More “miracles” with the Malaysian jet

It’s a common atheist trope to call out those people who, after a tragedy, say that those who survived were spared by God, or that such survivals were “miraculous”.

In fact, such criticism has become so common that it’s almost a cheap shot, and yet it’s still worth pointing out the hypocrisy implicit in asserting loudly that survivors were spared by God while not mentioning that, by the same token, those who died must have been killed by God. The reason to mention such things is that they reveal not only how common faith is, but how inconsistently it’s applied. I say this not to cheapen the horrible pain experienced by the friends and family of the missing, but to suggest that perhaps it’s palliative to know that these deaths were not God’s decision, but the inevitable vagaries of a natural world. The answer to “why me?” is simply “shit happens.”

So two items about the missing Malaysia flight 370, which almost certainly has crashed without survivors.

First, according to WBRC News in Birmingham, Alabama (I also heard this on NBC News last night), a man who almost boarded the doomed flight is attributing his survival to God:

A man with a ticket for the lost plane to Malaysia called a last-minute decision not to board an act of God.

Greg Candelaria works in global technology services, which requires him to frequently fly around the world.

He planned to board Flight 370 for business and then meet his daughter, who is in China wrapping up the adoption process for her child.

“I think this is a God thing,” Candelaria said. “I don’t think it’s coincidence. Part of my motivation was to fly over there on business and meet my daughter and my new granddaughter.”

Company policy mandated Candelaria fly back to Houston for the flight to Asia instead of his original plan to fly from Spain.

If all had gone as planned, he would have been on the Beijing-bound Flight 370 that vanished this past weekend.

Has anybody ever asked one of these exultant survivors if they think that the deaths were also “a God thing”? I’d be curious how they’d answer.

Finally, reader Chris sent me a link to the MSN News “picture of the day” about the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. The caption is this:

A sand sculpture in a beach in Puri, India, wishes for the well-being of the passengers of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight.

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I find that ineffably sad in two ways.

55 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    sub

    • francis
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      //

    • krzysztof1
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I am curious to know what ‘sub’ and ‘//’ means. Is it something to do with wordpress? I’ve tried to find out on the internet (and wordpress forums) without success. Sorry to bother!

      • gbjames
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        It means you want to get comment messages sent to you but have nothing particular to contribute a the moment. “subscribe”, but easier to type.

        • krzysztof1
          Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

          Ah, nothing too arcane there, I guess. Thanks!!

      • francis
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Its about having NOTHING to say but wanting to read the expressions of others.

        • gbjames
          Posted March 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          Well… nothing to say about a particular subject! ;)

        • krzysztof1
          Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

          As John Cage said, “I have nothing to say and I am saying it!”

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    A cousin of mine wrote on Facebook that the spirit of her grandfather saved her when a car almost hit her car but hit a different one. My reply? “I wonder what those people who got hit did to tick off your grandfather”.

    I couldn’t resist.

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      It’s an honest question. :-)

    • Filippo
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Did you get an answer?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        No. I’m hoping she got my point but I am sure I’ll see more stupid god/ghost posts in the future.

  3. Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    My husband asked someone once. They just stared at him. They never have him an answer.

  4. Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Well, the religious believe that god can resurrect the dead; so god might bring those who died in the crash back from the bottom of the ocean… Yeah right, why letting crash the plane in the first place?

    • Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      In that case d*g wouldn’t get any credit.

  5. moleatthecounter
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I think it was the English reformer John Bradford who, whilst watching a group of wretched unfortunates on their way to be executed, said, “There but for the grace of god, go I”.

    Which is a ridiculous and pointless aphorism in many ways, as one can easily amend it to, ‘There BY the grace of god, go those poor bastards’.

    • Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      “Which is a ridiculous and pointless aphorism in many ways”

      I have a different take on it. To me, this aphorism is more of a dictate to not get cocky and to do something to help out others who have had as much luck.

      Example: I am earning a living, but I’ve had the good fortune to have had good schools, parents who cared about me, etc. Others aren’t so fortunate, therefore I have a duty to try to see that others get some of the opportunities that I had.

