God saves man named Lord from tornado

There’s an amazingly strident and anti-religous post on Yahoo News, “Tornado survivor vainly claims God saved him,” by Andrew Riggio. (The “vainly,” by the way, doesn’t mean “fruitlessly,” but “arrogantly”.)  The man, curiously enough named Paul Lord, survived a tornado that killed several others. His “vain” statement?

“We are truly blessed. God saved us, and that’s what it’s about.”

Riggio responds, as many of us would:

That’s a load of baloney for several reasons.

For his statement to be true the events would have to have been under God’s direction. If so, describing anything about a tornado that destroys a town and kills several people a blessing is unwarranted. A true blessing would have been God’s hand directing the tornado away from the town so no one got killed and nothing got destroyed.

It’s also the height of hubris to claim God saved him. For that to be meaningful it must be assumed Lord was somehow more worthy of being saved than the five people the tornado killed. Three of the victims were girls of ages 5, 7 and 10 years old. Were those three children so vile in the eyes of God that they deserved death while Lord was deserving of rescue?

It goes on, but you get the drift. This is all true, of course: for God to save someone, He had to have a reason to let others die. But, oy, are the faithful howling in anger—especially for Riggio’s use of the word “vainly”—in the 624 comments that follow! For example:

JustinW  •  Richardson, Texas  •  22 hrs ago

This is obviously someone who believes, as is his right, that this life on this earth is all that there is. God has always taught that His ways are not comprehendable to us, so maybe He did spare a life while taking another for purposes we cannot understand.

Kleb  •  22 hrs ago

Wooooooow. Bitter much? The author’s argument presupposes that from God’s point of view death is bad. People of “true faith”, as his last sentence mentions, are equally grateful to God for His providence in death as in life. Look at the great heroes in Christianity. When they died they weren’t bawling and begging God to spare them, they were profoundly relieved to be joining Him and, at the same time, deeply grateful for the ride they had been on in this world. From a Christian perspective, then, there is no inconsistency here. The survivor is grateful for the life God has given him here, as he should be, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t also looking forward to meeting the Lord.

Whoa!  Should we be grateful to God for asking 6 million Jews to join Him during the Holocaust?

Karen W  •  1 day 1 hr ago

Riggio, What gives you the right to pass judgement on someone else’s belief’s? I bet if you stood in his shoes and survived what he went through you’d suddenly believe in miracles too!

Get a life and get a real job! You’re obviously no good at what you do!

Clearly these people haven’t thought deeply about theodicy and the problem of evil. I’d love to talk to some of them about why God lets tornadoes kill innocent little children and animals.

But amidst the howls one can also discern a few voices of reason:

Ted  •  21 hrs ago

The problem is that human beings respect logic. If Paul Lord was honest with his assessment he would have thanked God for sparing his life and in the same breath criticized God for killing those three little girls? I mean, is God responsible for all things or not? You can’t have it one way and disregard the other. Atheists cut to the chase; they say God is not responsible for any of it; it is just nature (probabilities and chance), no mysterious guiding hand to assign blame or gratitude to. If you think about it, this makes sense.

J  •  Rochester, New York  •  21 hrs ago

Obviously, God is too busy picking baseball, football and NASCAR winners to be bothered with saving Paulie from twisters. Ask any of them… they always seem to have god’s help.

h/t: Darth Dog

65 Comments

  1. raven
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    If god was really paying attention:

    Those tornadoes wouldn’t have happened at all.

    or, hit somewhere where no one lives.

    Or happened in Morris, Minnesota and Chicago and taken out a few atheists. LOL.

    • Jolo
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      What happened is that God was on a bender and was actually aiming for this guy that stole her name. If she was sober she would have hit him for sure, but since she was pissed, she missed.

  2. Rudi
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    This story simply disproves the notion of an all-loving, all-powerful God. If Yahweh is real (stick with me, here) then he is either all-loving but limited in his powers, or all-powerful and a complete bastard. This is a fact – and Christians who insist otherwise are either lying or too stupid to realise it. The ‘argument’ that God moves in mysterious ways, for some reason popular, is similarly easy to disprove – there is nothing ‘mysterious’ about the actions of being who allows young kids to die horribly – this person is an out and out asshole. There isn’t a theogian in the world who can refute this.

