November 18th, 2013
08:18 AM ET

Religion as solace in the Philippines

Tacloban City, The Philippines (CNN) - The day after the typhoon, the Rev. Edwin Bacaltos stepped out of the compound of the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in central Tacloban and began his work.

The scene was one of unspeakable horror. Dead bodies were strewn all over the place. The debris of shattered buildings and their contents filled the street.

Bacaltos' self-appointed task that day was to bless the bodies that lay scattered around his parish.

"It was difficult for me," he said. "It was a really emotional experience."

The next day, he said, "When I celebrated the Eucharist, I broke down because of all the suffering I had seen."

Hundreds of survivors were taking refuge in the church compound, much of which withstood Super Typhoon Haiyan's ferocious winds and destructive storm surge.

Many of them asked the pastor how God could let such a calamity befall this predominantly Catholic city.

His response, he said, was to tell them that "God is not the cause of the suffering. God cannot prevent this. This is the work of nature."

But why it had to happen to Tacloban and its more than 200,000 residents, Father Bacaltos acknowledged, is "difficult to explain."

As the people who remain in this broken city attempt to come to terms with the catastrophe that engulfed them a week ago, religion is offering a degree of solace for some of those who have suffered incalculable losses.

It's also providing basic elements of community and support to residents of an area where local government ceased to fully function for several days and is still only slowly sputtering back into action.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Death • Faith • Foreign policy • Philippines

soundoff (1,313 Responses)
  1. mzh

    ***His response, he said, was to tell them that "God is not the cause of the suffering. God cannot prevent this. This is the work of nature."***

    Rev. Edwin is making ‘nature’ as equal as The Creator…

    Most of the human has misconception of the term of 'Monothiestic' belief... and this Mono is being mixed up with Poly...

    November 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Neil

      "Rev. Edwin is making ‘nature’ as equal as The Creator…"– Where did you read that?

      November 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • mzh

        when he said, "This is the work of nature"...

        If you study the definition of pure monothism then you will find that there is nothing call nature...

        There are thing happens and the reason behind it, not known to any human... so they refers to the nature.... and they make this nature as an association to The Creator...

        Now after studying with my Christian friends and they clain that the Christianity is Monothiestic religion but the way they explains is the egg which contain three substances like the shell, the white and the yellow and they put these three in one... i think an elementary students would not be agreed that these 3 can be 1... 3 is 3 and cant be 1... can it?

        November 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
        • Neil

          Oh, Wow! How did you confuse Trinity with 'Nature'???

          Trinity is: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is the one true GOD.


          November 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
        • Joey

          Of course 3 can be 1, it is a magic number after all.

          November 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Crom

      So he denies the "all-powerfulness" of his god? Doesn't sound like much of a god, does it?

      November 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  2. autumn crisp

    autumn crisp: "Since you claim that God has not failed you, AE, can you demonstrate in some way how he came through for you – you know, not just the results, but exactly how you were able to know that it was "Him"?"

    AE: "God helps me overcome my disabilities. How do I know it is God? The serenity. "

    OK, come on, now, AE, did you or did you not help Jack Handy with some of his writing?
    Either way, I have a funny feeling you are well on your way to earning today's "Fundy Award for Circular Logic". (You know we give that to those that best demonstrate the Fundy method of inquiry and verification.)

    November 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  3. AverageJoe76

    Why did God ever need blood? Why did God like the smell of burning flesh?
    I know why..... god is human. Or 'was', at one time. Just a simple bipedal mammal with a really good imagination.

    November 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  4. Colin

    AE – It is absurd to think that belief in the Judeo-Christian God is a prerequisite for "morality". By "morality" I mean exhibiting those traits generally accepted by society as valuable in relationships with one's fellow man – honesty, integrity, charity, kindness etc. A few sound bite stats to demonstrate.

