Why God hurt Japan

Adam Hamilton, a pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, explains to the readers of HuffPo why a loving God made Japan suffer so much:

As a pastor, I’ve spent 25 years working through the problem of suffering with my congregation. While it is natural, in the midst of intense grief and loss, to blame both God and ourselves for terrible tragedies (God is punishing me for something I’ve done/God is punishing our nation for something we’ve done), these answers miss the mark. . .

. . . The answer to the question why is not to be found in a vengeful God who wreaks havoc on the human race. It is to be found in understanding that we live in a world of cause and effect. Our actions can have negative consequences for us or others. Others actions can have negative consequences for us. We also know that our bodies are not indestructible, and that there are genetic and external factors that affect our health. These can be exacerbated by our lifestyle and actions. And we know that there are forces of nature at work in our planet — atmospheric, environmental and geological — that are destructive. These very forces, which can be so destructive when human beings are in their path, are also essential to our planet being able to sustain life. Our actions as human beings can exacerbate these forces, but the forces themselves are a part of our planet’s essential operating system.

Why did the earthquake and tsunami occur in Japan? Was it the act of an angry God? No, it was the result of the movement and collision of the earth’s tectonic plates — a process driven by the earth’s need to regulate its own internal temperature. Without the process that creates earthquake, our planet could not sustain life.

So it’s all in God’s law of “cause and effect”:  the Old Man is off the hook because all this disaster is simply a byproduct of the world he created. And, of course, He simply could not have created another type of world.

But even if you accept that the omnipotent God couldn’t cool the globe in a less malevolent way, Pastor Hamilton doesn’t himself believe in a world of cause and effect. If that were true, then Jesus wouldn’t have been the fruit of a virgin birth, and wouldn’t have survived three days after death.  Those things require God’s intervention in the world.  And if God can produce one parthenogenetic human, and bring him back to life, why couldn’t he have intervened to prevent earthquakes and tsunamis?  The invocation of miracles at appropriate times (are prayers answered, too?) is inconsistent with a world in which everything happens according to a natural and physical “operating system.”

Perhaps the good pastor doesn’t realize that there is no “cause and effect” in the microscopic world, either.  When an atom decays, there is, as far as we know, no “cause”.  Quantum mechanics, supposedly created by God, also violates his world.

Chalk up another failed attempt at theodicy.  (Perhaps Josh Rosenau can help out Hamilton here.) We all know that the world, and natural selection, operate precisely as one would expect if there were no theistic God.  It’s incumbent on the faithful who rationalize bad and evil in this way to answer the following question:

What would our world be like if God had not created it, and it had arisen in a purely natural manner?

Now, pastor, about those other bugs in the “operating system”:  AIDS, malaria, bubonic plague and the like . . . .

127 Comments

  1. Veronica Abbass
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Here’s another crazy explanation:

    “The epicenter of the earthquake is located near the site of an apparition in which Mary warned about a worldwide disaster that could afflict humanity.”

    http://www.catholic.org/international/
    international_story.php?id=40676

    • Dominic
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      That is some website! Full of rubbish –
      Archbishop Tomasi ….”Human sexuality is a gift that is genuinely expressed in the complete and lifelong mutual devotion of a man and a woman in marriage”…
      Classic!

  2. Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    The other day in a radio broadcast of Radio Vaticana, the Vatican radio channel, Roberto De Mattei said something even worse – that Japan’s earthquake and tsunami was God’s way to “purify” Japan
    As you may remember, De Mattei is the vice-president of CNR, Italy chief research institution. Some time ago you wrote an excellent letter to protest for a seminar in which he argued against evolution and even supported young-Earth creationism

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Yikes!

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        It’s crazy how two religious nutcakes can differ so widely in their interpretation of “God did it.” That alone should make one a skeptic.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Clearly his god wants to get rid of non-christians – I do not recall seeing any mass conversions of Japanese people in the last weeks so conversion cannot be its aim…

      • Badger3k
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        God got out of bed on the Old Testament side, and only blood, vast, vast quantities of it, can ease the hangover he has. After all, look how he likes to celebrate the birth of his son! It’s always the same, party too much, kill thousands of people to ease the pain.

  3. Helen
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    So it’s all in God’s law of “cause and effect”
    The parson did not say that ’cause and effect’ are God’s law, at least not in what is cited.
    The second and third paragraph as quoted can be written by any secularist.

    These very forces, which can be so destructive when human beings are in their path, are also essential to our planet being able to sustain life. I seem to remember a geologist with impeccable atheist credential saying the same.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      Indeed, and from a secularist it would be a straightforward statement. Here however, it is presented as a was to reconcile these natural events with a benevolent deity. Hamilton is described as a Methodist, not a deist, so if he’s going to punt to naturalism for his explanation, he might as well declare it in the beginning.

      It leaves me to wonder, would Hamilton argue for the same cause & effect causality when some very good thing happened and his congregation was speaking of miracles. I suspect not. The natural world is responsible for ruin, but god is always responsible for the good.

      • Helen
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        That is, if a pastor subscribes to natural causes, he is wrong, and if a pastor subscribes to supernatural causes he is wrong? Catch-22?

        And it is presented as a was to reconcile these natural events with a benevolent deity is not what the pastor wrote, either. The pastor does not ‘reconcile’ – he says disasters and a benevolent deity have nothing to do with each other, what scarcely can count as ‘reconciliation’.