    • Marella
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes they can, they just redefine ‘loving’ to mean ‘kills you when he likes’ and carry on their way.

      • Margaret
        Posted April 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        You just have to use the fundie definition of “love,” which is either “own” or “submit” depending on where you fit in the hierarchy of god>man>woman>child.

  3. Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The only theodicy that “works” is the one Job got: after all the argle-bargle about whether Job deserved it, finally God Himself shows up and says “I’m waaaayyyy bigger, smarter and generally bad-asser than you, and I do what I damn well please, and I don’t have to explain myself, so STFU and deal!” (“Oh, and have another family — they’re all interchangeable, right?”)

    Which is fine as an explanation — you just have to give up any notion that God is loving or just in any way that we can perceive or understand (which means that religious talk about love and justice becomes nonsensical), and also give up any pretense to know what God is up to, because at any moment he might reverse course for his own inscrutable reasons. You’re left with God the capricious tyrant.

    • gluonspring
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad someone else mentions the oddity of giving him another family, as though that fixes things. That always seemed odd to me, but in church it is taboo to actually notice the obvious bizarreness.

  4. Tulse
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Whoa! Should we be grateful to God for asking 6 million Jews to join Him during the Holocaust?

    Given some of the fundamentalist Christians, you probably don’t want to ask them that…

    • TomZ
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, they’d probably say something along the lines of “well, following the logic, I’d have to say yes” without appreciating the irony of them now following rules of logic.

      • Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        I think Tulse was hinting at the near homicidal hatred for “others” many fundamentalists harbor.

        • Tulse
          Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          They killed Jesus, you know.

          • raven
            Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

            They killed Jesus, you know.

            Yes, but that was exactly the plan.

            Where would xianity be if jesus had gotten 5-7 years with time off for good behavior?

            • Tulse
              Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

              Yes, but that was exactly the plan.

              Which is why I’ve always been confused by the anti-semitism of some fundies, ostensibly precisely because Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death. That was supposed to happen, right?

            • lamacher
              Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

              That’s a good point! 1+.

          • NMcC
            Posted April 20, 2012 at 12:15 am | Permalink

            Yes, but he was one of “…the great heroes in Christianity.” Who wasn’t “…bawling and begging God to spare…” Him. He was “…profoundly relieved to be joining Him (God) and, at the same time, deeply grateful for the ride…” He “…had been on in this world.”

            That story about Him sweating blood and asking God for the cup to passeth Him by was all made up – hard as that is to believe.

  5. Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    “I’d love to talk to some of them about why God lets tornadoes kill innocent little children and animals.”

    Really? You don’t already know what their explanation will be? I had this very conversation w/ a gaggle of Witnesses this past Easter as everyone sat around a large table and talked about all the “signs” that we’re livin’ in the end times!

    In an attempt to save you from a cranial explosion, here’s your explanation: Gawd works in mysterious ways. We can’t understand the mind of Yahweh and we don’t understand the “context” in which his mind works.

    It says so in verse xxx and yyy.

    Case closed.

    • Tulse
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Gawd works in mysterious ways. We can’t understand the mind of Yahweh and we don’t understand the “context” in which his mind works.

      So how do we know he “loves” us, and isn’t just breeding us for food?

      • Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Because the cover on my Bible doesn’t say “How to Serve Humans”.

        • Tulse
          Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps, but the god of both parts of that document seems really into food. And I wouldn’t put anything past a god that makes people eat his own son.

          • Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

            Exactly. Not to mention this need for an endless supply of foreskins. Does anybody REALLY know where those things end up?

    • steve oberski
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      It will not do to say, in reply to this, that the lord moves in mysterious ways. Those who dare to claim to be his understudies and votaries and interpreters must either accept the cruelty and the chaos or disown it: they cannot pick and choose between the warmly benign and the frigidly indifferent.

