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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. Reality

    The so-called god's wr-ath has been ongoing since the first life appeared on Earth. The addition of prayers did not stop said wr-ath.

    Some examples of "god's" Sa-ndy-a-n-alogous-storm wr-ath and time-wasting prayers to stop these natural occu-rrences:

    Hurrica-nes and Tropcial Storms in the State of Pennsylvania:

    Pre-1900

    September 18, 1876- A tropical storm produced 50 knots (93 km/h, 58 mph) sustained winds in at least parts of Pennsylvania. [1][2][3][4]
    September 13, 1878- A extratropical storm produced at least 70 km/h sustained winds throughout the state. [5][6]
    October 24, 1878- The Gale of 1878 destroys at least 700 buildings, causes $2 million in damage, kills at least ten people and injures more, and produced 80 km/h sustained winds throughout the state. [7][8][9][10]
    October 13, 1885- An extratropical storm produced 70 km/h sustained winds throughout the state. [11][12]
    August 22, 1888- A tropical storm produced 75 km/h sustained winds throughout the state. [13][14][15]
    August 29, 1893- A tropical storm produced 100 km/h sustained winds throughout the state. [16][17][18]
    October 25, 1893- A tropical storm produced 65 km/h sustained winds. [19][20]
    September 30, 1896- An extratropical storm produced 95–100 km/h sustained winds. [21][22]
    November 1, 1899- An extratropical storm produced 95 km/h sustained winds. [23][24]

    1900-1950

    June 29, 1902- A extratropical storm caused 65 knots (120 km/h) winds throughout the state. [25][26]
    September 16, 1903- The V-agabond Hurricane affects Pennsylvania as a tropical storm with winds of 50–65 km/h, after making landfall in New Jersey with hurricane force winds. [27][28]
    August 4, 1915- A tropical depression caused winds of 45 km/h. [29]
    October 1, 1915- An extratropical storm caused winds of 65 km/h. [30]
    October 24, 1923- An extratropical storm caused winds of 75 km/h.[31]
    September 20, 1928- An extratropical storm caused winds of 75 km/h. [32]
    October 3, 1929- An extratropical storm caused winds of 55 km/h.[33]
    September 21, 1932- A tropical depression caused winds of 30 km/h.[34]
    August 24, 1933- A tropical storm caused winds of 85 km/h. [35]
    August 19, 1939- A tropical depression caused winds of 45 km/h. [36]
    September 19, 1945- An extratropical storm caused winds of 45 km/h.[37]
    August 29, 1949- An tropical storm caused winds of 65 km/h. [38]

    October 31, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  2. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    This to me is simple.. 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 31, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  3. Yaweh

    You fools!!!! It is NATURE who is your real father/mother, not your human self-delusional god(s), and/or your hilariously imprinted Jesus myths. Your natural mother/father doesn't give a tinkers damn if you live or die, but only rewards that which somehow survive her non-specific selective pressures. Invest your energies in informed survival, you idiots, rather than in your delusional prayers. Your evolved "consciousness" has convinced you that your thoughts are "divine"......Ahha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.....you miserable eucaryotes! I generally prefer your honorable moon to you!. You only exist by quantum chance.....so embrace your mother/father's inviolable rules (the natural laws of the universe) if you wish to understand your meagre place in my evolving universe! Thankfully you will be cosmologically brief. Your species is a failed evolutionary experiment soon to be aborted by your....."loving father"........Ahha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!. What puny morons you are compared to the simplist of my inflationary universes. I generally prefer your plants to you. At least their complete lack of neurological consciousness honestly identifies what can be accomplished with "no brains whatsoever"........Ahha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!.

    Oh....and Happy Halloween!!

    October 31, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • End Religion

      Why can't warlocks have babies?
      They have crystal balls and Hollow-weenies.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  4. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    Just so you know this guy below named TheTruth is cnn contributer, and not a real person. This is a designed ploy, and Christians do not talk this way. It is blatently false and misrepresenting the love that Christ has for all people reguardless of religion.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  5. Al Franken

    Carlin died of heart failure which he had problems with his whole life and Higgins died from cancer and I explicitly remember him being very scared of dying. So was Carlin bitter at God and Higgins really really scared of God. - both were pretty opinionated about it.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • End Religion

      http://youtu.be/_7Hi_Wtvx9I

      October 31, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • End Religion

      And I believe George Carlin said something to the tune of "are you afraid of all the years before you were born? Why would you be afraid of the years after your death?" Also, George Carlin did not die. He passed away.