        • Helen
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

          Well, he might be wrong in being a pastor, but let’s take that the pastoriness as given.

          • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

            Erm, you’re missing the point.

            By choosing to be a pastor, he’s staked out for himself a fundamentally untenable position.

            If he subscribes to natural causes, either he’s rejecting his gods or he’s describing the mechanism through which they act.

            If he subscribes to supernatural causes, he’s implicitly blaming them for what they do.

            It’s the Epicurean Riddle, plain and simple.

            Are the gods willing to stop evil, but unable to do so? Then they are powerless where it matters most.

            Are they able, but not willing? Then they are evil themselves.

            Are they neither willing nor able? Then why call them gods?

            The answer, of course, is “none of the above, because the gods are figments of human imagination, just like faeries and leprechauns and jinni and all the rest.”

            Until the pastor gets that right, he’s inevitably doomed to be worng on everything else.

            Cheers,

            b&

        • truthspeaker
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

          “he says disasters and a benevolent deity have nothing to do with each other,”

          Which directly contradicts the religious beliefs of the religion he claims to belong to.

          He’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. If he had followed up the second and third paragraph with “therefore, the kind of God envisioned by Christianity obviously doesn’t exist”, then what he was saying would make sense. But he doesn’t.

        • H.H.
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          That is, if a pastor subscribes to natural causes, he is wrong, and if a pastor subscribes to supernatural causes he is wrong?

          No. The error lies in trying to subscribe to both natural causes and supernatural causes. Either events must accord with material laws or magic makes these laws meaningless. But it can’t be both. You can’t on the one hand say “This is how nature must be” and on the other hand “but not really all the time.”

          It’s not a Catch-22. Just a self-contradictory position.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Without asking him, we can’t know for sure. Plenty of Methodists live in the suburbs of Atheopolis.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          But if they call themselves Christians, I think it’s reasonable of us to assume they believe at least one or two of the core Christian beliefs until they say otherwise.

          If I go around wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey, it would be reasonable to assume I am a fan of that football team, and I don’t get to accuse you of making a priori assumptions when you do.

          • Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

            True, that is a very reasonable assumption. I’m just not sure that theodicy or creationism is the least bit important to Methodists. Liberal and/or progressive Christians often appear to take their theistic beliefs from a very loose belief buffet, which is part of the problem we gnu atheists are up against.

            Our calling out the gross inconsistencies of progressive/liberal Christian beliefs has got to be one of the primary reasons the accomos have for calling us “fundamentalists”. On this matter, I didn’t mean to appear to be tone trolling; it’s just that I have known plenty of Methodists with wishy-washy beliefs and thought I should mention the possibility that Adam’s answer to Cafeeine’s question may not conflate so-called miracles with the hand of God.

            • Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

              I was wrong about him not being interested in theodicy. Apparently, this guy has been quite successful (moneywise) tackling the problem of evil.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      Helen, this pastor is a pastor in the United Methodist Church. As such, it’s a reasonable assumption that he believes this:

      “Article I—Of Faith in the Holy Trinity

      There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible.”

      From here: http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=1817

      If he didn’t want the readers of his essay to make those assumptions, then he shouldn’t have claimed to be a Methodist pastor.

  4. Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Good example of a good god being incoherent. Either it directly did this and is a horrible monster, or didn’t but is logically equivalent to not existing.

    So if you want to say there is a god, it might make more sense to say it’s evil. But not much more.

  5. JBlilie
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    That’s their idea of love, eh?

    No wonder so many religious people abuse women and children. It’s “love.”

  6. Helen
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The pastor (see link) actually argues that God did not make Japan suffer, but had nothing to do with it. The pastor argues faith gives psychological support in adversity. That might be true or not, depending on the person, but the blogpost makes the pastor say something quite different. Please read.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but the pastor said that God created a world in which such suffering was inevitable. But why would he have to create that kind of world?

      If God made a world in which he knew that people would suffer because of “cause and effect”, and he could have made another kind of world, then he is RESPONSIBLE for the suffering.

      Please read.

      • Helen
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

        The pastor did not say God created a world in which such suffering was inevitable. The pastor did not write that in any form. Yor’re reasoning from preconceptions, not on the actual text. Please read.

        • JS1685
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

          Why didn’t god want to create a harmless world? Or was god unable to do so? Google Epicurus.

        • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

          The pastor did not say God created a world in which such suffering was inevitable. The pastor did not write that in any form.

          Except for, of course, where he did:

          It is to be found in understanding that we live in a world of cause and effect.

          One of those effects was:

          the movement and collision of the earth’s tectonic plates

          and it was that movement and collision that resulted in the inevitable suffering in Japan.

          As you can read at the United Methodist Church’s Web site, the pastor “believe(s) in one God, who created the world and all that is in it.”

          It’s really about as clear, straightforward, and inevitable as it gets.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Helen Wise
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            The other Helen’s point, I think, is that the Pastor didn’t, actually, put “God” in front of the Pastor’s sentence about cause and effect, leading to me suspect that the good woman’s ability to discern inference is a bit flawed.

            • Helen Wise
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

              I may mean “detect implication”, rather than “discern inference”, but I have to think it over, and it’s too early for a martini.