      Christopher Hitchens

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        Excellent retrieved quote.

    • Daryl
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Or they would say we all deserve death, so anything good that comes our way is the mercy of god. Whatever it takes to keep the fantasy alive.

  6. mordacious1
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Remember that shooting at a Korean christian school in Oakland a few days ago. All the students were Christian, total student body 100. Of these 100, ten were shot, seven fatally . One young lady was interviewed and stated that she knew that god saved her because she was christian and god protects christians. So the 7 that died were fakers? The 3 wounded were on the fence and god was sending them a warning?

    From a christian perspective, that’s a nasty thing to say about your classmates who were just viciously murdered…that they weren’t christian enough for god’s help. What an arrogant and foolish statement to make after such a tragedy. If they walked the righteous path that I do, they’d still be alive…poor sinners.

  7. Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    My hometown was one of several across Alabama devastated in the tornado outbreak on April 27 last year. Over and over and over came the stories of the miracles of Jesus — how “God really blessed our family and we survived in the basement,” “God blessed us because we lost our home but walked away,” “We are so blessed to be alive.” So I guess that means the 235 Alabamians who were killed in the storms didn’t make the cut in God’s eyes.

    You can’t say “I’m so blessed to be alive” AND “It was just his time”.

    • raven
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      It’s even stranger when one of those large tornadoes or a lightning bolt takes out a church. Which happens a lot.

      The earthquake in Christchurch, NZ destroyed their old cathedral, just leveled it.

      The xians are usually pretty quiet about what god’s intention was in these cases.

      I’ve always claimed that god hates fundie xians. He is always sending tornadoes and hurricanes into their homeland of the south central USA. They never catch on. “Whom the god’s would destroy, they first make stupid.”

      • Sunny
        Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Didn’t Pat Robertson say it was because those in the Bible Belt were not praying hard enough?

        • Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          How exactly does one “pray hard”, I’ve always wondered. Do you squeeze your hands together as hard as you can? Do you kneel on an uncomfortable surface? Do you scream out to the sky until you lose your voice? Is there a form of workout video for this, like Yoga but with the missionary pose? Can praying TOO hard cause an aneurysm? Can you get prayer cramps? Are there pre-prayer warm-ups you can do to ensure that your prayer is as hard as it can be? Perhaps you need to pray in a foreign language so it requires some study, the harder the language to articulate, the harder you’re praying? From a purely meditative standpoint, would praying hard defeat the purpose? Does praying hard actually irritate God, especially when they do it while he’s in the powder room reading Dawkin’s and chuckling? Would he then lift a holy cheek and smite them horribly for the interruption?

          • steve oberski
            Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

            If you send Pat Roberston lots of money then you’re praying hard enough.

            • ROO BOOKAROO
              Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

              You stole that line from Hitchens, of course!

          • raven
            Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

            Why should you pray at all anyway?

            According to the theists, god is all knowing. He already knows everything that happens and will happen.

            This isn’t much different from killing a chicken on an altar to get what you want except there is no dead chicken at the end of the day. Progress I guess.

            • Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

              Sacrificing chickens always gets me what I want, especially when what I want is fried chicken. And I like a lot of fried chicken.

          • Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            Awesome.

            Maybe you and I should create a Personal Prayer Trainer program. Demonstrate proper technique/form etc. Divest the religious rubes of some dollars.

            • Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

              I’m sure we could come up with some metaphysical bullshit and pepper it with scripture to quasi-justify some pretty crazy things. “Just imagine your hands are like a satellite dish to the Lord. Keep them close to your heart and pointed straight up. You don’t want to angle them too much, you might end up praying to the wrong thing after all!” We could sell the entire program on http://www.landoverbaptist.org.

      • Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        The one that hit my hometown destroyed a Baptist church (as well as 3 public schools, but we all know those are sinful places). God does hate the poor.

