pageok
pageok
pageok
Does God Dislike Poor People?

The American Family Association's Web site runs an item that includes this:

Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina — but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.

The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" — an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week — God's judgment would be felt.

"New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion — it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there — and now we're going to start over again."

I've seen other similar statements online; and of course similar statements were made about 9/11 (the Falwell-Robertson abortion-made-God-mad item), AIDS being God's punishment on gays, and the like.

If this is so, then wouldn't it follow that God must really dislike poor people? After all, poor people generally bear the brunt of most natural disasters: It's harder for them to evacuate; they are less likely to have insurance; their assets are less likely to be diversified, so the economic damage is more likely to be severe for them; they are closer to the poverty line, so even small losses may harm them more than larger losses harm rich people; and so on. If you live in a poor country, you're much more likely to suffer from disasters than if you live in a rich country. If you're poor in any country, you're much more likely to suffer from disasters than if you're rich.

The same is in considerable measure true for wars, at least since World War II: Tragic as 9/11 was, the loss of life in America was far less than the loss of life in Rwanda, Uganda, Cambodia, and who knows how many other poor countries in recent decades. And it's true for AIDS and most other diseases: Rich gays in the U.S. are much more likely to survive AIDS than poor people — gay or straight, promiscuous or monogamous but infected by nonmongamous spouses or in other ways — in Africa or Asia.

So, which is it: Does God dislike poor people? Or might it be that disasters, wars, and diseases are actually not God's punishment for sin?

* * *

(Disclaimer for those who tend to read into posts things that the author hasn't written into them: I am not condemning all religious people, all Christian people, or even all people who believe that all things are sent by God; I am condemning those who argue that disasters, wars, and diseases are sent by God as punishment. Further disclaimer for the same people: I post this not because I think a majority of any particular religious group take these views, but because I think that a substantial number of people — even if only a small percentage of all people — believe such things, and these views deserve condemnation even if they are not majority beliefs within any religious group.)

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More "God Punishing America Through Katrina,"
  2. Does God Dislike Poor People?
Craig Oren (mail):
the following verse was written after the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco, where evangelists insisted was divine punishment for the sins of the city's inhabitants:

If, as they say, God spanked the town
For being over-frisky,
Why did He burn His churches down,
And spare Hotaling's whiskey?
9.6.2005 3:42pm
Michael Williams (mail) (www):
The general explanation is that some disasters are intended to punish, and some disasters are merely allowed to happen.

As a rather conservative Christian myself, it appears to me that most of the evil and terrible things that happen to people in the world are either the direct result of their own evil actions, or the direct result of the evil actions of others. Arguably, much of the suffering in New Orleans is due to poor/incompetent preparation by local officials who neglected their duties -- and some of that blame then rests with the voters who elected them.

However, the Bible certainly does teach that God punishes evil-doers, though not all bad events are punishment. From Jesus' teaching on two specific events in his day that killed a lot of people:

Luke 13:1-5

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."


http://www.mwilliams.info/archives/006092.php
9.6.2005 3:50pm
GG (mail):
God doesn't hate poor people. It's poverty that hates the poor. If poverty led to more options, better outcomes, and more comfort, we'd call it wealth.
9.6.2005 3:51pm
Shelby (mail):
“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says.

It looks to me as though New Orleans now is free of people. I guess Shanks's God hates people.
9.6.2005 4:06pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Jesus taught that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike--and what is a hurricane but rain with attitude? More seriously, at least part of what has turned a natural disaster into something a bit worse is the savagery of some of those who stayed behind to rob, rape, and murder the survivors.

New Orleans has a long reputation as "Sin City," and with good reason. You can see that in its murder rates, its extraordinarily short average lifespan, and its "anything goes" attitude. The idea that there is nothing right or wrong seems to have been taken rather seriously by some of the inhabitants who ran wild, turning a very bad situation into a horrifying situation.

God doesn't have to punish New Orleans for its sins. There's plenty of damage that flows naturally from a government that is consistently among the most corrupt in the nation.
9.6.2005 4:13pm
ChrisO (mail):
Well, a substantial portion of such people consider poverty to be mainly due to personal decisions of sloth, buying alcohol &tobacco, etc., and so consequences of poverty would be deserved.
9.6.2005 4:19pm
Californio (mail):
I am very conservative in how I behave and have a very conservative religious background. That being said, I am very uncomfortable with any belief system (Christian variant, Islam, et al) that casts God (as I understand him) so small. My Christianity is of a loving God who wants us to chose to have a relationship with him. This view of God cannot see him then acting like a jeolous 14 year old. Turning away from God saddens him, but lashing out in anger? Why would that person's God feel so threatened? Why would that person only respect a God who was constantly looking to kick his ass? God loves all, and is pleased with those who love him back. Only the immature believe that this means they are guaranteed an easy, tragedy free live. And only the venial snicker at the suffer of those they do not like. (Even if they have a "good" reason to condemn the other person.)
9.6.2005 4:26pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Well, a substantial portion of such people consider poverty to be mainly due to personal decisions of sloth, buying alcohol &tobacco, etc., and so consequences of poverty would be deserved.
Sad to say, that does describe what causes most poverty: very short-term thinking. There are adults who, through no fault of their own, end up in poverty. I will tell you that the vast majority of poverty that I have seen has been the result of an adult making the decision that intoxicants take precedence over work.
9.6.2005 4:40pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, he says in (I think) Ezekiel.

I noticed in church that, up to that moment, I hadn't even asked myself the "why does God let it happen?" question. If I drop a hammer, is God supposed to avert it from my foot?

The idea that virtue is rewarded, and vice punished, in *this* life, ought to be the best-refuted notion in theology. And yet, it recurs. Obviously, if one's to believe in a good God, one must also believe that the blisses and horrors of this life are matters of relative indifference to him, sub specie aeternitas. I don't understand this point of view; but then, neither does my baby understand why I won't let him play with electrical outlets.
9.6.2005 4:45pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
That is indeed one way of becoming or staying power. But of course there are also other ways, including (1) being a small child of poor parents, (2) being a grown child of poor parents and having gotten a lousy education, and (3) being born in a very poor country. People in category 2 and 3 can escape such poverty, but it isn't easy. Yet disasters, wars, and diseases seem to affect poor people in these categories at least as much as poor people in the "their own short term thinking caused it" category. (Clayton and ChrisO may well not disagree with me on this, but I did want to highlight it nonetheless.)
9.6.2005 4:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
But of course there are also other ways, including (1) being a small child of poor parents, (2) being a grown child of poor parents and having gotten a lousy education, and (3) being born in a very poor country.
That's why I was careful to use the word "adult." Being a small child of poor parents puts you at a great disadvantage--but you don't have stay poor once you move out. I didn't.

Of course, we are discussing Louisiana, not a "very poor country."