              • Helen
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

                Neither ‘discern inference’ nor ‘detect implication’. I’m just taking the pastor at what he actually said, without trying to read more into his words than there is. One might have to accept even pastors mean what they literally write.

              • Doug Kirk
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

                I let go of a brick 50 feet above a man’s head. The natural laws of gravity and cause and effect means the brick descends rapidly and reaches terminal velocity.

                According to the law of mass and the weak nuclear force the brick displaces the man’s brain.

                According to this logic, I am not only not responsible for the death, I’m entirely unconnected to the situation.

          • Helen
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

            That is interpreting on a priori suppositions, not on the text as in Huffpo. The pastor in Huffpo held natural cause and effect to to be independent of whatever he might actually think about creation. The pastor did not bring that up.
            Just read what the pastor said, without immediately starting to interprete from preconceptions.

            • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

              I’m sorry, but it’s entirely reasonable to assume that a pastor subscribes with the very first item in his church’s statement of faith.

              If you want to suggest that he’s rejecting his church’s foundational doctrine, that’s a matter for another discussion.

              b&

              • Helen
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

                I’m suggesting a liberal christian (what I can read in the text) can believe in a world of cause and effect that is quite independent of anything to do with creation.

              • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

                I’m suggesting a liberal christian (what I can read in the text) can believe in a world of cause and effect that is quite independent of anything to do with creation.

                Only for the hard of thinking.

                If I stack a bunch of dominoes, am I responsible when the last one trips and rings a bell, or is it “cause and effect that is quite independent of anything to do with” my stacking of the dominoes?

                Even if nobody in the pastor’s pantheon knew that this particular earthquake and tsunami was coming, there’s no way it could escape knowing that such a disaster would be commonplace on Earth. The pastor even writes as much. In my book, if the Earth was created by a god, that makes the god every bit as responsible as Ford in the case of the exploding Pintos.

                You’re trying to give the pastor his Kate and Edith, too. What’s he done to deserve it?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

                I’m suggesting a liberal christian (what I can read in the text) can believe in a world of cause and effect that is quite independent of anything to do with creation.

                Yes, such beliefs are indeed held by many… but it’s intellectually dishonest to pretend both can be true when the two notions together are incompatible. Saying that they are independent beliefs in no way mitigates their incompatibility. Yet the pastor is suggesting that taken together, they can be compatible by assigning cause and effect to the natural world while granting a special exemption to this creator in order to claim it’s benevolent. That’s why the pastor’s article is at its root intellectually dishonest.

              • Helen
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

                Tildeb agrees that such beliefs are indeed held by many – that’s enough for here and now. One can disagree with such a point of view, but it exists.

              • Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

                There is an important difference to be recognized when one’s point of view fails to respect what is true.

            • Helen Wise
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

              Well, he’s a PASTOR, not a dentist, so I think it’s safe to presume that the Pastor thinks that God created the world…but, you know, I could be wrong.

              • Helen
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

                O yeh, but ‘created the world’ is not such a big deal for practical purposes. You get the pastor to specify on Huffpo.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

                “O yeh, but ‘created the world’ is not such a big deal for practical purposes. You get the pastor to specify on Huffpo.”

                No, but it is a central tenet of Christianity.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

              “The pastor in Huffpo held natural cause and effect to to be independent of whatever he might actually think about creation”

              Then how can he be a pastor in the Methodist church?

              • Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, but the answer is obvious: Methodist pastors are not monolithic. Besides, we all know how nearly any theist can wiggle out of any doctrine or fact claim when pressed.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

                No, they’re not monolithic, but they all claim to be Christians. Jerry made the assumption that, because this guy self-identifies as a pastor of a denomination of Christianity, he shares the basic, core beliefs of Christianity, one of which is that the God they worship is the supreme creator of the universe and everything in it.

                It may very well be that this pastor doesn’t believe in such a God, but if so, he has no more business calling himself a Christian than I do.

              • Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

                It is strange and I do agree that this pastor, if he rejects God as the creator of the universe, shouldn’t call himself a Christian and should come clean, but we can point to Dennett and LaScola’s work on atheist Christian clergy and look to the Wikipedia entry on Christian Atheists to see how this might have happened and how the dissonance is being handled by Adam.

                Christianity, for some Christians, is little more than a cultural tradition (as Judaism is for many Jews).

            • Dominic
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

              When you say “I’m suggesting a liberal christian […] can believe in a world of cause and effect that is quite independent of anything to do with creation.” that implies a god that does not interfere with creation so forget Jesus as god the son or miracles, because they are not independent of god the father, if you believe in the general christian view.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

                There are probably some liberal “Christians” who don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus or in miracles either. Why they still call themselves “Christians” is a mystery.

              • Cafeeine
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

                Truthspeaker:

                Not that big a mystery, when “Christian” has been for centuries used as a synonym for “good, moral person”.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      I mean, what could God do anyway? He’s only God.

      • Badger3k
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        It’s not like he created the world or anything.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      As I just noted above, he can’t make that claim and still be a United Methodist Pastor.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Actually, I think he could. Whether or not he would be defrocked for it would be something decided by church rules.

        BTW, his mini-bio says his church has 16,000 members, so this guy is likely to be a grade-A bullshitter. He even has an entire book devoted to theodicy that is just being published. Gee, I wonder why Arianna published his article (his first on HuffPo) in the first place?!