      • gluonspring
        Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention the unending blight of poverty God sends most of that region.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

        Christchurch Cathedral is (OK, was) right in the centre of Christchurch and it was the most popular tourist area. And it was midsummer in NZ. So probably there were a lot of tourist chicks not wearing a heck of a lot…. can you say ‘boobquake’? 😉

        Still, kinda ironical God chose to target a city named after Big J rather than, say, Wellington…

        • TJR
          Posted April 20, 2012 at 2:06 am | Permalink

          A second-rater like Yahweh would never dare to attack a city named after The Iron Duke himself!

          Nelson and Marlborough should be similarly safe.

  8. Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    From commenter Kleb: “The author’s argument presupposes that from God’s point of view death is bad. People of “true faith”, as his last sentence mentions, are equally grateful to God for His providence in death as in life.”

    So would Lord have been equally blessed had he died, or if the neighbours were stealing his appliances instead of rescuing them? Were the dead victims blessed too?

    This God stuff sounds like a win-win game. You just can’t lose. Sign me up!

    Oh, hold on, is this God stuff one of those pre-internet scams? Maybe I’ll give it a pass. In the mean time there’s a guy in Kenya wants some help getting to his money. brb.

    • raven
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      People of “true faith”, as his last sentence mentions, are equally grateful to God for His providence in death as in life.”

      God kills people = good.

      God doesn’t kill people = good.

      God can do no wrong and it’s always a win-win situation. I’ve seen this a lot. They often say that god created us so he can kill us any time he wants.

      Such a god is a monster.

    • Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      lol

  9. earlycuyler
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    To see raw, unadulterated American stupid, one need go no farther than the comments on any Yahoo News story.

  10. Alektorophile
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I had a similar argument with my wife’s uncle, a high-school “science”* teacher out in the Western US. He tried to convince me and my wife of the goodness and greatness of his god by telling us how he almost died in a car crash in a snow storm, but “god intervened” and saved him. I felt inclined to ask him about all those innocent kids dying in car crashes, but being mostly rather non-confrontational and having my wife look at me and begging me “be nice” (à la Tim Minchin) I asked for the gravy instead.

    *he is a creationist

    • Filippo
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      You mean that, in creating your pre-marital check-off list, it never occurred to you to ask your prospective wife if she had a creationist uncle who lived at a distance, with whom you might have to deal? Shocked! Shocked! 😉 Such a list can never be complete, eh?

      I’m reminded of that old saw, that you can pick your spouse but you can’t pick your relatives. (And apparently by extension neither can you pick your in-laws, though I imagine it occasionally happens that, no matter how much a prospective spouse has going for her/him, awareness of her/his relatives is occasionally sufficient to deter the other party.)

      I gather that you were visiting in his home? You were the subordinate – er, uh I mean -“guest,” and he was the “host,” the master of his house, entitled to say out loud whatever he pleased under his own roof and to require you to keep your mouth shut in response? I too have had that experience – either visiting someone at a distance and/or travelling with her/him, and biting my tongue, for the sake of The Bigger Picture, to Keep the Peace.

  11. Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    When a theist ejects this most grand of arrogant statements, it belies that around which their entire worldview revolves, the great and all powerful ME!

    • Sunny
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Religion: the highest expression of vanity.

  12. KP
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Jerry, for getting me riled up when I’m trying to concentrate on getting a grant proposal out the door…

    These claims infuriate me. I was involved in a fatal car accident 5 1/2 years ago and had faith-heads all around me tell me about how God saved me because he has a “plan” for me (circumstances of the accident, statistically, indicate that I should be dead too). For a while I bit my tongue about how offensive such a claim is (the people mean well, after all) but now I go to town on that garbage. And “garbage” is being really nice. Religion is worse than garbage.

  13. Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if kleb would continue to argue like that if someone asked him why, then, do religious people lobby against an individual’s right to choose death when faced with physical and emotional misery at the end of their lives.

    Religious arguments really are a spectacular potpourri of ad hoc, contradictory half-thoughts.

    • gluonspring
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

      I think of it as a big bag of unconnected bumper stickers.