Lousy education is a hindrance, no question. But this is correctable. You just have to put the bottle, or the joint, or the television remote down long enough to go back to school.
9.6.2005 4:52pm
Rico567 (mail):
I find myself in a state of suspended disbelief as I enter a comment on why this topic should even need to be discussed in a civilized nation. Of course, this mental state was already in operation as I was trying to digest the spectacle of a Chief Justice lying in state like an assassinated President, or a potentate. Extremely unseemly, although perhaps less so if we're in the Early Empire rather than the Late Republic; most days I can't tell.
9.6.2005 4:53pm
Reader:
This explanation of killing sinners would also make God into one heck of a liar. I have it on substantial authority that God promised not to kill any more sinners with flood waters. . .
9.6.2005 4:55pm
Arthur (mail):
The notion that God rewards the Elect in this life as well as the next, and consigns those he has not Elected to difficulty now as well as later, goes back to Calvin, and remains an element of many Protestant sects. Max Weber had a thought or two on the topic. . .
9.6.2005 4:58pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Calvin, methinks, is more praiseworthy for systematic depth than for empirical acuity.

Mr. Cramer seems to be neglecting that the vices of poor parents, as he describes them, bode poorly for the cultivation of their children. I hope that his own success over early poverty does not make him forget how lucky he was.
9.6.2005 5:01pm
Gordon (mail):
In my humble opinion, if there is a Hell, the Rev. Shanks and his ilk are headed there, along with the current leadership of Iran. If God is looking for eternal damnation candidates, he's looking for people like Shanks, not Mardi Gras revelers.
9.6.2005 5:04pm
JumpinJac:
"So, which is it: Does God dislike poor people? Or might it be that disasters, wars, and diseases are actually not God's punishment for sin?"


... Wrong question. Why? Because you're assuming that poor=sinful. Says who? Why can't God punish sin and still love the poor? If we truly are free, then man is to blame for the misfortunes of the poor. It is entirely possible that the poor are simply a sad and unfortunate side effect of the disasters, etc., inflicted on the sinful.
9.6.2005 5:08pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Seems to me that if you think that I'm assuming that poor=sinful, you've almost completely misread my post.
9.6.2005 5:11pm
Tom952 (mail):
Shanks, et al, aggrandize themselves in this manner. By reminding us of his correct prediction, Shanks is lauding himself, and placing others on notice to fear his next prediction. This means of power is irresistible.

The Biblical parable of Job addresses this issue, but apparently it is subtle enough for contemporary fundamentalists to safely ignore.
9.6.2005 5:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There is a rough connection between sin and counterproductive behavior. Much of our trouble comes from ignoring the Ten Commandments--either we bring the trouble on ourselves, or some son of a bitch brings the trouble on us because he's ignoring, say, the thing about killing.
There are natural disasters aplenty, of course, but the likelihood one will be able to escape or endure is, in the aggregate, inversely correlated to one's cumulative counterproductive behavior.
There are people, we saw them on television, who had eaten themselves into near-immobility. If the thing to do is move to high ground asap, this would put them in more danger than was the case for their leaner neighbors.
If they'd drunk or drugged themselves into an inability to think straight, they are more likely to do something stupid and die.
It isn't necessary to haul in the Big Ten to make the case that some lifestyle choices impact one's ability to survive.
Or, in the case of parents, the ability of their children to survive.

The problem, given the initial premise, is that certain kinds of sin are not evenly distributed, and may be coterminous with and even cause behaviors which will negatively impact the ability to survive.

So it could look as if God were punishing the sinners when He hit land that, if you had get up and go, you'd have get up and gone from.

But it's quite natural.
9.6.2005 5:21pm
Citizen Grim (mail) (www):
Technically, yes, natural disasters are a result of sin, but in the broadest sense possible - i.e. the fact that they are a part of a "fallen" world.

While I believe that everything that happens in the world - yes, everything - is a thread in God's big freakin' tapestry, I believe that He operates by different parameters nowadays (patience, primarily) when it comes to such things as the consequences of sin.
9.6.2005 5:21pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
There's an interesting study of cholera epidemics in the US in the 19th century. As I recall, there were 3, the first in 1830, which was assessed as God's punishment for sins; the second in 1848, and a third in 1867. (My memory may be faulty.) As people understood the causes of cholera, they stopped seeing God's hand in the event and started worrying about practical steps, particularly in developing public health agencies and measure. The progression was part and parcel of the advance of science in the 19th century.

I suspect the set of believers in intelligent design and the set of believers in God's hand in disasters have a high degree of overlap.
9.6.2005 5:23pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
If this is so, then wouldn't it follow that God must really dislike poor people?

No Professor Volokh, it does not follow. A person can believe that Shanks' statements are true without being forced to conclude that God dislikes poor people.

Shanks' statements are clearly controversial, but that doesn't excuse Volokh's tortured logic and invalid argument.
9.6.2005 5:25pm
talboito (mail) (www):
Seems to me a disclaimer attached to a post underscores a lack of clarity in the post itself.

If you have to disclaim all sorts of conclusions then you should probably make your arguments more exact.
9.6.2005 5:26pm
Eric C. (mail):
I echo several commenters when I say I too am a rather conservative Christian, but of the non-fundamentalist, non end-of-the-world-is-nigh variety.

So, a hurricane hits (gasp!) the Gulf Coast in the middle of (gasp again!) hurricane season, and I am expected to consider this a MANIFEST example of God's anger???

Now, on the other hand, if a Hurricane hit Las Vegas, while sparing all the areas around it, in say, the middle of January, well, then I might be suspicious....

The thing that saddens me most about people like Shanks is the fact that SOOOO many other people (usually poor, and not well educated) believe him, another example of how being poor, and consequently being poorly educated, dooms people...
9.6.2005 5:27pm
Mr. Snitch! (mail) (www):
"Or might it be that disasters, wars, and diseases are actually not God's punishment for sin?"

Depends on what part of the Bible you're focused on. In the Old Testament, God's people and God's enemies alike got spanked on a regular basis. Under the New Covenant, though, God said in essence 'Now I'm going to treat you (mankind) as an adult. Go forth and act accordingly.' The days of spankings are over. However, there are folks who believe we aren't ready to find our own way, and long for the good ol' days of fire and brimstone. Truthfully, one can ceratinly find evidence for this POV. But part of faith is in believing that if God thinks we can handle reponsibility, He must know something.

So, God certainly does not hate the poor. But God does hate sloth and a number of sins that can lead to poverty. Differentiating the sinner from the sin, and discerning the reasons for poverty, are tasks requiring wisdom. Most of us are probably better off not attempting this at all.
9.6.2005 5:30pm
Gary McGath (www):
According to the Bible, God massacred virtually the entire population of the Earth in Noah's time for being so sinful, so I suppose the notion that he'd throw another watery temper tantrum at New Orleans isn't too unreasonable for those of a certain mindset.
9.6.2005 5:32pm
Lama7:
I suppose someone could address your question by making the point that God actually loves the poor. If He is punishing the sinners by killing them with some event, then the punishment, presumably, is a trip to Purgatory. By contrast, those who are not the objects of His punishment are rewarded with entry into Heaven.

FWIW
9.6.2005 5:33pm
Nelson Lund (mail) (www):
Eugene writes: "I am condemning those who argue that disasters, wars, and diseases are sent by God as punishment." Didn't Abraham Lincoln suggest that the Civil War was sent by God as a punishment for the sin of slavery? Is he to be condemned?
9.6.2005 5:34pm
Ken Hahn (mail):
I am very uncomfortable with post event prophecy. God may indeed punish the wicked, but I don't think He'd be thrilled by humans trying to speak for Him. Prophecy is an expensive gift. You have to be right 100% of the time and you have to be precise. No one, to my knowledge, proclaimed that God would destroy New Orleans last monday and that he would do so with a hurricane and following flood.