      • Dominic
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        You both have good points there. And yet if we have no free will we are all the victims of circumstance – ?

      • mordacious1
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        Yes, but if it’s god’s will that these people are poor, then who are you to upset that will? If god wants them to starve to death (or be slaves or any other horrible human condition), then that’s god’s doing and I don’t have to get involved, in fact shouldn’t get involved. Let god’s will be done.

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        I’m with you, blueollie. I always hear it as an acknowledgment of the privileges we have through no effort of our own.

        IMO many of the best-known ‘godly’ adages moved into the realm of secular metaphor long ago.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted March 13, 2014 at 6:30 am | Permalink

          Acknowledgement of unearned privelege (or ‘grace’, same thing) is often a good thing, but sometimes it’s just smugness.

          • Diane G.
            Posted March 13, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

            Or at the least, insincere.

  6. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I’m sure that someone will point out that the God who saves people is the god of the Old Testament, while the God who kills people is the god of the New Testament. And they’ll conveniently forget that it’s the same God, and it’s the one that their parents (almost always) chose for them to believe in.
    [EDIT] Did I get the two Gods swapped over? And, does it matter, since they’re the same, non-existent, anthropomorphic incarnation of human fears and weaknesses.

  7. Kevin
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I have recently been inundated with stories of 80+ year old drivers who have gotten in minor to major accidents. In each case, no one was hurt badly and in all cases the perpetrators were the elderly drivers and in all cases their abilities to come out of the accidents alive have been met with ‘Praise God’ or ‘It was a miracle she/he was saved.’

    I am not against seniors driving, most of them still do it quite well, but their accidents, fortune and misfortune, have nothing to do with religion. They are deterministic events of nature and those that avoid absolute death do so usually with skills they have managed to accrue and maintain over their long lifetimes.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      There is a campaign in the UK to try to stop elderly drivers or make them resit driving tests on a regular basis. Perhaps god could prevent them from driving in the first place!

  8. eric
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Has anybody ever asked one of these exultant survivors if they think that the deaths were also “a God thing”?

    If ‘yes its a God thing,’ that says God is a killer. If ‘no its not a God thing,’ that says God saved one person in preference to the other 300+. Either way, you don’t end up with an omnibenevolent, powerful etc. god.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      The exultant survivor always has an out by simply saying in meek and humble voice that God’s plans are His to make and not for humans to understand. After all, that’s usually what the victim’s relatives try to say. God had a good reason — and it is loving and happy if we but knew it. The dead are grateful to be in a “better place” and our job is to not be so selfish. Keep the faith.

      A religious believer can answer any question in satisfactory fashion if they throw in faith and the need for faith. It’s like a trump card.

      From their perspective.

      • KP
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Yes, that’s been my experience. God has a reason for all of those people dying. We can’t understand it, but no matter what, God is good.

      • Kevin
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        The perspective of dodge. I meant God.

        Faith breaks all records of truth doesn’t it. It permits endlessly enclosed, self-protecting justification of itself. The only thing it needs, from time to time, is a bit of community agreement, and all is permissible under its guise.

        And why break with faith? It leads to eternal life. What about this life? When’s the spell broken? When they’re carbon gets returned to the earth or when they emancipate themselves from the serf life that faith condemns them to.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted March 13, 2014 at 3:41 am | Permalink

        God’s Plan.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 13, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

          That was good.

  9. @eightyc
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    lolz.

    Has anyone checked if his Company’s policy can be found in the Bible? After all, the Bible IS the word of God!

  10. mordacious1
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I always feel sorry for the person who, from what they feel is luck, just makes the flight. Maybe there’s a cancellation and she gets the last seat. Someone who rushes through the airport and they hold the door for them. Once seated, they say, “Thank god I made it!” Of course, god was gunning for this person the whole time and is willing to kill 200 innocents just to get her.

  11. Andrikzen
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “A man with a ticket for the lost plane to Malaysia called a last-minute decision not to board an act of God.”

    A selfish, narcissistic, ego-centric, childish, self-serving proclamation; “God favors me, I’m special”.

