens were atheists. And God was punishing them, not because they didn't believe, but because they were such d*cks about it.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  2. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    To what extent God has in storms I do not know. I do know however he does have the power to stop it, but we all die in this life right? I guess God could make us all live for 200000 years. Perhaps we wouldnt die just plug ourselves into a downloader and zip ourselves to the next phase. Obviously death loss, life, pain, joy and this whole experience has important aspects to it. I dont believe in judgement in these ways, nor do I believe that average Christians haveing been to many different churches are out there saying events are Gods judgement on people. I wouldnt feel comfortable talking in Gods behalf would you ? I do know that we must respect people of all faiths and this is the central tennant to Christianity. Love one another, its easy to love someone who loves and respects you it is harder and more important to love those who dont agree and respect us.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • manbearpig

      God also creates flawed followers and then tortures them for eternity for their flaws. He also creates, condones and, in some cases, flat-out orders evil. He's a special sort of d.ick, huh?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  3. George Carlin - Religion

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o

    October 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Carlin

      youtube search "Religion" and up pops the great George Carlin. Love it.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  4. Veritas

    Global warming and the laws of physics are responsible for natural events like Sandy, not "God". It is easy to understand why our paleolithic ancestors thought that jealous and wrathful gods in the sky were responsible for all the scary things like hurricanes that happen in nature because they didn't understand what actually causes them. It is also easy to understand why our more recent, yet woefully ignorant, ancestors just 2000 years ago extended those myths to imagine that a wrathful but loving and all-powerful God would deliver them from the yoke of Roman occupation. It is neither understandable nor reasonable, however, for anyone who is educated to cling to these primitive beliefs today when the cause of these very natural events is known and understood. If a loving and all powerful "God" did indeed create mankind in its image, why would he, even in anger, use his ability to control natural events to maim and kill his creatures instead of gently teaching them how to know and adore him? Only a vicious, unloving, maniacal beast would behave like that.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  5. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    To me No one has the right to say an Athiest is bad taking place of God in judgement. As a Christian we do not have the right to judge. I say unto everyone here that I believe an Athiest will get into heaven faster if he loves people sincerely and does good for them then a man that says he believes in God and doesnt love those around him. A believe in Jesus means you care about one another, and there is no monopoly on this by Christians. It is however a central tenant to what we believe in Christianity. We must respect and love one another. It is so sad that so many people lash out NO one in any Mormon church I have ever been to would be looked at with respect if they were to belittle or show malice towards anyone elses faith or beliefs.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  6. Zuddy

    I am an atheist and I do my best to be a good person on my own moral judgment. However Christians have often told me I am wicked and that I am going to hell just because I don't follow their belief system. If there truly is a "god" as they call it, and he condemns people to hell for not kissing his behind I think I would rather be in hell.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • manbearpig

      "Amen" to that!

      October 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • End Religion

      You're not alone!

      October 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Larry Bob

      Consider what heaven is: The place is packed with the most zealous Christians imaginable. All they ever do there is kowtow and tell God how wonderful he is, 24/7. for the rest of eternity. You get to be a toady nonstop for the rest of time, and the others there are the pious snots who run around telling everyone they are doomed. You do not get to do anything else. You will be bored beyond imagination within a week, and yoou still have eternity to keep at it.

      Does that sound like heaven, or hell?

      Oh, and the Son of Sam and some of the Manson killers are there too, because they repented and accepted Jesus. Hitler and Himmler might well be there, for they had the chance to repent and accept Jesus. There are a great many criminals and killers there. There are no atheists or Buddhists there, no matter how good they were.

      Get the picture? There is no Christian heaven; there are actually two hells.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • The Four Flurry Kittens of the Apocalypse play with the Scratching Post of Doom!

      In hell, there are no Christians, and the whole Lake Of Fire thing is just a cool light show because you don't have a nervous system in the afterlife, and thus cannot feel pain.

      The writers of the Bible just didn't think their story through, did they? Like the time Jacob beats God in a wrestling match.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  7. Snacky

    I find a lot of remarks from both sides of the religious debate absolutely shameful. Calling christians "stupid" for believing in a higher power? Telling an atheist person they are immoral?
    Both sides have a good argument, but delving into name calling is a terrible thing to do. C'mon. You're adults. I would have hoped high school ended after high school. Both sides have merit, and while personally I believe in god, I can understand someone choosing not to.
    To curse someone out for not believing is horrid. To call someone an idiot for praying, in the hopes that it might help is deplorable.
    Maybe there is a god and he/she/it allows these things to happen to help us grow as a species. Maybe there isn't and this is all just a neat random occurrence of neurons and acetyl-choline.