I'd hope anyone claiming to speak for God in this case will realize that false prophecy is a pretty serious offense. I don't speak for God and I'm hesitant to judge Mr. Shanks. I don't see that the latter is speaking for the former. I'm sure both will use last week's disaster for their own purposes. I'll just hope that those purposes converge somewhere up the line.
9.6.2005 5:36pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
Let's focus on Volokh's argument rather than Shanks'. Can anyone explain to me how it follows from Shanks' statements that God dislikes poor people?
Seems like a GIANT non-sequitur to me.
9.6.2005 5:36pm
Eric C. (mail):
To Rob Johnson:

No, it's not a non-sequitur: all of the sins that Shanks listed (abortion, Mardi Gras, homosexuality) are sins largely associated with more affluent populations (well, except homosexuality; although it's an ecnomic fact that homosexual couples tend to have more disposable income that straight couples due to the lack of children...)...at any rate, it's middle and upper class college kids who celebrate Mardi Gras, NARAL and other pro-choice groups are always telling us that poor women don't have access to abortion, etc, etc, etc.

So, the sins Shanks listed are middle-to-upper class sins, and the population most affected in N.O. was the poor population. Therefore, God meted out Judgement to the wrong crowd.
9.6.2005 5:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
No Professor Volokh, it does not follow. A person can believe that Shanks' statements are true without being forced to conclude that God dislikes poor people.

It's not syllogistic, but it's plausible. Actually, Prof. Volokh's ironical argument makes *more* sense than Shanks's.

"God destroyed N.O. to punish its gays"---but the "gayest" part of town, the Quarter, remains unflooded and (relatively) untroubled.

Whereas the poor, verily, were smitten left and right.

Mardi Gras---the conduct Shanks reprehends was, most prominently, in the Quarter.

Abortion---but don't the poor have fewer abortions, being unable to afford them? "The rich get richer, and the poor get children."

Witchcraft---well, you gotta ask Shanks about this one.

So if God directed Katrina to remedy the above, his failure was huge. Whereas if he wanted to kill a bunch of poor people &torment many others, he did a bang-up job.

Or we *could* infer that disasters hit the just &unjust alike, and that the fact that Shanks continues to be alive does not, in fact, reflect any divine approval of his beliefs.
9.6.2005 5:47pm
Jonathan M (mail):
Mr Volokh,

It would seem that the more you have (wealth), the more you stand to lose in a natural disaster. The less you have, the less you have to lose.

Additionally, other natural disasters (ie. earthquakes, the plague) do not discriminate between rich and poor.

Finally, I think the assumption of the "God's wrath" crowd is a false one. I mean, it is fair to believe that the possibility of death is a result of sin; thus, tragedy reminds us of our mortality and imperfection as men. However, I do not believe it is very fair to pigeon hole God either, make him into a being to suit our religious agendas.

Here is a letter from the atheist Voltaire which I quite agree with, speaking of the disasterous earthquake in Lisbon, which speaks very much to our situation today:

Les Délices, November 24, 1755

This is indeed a cruel piece of natural philosophy! We shall find it difficult to discover how the laws of movement operate in such fearful disasters in the best of all possible worlds-- where a hundred thousand ants, our neighbours, are crushed in a second on our ant-heaps, half, dying undoubtedly in inexpressible agonies, beneath débris from which it was impossible to extricate them, families all over Europe reduced to beggary, and the fortunes of a hundred merchants -- Swiss, like yourself -- swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What a game of chance human life is! What will the preachers say -- especially if the Palace of the Inquisition is left standing! I flatter myself that those reverend fathers, the Inquisitors, will have been crushed just like other people. That ought to teach men not to persecute men: for, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike. I believe it is our mountains which save us from earthquakes.
9.6.2005 5:54pm
DavidF (mail):
The idea that God sometimes punishes men (indeed, sometimes destroys entire cities) is found throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. I think that is a fairly uncontroversial theological idea amongst evangelical Christians. As an evangelical Christian, I share that belief. The Bible is also clear that "all creation groans under the weight of the fall," which is the Apostle Paul's way of saying that since the world isn't perfect, stuff happens. So sometimes God punishes, and sometimes he doesn't.

I'm not certain how the pastor could possibly know that this act was part of God's punishment. Is New Orleans worse (from a conservative Christian standpoint) than Vegas? I hear that Bangkok has a bit of a decadence problem. Pastors that presume to speak for God on these matters often look more foolish than prescient. I prefer to concentrate on what I need to be doing for my fellow man and leave the acts of God to, well, God.

When faced with horrific tragedy, I am reminded (as if I need reminding) of the profound limitations of human beings, both in our ability to control nature and in our apparent ability to control ourselves (the looting and violence was a shocking example of man's capacity for depravity). But I'm also reminded that we sinful human beings are capable of profound acts of courage and love in the face of enormous adversity.

In the meantime, I do find it slightly interesting to observe the — shall I say — religious certainty with which people denounce religious judgments like the pastor's. It's amazing how perceived religious extremism generates an extreme response. I doubt anyone posting here knows this pastor personally. He may very well be rolling up his sleeves and helping real people more than 99% of the people reading this site (or maybe not). I've often found that "fundamentalists" tend to also be some of the most charitable (with their money) and generous (with their time and efforts) of any people I've ever met. Sure, they might not be up to speed on the latest developments in evolutionary biology, nor may they be spouting the best (or most palatable) theology, but when you watch the church-level response to this — and virtually every — disaster, you'll see a lot of good people helping their fellow man.

Thanks for triggering an interesting theological discussion, Eugene.
9.6.2005 5:54pm
celebrim:
Basically, I don't want to speak for God. I don't know why God does anything. He doesn't inform me why Hurricanes hit cities, and I would hate to speculate. My suspicion is that those people quick to suggest why this, that or the other have occured have not actually been told by God why it occurred, but they are merely speculating. If they are speculating and they are wrong, then they are falsely prophesing under the laws of the Old Testement they have committed just as grevious of a sin as murder. In fact, Jesus gives us some insight as to why during the old testement when he says that those that commit slander have broken the law against murder. False prophesy is slander against God as well as (potentially) your fellow man. And that's to say nothing about our own modern experiences with cults.

It's certainly possible that God could have sent the Hurricane as punishment, but absent any sign that this is the case I'd not want to promote such an argument.

Generally speaking, I've found that people's punishment for thier sins are thier own sins. The clearest connection between the sins of New Orleans is not with the Hurricane, but with what came after.

But while I have little respect for false prophets, I also have little respect for people that paint everyone religious with the stripe of fanatic, and who snear at those who believe physical reality might be related to something spiritual. I quote to you from Lincoln's - a man known for his compassion but not his piety - second innaugural address:

"The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"

It seems to me that some here on both sides ought to be learning from the wisdom of the above words. We The People didn't decide to set them in stone for no purpose.
9.6.2005 5:57pm
JohnG:
Either God hates poor people or else God is a Republican.
9.6.2005 6:02pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
"When Bad Things Happen To Good People" by Rabbi Harold Kushner is a great resource for people with questions along the line that EV is posing.
9.6.2005 6:04pm
Craig Oren (mail):
Remember the spiritual:

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water
the fire next time
9.6.2005 6:05pm
Mike Phillips (mail) (www):
In the late 1700s, after the Lisbon Earthquake, the first preachers to comment all remarked on how this event was proof of God's wrathful attitude toward the sins of the sailors along the waterfront's notorious taverns and brothels. What they couldn't explain (and what ultimately ended the diatribes) was why all the large churches were destroyed and most of the large brothels had hardly a scratch on them.