    • Darth Dog
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. For all their claims of humility, for most religious people “it’s all about ME”. God saved me and nobody else. God listens to my prayers. The creator of the universe is my BFF.

      • Marella
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        This is also evidenced by the numbers of people who give up their faith because something bad happens to them to make them realise that god is a lie. Much worse things (usually) are happening to defenseless children all over the world every day, but that didn’t make them question their faith. It’s only real when it happens to THEM!

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      It’s worse; it’s all that, *plus* “and, too bad about those people who did get on the plane. God didn’t care about them. Suckers.”

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 13, 2014 at 3:44 am | Permalink

      And what about the “lucky” person who got his last minute cancellation, as pointed out by mordacious1, above.

  12. Posted March 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    In all fairness, I have known a number of people of faith who, upon the tragic accidental death of a child or other loved one, have said that it was God’s will.

    • mordacious1
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Oh certainly, that is quite common. It’s usually followed by, “jesus loved your child soooooo much that he wanted her with him in heaven”. For some reason the kid usually gets to play with baby jesus once she get up there.

      • Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        Actually, not usually at all. It was more like a sorrowful philosophical resignation. The “jesus loved your loved one soooooo much that he wanted her with him in heaven” came from friends and priests, not from the bereaved.

  13. John K.
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I present the 5 year old parody and term “tragicle”.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Tragicle. I will have to teach that one to my kids.

  14. Richard Olson
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    An expert on airline safety offers his assessment.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Atwsx9vlhSQ

  15. W.Benson
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    It is a fine mystery, but I cannot suppose it will end well. Maybe a skyjacking: turn of the electronic and fly low to a hidden field in the backlands of SW China. When the Rio-Paris Airbus fell in the middle of the Atlantic, it only took Brazil 36 hours, all by its lonesome, to find wreckage.
    Bad luck for the two guys with stolen passports.

  16. Mark
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    One would think that god would communicate to the sand-sculptor what a 777 actually looks like.

  17. kraut
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I find those statements “god saved me” the unmeasurable height of arrogance, does it surely imply that you must be special to be selected by a deity to survive where others perished.
    I hate that idiocy with a passion because of the special status it gives the survivor – instead of being just a lucky asshole – no, You are one of the chosen.
    Arrrrrrgh.

    • Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Agreed – they use it to make themselves feel so superior to and so much better than those they deem not to have been saved, it creates an intolerable “us and them” divide which is most harmful, especially to themselves.

    • Posted March 13, 2014 at 4:27 am | Permalink

      b-b-b-but they are humbly acknowledging doG’s will

      only arrogant arses question His Hugeness

  18. DianeAlliLangworthy
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    This line of reasoning was the beginning of the end of my faith, when attending a wedding years ago. The bride’s first husband had died of a brain tumor in the final months of medical school, leaving behind also their little boy. The preacher at the wedding referred to this new union as “part of god’s plan” that these two found each other and should be married, blah, blah, blah. It’s the kind of thing I’d heard so many times, but this time the cruelty of “the plan” shook me awake it seemed, opened my eyes. Because of course the tumor must have also been part of the plan….Or maybe there was no plan.

  19. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 12, 2014 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    “I think this is a God thing,” Candelaria said.

    He is, of course, correct. Isn’t this the typical way in which God usually manifests himself?

    (Indistinguishable to the cynic from coincidence or selective recollection, of course)

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 12, 2014 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    “Company policy mandated Candelaria fly back to Houston for the flight to Asia instead of his original plan to fly from Spain.”

    Leaving aside the fate of Flight 370 (which is a chance occurrence), company policy would have him fly a greater distance with significantly more takeoffs and landings and therefore a greater chance of being involved in an air crash? I would be extremely unhappy about that.

  21. jenteottie
    Posted March 12, 2014 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    If a ‘god thing” happens to you, like Greg in this case. Isn’t it extremely selfish to think that god was just looking after you. One person out of a possible 7 billion?!
    I guess faith can also make people feel important…

    • Sean
      Posted March 12, 2014 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      Arrogance personified!

  22. Sean
    Posted March 12, 2014 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    If we find the bodies we can ask these lovely people to help: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26483156


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