      Al, do you have any more lies that you need refuted?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  6. James PDX

    If there is a god, he had nothing to do with this storm or with anything that goes on with the human race. If he was going to get involved, the good things wouldn't happen equally to bad people and the bad things wouldn't happen equally to good people. That's what happens when it's just random chance. Best wishes to all those affected, directly or indirectly.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Al Franken

      God is imperfect. God is something out there that put our elements together to design our universe and life as we know it here on earth.

      God didn't move his finger and magically create us but rather brought elements together to create an environment that we can grow and produce.

      No different than a scientist. bad things happen to God just as they do to the Gods of other manipulated organisms - scientists

      October 31, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • George W. Bush

      Why do dingbat theolomorons take the names of atheists and liberals to post under? Franken? Hitchens?

      It just adds another layer of complexity to your dingbat absurdism. Multilayered dingbat absurdism.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • End Religion

      "no different than a scientist"

      lol, god is the opposite of a scientist...

      October 31, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Alvin

      Yep, Endy. Scientists actually exist!

      October 31, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  7. Zuddy

    I was near the ocean during the hurricane, I squinted my eyes and I could swear I saw the flying spaghetti monster riding one of the waves. He was coming to punish the east coast because they defied his divine will by voting for Obama.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  8. The truth

    God is letting his presence known as well as his wrath. He attacked new orleans and drowned thousands of those godless africans, he caused an earthquake in haiti, killing 100,000 of those godless, raping, murdering vodoo practicing Africans and now a short time later, he attacks left wing liberal areas, states where people proudly flip off god, and who are pro death concerning abortion.

    God is only getting warmed up, there are going to be mountains of left wing lib corpses coming. Thank you God and Bless you!

    October 31, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • mlblogsyankeeblogspot

      Just so you people know this is a cnn contributer, and not a real person. This is a designed ploy, and Christians do not talk this way. It is blatently false and misrepresenting the love that Christ has for all people reguardless of religion.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • James PDX

      There are conservatives and Christians in every one of those places you mentioend. I guess your god is either very fond of collateral damage or just not powerful enough to control who he hurts.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Austin

      A CNN contributor just trying to stir the pot and make Christians look bad, huh? Have any evidence for that?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • The truth

      I'm not a "CNN" contributor and Jesus was a fraud but there is a God and he is a stern God but awesome to behold to his followers.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • unbelievable...

      Anyone who would say such awful things is an evil, hateful human being. May God have mercy on your racist, cruel, unfeeling soul.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Jeff

      I am a Christian. I believe in God. If you are a believer, and I believe you are just trying to stir up people here rather than actually belief, then I am embarrassed to be associated with you. I pray for you. Godless Africans? They are Americans, learn your continents, there are only 7 of them for goodness sake.

      You, if you are a Christian, are the type of Christian that these people have stereotypically made us all out to be, delusional, narrow minded hater mongers. You are pathetic. I only pray that you see your words, if you really believe them, as so wrong that you could claim temporary insanity.

      Please know, that the overwhelming majority of Christianity doesn't believe as this racist does. And so you know, I am white, defending my fellow brethren.

      "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"

      YOu make me sick.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  9. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    I wanted to say that 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 31, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  10. Wanderer

    I don’t care if God exists in your delusion or out there in which that even God does not know, my heart goes out to those caught in the Sandy.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  11. Your religion is just stupid. Unless of course, you have a KING in your corner.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVkoQHCXSK8

    October 31, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  12. Bruce

    After a lifetime of struggle I have finally come to the conclusion that religion not only provides no answers, but it does far more harm than good.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  13. Your religion is just stupid. Unless of course, you have a KING in your corner.

    (And then you just have to support a king.)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVkoQHCXSK8

    October 31, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • laodegan

      This is why the British Crown is a big fail. They only have a queen.

      Atheists are d*cks.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Satan

      Ah, monarchy. What's better than serving a dictator?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • sarah

      "Atheists are d!cks"

      No – we have women-folk, too.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • laodegan

      Atheist women-folk are d*cks too.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  14. The truth

    God just send a hurricane to attack left wing liberal states. It's clear who's side God is on.

