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. doctore0

    Donald Duck bless you and may Batman lead the way

    October 31, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • David DeForge


      October 31, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  2. glades2

    We must always remember that the God who parted the Red Sea is the same God that exists today and forever – we change from day to day, but God does not, and His work then as now often has to do with the oceans He created...

    October 31, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Steve D.

      If you're suggesting that because this storm came from over the ocean that means God willed it or caused it, I am offended. As a relgious man who takes theBbible seriously I tell you there is nothing in the Bible to support your view and much to dispute it.

      The common viewpoint among the Biblically challenged that God controls and manages each even and every detail isn't found in that book. It is a creation of their own ignorance and the ignorance of those who taught them. The Bible repeatedly reveals to us that there are things in the world God does not control and cannot predict. Stop telling people otherwise.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  3. mcp123

    The message from Westboro Baptist sums up the stupidity of the religious types perfectly...such ignorance is the reason they believe in magical sky people anyway.

    October 31, 2012 at 7:14 am |
  4. k

    It's always startling to me how vehement some (though not all) atheists are. I mean, ok. You don't believe in anything that you can't see, touch, or imperially measure, etc. (so much for ever believing in love, I guess); and that's your call if that's what you think. But to chastise others because they have reason to believe there is more to the world than just scientifically discernible facts – and to do so in such a mean-spirited way, is really beyond me. This, of course, doesn't cover every atheist out there. But so many comments here are just harsh and (in my opinion) unnecessary. Can't we go a little easier on one another? (And I direct that to believers too!)

    October 31, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  5. Peikovi

    Adding God to the equation is like adding a zero. The equation works with or without that.

    October 31, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • blackberry

      Well put.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:24 am |
  6. Dl

    God must hate people to bring such a devastating storm & kill so many

    October 31, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  7. zombiehoosier

    What role should faith play? That question was answered by our founders long ago. The role is determined by the person speaking. If they're Christian, it's God. Atheist, empathy.

    October 31, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  8. casey

    One pair of hands working will achieve more than a thousand pairs clasped in prayer . If you want to help then do it.

    October 31, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  9. gladtobeinwi

    Pray to Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy while your at it...

    October 31, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  10. fiftyfive55

    Atheists make me laugh ! That's right,laugh,at them.They are the biggest hypocrites ever , reason being that because they don't believe in God,they belittle and make fun of anybody who does.At the same time,while they constantly want us to respect their nonbeliefs in a higher power,they don't show respect for people who do.Atheists need to learn respect for other's beliefs simply as good manners and respect for other people's thoughts and basically show common sense.

    October 31, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • zachmarsh

      Please, it's not so black and white. I do not believe in God, but I completely respect your right to worship as you please. I ask that you respect mine. You can't say that about atheists any more than I can say that all Christians are trying to impose their faith on me. There are, and will always be, extremists on both sides. Don't be one of them.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • Enlightened

      Perhaps some atheists do exactly what you are saying they do, but many more simply are tired of having religion shoved into the public sphere. Be religious all you want–privately. Religious dogma has no place in a secular government or in the laws of a country that have to apply to eveyrone, regardless of religion or lack thereof.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Jim

      As an Atheist, I can say I respect your right to believe in whatever you like. The religious always feel the need to have their beliefs codified into public policy, which is the highest form of disrespect for those of different faiths, or none.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • jason

      can't help it it's too easy to make fun of someone who believes fairy tales are actually real , do you believe jack in the bean stalk actually climbed a vine into the clouds as well lol

      October 31, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Andy

      Of course we make you laugh. It makes you feel important, however you and your millions of brethren knelt in prayer have done nothing for those that felt the 'cain. So continue to laugh I hope it makes you feel complete

      October 31, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • fiftyfive55

      @ jim & jason-your exactly what I'm talking about,ignoramouses like you guys.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Quinn G

      No, they're sometimes bold on this subject because they know that sitting around and praying will do nothing compared to getting up and helping your family, friends, and the people who were affected more than you. If you look at it from their point of view, people who do nothing but pray are lazy and deluded.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Michael

      @fiftyfive55 – Your comment is a perfect example of a major difference between athiests/agnostics and believers (usually christians) You started off by childish name calling and then completely turned into a hypocrate yourself in your response to Jim and Jason. We non-believers are usually sarcastic in our remarks, but the venom and loathing that is employed by believers is staggering to me.

