Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti and God

It's hard to imagine that an earthquake could have happened at a worse place than Haiti. Haiti is the target of perhaps four or five hurricanes every decade. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Most people live on the equivalant of one or two dollars a day. These are people who had almost nothing. Now, for many what little they may have possessed is gone along with members of their families and friends.

That chaos will reign there, that violence will ensue is virtually a given. Already there has been video of people out in the streets waving and threatening others with machetes. The difficulty that aide workers are having in simply getting help to the city - rescue crews, medical personnel and equipment, food and water - is exacerbating the situation. Fear, thirst and starvation form a lethal mix.

In much of the coverage I've seen over the past few days, there have been innumerable people thanking god for their deliverance. While that is typical, it is always a mystery to me why a god who supposedly pulls all the strings should be thanked in such circumstances. What thanks do the dead owe to god? What thanks do the injured, starving and homeless owe?

If we assume that god either made the earthquake to happen, or could have prevented it - after all hesheit is omnipotent, right? - then what thanks is hesheit owed from the survivors?

"Thank you god for crushing my little girl's legs and killing the rest of my family. Thank you for destroying my home, my city. And thank you god for making all of our lives a living hell, which by surviving, I'll be able to witness and endure until I ultimately die. Thank you so much!

This is such madness. I just wonder what it might take to wake people up? I know all the pat answers that believers come up with: "It's not ours to question. We cannot hope to understand god's plan..." yada, yada, yada.

I've written all this before - perhaps after 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami, or some other mindless mass killing or horrendous natural disaster. One can rest assured that after any such event, there will be those thanking god for sparing them.

Let's say we had a king ruling over us, and he caused a town to be destroyed by flood by blowing up a dam, or he marched an army into the town which set about killing hundreds of people at random and destroying their homes and businesses, and so on. Would the survivors struggle out of the rubble and give thanks to the king for not killing them? Or would they, perhaps, become angry and vengeful storming the king's castle?

Of course, the difference in my scenario is that a worldly king is human. He is a corporeal entity. He has a whereabouts. He can be hunted and slaughtered by the angry mob.

You can't do that to god. Hesheit is nowhere to be found. This so called loving god takes cruel swipes at us repeatedly, and yet, people bow down in thankful prayer to himherit. Such faith is lunacy.

Life is often difficult, even for the most gifted and successful of us. Most everyone experiences times of hardship and sadness. As is noted by Lao Tzu in the Tao te ching, life is hard. Life is suffering. We all will die. No matter how rich, no matter how important, no matter how protected, no matter how healthy any of us may be. No matter how great our genes are, at some point we will all shuffle off this mortal coil. Does it really make it easier to cope harboring a belief that some all powerful god is out there in the ether somewhere conducting this cacaphonous symphony of life, suffering and death?