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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. James Johnson

    This is the same country that has removed God from the schools, public places, and where a child cannot even sit in silent prayer and pray to God in heaven without being persecuted or even prosecuted. When then would the same country that wants to remove GOD from everything in life even apply his name to disaster. I believe in God all the time, through the Good and Bad. One cannot pick and choose when to believe or apply his control over this life and realm. Seems the truth always comes toward peoples beliefs when their own personal catastrophe hits that God and heavens real when looking for salvation. Why not trying to thank and respect God even when there's no need and things are looking good. Wishing all those effected God's Blessings and ability to feed off his strength in dealing with this situation.

    October 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      More fvcking bullsh!t from a lying zealot. No child is EVER prevented from praying anywhere.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Lars

      I believe in God too. And just like my genitals, I prefer not to wave it around in public.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Yeah. Let me take a minute to thank my imaginary friend for nothing.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • laodegan

      Yes James. You lying zealot, you. How dare you believe in God all the time.... ? How dare you expect to practice your religion freely without persecution.... ? You... zealot, you. Oh, and how dare you wish God's Blessings on everyone. That's like hoping babies are burned.

      Oh dear. Atheists are such d*cks.

      October 30, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  2. Live4Him

    @Tom, Tom: SAT scores do not equate to logical reasoning, but only the ability to learn. If one has the ability to reason, they don't need to depend upon mockery in their argument.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The ability to use the "reply" function here is indicative of the level of intelligence of a poster. You fail.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Tom: Your mockery indicates your level of reasoning skills (or lack there of).

      October 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it doesn't. It it indicates my complete disdain for azzholes like you.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • theorycraft

      oh yeah Tom, you should strap on an explosive vest and take out a bunch of them.. I hear they like to meet on sundays 😉

      October 30, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why don't you, big brave bozo? Go ahead. Make your statement.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  3. cynthia

    I am from Joplin, MO where an “act of God” ripped apart the town with an E5 tornado in May 2011 and now the East Coast has been brutalized by the very same “god”. I do not understand how anyone can say there is a god and these acts were his plan. If they were his plan then why pray, the outcome has already been determined and why thank him when it’s over and innocent people are dead. You might take note that scientists predicted Sandyand saved millions of lives, not the magical guy in the sky.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I agree, cythnia. The fundies are doing nothing more advanced than giving burnt offerings to their god in grati tude for their survival, while neighbors of theirs, just as good, perished.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • theorycraft

      the true purpose of prayer is not for the benefit of God or someone else, the point of prayer is not to change the world, prayer is the method of communication between man in his walk with his Lord. It is simply the vehicle in which we grow this relationship. The roar of 'why god why' is just as valid a prayer as any other.

      For example, when you say to a friend, 'i wish...' or 'i hope...' do you do it because that friend could somehow make it happen? No. You're expressing an opinion which is adding to a long list of interactions that comprise the relationship between you and a friend.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Kafir

      Except that, when you communicate with your friend, you receive an actual reply.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  4. TrueRomneyFans

    i know that god sent this hurricane as a message. i know that jesus walked on water to prove that he is the son of god. he also turned water into wine. Jesus could have put three moons into the sky forever, but he didn't, because he doesn't want to show off. Only the devil would show off.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      I think the spell of creation delivering this second Obama hurricane to attack New York is enough. Do not encourage Jesus to send earth quakes too.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, brother. I can only hope you are both just dumbazz teenaged trolls with nothing to do.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Matt

      Think of a phrase. Any phrase. Now say it to someone. Tell them to say it to someone else, and so on. In a couple million iterations, see if the phrase still resembles your phrase. Now intersperse in that time famine, war, pestilence, migration, censorship, and a handful of other things not particularly conducive to free and transparent discourse. Does it still resemble your phrase?

      Probably not.

      That's your bible.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Walking on water, turning water to wine, coming back from the dead....... who's the showoff?

      October 30, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  5. Chris

    Believe in god if it makes you feel special, but there is absolutely no evidence for a god. Don't be afraid to critically examine your own belief system. That includes the atheists. Critically examine your world view continually, your whole life....

    October 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  6. Journey

    The evangelical movement would be the last in line to help these poor people, but would be the first in line to cut funding for FEMA as part of some "evil empire". This, like 9/11, is God's will and who are we to interfere, right? The evangelical movement had serious standing during the Civil War but was hijacked by extremists and has lost it's moral authority. All it does now is spew hatred and revenge at it's own society for calling a spade a spade. Go away.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  7. billf

    "What god wants, god gets, god help us all." – Roger Waters

    October 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  8. OldYgg

    Well, if it was the wrath of god, it was fairly ineffectual. It must be a very weak god.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Katrina

      Be careful what you wish for!