    1. On a map of the World, it is very simple to highlight those countries that are predominantly Christian (or Jewsih – one). They are, essentially, the Americas, Western Europe and parts of Africa. Now, if Judeo-Christianity was required for morality, would we not see a sharp distinction in overall moral behavior between that part of the World and what's left. We don't. Places like Ja.pan, Korea, India, China etc. exhibit such traits at indistinguishable levels.

    2. As a person loses their belief in the Judeo-Christian God, would we not expect to see a concomitant degeneration in their morality. Would not your agerage atheist be a psychopath? We don't see that at all. A loss of faith does not cause any kind of degeneration in moral behavior. I for one, am everybit as untrustworty and immoral now as I was when I believed in the Judeo-Christian god -:)

    3. Would not our prisons be full of atheists and other non-believers? The yare not. About 99% of the prison population believes in a god, and the vast majority of them the Judeo-Christian god.

    4. Would not countries with the highest rates of religious belief rate the lowest on the international ratings in terms of political corruption, political freedoms and standard of living. Again the opposite is true. This is also true in the USA – the most religious states, Mississippi, Louisianna, Alabama, Arkansas, tend to rank the lowest on these scales, too.

    No, I am afraid that linking morality to a beliefe in a god, ghost or goblin is a discredited argument for god. In fact, even if it were true, and the more a person believed in a god, the more moral they were, thqat would only be an argument for BELIEF IN God not for the EXISTENCE of God.

    November 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  5. Alias

    For starters, can we all agree on math?
    I know a few people on both extreem edges are already dissagreeing with me, but I'm willing to ignore them and keep typing, poorly.
    If we take the total population on the planet and divide by life expectancy we should get an estimate of te number of people dying every year. This will not be an exact calculation due to demographics, te population not being constant, etc., but it is a starting point and should be within 10%.
    Now, if we divide that number by the number of days in a year, we get something like 270,000.
    Yes, there are on average about 270,000 deaths every day on Earth.
    So how is it that if 3 or 4 thousand people die in one event, this proves god is evil or non-existant?
    I don't believe god exists, but can we please have rational arguements to the point and not this failed logic every time a natural disaster happens!

    November 19, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Cal


      November 19, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Crom

      Since I haven't seen any arguments like that, I wonder who you are talking to?
      Your strawman is worthless. Troll harder.

      November 19, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • Strawman?

        "Dyslexic doG

        such natural disasters prove that your god either does not exist, is not in control, or is an evil, sadistic, malicious freak of a creature. Either way, why the HECK do you worship him?!"

        Plenty of other posts like that.

        November 19, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • Alias

        What about the aticle TI.TLED, "Where was god in the philippines?"

        The same question was asked in recent tordados in the midwest.
        No strawman or trolling here.

        November 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Crom

        Sorry, I meant that I have seen no posts that make an issue of the number of people killed being indicative of anything either way.
        Yes, we often get these dime-store articles that ask such stupid questions as "where was god" in such and such an event.
        But the question is most often asked by Christians who use this straw-man question to go into a rant about the "deeper" meanings and blather on about compassion, etc. with a religious reference here and there until you find you've been reading a worthless rag of some idiots idea of a sermon on current events. That's where they ignore the "where's god" question to talk as if their god has always been there in their "hearts".
        As to the other quote, I would say that it is a form of argument that leaves out much, but still makes a valid point – if you have a god with certain attributes and characteristics and real life events always show that such a god isn't doing anything real to, for, or against anyone in real life, then no such gods could exist with such attributes.
        The number of people killed is irrelevant, as it is more the type of individuals killed that make the argument compelling.
        Were such natural disasters to always kill people who transgressed some immutable moral law, then that would show up in the lists of the dead, but everyone dies at random. Nothing but ignoring safety concepts and common sense could come close to being a demographic with a higher death toll.

        But the number of people killed? Who has actually come out to specifically use that as some sort of qualification for anything?

        November 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • ME II

      Not only is there a large localized death toll, but the suffering involves millions of survivors.