As has already been stated, the most egregious of vices are often carried on by the wealthy. Therefore, it stands to reason that all the "sins" that Pastor Shanks railed against will show up even more as the city is rebuilt. Will this then be proof that God doesn't view the things that Shanks attacks as sins? Hardly. In essence, I agree that since God said he would not use floods as a judgment ever again that this disaster is more tragic than meaningful.
9.6.2005 6:06pm
Chaz (mail):
I think there are two things to look at: the issue of Adversity versus Punishment, and Eternal Law.

First, Adversity Versus Punishment. When bad things happen to bad people because they're bad people, it's punishment. There's no other way to slice that, and I think we can all agree with that.

But when Bad things happen to Good people, what do we call it?

Not everyone stuck in New Orleans isn't bad, but a great many of them might be (I mean, look at the looters, if that's not an example of bad people, what is?).

But what about the good people? I look at Job in the bible for this. He was put through hell, and he was one of the most righteous people that god could have following him! Why was he put through all that?

Sometimes disaster brings out the best in certain people (just as for some, the worst). It can also just as easily bring you closer to god. This, my friends, is what we call adversity: when the worst of times can bring you closer to god. That's why it happens sometimes.

Now, about eternal law. Some laws are collective, and affect the group as a whole. Some laws are individual, affecting just one person. Rarely laws are both in nature: they are either collective (i.e., punishing a group of people for one person doing wrong, or one person being singled out for the misbehavior of the group) or individual. Eternal law, however, can be both.

Now, *what* is eternal law. It's simple my friend. For every action, a consequence. It may not always affect the person making those choices right away, or just that person, but the effect comes one day, one way, or another.

Maybe what's happening with Katrina and it's aftermath is a punishment or consequence about what's going on or may have went on in New Orleans. The government's corruption, or the sins of the people, blah blah blah.... but what has happened may need to be. God has an odd way of working. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways.

Just my two thoughts.
9.6.2005 6:11pm
Rob Johnson (mail):
Thanks Anderson and Eric C. for your responses. I'm not persuaded. Shanks' statements have no bearing on whether God dislikes poor people. For example, I can think of lots of scenarios in which the United States might take a specific action (say, bombing a small village in Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden) that might adversely impact poor people more than it will adversely impact wealthy people. And I don't think it could fairly be concluded from that action that the United States dislikes poor people. Professor Volokh's argument is a non-sequitur.
9.6.2005 6:16pm
Todd Kincannon (mail):
No one could possibly believe the Old Testament is even slightly historically accurate without coming to the conclusion that God does indeed use natural disasters to destroy sinful cities and states.

I share this belief and I certainly don't believe it deserves condemnation. I would say, however, that the Bible is equally clear that not all natural disasters happen because God wishes to punish the sinful (except in the broader sense; i.e., that the root cause of all pain and suffering is sin).

It seems the distasteful question is this: did God use Hurricane Katrina to punish the "sinful" city of New Orleans? I don't think any human being knows the answer to that question, and I think it's folly to try to answer it.
9.6.2005 6:16pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
All the "never flood again" stuff is a misreading. Gen. 9:11.

"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."

Emphasis on "all" flesh and on "the earth." Local floods are A-OK.
9.6.2005 6:16pm
Nick (South Africa) (mail):
A brilliant very measured post by Eugene given the pious nature of the US. He is able to be much more inclusive in his tone than I could ever be.

So I will say my piece. .....Having read the Bible and Koran I'm rather 'up front' with my distain for both works as supernaturally inspired guides to life and morality; most especially when punted, as they tragically inevitably are, as something that should inform anyone’s ethics. I find the scientific absurdities, catalogue of atrocities and barbarism in both the Bible and the Koran to put it mildly rather too rich for my taste, and most definitely not fit fare for young children and that's putting it mildly. Seems like I’m with the illustrious company because I’m with the founding fathers and some of the early presidents….

All quotes attributable.

Abraham Lincoln“The Bible is not my book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma.”

John Quincy Adams – US founding father and early president
"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity….. There is in the clergy of all Christian denominations a time-serving, cringing, subservient morality, as wide from the spirit of the gospel as it is from the intrepid assertion and vindication of truth.”

Thomas Jefferson – Founding father and early US president
“I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature……Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man…..it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg (this one I particularly like)…… History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. "

Benjamin Franklin US founding father
”The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason: The Morning Daylight appears plainer when you put out your Candle…….I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.

It's amazing in the 21st century the meme is still strong enough to convince otherwise reasonable folks to abandon their reason utterly when arguments impinge upon the theology they were indoctrinated in as young kids.
9.6.2005 6:18pm
Taimyoboi:
"Abortion---but don't the poor have fewer abortions, being unable to afford them?"

Anderson,
Well, at least three of the four classes were spared since I'm not so certain that abortions occur more frequently among the wealthy.
9.6.2005 6:21pm
Lynxx Pherrett (mail) (www):
Well, the holdouts in New Orleans made a liar out of Rev. Bill Shanks in one respect:

Katrina doesn't cancel Southern Decadence parade

Web Posted: 09/05/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Rod Davis
Express-News Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS — You know a city has legs when three or four dozen of them are parading down Bourbon Street — some clad in tutus and grass skirts — six days after the most damaging hurricane in American history.

But the annual Southern Decadence parade through the heart of the French Quarter stops for nothing — not even Katrina.
9.6.2005 6:24pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Nice analogy, Rob, but the virtual immunity of the Quarter &its denizens from flooding poses a problem. It's more like we aimed at bin Laden &hit the next village over instead. Except God doesn't miss.

Todd: Since the OT itself is, as you note, scarcely agnostic about God's alleged intent to smite cities of evildoers, I don't see how it follows that we should similarly be agnostic.

You &other commenters are right to point to the OT. All I can say is that the reconciliation of the Jewish scriptures with the New Testament is one of the oldest problems in Christianity and has not been convincingly solved by any mortal of whom I'm aware.
9.6.2005 6:27pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Anderson,
Well, at least three of the four classes were spared since I'm not so certain that abortions occur more frequently among the wealthy.


I'm cheerfully devoid of any facts on the issue, but just as Mercedes are found more among the wealthy than among the destitute, it seems abortions would also be more prevalent. I am happy to be refuted, however.
9.6.2005 6:29pm
Jeff the Baptist (mail) (www):
Yes the logic is a bit torturous. We have "God hates sinners" and "Acts of God weigh most heavily on the poor". Therefore "God hates the poor"? Perhaps but I think the more likely conclusion is "poor people are more likely to be sinners".

Having been both poor and not, I can say that this isn't far off. When I was barely making ends meet, I lived by the principle of being as moral as I could afford to be. The coincidence between "bad neighborhood" and "low rent neighborhood" is also pretty significant. Now I make enough money to pay my way and save for the future. I can afford to make past misdeeds right (like skimping on taxes). I'm not rich, but I'm comfortably middle class and that goes a long way to enabling morality.
9.6.2005 6:33pm
Maggie (mail):
If we’re speculating, I think God must really hate the Boy Scouts, evidenced by these accidents this summer (via USA Today):


An 8-year-old girl died and three others were injured Wednesday when a tree fell on them during a first-aid class at a Boy Scout camp.