  14. Cody Porter
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I love being surprised like this. I generally don’t expect much from Yahoo news…

  15. Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I remember when the KC Mo area had some late season tornado activity and a local weatherman, Gary Lezak (an otherwise decent, respectable, and even lovable guy with his dogs who visit schools and DOES admit to man-made climate change) referred to a rather large and scary tornado as “the finger of GOD”! All I can say is that I hope I never get “fingered” by god.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      That doesn’t necessarily indicate he’s religious. An atheist could also use that statement, metaphorically. Einstein and Stephen Hawking for example, both used similar expressions and this does not mean, religiosos please note, that they were crypto-Christians.

  16. Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    The sort of argument that Paul Lord posited (and implied with the deaths of those little girls) is what happens when you believe in an unfalsifiable god: something that explains everything explains nothing.

  17. Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting to see my original article cited and commented on by such a wonderful blogger. 🙂 Your comments are all great reading, and make me glad that some people are out there using their heads.

    • gluonspring
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for writing it. Things like this aren’t said enough.

      Even for believers, I find it surprising that they are so caviler and Narcissistic about what God does. You’d think they’d be a little more circumspect at least.

      • Posted April 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        I somehow doubt we’ll see much of a change in the near future. 😦

    • Posted April 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Excellent site you’ve got!

  18. Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Not even one of the six million could be grateful for being gassed. My mommy told me a long, long time ago that whether or not Jews believe in god (she didn’t), we apparently don’t have any heaven to go to.

  19. RFW
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    This incident reminds me of another one, in Abbotsford, BC (the buckle of the BC bible belt, such as it is), where the floor of a church collapsed during a shebang, injuring dozens of people:

    http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20080426/church_floor_080426/

    News reports at the time included the usual religious guff “it was a miracle no one was killed.”

    Hey, if Dog is responsible for no deaths, it also has to take responsibility for the collapse, no?

    Since it’s fun to make fun of religion, let me pose a conundrum: is Dog better described as cat-like or cephalopod-like?

  20. Jackie
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I remember that incident. Three girls were featured on the front page of the local (Chwk) rag crowing about how special they were to Dog because they escaped uninjured. I was so embarassed for them.

    • Jackie
      Posted April 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      (meant as reply to #19)

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got to disagree with Riggio that “God’s hand directing the tornado away from the town” would have been “a true blessing.” It would have been a meteorological event, same as what actually happened.

    And I don’t understand the responses of the believers that God’s ways not “comprehendable [sic] to us[.]” The Sophisticated Theologists are always claiming that the best evidence for his existence is that the world is comprehensible, that science only works because of this. If there’s a god who values comprehensibility, why not start with some of his own stuff — like the circumstances under which prayers will be granted. (He certainly isn’t shy about making known his laws, like those proscribing graven images and taking his name in vain.)

    Anyway, if god wanted to make the universe comprehensible, couldn’t he have kept things a little simpler than general relativity and quantum mechanics (and whatever grand theory unifies the two) — concepts only those way out under the thin right lip of the Bell Curve who have dedicated a career to studying (the vast majority of whom are secularists) have any chance of understanding. Since he’s starting from scratch, why not a nice, simple, clockwork universe — one that even those inclined to believe in him can comprehend.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Over at Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne addresses an article by Andrew Riggio, in which Riggio questions the thought processes of a man named Paul Lord who thanked God for saving him from a tornado that struck in Oklahoma, killing several (including 3 young girls) but sparing him.  Noticing that (unsurprisingly) the comments have exploded into a sprawling mess, Coyne pulls out a few for special attention including this one: Kleb  •  22 hrs ago Wooooooow. Bitter much? The author’s argument presupposes that from God’s point of view death is bad. People of “true faith”, as his last sentence mentions, are equally grateful to God for His providence in death as in life. Look at the great heroes in Christianity. When they died they weren’t bawling and begging God to spare them, they were profoundly relieved to be joining Him and, at the same time, deeply grateful for the ride they had been on in this world. From a Christian perspective, then, there is no inconsistency here. The survivor is grateful for the life God has given him here, as he should be, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t also looking forward to meeting the Lord. […]

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