    Go God!

    October 31, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • mlblogsyankeeblogspot

      You have no right to speak for us Christians, and most all of us do not agree with you in what you say for no one can judge Gods actions or what exactly his actions are. You are not who people say you are. This is a designed algorithim and ploy to stir up anger. I hope Christians everywhere will come together right now in support of loving service, and show every man, despite his religion or belief we stand by you in hard times.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • God

      Umm, actually storms just happen sometimes. You really still think I cause the weather?!?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ummm, I mean yes, I am all powerful and everything that happens is directly due to my influence. Send virgins. Hot ones. With big ti.ts.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • End Religion

      my goodness but you're vapid

      October 31, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Bruce

      Right on God! Murder and mayhem, what you've been good at for millennia... and your hate-monger followers cheer you on as you destroy and kill. I think I will stick with atheism.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • The truth

      lol, go ahead and stick with your "atheism" God will make your short life miserable and then send you to hell. He is not a tender loving God to those who disrespect him.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • And dats da twuuuuufthwthwthwthwthw

      If I might point out the obvious, all signs are that God is going to lose the election.

      Not much of a god, is he?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • The truth

      Obama is not a "god" or a "messiah" or a "king" or whatever you think he is, but you are right, he will lose the election and all the signs point to it.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • And dats da twuuuuufthwthwthwthwthw

      I will be having such a wonderful laugh at you in exactly a week.

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

      tbt, the election is over. Electoral college is going with Obama. How will you handle this loss? Is this one of the mysterious ways of your god to make you suffer 4 more Obama years?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Dr. Spock

      The Senate goes Demo too, thanks to a couple nimrods who decided to share their religious convictions about rape.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  15. DrDiane

    God is a Democrat for this election. He sent two storms to let us know.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • The truth

      By attacking democrat states? LOL

      God is definitely NOT a democrat or has some strange notion of love. God... I love you! I am on your side! NOW FEEL MY WRATH.

      You're dumb.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • UncleM

      Have you noticed that when religious people start spouting about Truth out comes a bunch of made-up lies?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  16. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    I linked a video about how I believe Jesus would look at the world around us. This is important. We must have love for one another, this means slow to judge, quick to help, and eager to understand. It is time for great love in our homeland. We have oppertunities to make each others lives a little better right now. The only good thing about something bad happening is it gives us an oppertunity to do good for those around us, and show forth Gods love to others.

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

      Why don't you start with hom.ose.xuals? Show them god's love by allowing them to have the same benefits that straight couples have. That will be a good start.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Very Revealing

      So you made a video of what Jesus would say about the modern world? You do realize that you just admitted that Jesus is imaginary, as you used your imagination to create what you cannot possibly know, and are passing it off as Jesus.

      Your Jesus is your imagination.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  17. matt houston

    I am no atheist. But I see no reason to believe a book that says a burning bush spoke, a snake spoke, the human race came from two people, a guy survived 3 days inside a whale, billions of species of organisms fit inside a boat to survive a flood that killed the rest of the organisms on earth...

    If a religious person thinks that the atheist is crazy...they really should take a look at their beliefs...vs. blaming someone who follows logic and science as a guide to their understanding of the universe.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • manbearpig

      Religion and critical thinking don't exactly go hand in hand.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      "I am no atheist. But..."

      You seem like a reasonable person, so my question is, "why not?"

      October 31, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • moi

      Don't be afraid to admit you're an atheist. It's not a bad word.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • matt houston

      @GodFreeNow – why am I not an atheist?

      Because I only have six senses and they can only interact with six kinds of objects corresponding to those six senses. All instruments of science, no matter how powerful are only amplifications and extensions of those senses: the ear and audible sounds, the eye and visible things, the nose and odors, the body and touchable objects, the tongue and objects to be tasted, the mind and the contact of the mind with the thoughts which it produces as a result of the other 5 senses interacting with their respective objects.

      Needless to say, the totality of existence is exponentially more profound and complicated than what our senses can detect and interpret. There may be things which we will never ever be able to detect, let alone even conceive or understand.

      In short, I think that the atheist certainty of their understanding of existence is as absurd as any religious zealot's certainty of existence. They are two sides of the same coin. My position is simply, "I do not know."

