First let me state the obvious. I am shocked and horrified at what has happened (and what is continuing to happen), and I feel awful for the people of Japan. Japan is a great nation, a steady ally of ours, and possesses a culture I greatly admire. They are a smart, disciplined people (much more so than the general population of the U.S.), and I have faith in their ability to endure this mighty struggle. That having been said, this will not be a “look how bad things are” piece. You can read that kind of stuff and see the accompanying images and video from countless other sources. I’m gonna instead do what I do best, and that’s take a look at the patterns of media hoopla and the online reaction that I’ve noticed here in America. Just a few things I’ve seen that I wanted to quickly address.
-I know it’s the job of reporters to chase the story, but I just find something exploitative about the fact that mere days after something like this happens, with bodies still washing ashore, media outlets from around the world dump thousands of reporters and cameramen on the disaster area looking for a story, looking for the saddest or most uplifting angles they can find. Yeah, we wanna know what’s going on, but at what point do you just wish we would leave these people alone for a few days? I don’t need a second-by-second account of what’s going on there. Let the Japanese reporters do that for their own people. How many different everyday Japanese people do we need to see giving their accounting of the events? And how many brokenhearted, hungry, weary people did you stick a microphone and camera in front of before you found one that would tell you what they saw? I dunno, it just rubs me the wrong way. But this is the 24-7 media world we live in, and I understand what that entails. I’d just like to see some more civility, and less “Oh, we just found ANOTHER starving family whose house was washed away. Let’s go talk to them!” Yeah, we get it.
And again, I want to be crystal clear, this isn’t me whining about hearing too much about Japan. I’m saying this kind of complete saturation of coverage in the immediate aftermath is insensitive to the people most affected. Offensively so in my view.
-Speaking of the media, enough with the constant updates and estimates on the death toll. Why is this so friggin important? Is there a scoreboard somewhere? I doubt the people of Japan, most notably the families of those lost, care where this tragedy ranks on the all-time list of “deaths caused by natural disasters.” A lot of people -too many- are dead. Let’s leave it at that until there actually IS a final tally. Two days ago, we were almost certain the number of dead was just over a thousand. Today, I’m hearing that it’s likely at least 10,000. Well that’s a pretty big discrepancy is it not? Again, GIVE IT A GODDAMN MINUTE. The people at the Guinness Book of World Records can wait.
-Predictably, as the attention has turned towards possible nuclear reactor meltdowns, the discussion at home has turned to whether or not Americans should be supporting nuclear power. Well, it’s a bit late for that discussion, since we already have 104 nuclear facilities across the country. What are we gonna do, close em all down and switch to solar? Let’s be both reasonable and realistic. Yeah, it’s pretty scary that two of the plants in California near the coast are within range of the San Andreas Fault, and are supposedly only equipped to handle up to a 7.5 magnitude quake. Well, maybe we should have considered that YEARS AGO when the plants were approved and built. Aside from a natural catastrophe or terrorist attack, nuclear power is safe. It’ll be decades before we come up with an alternative energy source that will even come close to replacing nuclear power en masse. Until then, I don’t see any alternative other than investing in making the plants we have now safer. And if you’re THAT concerned about a meltdown at your local plant, MOVE!
-The internet reaction on the social networks has been similarly illogical and annoying. Typical of events like this, the first thing you saw online from most people was “I’m praying for the people of Japan” or something to that effect. O RLY? So let me get this straight, you want God to intervene on behalf of the people of Japan? Okay, that’s fine. However, is this the same god that allowed something like this to happen in the first place? And you’re what, asking him to please hurry and clean up his mess? What the hell sense does that make? Does anyone else see the complete lack of logic there? I really, really wish people would think before they go public with their ideas. Most people don’t bother to think before they speak, but you have plenty of time to think before you type. Shit, you can even think some more AFTER you type, and then erase the stupid stuff! Me, I’m just asking the questions. If there is a god, and he has a “reason” for allowing this to happen, I for one am not gonna ask that same a-hole to help the people he’s just ruined. If you can separate the god who doesn’t prevent this sort of thing and the god you now want to help these people, then so be it. Maybe you believe in multiple gods, good and evil. Maybe Hades caused the earthquake and tsunami, and you’re praying to Zeus to fix Hades’ mess. What do I know.