        • truthspeaker
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

          OK, I’ll rephrase. He can’t make that claim and be an honest United Methodist pastor.

          • Marela
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

            Well none of them are honest, so that’s not news.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

              Some of them at least make the effort to keep their bullshit internally consistent.

        • Grendels Dad
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          I wouldn’t read too much into the membership figure. I recently found out I am still considered a member of the Methodist church where I grew up. It doesn’t matter that the last time I was in that church was Christmas in the early ‘90’s. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t attended regularly in over three decades, or believed any of it for years before that.

          That little church is lucky to see attendance hit triple digits on any given Sunday outside major holidays, but it has a ‘membership’ close to the figure in this guys bio.

  7. JS1685
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Is it just me, or am I seeing more and more theists trying to argue both for and against their god’s “omniness”?

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      It’s an old game — trying to have omni and eat it, too.

      • JS1685
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        I’m used to seeing theodicy that tries to explain harm and evil as things god has somehow intended, whether via free will or giving us the chance to better ourselves through the practice of forgiveness or giving us the “full life experience” yadda yadda yadda.

        I haven’t seen this “it’s out of god’s hands; god ain’t in control (but still is – wink wink) argument so much. Until recently.

        But I may just have been missing it. I miss a lot.

        • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          As was brought up in yesterday’s dogpile on dmso, it at least dates back to Leibniz’s position that we live in “the best of all possible worlds.”

          Cheers,

          b&

          • JS1685
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

            Based on my extensive research, conducted over the last five minutes, and at such prestigious institutions as Wikipedia, it seems to me Leibniz still claims evil was an intentional part of god’s plan.

            Our friend pastor Hamilton seems to be arguing that in the wake of such tragedies as the Japan earthquake, god will shrug its shoulders and say “don’t look at me.”

  8. sponge bob
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Over the weekend I talked with my uncle on the phone. He actually used the phrases ‘the Good Lord’, ‘earthquake’, and ‘tsunami’ in the same sentance.

    You’ve got to be kidding me.

    How can one see videos of people’s lives destroyed and massive destruction and say ‘the Good Lord’?!

    • Dominic
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      It was probably lard he was talking about. The good lard is used for cooking.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        And let’s not forget the holiest of Christian meals: cheeses fried in lard, and lamb with cod.

        …except, of course, that they instead serve stale crackers and bad wine (if not Welch’s colored sugar water). Go figure.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          I was intrigued by your reference to “Welch’s colored sugar water” which is unknown to me in the UK, but I suppose you mean http://www.welchs.com/about-welchs.

          I looked a bit further & found some stuff on my fellow Brit Thomas Bramwell Welch & his “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine”. Why do you call it Colored Sugar Water ?

          However I also found this book review for http://www.amazon.com/Colored-Sugar-Water-Spiritual-Tale/dp/0525944710 on Amazon “The mystery of voodoo mingles with the search for spirituality and faith… [an] entertaining if far-fetched novel” 🙂

          • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            Why do you call [Welch’s grape juice] Colored Sugar Water ?

            Because that’s exactly what it is here in the States.

            Well, I suppose, technically there’s matter that had been incorporated into grapes in the not-too-distant past, but really all they do is make grape sugar from grape juice and then rehydrate it. And they use Concord grapes, to boot.

            If you want real grape juice, go to your favorite winery at harvest time with a bucket. Fill the bucket with your favorite variety. Crush the grapes. Strain (don’t filter) the juice. Drink the juice.

            If the wine isn’t worth drinking, then the unfermented juice won’t be, either. But award-winning wines come from out-of-this-world juice.

            I don’t think Concord wine has ever won any kind of an award, though I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised to learn that a particular batch garnered a mention as “jug wine under $1 least likely to trigger the gag reflex.”

            Cheers,

            b&

        • Dominic
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          Lettuce pray.
          “The piece of cod which passeth all understanding”.

          er… any other foods?

          • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

            Lettuce pray.

            No, no, no — it’s “lettuce prey.” As in, “That which the rabbit eats is about to eat us.”

            At least, that’s the only way I’ve been able to make sense of it….

            Ch

            • daveau
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

              Oh. I thought it was “lettuce spray.”

            • Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

              Hey Ben,

              did you know that rabbits don’t seem to actually like lettuce?

              Wild ones eat everything in our garden *except* for the lettuce. Can’t say I blame them, it’s too wet and gives then the runs.

              I’m not too fond of it myself either. 😉

              Cheers,
              Norm.

          • Diane G.
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

            Holy toast?

  9. Helen Wise
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Why do theists let God off the hook for evil, but give God credit for goodness? Seems to me, either God gets the blame for both, or God is not responsible for either. Or do I not get to ask the question because I don’t accept the original premise, ala Rosenau?

    • Jer
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      Theodicy is an old question. It’s a problem with monotheistic religions where God is supposed to be responsible for the world and yet is also supposed to be supremely good.

      Pastor Adam is running into a central problem with his liberal Christian faith – a liberal Christian inevitably runs into the contradiction that God is good but God created a world with so much evil in it. How the hell does that work? It can’t, so your choices are ignore the problem (which is what Pastor Adam is basically doing here – ignoring the problem by saying “you can’t blame God for natural events in the world that God created, even though he’s all powerful and his only limitations are ones he sets for himself”) or confront the problem head on and lose your faith – either cutting loose the idea that God is necessary (and becoming an atheist) or cutting loose the idea that God is good.