      October 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      He must just be a little annoyed.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  9. Geo

    Wow, theres is a god so freaking insecure that you are left to burn if you do not 'respect' him . lmao. I will take atheism every time. Sounds kind of petty that a god would be so narcissitic ... Hmm could it be that humans have that trait and gave it to their imaginary friend. Me thinks that is the case.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      It is normal for Humans to Worship what they Fear; our nature.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • OTOH

      John P. Tarver,

      Humans "worship" what they fear? Huh?

      I have a few fears (phobias, even)... and no, I do not wish to discuss them - but "worship" them - get outta here.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  10. Goofiness Decoder

    As an atheist I am appalled by the number of people who have the unmitigated gall to claim to know what God wants, since it is clear that no one has access to God, or even strong evidence that God exists. That's why they call theistic religion FAITH BASED BELIEF.

    I take it as an article of logic that if someone doesn't even know if God exists, they don't know diddly squat about any characteristic whatsoever of God.

    The fact that there are over 38,000 Christian denominations means there are over 38,000 different individual competing claims to know "what God wants" since each such claim is discrete and idiosyncratic. This is the best most rational reference for claims Christians make to know “what God wants”

    Denominations are not trivial things; they represent strong differences in the very claims to know “what God wants”; claims so strong and intolerantly held that different denominations will not worship the same God under the same roof on a regular basis. Theistic religion is a scam.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      In the Copenhagen Observations of 1927 Einstein claimed Relativity and Quantum Mechanics require a sentient being outside the universe to make the universe real. John Bell proved that Probabilities are not Deterministic, thereby eliminating the scientific basis of the alternative Multi-Universe notional hypothesis.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Nodack

      Einstein didn't believe in God. That is a fact.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Einstein was widely made fun of for Relativity and Quantum mechanics; that were often refered to as "Jew Science" by his detractors. Today the understanding of our universe has released sorceries of massive porportions, with man flying through the sky safely and electronics everywhere.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  11. jms4177

    I grew up believing in god and can see how many people believe in the same god and also how other faiths believe in their god. I now believe that it is simply the luck ot the draw. If prayer really worked, we should see miracles on national prayer day. Instead of that, things continue as they have for thousands of years. The power in in each of us and we are free to use our gifts to help or to harm society. I choose to not follow ancient myths.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • TheObvious

      Prayer is how you communicate with God. It is not how you "make miracles happen."
      Your development of understanding, unfortunately, ended too soon.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Nodack

      I guess you didn't pray hard enough for this storm to be nice. It's all your fault. In Italy the might even throw you in jail.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • OldYgg

      Well, that is a common understanding among Christians that you pray and if you are good and just that God answers prayers. On National Prayer day millions of Christians Pray and nothing gets answered, and the theist is left with few alternatives. 1) All the Christians that prayed and didn't have a good result weren't good enough, 2) There is a god but it isn't a personal god and doesn't perform on queue like T-Rex in Jurassic Park, 3) God Doesn't exist 4) For reasons of his own God wants to torture the world in specific way – just like when he was just messin' with Job...

      October 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • fintastic

      @theobvious Communication suggests a 2 way conversation, ... it's more like broadcasting to no audience.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  12. SPQR

    As far as these disasters. Keep in mind that our planet / solar system / galaxy are in constant movement at incredible speeds.

    The earth alone rotates on its own axis at 1,040 MPH.

    Now our Galaxy including our Solar System is in constant movement too. My point is that we are not static.

    Just buckle up because the turbulence sign is on.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  13. cantsee

    Lordish doth Punish

    October 30, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  14. Lee Oates

    Perhaps if the Naked Ape would quit dancing around the fire and screaming to the divine pumkin, he could instead concentrate on not using fossel fuels and destroying his environment. How bad will it have to get before he realizes his own actions produce his destruction. Moat likely he won't until the species goes extinct. [Getting closer and closer].

    October 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      The human genome project is complete and we know that Dog is Man's closest genome relative. Please do not encourage racism and the mistreatment of Apes with your outdated understanding of the origins of man.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Lee Oates

      Highly unlikely, humans lack the warmth and loyalty of the dog. It would be unkind to burden the dog with man's existence.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Matt

      Dogs are about as unrelated to humans as a true mammal can get.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • John

      The human race has run its course. The planet would be much simpler and more beautiful without it.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  15. ferg liston

    theists continue to deny what is obvious. so long as they keep their idiocy to themselves, stop molesting children and start paying taxes, i'm ok with it!

    October 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • saggyroy

      You forgot starting wars.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  16. therealpeace2all

    @scot pederson

    " You can deny God all you want right now but (**it is written**) that one day, every knee & every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord over all. "

    So what if "it is written" ? Proves nothing. One of the greatest ways of being turned off from the Bible 'is' to read the Bible and take it literally.

    Peace...