I’m trying to keep this right around 1,000 words, so there you have it. My thoughts continue to be with the good people of Japan, but I ain’t pickin up the phone and calling on God to fix this. The strength and will of the Japanese people and her friends around the world will turn the tide on this atrocity. This is the kind of situation worthy of sending our troops and aid abroad. If only we had about 50,000 fewer soldiers acting as social workers in the desert, they could have been sent to Japan for a worthy cause.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
You completely ignore the idea of God as the creator, you only imagine one as a puppet master. I find this very close minded, my friend. Most pray to God for guidance and strength, a source of comfort and to provide those struck by this with the same. Not for Him to swoop down with giant cloud hands and rebuild houses. If a car crashes and kills everyone inside, do you blame the manufacturer? You might question some of the design and not understand the reasoning behind it, but is not also possible that the driver or another driver was the main reason, or years of poor driving had caused wear and tear to lead to this, or dare I say, the accident was just unfortunate chance and circumstance? If you’re going to bring God into the discussion, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t assume that everyone who prays to God at times like this is a complete moron or doing it for narrow reasons or with supernatural hopes. You have a very immature perception of religion and faith, and of all of the things you’ve written and spoken your opinion on, this is the most insulting I’ve read. And I PRAY that someday you understand why.
I understand completely why now. A religious debate is about the last thing I want, but I do get exactly what you said about what people do want God to do at this point. (However, I also happen to think most people saying “my thoughts and prayers are with…” haven’t really thought much about it and definitely haven’t taken time to pray about it, but I guess that’s my cynicism in mankind speaking) I don’t actually think people are expecting the hands of god to come out of the sky with a giant broom, or anything else to that effect. By “clean up his mess” I meant the emotional and psychological mess more than I did the financial and physical destruction.
My religious doubt (which is the best way I can describe it) comes down to the fact that I refuse to accept a god I should be worshiping exists who would sit by and watch this happen. And if there was such a deity, I could not then be brought to ask him to please soothe and comfort the people left in ruin by such an event. I can’t separate those two things, and until proven otherwise at the time of my death (or before then by all means!), I do not accept any form of the “he moves in mysterious ways” argument that might suggest that this kind of disaster is allowed because of some greater good yet to come.
I’m sorry that you were insulted, but you misinterpreted my words.
And to also end with a quote… “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible.”
I agree. But then, no explanation alone SHOULD make faith possible. Skeptics, non-believers and the like require evidence before they believe, and that’s always been a perfectly reasonable requirement in my book.
Listen, my first issue is you condemning others for how they want to practice their faith and pray. Don’t do that. Think whatever you want, but if someone wants to say “pray for them” in their facebook status, who are you to tell them not to? Go back in history and the list of names of people who judged and condemned how others practice their faith is not a good list to be on. Disagree, but do not insult and belittle.
As for your thoughts on needing evidence, you miss the entire point of faith. It is evidenced in the heart and mind and not on paper or with debate. Trust me, if God were the way you see him as, I wouldn’t believe in him either. My spiritual faith tells me that this world and the God that created it is unknowable in worldly terms. I do not believe that God “stands by” and watches things happen… God is first of all outside of time, so to think March 14th, 2011 or whatever date is first on his “most important dates” list is absurd. Our lifetime is but a drop of water in the ocean of existence. The Christian faith believes that God created man in in his image and likeness and the world for us to care for. This world was created in the way that it needed to be to exist… gravity, oxygen, life cycles etc, all part of the plan. The thing about these is that they are not perfections, and these things that make up the world also have dangers and challenges inherent in them. God wants humankind to develop science and technology, to grow and adapt, to find ways to defend against the elements, to learn and understand medicine, to develop energy and resources to sustain ourselves and the planet. This is our purpose. And in this purpose we are faced with trials and sadness, success and happiness all in one, and all by primarily how we treat the world and act with each other.
Why is this all this way? Because this is not our ultimate existence, and that’s what atheists and skeptics miss out on when they question “why things happen”. We don’t need to know why, that’s not important. It’s how we live that’s important. This life is just the beginning, and it is in our next that we find true solace. The sadness that has come from the tsunami in Japan is not the sadness of those passed on, but the sadness of us who are left behind to miss those who are gone and carry on without them. Christians believe that those who are gone are born again into the true world of God, the afterlife, or as we call it, Heaven. We are asked to live good lives and love each other, and our true reward will come. I don’t mean to sound preachy and I’m not trying to convince you of anything, I’m just telling you why a disaster like this is not proof for or against the existence of God. It is simply part of a plan that our human minds can not know. That is why it is called faith. I’m sorry if you are quick to condemn the “mysterious ways” thing, but I’m okay with not knowing everything about everything. Do you believe in love? Is there scientific evidence for the existence of a single kind of love? If there is, why do some people choose to love and others choose to hate? Is it nature vs. nurture, or neither? Science is wonderful and can teach us many things, but there are many things outside of science that co-exist with it but can’t be explained or defined by it.