      Fundamentalists don’t have this problem that liberal Christians have because they don’t buy into the notion that God truly is good – you’re supposed to obey God because God says so and is all powerful, not because God actually reigns from a place of higher moral authority. Liberal Christians, who tend to refuse the idea that monarchs should be followed just because they are powerful, fall into this problem because their faith so obviously contradicts their political beliefs.

      • Helen Wise
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        Thank you. Well done.

      • Helen
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Jer gets it right.

      • Helen
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        what Pastor Adam is basically doing here – ignoring the problem by saying “you can’t blame God for natural events in the world that God created, even though he’s all powerful and his only limitations are ones he sets for himself”)
        I agree the pastor wants to ignore the problem, but then, a liberal christian might not subscribe to even though he’s all powerful and his only limitations are ones he sets for himself, but see god’s role as a comforter.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

          How much comfort is he bringing to people who have been devastated by the events there?

          And what is the form of this comfort?

          It’s frank nonsense. Someone whose house has been destroyed, who are now living in danger of radiation poisoning, who may have had loved ones perish does NOT need an imaginary friend. That person needs REAL help in the form of REAL aid in the form of HUMAN intervention.

          Comfort, my lily white ass.

          • Helen
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

            It might be nonsense, but itn’t the pastor saying that?

            • Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

              I suppose the pastor is arguing that all such tragedies have natural causes, but God can still be a comfort.

              What the pastor doesn’t do is note that since God had nothing to do with these tragedies, he might as well not exist. Still, his imaginary God is comforting to some, especially since his hellfire-inducing abilities have also been extinguished in recent years.

              Personally, if I’m in the mood for imaginary comfort, I’d prefer to watch a feel-good film.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

                Or, God could be a comfort, but this God did not create the world or the laws of nature. Which means it’s no longer the Christian God, but the god of some other religion.

            • Kevin
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

              Yes, he’s claiming a role for god that is no where in evidence.

              Unless god is going to supernaturally stop the laws of physics so that nuclear fission stops on its own…unless god is going to rain down purified bottles of water and bags of rice…unless god is going to magically rebuild devastated cities…unless god returns loved ones lost at sea or under rubble…then it has absolutely no right to claim any role in tragic situations.

              • Marela
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

                God is less comfort than a stuffed toy, you can at least cuddle that.

          • Sajanas
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

            That’s the point of heaven isn’t it? After you’re dead you get a fluffy cloud afterlife. That’s why a lot of people are so dead set on their beliefs, because they can’t imagine how terrible it must be to die without getting that reward at the end, even if they are forced to give up 10% of their income, a good chunk of their morals, and sometimes their family members to get that reassurance.

            Nevermind that all this justice is placed off in a place where it can never be verified or checked.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

          Then what do they believe sets limitations on God?

          • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

            PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN! THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ HAS SPOKEN!

            B&

      • Sigmund
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        In other words it’s the standard “God is good” position. Anything good that happens – well, that’s God being good, praise Jeebus!
        Anything bad?
        Nothing to do with God, that’s just plate tectonics, the weather, faulty engineering in a airliners jet engine, etc.
        What was that?
        One person survived when the jet liner went down in the storm?
        Praise Jeebus, isn’t God fantastic!
        The other 399 burned to death in agony?
        Just one of those things, I guess. Nobody is to blame. These things just happen. Pure chance and bad luck for the individuals involved.

      • Becca Stareyes
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        either cutting loose the idea that God is necessary (and becoming an atheist) or cutting loose the idea that God is good.

        Well, presumably you could also become a polytheist of some stripe, abandoning the idea of a omnibenevolent and omnipotent monotheistic God, while still believing in some kind of powerful and/or benevolent deities. It’s not always Christianity versus atheism.

        Heck, given the way some fundamentalist Christians talk about the Devil, I suspect they prefer the idea of two (nearly-)equally-powerful deities at war as their answer, and don’t seem to grok that it raises the question of ‘if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why let Satan hang around messing things up and why is doing anything without five doses of over Christianity enough to let him ‘win’?’

        • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

          Oh, Christianity is the farthest thing from monotheism. It is unambiguously exactly as polytheistic as the pagan religions it was born from and later supplanted.

          Never mind the Trinity. We’ll even grant them some sort of bizarre Hindu-esque “multiple incarnations of the same deity” nonsense.

          But, if the Olympians are all gods, then there can be no question but that the Heavenly Host — all the angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim and what-not — are also gods.

          You’ve already mentioned Satan. If the Egyptian’s Set, on whom Satan was at least partially modeled, is a god, then so is Satan. And the popular Christian portrayal of the Hell over which Satan reigns is so similar to the pagan Hades governed by the eponymous god that it’s not even funny.

          If Prometheus and Pandora are (lesser) gods, then so too are Adam and Eve. Same goes for the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs if your definition of “god” includes Romulus and Remus, King Midas, Oedipus, and the like. If Sisyphus and Tantalus are gods, then so is Job.