      To your point however, the same argument can and often is made for the deaths from disease, old age, etc., however such a high concentration of death and suffering just highlights amount of suffering a god would need to be willing to allow.

      November 19, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • ME II

        p.s. I'm not saying, or even implying, that any of that "proves" the non-existence of god(s).

        November 19, 2013 at 11:46 am |
        • Alias

          On the surface it does strike a cord that god allows a lot of suffering. However, if you look at how long this life lasts compared to the afterlife as described in the bible, christians should not whine about suffering at all.
          IF you believe that you can earn an eternity of happiness in a paradise full of golden streets and angles playing harps well, then why would pain matter for a few decades to get there?

          November 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
        • Crom

          I read somewhere that early Christians committed suicide by the thousands for decades before the RCC made a memo against it.
          Why don't they all kill themselves and go meet Jesus right now? That's what I don't understand.

          November 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • OTOH


          Yeah, and why do they THANK this fantasy being for surviving?!

          November 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Alias ... your math is poor.

      "Of the roughly 150,000 people who die each day across the globe, about two thirds—100,000 per day—die of age-related causes. In industrialized nations, the proportion is much higher, reaching 90%."
      - World Health Organization

      November 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
      • Alias

        Could you be a little more specific in your reference?
        I don't have time to look up everything the W.H.O. has published.
        It is possible they are only counting death in Hospitals in that number.
        Also, How would that change the arguements in any way?

        November 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  6. autumn crisp

    Oh here was one of the incidents I mentioned earlier. From AP:

    SANTIAGO, Chile - Chilean police on Thursday arrested four people accused of burning a baby alive in a ritual because the leader of the sect believed that the end of the world was near and that the child was the Antichrist.

    The 3-day-old baby was taken to a hill in the town of Colliguay near the Chilean port of Valparaiso on Nov. 21 and was thrown into a bonfire. The baby's mother, 25-year-old Natalia Guerra, had allegedly approved the sacrifice and was among those arrested.

    "The baby was naked. They strapped tape around her mouth to keep her from screaming. Then they placed her on a board. After calling on the spirits they threw her on the bonfire alive," said Miguel Ampuero, of the Police investigative Unit, Chile's equivalent of the FBI.

    Investigators search for evidence in a house that was used to perform rites by a sect in Colliguay, Chile.

    Authorities said the 12-member sect was formed in 2005 and was led by Ramon Gustavo Castillo Gaete, 36 [..]

    "Everyone in this sect was a professional," Ampuero said. "We have someone who was a veterinarian and who worked as a flight attendant, we have a filmmaker, a draftsman. Everyone has a university degree. "

    Over 40,000 sects. They keep trying for that perfect interpretation, but they just never seem to quite get there......

    November 19, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • autumn crisp

      Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. –Thomas Jefferson

      November 19, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    Thomas Jefferson

    "Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies."

    "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

    "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man."

    November 19, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  8. Deep Thougths

    "The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face. "

    November 19, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  9. Dwayne

    JW's have to be the worst wingnuts of the whole set of Christian whacko cults. No blood transfusions? What a bunch of backward sickos. Seriously.

    November 19, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • james

      Dwayne; look up bloodless surgery or hospitals and try to keep up.

      November 19, 2013 at 10:59 am |
      • Dwayne

        I've done that james. Bloodless surgery, while possible and even a good choice in some cases, is STUPID and DANGEROUS TO THE PATIENT in many others, to say the least. Even the most pro-broodless medical sources acknowledge that. Why don't you?

        Care to try again, stupid?

        November 19, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Beth

      The crowning case that blows away james' claims is that of an traffic accident victim that has already lost a lot of blood through major cut(s), and will die without blood transfusion.

      In that case, the JW position is deadly, and is truly stupid. Harsh words, sure, but apt this time.

      November 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
      • james

        beth and dwayne, you really do not know do you? I should have stayed here but in case you check back please rethink and research the newest info on where bloodless surgery is being used and why. there are so many alternatives and much safer for patients, doctors and insurance companies. the armed forces have even decided to follow these procedures for speed, safety and necessity in the field. check it out since it may mean your life some day.