Four adult Scout leaders were killed in a July electrical accident in Virginia at the National Boy Scout Jamboree.

Five other people have died this summer from drowning and lightning during Scout outings in Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and California.


I mean, LIGHTNING. What could be a more quintessential symbol of being stuck down in punishment by the hand of God?
9.6.2005 6:40pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Anderson writes:
Mr. Cramer seems to be neglecting that the vices of poor parents, as he describes them, bode poorly for the cultivation of their children. I hope that his own success over early poverty does not make him forget how lucky he was.
I've seen both. I've seen kids who grew up in the most horrifying situations (much worse than mine--we were only materially poor, and we were close to the poverty line) who overcame it. I've seen kids who were seriously damaged by the experience--although generally not by the poverty itself, but by many of the associated factors: physical abuse; sexual abuse; no dental care; limited medical care.

I'm sure that among the very poorest of the poor, you will see some retardation caused by malnutrition. This would have to be caused by parental neglect--even most poor people aren't short of food, except when the drug abusing adult in the family has run off with the welfare check to buy more alcohol. (I'm speaking from first-hand experience with some in-laws on this. The wife told me that about half the families she knew were in the same situation--drugs came first, whatever was left would get used to feed the kids. And before you assume: these were white people, largely from middle class homes.)

All of these are arguments against encouraging poverty for the destructive effects it has on the kids. (The adults are making their own bad choices.) Lousy parents are, without question, mismolding children in ways that put them at a significant disadvantage when they move out. Liberals need to stop encouraging this by making excuses for parents who spend their time getting loaded and sitting on their rears, instead of looking for work. Work is not in short supply in this country; character is.
9.6.2005 6:45pm
Quaker (mail):
Jonathan M: "It would seem that the more you have (wealth), the more you stand to lose in a natural disaster. The less you have, the less you have to lose."

I disagree.

When a rich person's home is flattened, he loses $5,000,000 but only for the time it takes his insurance to rebuild.

When a poor person's home is flattened, he loses $5,000, but forever.

Rich people can afford to protect their riches, through a variety of means ranging from avoidance and prevention to insurance/restitution.
9.6.2005 6:46pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

When a rich person's home is flattened, he loses $5,000,000 but only for the time it takes his insurance to rebuild.

When a poor person's home is flattened, he loses $5,000, but forever.

Rich people can afford to protect their riches, through a variety of means ranging from avoidance and prevention to insurance/restitution.
Do insurance companies refuse to insure $5,000 homes? Or are you saying that poor people won't insure their homes against loss? This seems a very short-sighted approach to take. If anything, the poor person has more reason to insure one of the few items of any real value that he owns than the rich person. I think we are getting back to one of the core causes of poverty: present orientation.
9.6.2005 6:54pm
Eduardo S:
People find meaning where there isn't any; this is well documented. So when Event X happens, some people will make up and cling to "reasons", no matter how preposterous.

The people who do this tend to be people unable to say "I don't know". They take comfort in their certainty. This is one possible explanation for the fact that they are logically inconsistent with their own theology: they claim their god is all-knowing and beyond our comprehension, yet they don't hesitate to speak for him/her/it ("My god did this to punish [insert some people I don't like").

It's sad, but kind of amusing too.
9.6.2005 7:06pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Poor people can afford insurance???
9.6.2005 7:06pm
Branford (mail):
More Lincoln quotes that counteract somewhat those above (in the post from Nick from South Africa):

"That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular."
--From the July 31, 1846 Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity

"I do not think I could myself, be brought to support a man for office, whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion."
--From the July 31, 1846 Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity

"The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong."
--From the September 1862 Meditation on the Divine Will

Just to give a little more perspective to the above post, since Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln always seem to be quoted whenever religion or God is discussed in American politics.
9.6.2005 7:15pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
If they can afford a home, yes.
9.6.2005 7:18pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The key to all Lincoln's comments, of course, is that he was an ambitious politician, and ambitious politicians in the 1850s did not announce that Christianity was hoodoo.

Where's a Straussian when you need one?

I just recently finished Donald's bio of Lincoln (not especially recommended--factually useful, but low on interpretation &context), which suggests that Lincoln believed in a quasi-divine Fate, but couldn't really fit it into a Christian frame. Shakespeare's lines,

But there's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will

are for Donald as "scriptural" to Lincoln as any actual Scripture.
9.6.2005 7:19pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Anderson writes:

Poor people can afford insurance???
If you own your own home it would seem rather foolish to not insure it.

The original example was concerning a $5,000 home. Obviously, even in the roughest neighborhoods of New Orleans you couldn't buy a $5,000 home. (You might be able to do so today, however.)
9.6.2005 7:23pm
nk (mail) (www):
No! "God must really love poor people because, otherwise, he would not have made so many."

This is a classic quote. I'm surprised I'm the first to post it. As for hellfire and brimstone preachers calling down the wrath of God on every Sodom or Gomorrah they see -- well that's just the particular cult they happen to belong to. Orthodox Christianity neither believes nor talks that way.
9.6.2005 7:34pm
frankcross (mail):
The ability of some poor people to overcome poverty is far too facile. Think about it probabilistically. The ability of a person to create Microsoft does not mean that all people can do so.

Poverty and bad choices are surely cybernetic. Poverty creates conditions that make bad choices more likely. I am loathe to blame the poor too much, not having personally walked a mile in their shoes. While, as noted, it is difficult to blame poor children, it is likewise difficult to blame poor adults who were raised as poor children.
9.6.2005 7:36pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Poverty creates conditions that make bad choices more likely. I am loathe to blame the poor too much, not having personally walked a mile in their shoes. While, as noted, it is difficult to blame poor children, it is likewise difficult to blame poor adults who were raised as poor children.
Except, of course, that large number of poor children grow up deciding not to follow in the footsteps of their parents--and don't. In any case, if you want to get past blame, fine.

When you tell poor people that regardless of their actions, "You are a victim," it does do anything to discourage continuing destructive behavior, does it? Once upon a time, there was a distinction between "deserving poor" and "undeserving poor." There are people who work hard at being poor--it takes a bit of effort for middle class kids to drink and dope their way down to welfare class. These are people that deserve nothing by contempt.
9.6.2005 7:43pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I am loathe to blame the poor too much, not having personally walked a mile in their shoes.
If you want to hear real upset, talk to lower middle class and lower class people who work hard for a living about the welfare state. Some will be sympathetic to the situation, but in my experience, a lot are about as irritated by the current system as I am.

I know from first hand experience that while poverty can be quite demeaning, it isn't a life sentence. There comes a point where you get past it, and move on.

I can remember rather vividly attending a Christmas party at a company that I worked for when I was in my late 20s. I had never felt entirely comfortable doing upper middle class events. For the first time, I really felt that I belonged--like someone wasn't going to run over to me and say, "Hey, why aren't you bussing the dishes?" That was, I think, where the poor kid from the poor side of Santa Monica (this was a long time ago) finally died.
9.6.2005 7:49pm
Reformed One (mail):
I'd like to add my 2 cents here. Let me preface this by stating that I am in no way a religious extremist or fanatic. I am truly a conservative Christian who cares to shed light on this interesting topic.