      Surely the Bible and Abrahamic writings are at best wrong and at worse profoundly retarded with all their contradictions and myths which are incongruent even with basic limited scientific observations. But that being the case does not mean that there are things which are beyond our understanding, or far superior life forms which we could not fathom. A stage 4 life form would seem godlike to us....merely stage 0 civilization.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • matt houston

      @moi... I am not afraid. I was once an atheist. It was due to dissatisfaction, disappointment, disillusionment of the myths of religions. It was not the right reason to become atheist. Indeed, it should not be the right reason to join any group. The right reason should be objective analysis and thorough investigation to all sides and looking at the big picture. I had to concede that atheism suffered the same handicap that religions suffer...they both cannot account for many child like questions about existence.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Interesting, but . . .

      Uh, your "sixth sense" isn't a sense.

      If I can ask, do you believe in unicorns, of are you of the belief that we should be agnostic towards them too? And Quetzlcoatl? Leprechauns? Harvey the rabbit?

      Total lack of evidence is very strong evidence that it doesn't exist.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • matt houston

      @Interesting, but said, "sixth sense does not exist."

      And you are a great example of what I was talking about. See how you automatically presume that I am following the taxonomy of the senses according to Western thinking? Such is the myopia that some people suffer. They can only think in the way that they were trained to think,.. if something does not match their methodology, then it must be wrong. As if the 'correct' universe only exists as they see it. This is the same disease as the religious zealots. Only they see the universe in a holy book.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • matt houston

      I cannot be agnostic towards unicorns...because they do not exist. A unicorn is by definition a horse with one horn, there are horses...but not none with horns, lest you read a fairy tale. A horse exists. Horned animals exist. Yet the horned horse does not exist...except by human manipulation. I can only be agnostic towards things which are by definition undetectable, unknowable and rely on faith. I know about horses, I know about horned animals, I even know about unicorns in fairy tales...thus I know them to be untrue. I know the stories of gods, I know the biblical stories of the Abrahamic god and I know that the books contradict each other as well as established experience, thus I cannot be agnostic towards gods or God.

      HOWEVER, I must be agnostic to the possibility of god like life forms which I have never even conceived of whom other humans have never conceived of let alone met. I remain agnostic to the deeper undiscovered mysteries of the universe which science has yet to uncover. I believe that everything is natural in the end. There is no such thing as supernatural. They only appear supernatural because we do not understand them yet.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • matt houston

      @Interesting, but --

      I will give you a hand in order to show you that I understand what your point, but that you have lost my point completely. You chose unicorns, leprechuans as examples of foolishness of agnosticism. Your examples work on the premise that since none have seen these, agnosticism could appropriately (yet foolishly) be applied to them. This has nothing to do with agnosticism as it pertains to myself. Unicorns, leprechuans, tooth fairies are real life things – they are characters in cultural myths. So there is no need to be agnostic or believe in them. It's a poor example.

      My agnosticism pertains to things which we do not know about. Such examples would be, what happens after death? What is thought? What is love? Why must entropy exist? Why can't we traverse time as we do space? Why does nature have rules? Now you can explain the mechanism of such things to an extent...but good luck explaining why those mechanism behave that why. Good luck explaining why the Big Bang happened or what was before it. It will forever be in the realm of speculation and educated guessing. Not matter how dense the mathematics and physicals are behind those guesses...they will never be known for certain.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Interesting, but . . .

      Just as there is no evidence for unicorns, there is exactly the same lack of evidence for gods. You dismiss unicorns and other non-existent things easily until you get to god, where your standards radically change. Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. Either a total lack of evidence does mean that the item in question does not exist, or you have to be agnostic towards every unevidenced asserted being simply because they cannot be proven.

      You did not prove your sixth sense existed, You only went ad hominem against Western thinking, which I guess means the rational notion of proof and results. Sorry, but that is a big fail too. If I assert that there is a 27th sense noted in the Andorran Book of the Dead, which western science arrogantly ignores, that don't make it even remotely true. I would have to prove it. Prove it.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  18. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zSaOgz_X48

    October 31, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  19. Lewis Black - the Old Testament

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGrlWOhtj3g

    October 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  20. mlblogsyankeeblogspot

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zSaOgz_X48

    October 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • ....

      OK, some still color-by-number pictures of Jesus – and that's about it.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:01 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.