          If the Roman ancestor spirits to whom they prayed at personal shrines are gods, then so too are all the dearly departed Aunt Mildreds for whom people light candles and to whom they turn for protection and guidance.

          And on and on and on. Pick anything that a sociologist or anthropologist labels a god in almost any non-Christian religion, and you’re all but guaranteed to find an exact equivalent in one of the major Christian denominations.

          Cheers,

          b&

        • truthspeaker
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

          Or one could believe in a god that can connect with human emotions but who didn’t create anything and has no power over the physical universe. But it would be the height of dishonesty for someone who believes in such a god to identify as a Christian.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that was a very fine comment. Adam also has the added incentive of making money off of his peregrinations around the problem of evil in the form of book sales.

  10. Kevin
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I am not a geologist, however, I don’t think tectonic plates have anything to do with the Earth “regulating its temperature”.

    Citation required, I’m afraid.

    “Regulation” would imply “normalization” around a median/mean with a standard deviation and a process by which when the temperature was too hot, things would cool down — and vice versa.

    Please tell me, pastor, how tectonic plate movement “regulates” the Earth’s temperature? Oh sure, there’s heat involved. But not “regulation”.

    Yet another apologist who tries to use a scientific explanation who seems to have not taken enough of that science to even pass the “I’ll google it” test.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      I thought the basic problem was density sorting: http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/03/why_physics_gives_us_earthquak.php

      Presumably a Creator could have sorted out the layers in the right order to begin with.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        Well, convection does play a rather significant role with the way things are but I agree that a creator presumably could have started with planetary equilibrium.

        Just a thought regarding possible evidence for a designed world… if earth alone enjoyed a special exemption from physical process that should be present but are inexplicably absent, might that count?

        • Kevin
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

          Yes, and invoking the word “regulation” means that there is some out-worldly intent going on.

          The “earth” (nudge-nudge-wink-wink I really mean god) is “regulating” its temperature.

          This kind of wooly thinking is a straight line right to dominionism/global warming denialism. The pastor might be horrified at that thought, but that only means he hasn’t been thinking very hard on the consequences of his apologetics.

          • Marella
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

            Of course the Earth isn’t ‘regulating’ anything, it’s just cooling slowly via convection in the mantle due to a hot radioactive core and a cooler crust. The mantle is highly viscous and so it all moves very slowly by human standards. This causes plate techtonics; volcanos and earthquakes, the mid-ocean ridges and subduction trenches. The only ‘regulations’ are the rules of physics and chemistry.

            BSc, geology major (long time ago!).

            • Wayne Robinson
              Posted March 24, 2011 at 4:14 am | Permalink

              I don’t actually want to comment on this item, but what is this new format for whyevolutionistrue? I find it ugly and difficult to read.

      • Badger3k
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        But it was the Flood that screwed everything up. First the springs of the deep opened up, then all that water pressed down, so the whole Earth has been screwed over, and plate tectonics are just the Earth recovering from that.

        I can haz Templeton?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think tectonic plates have anything to do with the Earth “regulating its temperature”.

      Well, yes AFAIK, but only because you are misquoting Hamilton’s misperceptions.

      – What plate tectonics does is believed by many to permit geological recycling at speed. Such a conveyor belt helped remove and lock away the initial large carbon dioxide atmosphere as mainly carbonates (later with help from life).

      This prevented a Venus runaway greenhouse. (It also goes the other way, the water disappearing from Venus likely halted or at least down-regulated any initial plate tectonics. Thereafter any assimilated carbon could bake out of the crust and reappear in the atmosphere.)

      A steady greenhouse does regulate Earth surface temperature of course.

      There are also secondary effects from having supercontinents or not, which can be said to “regulate” temperature by affecting it.

      – Hamilton seems to have confused this, as of yet tentative theory, with the extent that tectonics regulate heat flow. Plate tectonics makes a great deal of difference, since heat flow is mediated along mid-oceanic ridges, by thinner crust and by plate subduction, maybe a factor 2-3 AFAIU.

      But as far as regulating the core temperature, it is going down in any case (and faster by having tectonics!), there is no “need” to regulate it – that would swap cause for effect. To the extent that a mechanism tend to equilibrate faster, it happens, but again “need” assumes cause-effect swapping.

      [Why do religious have a “need” for cause-effect swapping? :-D]

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        In plate tec theory, is there any kind of “stable endpoint” envisioned? At some particular core temperature, for instance? Or are things predicted to remain more or less the same–continual plate movements, subduction, volcanic processes–indefinitely?

        • Brian
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          If I recall, and it’s been 20 years since I studied Geology, the radiation from isotopes in the Earths center will eventually (or maybe already is) so little that there is no more heat being ‘generated’. What happens then is that the heat is lost to space through various methods and eventually Earth would end up a cold, dormant rock. Without the heat inside, there would be no convection in the mantle or core, so no ‘conveyer-belt’ to drag the plates of the crust about.
          But on the bright side, the Sun will use up all its fuel and start to convery helium into higher elements and expand so as to envelope the Earth inside it’s atmosphere. Thus, the Earth will be kept warm for a while longer…..Of course life won’t be here to know about it.

          • Diane G.
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            Thank you! That almost rings some faint bells with me now, back in the cobwebbed memory vault.

            Fascinating stuff. I wonder what the odds of a cataclysmic meteor strike happening first are?