I agree with Rev. Shank's statements 100% and totally reject any statement that indicates that God is simply a "loving God." This notion has gone on far too long. I am sick and tired of this "God is a loving god" mentality! Why is it that whenever "christians" today speak about God it's always something about how "loving" God is? It's always about how god only brings goodness and therefore whenever calamity strikes it can't possibly have been God because He would never let these things happen to those He loves!

A true Christian would know better. I ask you "christian," have you even read your Bible!?

The false god that this present world has conjured up may be viewed as the god of love but not the true God of Sacred Scripture!!! For my Bible clearly shows that God is not only loving, but just and righteous as well, demanding righteousness and holiness from His creatures! Why wouldn't He punish the sin of New Orleans who revelled in pagan practices like Mardi Gras or the gay pride parades. Why wouldn't he punish the sin of the casinos on the Mississippi coast where gambling and prostitution run ramped? Why wouldn't He punish any other city in the United States when, as an entire nation we continue daily to remove God from the public eye? I pray that this is a wake up call to us all. I pray that this would bring back the fear of God to this country. I pray that you would all see the true God of the Bible Who demostrates time and again that in a moments notice all that we deem precious here on earth can be destroyed by His sovereign, holy, wrath.

---------------------------------------------------

As far as God disliking the poor? I can't speak for other countries but I can speak for this one. I grew up in a poor, roach infested apt bldg in Queens N.Y. I come from a single parent home, I know what it's like to receive gov't aid. But I also know what it's like to come out of poverty, not only by the Grace of God and through government assistance but through educating myself to better my own situation. The poor in this country are not poor because of lack of opportunity, they are poor because they don't help themselves.

God opens doors, the government offers programs yet the poor remain poor. Why is this? Are they simply victims of circumstance? Or do they keep themselves in a rut by not jumping on the opportunities they have been blessed with?

I couldn't help but watch in disgust as this idiot kid Kanye West made his remarks about how President Bush hates black people. What a moron! That's the mentality that keeps some blacks poor in this country. The "woe is me", "the world is against my race" mentality. Being a latino minority in this country myself I can truthfully say that I have been offered the same opportunities as any Caucasian has. The difference is, I took advantage of them (with the loving kindness of God's gracious hand of course).
9.6.2005 8:07pm
TJM (mail):
Very amusing,Professor, but drawing a logical inference from an illogical utterance, however seriously the rev was trying to be, seems a waste of time. Are you hopeful that the rev will see the light and retract? You're a smart guy and I would think you know all too well that you can't outsmart a dumbass like the rev.
As an aside, insurance companies redline districts just like banks do. Good luck finding an insurer willing to underwrite in most poor districts at a rate the inhabitants could afford. Banks lend to those areas, but they know the losses will be much higher than average.
9.6.2005 8:08pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
There are two separate questions here. One is to what extent poverty is related to moral failings on the part of the poor. The answer there is that there's some correlation (we can think of various ways that people become poor that are caused by bad moral decisions) but far from perfect correlation.

The second is whether it seems likely, even from a Christian orientation, that God would punish immorality through disasters, wars, and plagues that disproportionately hurt the poor with little regard for whether they are morally responsible for their poverty. It seems to me that an omnipotent, omniscient, merciful God would use somewhat finer tools than that (or at least that's what the story of Sodom, which would have been saved had there been only ten righteous men in it, seems to mean). My post spoke to this second question, and while people should feel free to discuss the first question if they want to, it's important to realize that the two questions are quite different (though not completely unrelated).
9.6.2005 8:12pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Note also that Sodom &Gomorrah were destroyed by "fire &brimstone," much more unequivocally a Divine Act than a mere Category 4 hurricane.
9.6.2005 8:24pm
cardeblu (mail):
I Kings 19:9-13


And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
9.6.2005 8:28pm
koan (mail):
...well... if the death toll is indeed in the thousands, wouldn't it be safe to assume that quite a few xtians got killed in the storm, huh? and lots of old black folks (*reminisces on grandma for a sec*) tend to skew xtian, right? and lots of old folks are often unable to get about easily, right? i mean, we've heard reports that a lot of those "left behind" were elderly and infirmed... (we called 'em the "shut ins" at my dad's church...)

...so doesn't it stand to reason that a good portion of those on the receiving end of god's wrath were in fact the ones on god's side? guess they had to "take one for the team" huh?

...or maybe it's possible that hurricanes aren't god's wrath?!?! madness! maybe they're just naturally occurring phenomena that we have ample time to prepare for? wow! insanity!!! and maybe the world doesn't rest on the back of a turtle... and maybe thunder isn't really jesus's deviated septum...

...and maybe the televangelists and all that ilk who preach this retroactive prophecy are charlattans and crooks and liars and lunatics...

...then again... maybe this was the revenge of the flying spaghetti monster, huh?
9.6.2005 8:33pm
syn4me (mail):
I always thought Mother Nature causes the natural disasters while God is here to help us mortal humans deal with the suffering caused by nature's destruction.
9.6.2005 8:50pm
Reformed One:
Who is this, "Mother Nature?" She's not in any Bible I've ever read.
9.6.2005 8:57pm
Rhadamanthus (mail):
At the risk of being glib a genuine accusation of criminal negligence can be levelled here if the intention was simply to kill all of the sinful people in NO. I mean a bolt of lightning would have been far more effective and accurate surely. Or had He used up all of these on the Boy Scouts earlier in the summer?

Out of interest I would ask the Reformed One how he/she would react if your President, when/if the promised inquiry is held, said that he could do nothing because it was the will of God? Would you be satisfied and not criticise him? Or would you blast him for lack of preperation ignoring the self-evident point that if it was God's will then a) Bush could have done nothing and any preperations would have been futile, and b) his laid back approach was the only way to avoid more retribution from God as punishment for trying to help the "sinners"?
9.6.2005 9:17pm
syn4me (mail):
Mother Nature as in floods, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, blizzards, swarms of locust, etc.,etc.,etc Mother Nature. Sometimes earthlings refer to her as Gaia.
9.6.2005 9:27pm
Chukuangzi (mail):
I really can't believe an otherwise intelligent blog is really hosting this discussion (i.e. about God, not whether the poor are responsible for their poverty). Can one really have an exchange of resonable views with someone like Reformed One? If all the answers are in the most simplistic reading of one particular transation of the Bible, then what's the point of the conversation? Maybe we can talk about whether or not vampires and werewolves are likely to attack NO next. Or will we turn to more lofty matters of angels on pin heads?
9.6.2005 9:28pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Hilarious nom de guerre, Rhadamanthus. Assumed for the occasion of this thread?
9.6.2005 9:30pm
daniel (mail) (www):
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

No doubt there were poor people in Sodom too along with the rich. In every society there are usually more poor people than rich.

God will draw a line past which he will not allow rebellion to go. We can huff and puff against him, but what is that to him? Shouldn't we rather submit to him, and love him because he first loved us? He made us in the first place.

In this disaster in America, some people have had their eyes opened to eternal realities, and are making preparations for the soon-coming of Jesus Christ in the clouds.

But before that time the majority will say the disasters in America are caused by turning away from God (rightly so), and will call for a return to God involving Sunday worship (wrong solution). God calls for us to worship on the 7th day, not the 1st day of the week.
9.6.2005 9:46pm
Reformed One (mail) (www):
Rhadamanthus, let me answer this question first by stating the obvious. If it was God's will that this happen (and I believe that nothing happens outside of the knowledge and will of God or, by definition He wouldn't be God), then there was nothing President Bush or ANYONE could've done to prevent it.