    October 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  17. Jim Hahn

    Praying to some imaginary deity to help, offer relief from, curse, or blame some weather event is like cursing your car for a flat tire. It doesn't change a thing and you still have to change the tire and accept the consequences. So save your time and your breath and MAKE A DIFFERENCE (selfless) rather than asking for one be made for you (selfish). Get out and help.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Even if there is no God, there is that means to forgive ourselves, better than blurring the lines between memories and fabrications, like scientology auditing does. Even if as Jung suggested, it is all nonsense so it does not matter what you believe, but I think it does matter what we believe, that faith makes for an whole man.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  18. The LORD

    Prayer is a waste of time that is done to satisfy the vanity of those who sit on the sidelines in times of crisis...instead of actually doing something, they can console themselves with "I prayed for everyone's safety" as if that means something. So what, if enough people pray, god will spare some victims? Perhaps if only a few more people would have prayed, the damage would have been less severe?!?!?!

    Get real and get your head out of the clouds!!!!

    October 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • TheObvious

      If private prayer is vanity..... imagine how your public comments attacking those who choose to believe appear? Good grief.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      TheOblivious: Those who choose to run their lives in accordance with ancient fairy-tales deserve all the scorn that can be mustered...

      October 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  19. TheObvious

    Can't help but point out the obvious... the non-believers are quite clearly posting the most aggressive, rude, and hateful comments. Sorry... but it's obvious. If I had to choose people to live around, I'd happily choose the believers. They may not have "love" in their heart for all their fellow men, but they certainly don't harbor the same level of hatred for those who are different. God preached love for your fellow man... and it's clear that the athiests here have rejected that lesson too.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark goes Quant-ity Surveying

      it is because we care about our fellow man that we are prepared to speak up and point out the delusional aspects of belief.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • TheObvious

      Hardly. To not believe is a personal choice. Pushing it on others is just as bad as pushing religion on non-believers. Athiests have far less tolerance for different views and opinions. Look at your own comment... how self-righteous. How conceded. How arrogant. Instead of learning to live with others, you try to change them. It's really quite sad.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Lee Oates

      Perhaps those who believe in fairy tales find it offensive behaviour to disbelieve, and project their hatred.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • nojinx

      Pointing out the obvious I see: you have never seen the Westboro Baptist Congregation.

      Also obvious: atheists are, by definition, the most diverse group of people on the planet. They come from all nations, races, faith backgrounds, educations and economic conditions. To try to label them as a group is as logical as trying to label all people on the planet who are not sports fans.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Nick

      I am a non-believer and I feel as though if someone finds comfort in thoughts of God during difficult and challenging times such as these, he or she should be encouraged to embrace and take comfort in their faith. Now is not the time to take advantage of a devastating situation in order to ridicule another person's belief.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Nick

      But also, to make a blanket statement suggesting that atheists are, as a whole, less tolerant people than any religious people is a pretty ridiculous assertion.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Nodack

      PFFT!

      Make Athiest out to be evil people if it makes you feel better about yourself. If you are a Republican then Democrats are all evil. If you are a Democrat then all Republicans are evil. If you use a Droid phone then all iPhone users are evil. If you drive a Ford then Chevy users are evil bad people. If you are a Christian then Muslims are all evil people. If you are a Muslim then all Christians are evil people. If you like the Denver Broncos then all Raiders fans are evil.

      Blaa, blaa, blaa

      October 30, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • mama k

      Like Nodak said. But leave my damn iPhone out of this!

      October 30, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  20. scot pederson

    You can deny God all you want right now but it is written that one day, every knee & every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord over all. Perish the thought if you go a whole lifetime and refuse to see that and not repent. All us believers were in that same state at one time so we pray for those who are still not willing to trust in Him.

    Putting science or your own logic to explain forces so powerful like a Hurricane or the perfect position of the only planet with complex, organic life in the Universe which is earth is such a denial of rationality.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark goes Quant-ity Surveying

      Blah, blah, blah – it is written. big flippin' deal, scottie-boy. It is also written in the same book that bats are birds and that rabbits chew their cud.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      There is no proof that life exists only on this planet. For you to assume that you know for a fact that life only exist here is ridiculous. Therefore you have no right to talk of rationality.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @scot pederson

      " You can deny God all you want right now but (**it is written**) that one day, every knee & every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord over all. "

      So what if "it is written" ? Who cares... Your book proves nothing. One of the greatest ways of being turned off from the Bible 'is' to read the Bible and take it literally.

      Peace...

      October 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • nojinx

      We are all in the state of non-theism when born. We have to be taught and told of things that we cannot see evidence for.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • John Stalnaker

      Scott, if you believe that life only exists on Earth, that what is written in a book thousands of years ago is actually true, then you are just pathetic. It shows how narrow minded and brain washed you are by your religious beliefs.

      October 30, 2012 at 7:04 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.