    Either way. To see you treat each other like morons makes me want to hang my head in shame for my race.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • manbearpig

      Snacky-
      "Both sides have a good argument"
      Please elaborate. I would KILL to hear a good argument for god's existence.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • End Religion

      Religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred and contempt, and I claim that right.
      @4:10
      http://youtu.be/PY8fjFKAC5k

      October 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Dave

      I am suprised it always turns to name calling if you don't agree with someone. Atheist or Christian, how does belittling the other show tolerance for other points of view?

      As far as my Proof of a God. I see it each day around me. The sun, moon, stars, flowers, water, etc...all suggest to me that i am not here by mere chance. Luckily, we will all find out some day.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • End Religion

      Dave,

      Because I know that you're a christian and haven't thought this through, here's the scenario:
      1) christianity is dying
      2) Islam is much larger than christianity and growing
      3) while all religions think it'd be just dandy if everyone was a part of their religion, christianity is older and has moderated. Islam is still in a earlier stage of development and with the technology of today, potentially dangerous. The goal of the religion is to annihilate all who oppose and establish religious law, even if they have to put on a somewhat nice face for now.
      4) many countries now have an "enlightened" live and let live approach that the U.S. was largely responsible for fostering. This means they're (and we're) allowing islam to take root

      Where do you think this situation is headed? We must end religion. Christians have got to stop sticking their head in the sand. Religion is a fraud, and an excuse to divide us. Chrisitans have moderated far enough that they should know they are no longer practicing "the word" – it's only a sort step for them to realize it's a farce altogether. We need to come together in a secular manner to confront islam, or divided we may fall. Hopefully "confronting" it will happen peacefully but i wouldn't bet on it....

      October 31, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  8. Al Franken

    We need some real carnage here before we start really getting God involved.

    We are such candy **s's - frick'n katrina, total earthquakes and tornadoes don't add up to the carnage that
    ordinary people in places like the middle east see on a regular basis.

    I so much wish we had something really really big happen like a meteor storm that picks off bus's trains, planes at random - frick'n home bred terrorists blowing up courthouses every day.

    See then we would have something to really whine about.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • End Religion

      If we could start with the curiously sudden emergence and then explosion of a volcano in Utah, that'd be nice. You know, just to get the ball rolling....

      October 30, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Bob-just Bob

      How about an epidemic of fast-of-foot Zombies that could drive fairly well but were crack shots with firearms and they ate just a little of you at a time because they were not compulsive eaters? They didn't eat just to eat like the other Zombies, and as much as they savored brains they had the personal discipline to finish everything else first before they got to the brains, and they seemed to have acquired a mystical skill at rendering first aid so they could keep you alive indefinitely.
      I think an epidemic of this would make some doubters try praying – at least a quiet prayer.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  9. Bobobby

    "God bless: It was a message expressed by well-wishers around the world."

    It's also an empty, meaningless lie put forth by weak-minded, brainwashed, ignorant losers trying to make themselves feel good.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  10. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    To me No one has the right to say an Athiest is bad taking place of God in judgement. We do not have the right to judge I say unto everyone here that an Athiest will get into heaven faster if he loves people sincerely and does good for them then a man that says he believes in God and doesnt love those around him. A believe in Jesus means you care about one another, and there is no monopoly on this by Christians. It is however a central tenant to Christianity. We must respect and love one another. It is so sad that so many people lash out NO one in any Mormon church I have ever been to would be looked at with respect if they were to belittle or show malice towards anyone elses faith or beliefs.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  11. Robert Hall

    The truth about 2 males sleeping together or 2 females sleeping together. What the Bible Really says is not black & White.
    and It's directly connected to the tower of Babel. More Soon.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • manbearpig

      OH SNAP!
      Was that a veiled proxy threat? Man, I'm definitely not used to seeing proxy threats from Christians. It definitely hasn't been happening for the last 2000 years or anything.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  12. spockmonster

    Be aware, religion is not harmless. These people try to get at all of our children though school textbooks. Attempts to teach creationism in school and repress science, diluting it and confusing it with their lies. Religion is a mental disease, it's victims are driven to spread the condition to everyone. We must end religion now.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • laodegan

      Beware, atheism is not harmless.

      Actually it is. But atheists are still complete d*cks.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • nojinx

      Agreed. We have to prevent children from being indoctrinated into a rigid mindset. Critical thinking should be the focus of how we raise our kids, and they should be asked to leave decisions of theology or the supernatural until they are at least voting age and adults.

      If our kids can't be informed or cognitively able to vote, why would we think they can make such an important decision such as what to believe of the infinite possibilities beyond reality?

      October 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • End Religion

      spockmonster you sound like my kinda person!

      October 31, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  13. GO_GOP

    A recent study by a leading longivity research group found a strong correlation between atheism and early death. They also found a stronger correlation between belief in christian God and longevity. It was shwon in the 15 year long survey that people who describe themselves as atheists on an average live 39 years less than people who describe themselves as Christians. I urge all atheists to take note of this and change your lifestyle before it is too late.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Cite your source please. I'm afraid your butt doesn't count.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • ....