        November 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
        • Beth

          james, is that your latest 15 minutes of cult service. Again, the crowning case that blows away james' claims is that of an traffic accident victim that has already lost a lot of blood through major cut(s), and will die without blood transfusion.

          In that case, the JW position is deadly, and is truly stupid. Harsh words, sure, but apt this time.

          December 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  10. Agnostickids

    It's interesting that after Haiti had it's earthquake crisis, christians were knocking them for practicing and referring to their Voodoo Gods. Now we see people in the Philippines turning toward their god, and yet no Haitians are mocking them…interesting.

    November 19, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  11. Dyslexic doG

    such natural disasters prove that your god either does not exist, is not in control, or is an evil, sadistic, malicious freak of a creature. Either way, why the HECK do you worship him?!

    November 19, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  12. autumn crisp

    I don't create people and then allow them to think and do crazy things thinking they are doing my will – like letting their children die by refusing medical care. That's the difference between me and your God. snap snap

    November 19, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • autumn crisp

      JW says "Though the bible explains why.."

      I sure does explain a lot of different things to different people! For some, it tells them that letting their kids die and return to "God" is better than taking them to a doctor. Wow.

      November 19, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  13. autumn crisp

    I don't create people and then allow them to think and do crazy things thinking they are doing my will like become serial killers. That's the difference between me and your God. snap snap

    November 19, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • autumn crisp

      JW says "Though the bible explains why.."

      I sure does explain a lot of different things to different people! For some, it tells them to do serial killing in His name. Wow.

      November 19, 2013 at 8:41 am |
      • True enough

        Did you know in the past several years, there have been some human sacrifices performed from people claiming to be doing the will of the God of the Bible. Yep.

        November 19, 2013 at 8:45 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Well that's just ridiculous!
        Religion has never led to anything of the sort.
        Now be quiet and drink your Kool-Aid.

        November 19, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • True enough

          Two cases actually in past several years – different groups thinking they were the Way, too! One involved sacrificing a baby and the other involved sacrificing a few adults.

          November 19, 2013 at 9:00 am |
        • Alias

          Yeah, but that was in Africa.
          American christians understand the bible and know what to do, so let's not confuse the issue with them ignorant foreigners.

          November 19, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  14. Reality # 2

    When you live in country that has four or more typhoons a year, one should expect such occurrences. Praying to some god won't change the situation. Making changes to house designs (storm cellars, safe rooms etc.) and restricting living quarters to safer locations would.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Reality # 2


      November 19, 2013 at 1:26 am |
  15. bostontola

    Rev. Bacaltos going through the devastation to comfort people is doing a service that I appreciate. It must be terribly difficult. My hat is off to him for this.

    November 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Crom

      You are an ass-hat, so that should be an entertaining spectacle, indeed. Perhaps you could take a pic for us.

      November 19, 2013 at 10:00 am |
      • bostontola

        Your argument and critical thinking skills are fully demonstrated in your post. Nothing but ad hominem.

        November 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    Hey Christians ... don't listen to facts or reason! You just keep on believing! It's so important! The biggest scam ever played on the human race is depending on people as stup1d as you to keep itself going.

    November 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • An actual scientist

      Hey Christians, don't let doG stereotype you into his narrow-minded idea of what a Christian is.

      November 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • bostontola

        What did he say that was a stereotype or not true of most Christians?

        November 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
        • An actual scientist

          I can probably find 100,000+ Christians that can demonstrate a better understanding of facts and reason than Dyslexic Dog.

          November 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • Moargus

          The average atheist knows the bible better than the average Christian does.

          November 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • An actual scientist

          The average atheist doesn't say things like that. Only the arrogant ones do.

          November 18, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
        • bostontola

          As an actual scientist, you should know that doesn't answer my question.