      October 31, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  11. Non-believer

    He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

    October 31, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  12. Caryn Miller

    I just love how people pray to god and then as someone else said, that this "imaginary friend" would spare one family, but not another. Really? People only pray when help is needed, but do they ever pray for the bad (ie, praying that their house is flooded or that they lose a loved one, etc.) No, didn't think so. How can someone actually believe this?

    October 31, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  13. trollol

    You can't thank or blame god because god doesn't exist. To say thank god is like pretty much saying "Thanks for sending the disaster to my neighbor instead of me". To blame god is vice versa, "Why did you have to send that disaster to me and not my neighbor"? And the last one, saying "god bless", is a joke of a line because if you believe in god then that disaster was orchestrated by god and in no way does a "blessing" make god's disaster any less devastating.

    October 31, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • saggyroy

      "... no way does a "blessing" make god's disaster any less devastating...." But they also claim a blessing in disguise, so it covers the good and bad situations. God is always good and he always agrees with me.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:34 am |
  14. 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 31, 2012 at 6:10 am |
    • saggyroy

      Only the good die young.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Even if that BS were true, it doesn't change the fact that atheists are right and religionists aren't.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:20 am |
    • M

      I, too, read their findings. Their conclusion was that christians, on average, live 39 years longer so that they will have more time to pester the crap out of everybody else.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • Liz

      Wow. Atheists die 39 years earlier than believers, you say? Average life expectancy is about 78 years (US, according to google). That means your average atheist dies at 39. Or your average xtian has a problem with facts and logic.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • saggyroy

      It's a quality of life issue. Live in fear of some vengeful, hate mongering, imaginary being who like to throw hissy fits and make his "children" suffer, or enjoy the time you have with the people you love, and appreciate the beauty of nature.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • camd

      Please cite your sources.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • Rudy1947

      I'm 65 and an Atheist. I guess I'm a ghost or something.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Jim

      In Sweden, about 20% of its citizens believe in a god. The average life expectancy is 81.5 years.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • lefty

      I read a study that says Christians make up their own "facts"

      October 31, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Michael

      I read that 84.279% of all statistics are made up 😉

      October 31, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  15. Eve

    It's hard to believe that we still live in an age of ignorance. Perhaps the people at CNN have nothing else to do, but put together crap like this. What a waste. To the world: Wake up people, there is no reality based on the fictional book called the bible.

    October 31, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  16. Awesomeness

    "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."

    Right on. If you want to help, you have to actually get up and help. It's lazy to think that just praying for a situation does anything at all. It doesn't do anything. You have to work if you want things to change.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:56 am |
  17. lol

    They hyped up a category 1 storm into something beyond what it is. Classic mountain out of a molehill metaphor. It was a physically large storm but still a Catagory 1 storm. I cut farts with greater wind speed than a cat 1 storm.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:39 am |
    • Floyd


      October 31, 2012 at 5:42 am |
  18. Gaunt

    When a natural disaster happens and hundreds of thousands are killed, well clearly that had nothing do do with god, right? But if one person turns up alive after three days, its a miracle of god.

    The hypocricy of the religious fascinates me.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:08 am |
    • saggyroy

      When thousands are killed they blame it on the gays.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:21 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Please read my post above. You might want to change your mind.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • fintastic

      @goop..... When you post some real evidence that god exists, then I'll change my mind.

      I'm waiting....... and not holding my breath.

      In the mean time, have fun with your mythology.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:36 am |
  19. Mosesthejew

    Why when anything that is terrible happens it's Satan's fault and if something special occurs like saving baby Jessica from the well, it's praise God.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:00 am |
    • saggyroy

      In the bible, god gets the credit for killing for people than Satan. Satan has some catching up to do.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • saggyroy

      I meant killing MORE people than Satan.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:24 am |
  20. Mosesthejew


    October 31, 2012 at 4:57 am |
    • M

      Moses, you've come a long way since Mt. Sinai.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:38 am |
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About this blog

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