Take the French Existentialists Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. They were basically nihilists who decided that there is no proof for or against God one way or another, and as such, the world is inexplicable, and therefore ultimately meaningless and absurd. Might makes right, take what you can, with no values or demands because after this there is nothing, so what’s the point? Nothing matters if this is all there is. They said the animals have it better than us, because they can enjoy life and don’t have to realize how pointless it is. Think back to the billions of people who have come and gone throughout history, and how many of them had an impact on the world still felt today. A very small percentage of them, that’s it. So for the rest, what was the point? Honestly, if this is all there is, this life and what we see with our eyes and science books, and if our ultimate happiness is marriage, kids, job promotions, new cars, iPads, writing screenplays, and then death and darkness… and that’s it? Damn, that sucks. And more so, what an incredible waste. I am very happy trying to live the best life I can, being happy with those around me, doing hat small good I can and doing things I enjoy, but also knowing that this is all just leading up to a better place. I’m in no rush to get there, but it gives me comfort to think, or to know, that there is hope. If my faith has done anything for me, I can tell you this. In my happiest moments, an d in my deepest sadness, I have never in my life felt completely alone. Why, I can’t tell you. But it is something that I have felt, and known, and gives me hope that there is more to all o this than you and I can know, or have to worry about, and we can just enjoy it, in it’s beauty, challenges, hardships and rewards. And I don’t need empirical evidence to prove that.
Just wanted you to know I read every word of that, and it was beautifully said.
I don’t think you were implying I believe there’s nothing after death, but just in case, that’s not what I believe. I believe and have complete faith that there’s some form of afterlife, because I can’t picture a way where existence -your consciousness- just ends, even at death, like some kind of permanent, dreamless sleep. I can’t wrap my head around that as a possibility. It would seem to me there are but two options. Either there’s an afterlife (which I’d prefer), or you start over in some form of reincarnation (no thanks). But we don’t disagree entirely, and I can see now why my interpretation of what god is or isn’t paying attention to doesn’t mesh with your core beliefs. Yeah, if someone believes it happens the way I described (and a lot of people do believe in the “God is closely monitoring everything at all times” theory), I think that’s incomprehensible, so I challenged it. But you, Liam, don’t see it the way I described it, so I’m not referring to anyone like you. But then again, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve heard faith described in the way you did.
I don’t know if condemn is the word I’d use to describe what I was originally saying. If I’m guilty of anything in that one paragraph, I’ll accept that I was probably overly simplistic and broad. But to be clear, I have no ill will against what anyone else believes (so long as you ACTUALLY believe it). You’ll never see me preach that anyone else should believe what I believe because I know better.
My problem comes from when I see people act or speak one way in daily life (in person or online), and then something like this happens, THEN they play the prayer card. I’m calling these people disingenuous, I think would be more accurate. I’m not saying flat out, “Don’t say that”, but I am saying “Only say it if you mean it”, if that makes sense. And then yes, I wondered aloud how or why one would use that logic, because I genuinely want to know. I can’t stand fake sympathy, or fakeness in general. I think a majority (perhaps not the vast majority, but more than half) of the people I see saying this stuff don’t really mean it or practice it. It’s like, “Oh, I said my thoughts and prayers go out to them, so I’ve done my part to show I feel bad.” That’s what sets me off, and yes I use strong language when I criticize people (which is why I double and triple check posts like this before publishing them), but that’s who I am, and at least I’m honest about it.
Oh, and just throwing this out there as a movie fan to another, if you want to see a very interesting movie on spirituality through adversity, see the new film Of Gods And Men. Just saw it at Kendall and it’s beautifully done. Even Lisa Schwarzbaum in EW, who generally hates all religious movies, gave it an A in the headlining review a few issues back. Masterful film making and might give you some insight into how faith overcomes the sadness of the world even when we do not understand it. Very humanistic, compassionate film, and not preachy like me, I assure you.
I will look into that.