          November 18, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
        • An actual scientist

          There is a stereotype held by CNN Belief Blog atheists that Christians have an inferior understanding of reason and facts than them. But all they demonstrate is that CNN Belief Blog atheists mistakenly use reason and facts to justify their own bad behavior. Belief in God or disbelief in God does not make one more reasonable or factual. Thinking it does leads to arrogance, and then you start making and supporting stupid statements like Dyslexic Dog. You should be embarased to be asociated with him, not defending his small-minded and bigoted statements.

          November 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
        • bostontola

          He didn't say that though. I took that religious people have to suspend reason and facts to square with their beliefs. That is not a stereotype or wrong.

          November 18, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
        • Paul

          " I took that religious people have to suspend reason and facts to square with their beliefs. That is not a stereotype or wrong." –bostonola

          What do you mean by "beliefs"?

          November 18, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Christians have a prior belief that many of them do not examine and to which everything they might learn or reason out has to conform.

          November 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
        • Paul

          "Christians have a prior belief that many of them do not examine and to which everything they might learn or reason out has to conform." – TTTOO

          Hmm. I've never met a Christain like that. Are you sure that's not just your impression of Christians. How did you come to that conclusion?

          November 18, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        If you believe in an invisible spirit in the sky that can hear your telepathic prayers then you have already stereotyped yourself.

        November 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
        • Ocean

          If you believe everything just "poofed" itself into existence, you deserve more ridicule.

          November 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
        • bostontola

          Did you know that things poof into and out of existence almost all the time? It is observable.

          November 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
        • Moargus

          Ocean seems unaware of modern quantum theory. b0|n> b0+|n>to you, yo. In and out of existence. Ah, spontaneity...

          November 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
        • rab3

          @ Ocean no things don't just poof into existance. People say that only becuase the mechanism for their coming into existance has not been found like electrons jumping orbit. Something does not come from nothing except maybe you lines of reasoning.

          November 21, 2013 at 6:51 am |
        • Sara

          I'm agreed with rab3 ocean, you seem not to understand what is being argued in physics. Can you present a scientist who you think claims things just "poofed" and we can try to explain the particular position to you? Without referencing a particular theorist we can't really guess what you're looking at.

          November 21, 2013 at 6:57 am |
      • Wut??

        For being "an actual scientist", your spelling could use some work.

        November 18, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
        • Sara

          About 90% of the people who describe themselves as "scientist" here turn out to be engineers.

          November 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  17. Alias

    Jeuss has long red hair and drives a blue VW.
    I KNOW!
    I was driving home from work when I saw a bumper sticker that said, "I follow Jesus".
    Since it was written, it had ot be true. So I passed that car and looked at the person driving the car in front of it.

    November 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • ME II

      Bah, the driver obviously just following https://twitter.com/jesus

      November 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • Alias

        I think I would remember if they were texting while driving.
        I hate that more than pointless religious arguments.

        November 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          Poor jesus, a blue VW, when the bling bishop has the traditional black Mercedes Benz limo. Maybe he/jesus should hop back to the planet and become the real vicar of christ on earth, lots of perks that Frankie isn't even using.

          November 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          PS: Unfortunatly, god/jesus is still stuck in the first century, the holy trinity doesn't tweet.

          November 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
        • ME II

          @Charm Quark,
          You don't think that Jesus would allow someone else to open a twitter account in His name, would He?

          November 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • Moargus

          Now there's a very interesting point. Why can't god/jesus tweet, e-mail, blog, or even pick up the phone?

          Christian god seems kinda stuck in tech from 20+ centuries ago. Why dya think that is???

          November 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  18. AE

    "I went up to a man and said ‘Jesus loves you’ …but I realised that it didn’t mean anything unless I did it."

    – Jackie Pullinger

    November 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      When did I realize I was God?

      Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized that I was talking to myself ...

      November 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Jake

      Hopefully that man didn't mind Jackie loving him up.

      November 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
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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.