Daniel 4:35
"All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, "What have You done?""


Having said this however, I gather that your question is more related to my response... to his (Bush's) response.

To that I say, IF our government still held the Christian values it held when our great nation was founded, I doubt very seriously that there would be an inquiry of the kind that is being proposed. For it is apparent that the inquiry that is to be held is simply for the sake of laying blame and pointing fingers. And at this point the only ones we can point fingers at is ourselves. It is our own disobedience and rebellion that brings forth God's judgement and wrath.

One thing I want to note here is that as people suffer they call out to God for help. This is evident throughout the Bible especially in the book of Judges. In response to those who are asking whether or not Christians may have suffered during this event I would say absolutely! The Bible clearly teaches that in this world we would suffer trial and tribulation:

John 16:33 - "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

James 1:2-4
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
9.6.2005 10:27pm
Craig Oren (mail):
I have never understood those who say they are able to discern the purposes of God. For "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says The Lord." (Isaiah 55:8). For commentary, see the Book of Job, which expressly rejects the notion that ill-fortune is divine punishment for sins.
9.6.2005 10:30pm
mrsizer (www):
What a fascinating comment thread!

The biggest issue I've always had with the why does God allow bad things to happen problem is the paradox of perfect foreknowledge.

The typical example: If you could go back in time and kill Hitler in his crib, would you? The "obvious" answer is yes. The less obvious answer, which follows from the God-has-a-plan perspective is that Hitler happened for a reason. Let's say you go back in time in 2200 and kill infant Hitler. In the new/alternate reality, in the year 2100 there's a successful Jewish genocide. Ooops.

Successful prophecy depends on knowing all those alternate futures and what brings them together and pulls them apart. It might be possible for God. It's not possible for us.

We simply cannot know. However, God knows that, too. It decends into determinism vs free-will chaos.

Even leaving sin out of the equation, if we rebuild New Orleans better and stronger and it becomes a 100 million person metroplex at the bottom of a space elevator and in 2312 it is undamaged by Cat 5 direct hit, was Katrina God's will so that those 100 million could be saved at the cost of thousands?

Back on topic: No. God does not hate the poor.
9.6.2005 10:49pm
ReaderY:
I certainly wouldn't want to speculate on theological matters. But one could certainly make an argument that people wouldn't build a city in a swamp below sea level unless their greed, hubris, etc. overwhelmed their common sense.
9.6.2005 11:05pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
What possible connection does the greed or hubris of the builders -- or for that matter even the lack of foresight of those who moved into the houses that others built -- have with, say, some 6-year-old who was killed, injured, or even uprooted as a result of the hurricane? Or is the theory that God really is visiting the sins of the fathers on the sons?

Again, note that there are two very different questions here: (1) Whether some course of action is unwise, and therefore leads to harms -- to the actor and to innocents -- imposed by a cold, heartless nature, and (2) whether some course of action is sinful, and therefore leads to punishment -- to the actor and to innocents -- inflicted by an omnipotent, omniscient, just, and loving God. My post was focusing on the second question.
9.6.2005 11:10pm
Penta:
Thought: God doesn't need our help, thanks. And, please.

If God wanted to punish someone, He has far, far, far more creative ways of going about it than a hurricane.

Meanwhile, God has already punished us. He inflicted lawyers upon us.
9.7.2005 12:06am
Reformed One (mail) (www):
Eugene, if I understand your question correctly it would appear to me that you are asking whether or not the poor have been afflicted by these recent events simply because they are poor? If I have mistated the question please correct me. However if I have properly stated it let me answer it from a "poor man's" Christian perspective.

The Bible states that God is no "respecter of persons." This would indicate that regardless on what your financial status is in life, whether poor or rich, He shows no distinction as to how you are viewed in His sight.

The Bible is replete with verses that indicate that there is no difference in God's eyes on whether a person is poor or rich..

Job 34:18,19 "Is it fitting to say to a king, 'You are worthless,' And to nobles, 'You are wicked'? Yet He is not partial to princes, Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; For they are all the work of His hands."

It's important to note that some are poor because God has made them poor.

1 Samuel 2:6,7
"The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.
"

This spits in the face of the "all loving God" thing does it not?

But at the same time there is a purpose for those who are poor to be poor. That they may be rich in spirit. The best example of this is in the book of James:

James 2:1-7
"My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"


I would conclude therefore that God does not afflict the poor simply because they are poor. God is not concerned with anyone's material riches rather He is concerned with their spiritual riches. If the poor suffer they suffer no different than the rich do. I will concede that it appears differently to us because we see the rich recover his riches more quickly than the poor. However that's all relative right? The poor had very little and lost the little he had. The rich had very much and lost all he had. Therefore the poor man recovers quicker because he has less to recover. Though this still doesn't make the poor rich. Albeit, he should look beyond his seemingly poor condition into spiritual richness in God's eyes.
9.7.2005 12:28am
NYSofMind:
These are, of course, the people who are currently most influential in the Republican party...
9.7.2005 12:38am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Ditto what Jim Rhoads said about "When Bad Things Happen to Good People". You can read a quick summary by Doug Muder. It is a great book on the intersection between free will and religion - in the case of the author, Judaism, in mine, Christianity. If what we do here determines our spiritual rewards in this life, then why do the righteous suffer?

The problem, as I see it, is that both the righteous and the sinner both suffer, and, in other cases, don't. There is no real cause and effect here. You can be righteous and suffer, or you can be righteous and be rewarded. Similarly, you can be a grevious sinner and suffer, or be one and be rewarded mightely.

The author's answer is that "Some suffering is caused by the workings of natural law. There is no moral judgment involved--natural law is blind, and God does not interfere with it. God does not intervene to save good people from earthquake or disease, and does not send these misfortunes to punish the wicked". But also, "Some suffering is caused by the actions of evil people. Kushner re-interprets the story of Adam and Eve to make the point that the ability to choose between good and evil is what makes us human. For God to interfere with our ability to do evil would make all of us less human."

So, "What kind of God can we believe in when bad things can happen to good people?"
"Let me suggest that the author of the Book of Job takes the position which neither Job nor his friends take. He believes in God's goodness and in Job's goodness, and is prepared to give up his belief in proposition (A): that God is all-powerful." [page 42]

"If God is God of justice and not of power, the He can still be on our side when bad things happen to us. He can know that we are good and honest people who deserve better. Our misfortunes are none of His doing, and so we can turn to Him for help." [page 44]

"The God I believe in doesn't send us the problem; He gives us the strength to cope with the problem." [page 127]

"The conventional explanation, that God sends us the burden because He knows that we are strong enough to handle it, has it all wrong. Fate, not God, sends us the problem. When we try to deal with it, we find out that we are not strong. We are weak; we get tired, we get angry, overwhelmed. We begin to wonder how we will ever make it through all the years. But when we reach the limits of our own strength and courage, something unexpected happens. We find reinforcement coming from a source outside ourselves. And in the knowledge that we are not alone, that God is on our side, we manage to go on." [page 129]
9.7.2005 12:54am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Eugene asks:
There are two separate questions here. One is to what extent poverty is related to moral failings on the part of the poor. The answer there is that there's some correlation (we can think of various ways that people become poor that are caused by bad moral decisions) but far from perfect correlation.