            • Brian
              Posted March 24, 2011 at 4:44 am | Permalink

              I’d say very good. I think a decent sized meteor strikes every 100,000 years. An exstinction sized one every 100 million years or less. There will be no humans on Earth to witness the end of life in any case. And it won’t be because of the rapture.

  11. daveau
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I think he’s saying that there are natural causes, but that we can exacerbate them with our lifestyle and actions. Right? So it’s only partially teh gheys. It would have happened anyway, but it wouldn’t have been as bad.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Yes, I noticed that as well. Our human actions have consequences. The Earth’s actions have consequences. But he seems to be implying that human actions have Earthly consequences — although it immediately disavows it in the next sentence.

      He’s trying really hard to do the Monty Python “nudge-nudge-wink-wink” here. And failing miserably.

      • Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        Exactly– he’s conflating human actions that *do* have consequences in the physical world (air pollution, oil spills, habitat destruction, climate change) with natural phenomena that occur independently of *any* human action (earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes).

        A nudge is as good as a wink to a blind bat;-)

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Or, maybe, it’s not teh straight-looking gheys, but only the drag queens?

      That bit raised my hackles, too, and I’m not even teh gey. It’s “blame the victim,” even though he tries to dilute it and dress it up with a bit of the Power of Positive Pondering.

      b&

      • Kevin
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        I personally blame Godzilla.

        Makes exactly as much sense.

        • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

          If you’re gonna blame anything, blame digital wristwatches.

          b&

          • daveau
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

            🙂

        • Badger3k
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

          Exactly! How do we know it wasn’t Godzilla? If he dug his way out of the Earth, it would look just like an earthquake. For all we know, he is on his way to the reactor. He eats radiation, if I remember correctly.

          Just so long as there is no Godzooky. Irk.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

            Or the creepy twins in the box. What was up with that?

  12. justsearching
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    The theologically minded that I’ve talked somehow see a morally significant difference between God hurting someone, and God letting someone get hurt.

    God is like the owner/controller (and creator) of a vicious dog that occasionally mauls people, but it would be sacrilegious to blame God for the harm that the dog caused. God may have been there holding the chains, letting the dog get close, but it is the dog that actually bit someone.

  13. Dominic
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I am worried that reading the Puffington Host might give people indigestion…

    • Dominic
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Seriously tough, for a local view of what is going on in Japan, you could do worse than to read Yokohamamama’s blog –
      http://yokohamayomama.blogspot.com/

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        + 1 ! A great contrast to the mass media…

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

        (*blushing*) Thanks, Dominic:-)) What’s funny is that I put a somewhat snarky (which I don’t usually–but a link to a bunch of inane comments over at Blessed Atheist that PZ put up plus some other comments I’ve heard really….just, grrrrr….) p.s. on the end of the last post. And then came over here to see “Why God Hurt Japan”… made me smile 🙂

        (and thanks Diane for the props:-))

  14. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the good pastor doesn’t realize that there is no “cause and effect” in the microscopic world, either. When an atom decays, there is, as far as we know, no “cause”.

    I am sorry, but this portrayal of causal effects make me fidget as much as when religious describes “causes”.

    Quantum mechanics takes states deterministically to states, here “not decayed” to “decayed” by a metastable nucleus, since the wavefunction evolves deterministically. It is in the wavefunction’s interactions with the environment, say during observations, that changes happens stochastically and we obtain a probability distribution for outcomes.

    Spontaneous decay happens because the wavefunction is in an environment where it does a barrier penetration, or equally particles will bounce into (and through) the barrier with some probability. The observed causality follows from the process and its contingent boundary conditions, as it should.

  15. Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I could not read all of the highly intellectual info. without responding to some. First, The UMC has for the most part become liberal. They do not believe in the miracles, resurrection and supernatural aspects in general. Second, God created a perfect world that has been cursed when sin entered into the world. Three, God is omniscient and we are not! I have seen the supernatural world and have written about it from a Christian standpoint: http://simplysupernaturalistic.wordpress.com/ Feel free to comment, if you can!

    • Bryan
      Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      davebrigg, where should I look to learn more about the beliefs of the UMC? Right now, I’m looking here: http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2299859/k.13B7/Our_Christian_Roots.htm

      “•We believe that Jesus was human. He lived as a man and died when he was crucified.
      •We believe that Jesus is divine. He is the Son of God.
      •We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the risen Christ lives today. (Christ and messiah mean the same thing—God’s anointed.)”

      • Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

        To answer Bryan’s question to me, concerning my comment on the “liberal ” nature of the UMC today, for the most part”.

        First Bryan Before I speak on my personal experience, I will first say that through the many Bible scholars that I have studied at the feet of, there have been some that have spoken of how the UMC has strayed from there original tenants of faith, and I have seen it with my own eyes. They still have those tenants of faith, such as that which you mentioned but it does not mean that they still practice them.

        Secondly, I live in a small town in Arizona with one Methodist church and one Catholic. I had to leave the Methodist because of years of liberal leaning pastors, both men and women. I personally examined some of the the women Pastors, which are not to be head pastors to begin with, and they neither believe the Bible nor teach out of it. There are still likely some conservative holdouts in the “Bible Belt”. The Presbyterian church has split over similar differences. Please email me at: davebrigg@gmail for more information.