      BULLSHIT ALERT

      October 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Worthless Storm

      Just remember, when the person you love gets killed, it was "god's plan".

      October 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • manbearpig

      No, he's right – I read that study. It also found that christians were 78 times more likely to fondle little boys. Apparently fondling little boys helps christians achieve their unnaturally long lives. Who knew?!?!

      October 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Andrew

      So, let me guess, you're making statements like this for the exact same reasons that atheists make statements like 'religiosity tends to be inversely proportional to IQ in studies'. Right?

      I also bet you'd consider a study saying something like that about as important as a study saying the religious tend to live longer. See how silly posting that is?

      October 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Thanson

      Ernest Hemingway – All thinking men are atheists.

      Albert Einstein – It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. … Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Hmm, I think I'm calling Poe's Law!

      October 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Austin

      Look up "list of countries by life expectancy." America ranks #38, with most of the countries ranked higher being more secular nations.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • End Religion

      That's just GOP. He pops in once a week or so to post 3 or 4 outright lies before disappearing again.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  14. pjb

    This is an unfortunate NATURAL disaster. Some turn it into a Supernatural disaster and a selfish, misguided way to invoke vengeance on others. Sad...

    October 30, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  15. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    No one has the right to say an Athiest is bad taking place of God in judgement. We do not have the right to judge I say unto everyone here that an Athiest will get into heaven faster if he loves people sincerely and does good for them then a man that says he believes in God and doesnt love those around him. A believe in Jesus means you care about one another, and there is no monopoly on this by Christians. It is however a central tenant to Christianity. We must respect and love one another. It is so sad that so many people lash out NO one in any Mormon church I have ever been to would be looked at with respect if they were to belittle or show malice towards anyone elses faith or beliefs.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  16. Carl

    CNN asks: "What role should faith or God play in the conversation about Sandy?" Whatever role people joining the "conversation" wish! It's not CNN's or anyone's prerogative to decide what "role" faith or God should or should not "play" in any conversation: that is entirely up to the individual participants. (What arrogance!)

    October 30, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • manbearpig

      Carl –
      In case you didn't notice, CNN makes this stuff up so people will click on the articles and comment. And we give them exactly what they want.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  17. Worthless Storm

    Why are people praying to the same "god" that sent the storm in the first place? Idiots.

    Oh yea I forgot, all those houses that got destroyed and people that died is part of "god's plan".

    October 30, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • nojinx

      If you get pregnant from the r*pe by looters who invaded your flooded home, bonus! You must be one of the chosen.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  18. Chad

    Seems pretty simple, if God tells us that it is His judgement then it is. If He does not tell us, we would be wrong to ascribe it to His judgement.

    Remember, of all the natural catastrophes that occurred world wide between ~2000BC and ~33AD, an extraordinarily small number of them are ascribed to Gods judgement in the bible.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • mlblogsyankeeblogspot

      It is impossible to completely know Gods purposes in this life or his purposes even if your the most stalwart Christian on the planet.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • ....

      BULLSHIT ALERT

      October 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Chad

      @mlblogsyankeeblogspot "It is impossible to completely know Gods purposes in this life or his purposes even if your the most stalwart Christian on the planet."

      =>not so, just read the bible.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • sarah

      Oh Chad means read Gullible's Travels I guess. lol.. fable, Chad, rehashed fable at that.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  19. Wiley Coyote

    God nor anyone on this planet has a clue as to whether this storm had anything to do with climate change....

    October 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Navan Johnson

      I can safely say that this storm had nothing to do with climate change – it didn't.

      Now if someone had a brain and wondered instead if the question was whether climate change had something to do with the storm, the answer is uncertain due to the huge complexities of correlating increases in climatic temperature to actual meteorological occurances.

      An omniscient god would logically have to know the impact of climatic change on the storm, but that is pure hypothesis, for there is no god.

      October 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Austin

      How can you safely say that?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Navan Johnson

      Because the storm did not add or subtract any carbon to the system, nor energy, nor heat. Climate change is not the product of storms but heat retention due to carbon levels, as best as is known.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  20. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    No one has the right to say an Athiest is bad taking place of God in judgement. We do not have the right to judge I say unto everyone here that an Athiest will get into heaven faster if he loves people sincerely and does good for them then a man that says he believes in God and doesnt love those around him. A believe in Jesus means you care about one another, and there is no monopoly on this by Christians. It is however a central tenant to Christianity. We must respect and love one another. It is so sad that so many people lash out NO one in any Mormon church I have ever been to would be looked at with respect if they were to belittle or show malice towards anyone elses faith or beliefs.

    October 30, 2012 at 11:30 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.