        • Bryan
          Posted March 25, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

          I wouldn’t mind “personally examining” some female pastors myself!

  16. MadScientist
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    So, according to the good Pastor, we need to understand that there is no god and therefore the disasters in Japan were not god’s actions. Got it.

  17. Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Of course, a truly omnipotent god could come up with a way to work out his plan that does not involve suffering. If you believe in such a god, the only reasonable conclusions are that he either doesn’t care about suffering, or he actively seeks to cause suffering and is a complete and utter bastard!

  18. Brad
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Wow. Just incredible. I’m covering the Problem of Evil/Suffering in class now and will use this. I mean, what do you do in the face of demonstrably, clearly, blatantly BAD fucking reasoning? WHen someone seems so earnest, so seemingly willing to engage the issue, I get drawn in every time. Ok, I know they’ve been dolts the past zillion times, but ok, this time they at least say they understand the issue. And then they fail to understand the basic tenets of the argument. AARRRGGHHHH!! It’s just jaw-dropping. As a gnu, I want to say what else can you do but laugh at this stuff? It’s as if someone were telling me about the fairies pushing the keys on my keyboard (ok, bad example, we all believe in THOSE fairies!). I’m just stunned to hear it. You ask, why do you believe this? What about X, Y, and Z? And they just tell you more about fairies! Jaw-dropping silence is one reaction, but just gut-busting laughter is one that literally sometimes can’t be helped.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 25, 2011 at 12:44 am | Permalink

      May I inquire just what sort of a class it is that you’re teaching/taking?

  19. Wayne Robinson
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    From my understanding of geology, having life on Earth is a direct consequence of the Earth being capable of having earthquakes and volcanos.

    Only about 50 million years after the proto-Earth was formed, it was struck by a Mars sized planet Theia which fused with the proto-Earth forming a planet with more core and less crust, some of the crust being ejected to form the Moon.

    So when the Earth consolidated, the heavier iron/nickel went to the central core, lighter material went to the mantle and the lightest material (which also includes uranium ores) went to the thinner crust. The lighter igneous granitic rock(formed from cooling melted magma with a high silicate content) formed the continents, which were in patches on top of the heavier igneous basaltic rocks (with a lower silicate content).

    Initially, the Moon was very close to the Earth with huge tides. The oceans were filled from a bombardment of comets bringing the water.

    Life formed in deep sea hydrothermal vents, basically underseas volcanos, due to cracks in the crust. Early on, they were everywhere in the oceans.

    Tectonic plates formed because of convection currents in the deeper mantle forming cells like the ones that occur in a pot of water being brought to a boil. The cells cause cracks in the overlying lithosphere (the overlying superficial mantle and crust).

    Oceanic plates with basalt are always heavier than continental granitic tectonic plates and the currents in the asthenosphere cause them to be subduced under the continental plates to be converted to metamorphic rock. The oceanic plates are reformed at the midoceanic ridges, basically a continuous chain of underseas volcanos. Oceanic plates are always being destroyed and reformed so are no older than about 250 million years. The continental plates have been there almost from the beginning, subject to weathering, mass wasting and covering with sedimentary rocks when the sea levels were higher, but rocks of 4.3 billion years age can still be found.

    The crust continues to be heated by radioactive decay of radioactive elements such as uranium, tidal movements from the Moon and heat transfer from the core but eventually the Earth will freeze solid perhaps in a billion years, and the Earth will be like the Moon with no earthquakes or volcanos, and perhaps the Earth will again freeze over (unless the Sun becomes hot enough) as all the CO2 in the atmosphere becomes converted to oceanic calcium carbonate rocks which are no longer being recycled in subduction and rerelease in erupting volcanos.

    It was asked earlier, what are the chances that the Earth will be struck by a planet killer asteroid. According to Don Prothero in “Catastrophes”, published just last week, the chances are ZERO. He states that not even the K-T extinction, which did away with the non-avian dinosaurs, was not due to an impact, favouring the Indian Deccan traps volcano. He’s actually convinced to change my opinion yet again

    Admittedly, if you were under an impacting asteroid, it would really ruin your day …

    Personally, the thing that keeps me awake at night, besides worries about global warming, overpopulation and resource depletion, is the supervolcano under Yellowstone which WILL erupt someday, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in 200,000 years, resulting in a prolonged volcanic Winter and resulting famine. I understand we have food reserves for only about 2 months so the death toll would be enormous, not even considering the direct deaths in North America from the eruption.

    If the Earth had been more like Mars, life might have formed, but probably not complex life and definitely not intelligent life. The Moon acts as a gyroscope, keeping the tilt of the Earth relatively stable. Mars is prone to sudden gyrations tipping over frequently. I don’t think that complex life could cope with suddenly going from equatorial to polar conditions abruptly. Also, without constant volcanos, whenever a Mars like Earth froze over, it would stay frozen.

    Have I distorted geology sufficiently to make any geologists angry?

    • Wayne Robinson
      Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Oops,

      I’ve made a typo … It should have read “He states that not even the K-T extinction, which did away with the non-avian dinosaurs, was due to an impact, favouring the Indian Deccan traps volcano”.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Hi Goldilocks

        Purely in the spirit of fun…

        Are you a bed-shaped pond who is lying on my pond-shaped bed ?

        Regards
        Baby Bear


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