Yes, there is some correlation here. Yet, there are plenty of very rich sinners. And, indeed, it often seems that extreme wealth begets a lot of very negative behavior. It has often been remarked that society's morality is enforced by the middle class. Those in the upper class are above it, and those in the lower classes are below it. How many of those who are born to extreme wealth really live a virtuous life? Many seem to live a rather dissolute one instead.
The second is whether it seems likely, even from a Christian orientation, that God would punish immorality through disasters, wars, and plagues that disproportionately hurt the poor with little regard for whether they are morally responsible for their poverty...

If this did, indeed, happen at one point in our Biblical (Old Testiment) history, I don't think that it does any more, and hasn't for longer than the Christain era. I think that this is answered fairly well by the book I cited earlier, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People".
9.7.2005 1:07am
cardeblu (mail):
What possible connection does the greed or hubris of the builders -- or for that matter even the lack of foresight of those who moved into the houses that others built -- have with, say, some 6-year-old who was killed, injured, or even uprooted as a result of the hurricane? Or is the theory that God really is visiting the sins of the fathers on the sons?
None. What happened to the 6-yo is because of the hurricane.

God does discern between fools, the wise and sinners (commission and omission). Just read the book of Proverbs. Each of us suffer the consequences of our own decisions and actions, and these actions will also affect one's family and surroundings. There's no getting away from it, be ye wise or foolish.

Also, there's no getting completely away from nature in any form...

There is no theory that God visits the sins of the father onto the son, either. Quite the opposite:

Ezekial 18

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
" 'The fathers eat sour grapes,
and the children's teeth are set on edge'?
3 "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.
The whole chapter then goes into different scenarios between righteous father/wicked son, wicked father/righteous son.
9.7.2005 1:32am
Reformed One (mail) (www):
Ok... so I promise this is my last post on this topic :)

I can't help but to reply to Bruce's comments. The entire premise for your argument is that there are "good" people in this world. According to the Bible after Adam sinned there are no good people left on the earth. Adam blew it! We see as early as in Chapter 6 of Genesis that: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

And we see again in the book of Jeremiah 17:9,10 that:

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?..."

Isaiah 64:6
"But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away."

And my favorite:

Romans 3:10-12 "As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."

So you see Bruce, this book that you read from is under a false premise that man is "good." But the Bible says otherwise...

That's the reason why there is need for a redeemer. That is essentially the meaning of Grace - unmerited favor.

I'm not a regular blogger, however I've enjoyed this thread... I hope you all will realize that I'm not some Christian fanatic trying to convert you all to my faith, rather I'm defending that which I believe to be true, namely that God can punish the inhabitants of the earth if He so chooses because He is God and has the right to.

I'm not necessarily saying that Katrina was God bringing judgment upon the people of N.O. and Miss. I'm simply stating the following:

It's possible that this could have been an act of God based on the sin, corruption and lawlessness that polluted that city. It would be totally consistent with scripture and He would not be unjust in doing so (regardless of their financial status).
9.7.2005 1:39am
Travis (mail) (www):
Chukuangzi wrote: "I really can't believe an otherwise intelligent blog is really hosting this discussion (i.e. about God, not whether the poor are responsible for their poverty). Can one really have an exchange of reasonable views...?"

Yeah, I presume not either. When the postulate is that your conclusions are correct (faith), then there's nowhere reasonable to go. But I read it for entertainment anyway, thinking about a quote from Cat's Cradle:

"Do you really agree?" I asked. "A minute ago you said something about Jesus."
"Who?" said Castle.
"Jesus Christ?"
"Oh," said Castle. "Him." He shrugged. "People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order, so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say."
9.7.2005 1:53am
Quaker (mail):
Cool, Eugene. A thread that comprises Theodicy and Kenneth Arrow...

CEC: "Do insurance companies refuse to insure $5,000 homes? Or are you saying that poor people won't insure their homes against loss? This seems a very short-sighted approach to take. If anything, the poor person has more reason to insure one of the few items of any real value that he owns than the rich person. I think we are getting back to one of the core causes of poverty: present orientation."

Oh, I completely agree. Look, Donald Trump could lose everything today and next year he'd be a billionaire again. For someone who's just barely holding on, simply needing an unscheduled car repair or doctor's visit could spell irreparable ruin.

But also, poor people can't afford the first parts of the plan, avoidance and prevention, let alone insurance/restitution:

  • The rich guy can choose to pay more to build his house away from the flood plain (or in my quake-prone case, away from landfill), thus entirely avoiding a source of risk. The poor guy is less able to do so.
  • The rich guy can afford to build his house with the latest anti-quake (or whatever) technology, thus preventing damage and reducing its cost if/when avoidance fails.
  • Finally, the rich guy can afford more and better insurance, reducing or recouping his losses if prevention fails. And I agree that many poor folks either (1) can't get access to the appropriate insurance (i.e. thru redlining), (2) can't afford the appropriate insurance, or (3) don't insure because they simply fail to plan long-term.


CEC: "Obviously, even in the roughest neighborhoods of New Orleans you couldn't buy a $5,000 home."

Ah, I said "home," not "house," precisely because the poor are more often renters. These lawyers are rubbing off on me. :-) But $5,000 seems to me a fair estimate of the net worth of a working poor guy, i.e. his assets are all tangible and they're all located within 100 feet of where he sleeps. Flood his apartment or rental house and he won't incur the loss of the real estate, but he will lose his car, his tools, his clothes, etc.
9.7.2005 1:54am
Quaker (mail):
BTW, CEC, you can buy a home for close to $5K. Look on realtor.com sometime. I saw a 2BR single-family house in Baton Rouge for $9,900.
9.7.2005 1:57am
Justin Kee (mail):
We, as a rational society, really have to progress beyond the archaic morals and memes propogated by the iron age cult that thought the world was flat.
9.7.2005 1:59am
Perseus (mail):
It's all very well and good for Prof. Volokh to take the rationalist-secular Enlightenment (Jeffersonian) view that those who argue that disasters, wars, and diseases are sent by God as punishment are engaging in odious priestcraft, but as one of the Straussian political philosophers that Anderson asked for, I'd point out that Prof. Volokh is also condemning someone like Thucydides (Peloponnesian War), who follows the Funeral Oration of Pericles with his account of the plague at Athens as a way to make it appear as though the gods punished the hubris of Athens (and yes, "innocent" children died in the plague too). Similarly, in his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln claims that because of the sin of slavery, God "gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came..." (and weren't there plenty of innocent people harmed by the Civil War too?).
9.7.2005 3:02am
Quaker (mail):
Perseus: "Prof. Volokh is also condemning someone like Thucydides (Peloponnesian War), who follows the Funeral Oration of Pericles with his account of the plague at Athens as a way to make it appear as though the gods punished the hubris of Athens (and yes, "innocent" children died in the plague too)."

But the Greek gods were neither all-good nor all-loving nor all-powerful. (Nor unitary.) Thus the Greeks were not faced with the same conundrum that faces Jews, Christians, and Muslims, "So why does an all-powerful, loving God allow suffering?" No, I don't think Volokh is necessarily condemning Thucydides.
9.7.2005 3:43am
Nick (South Africa) (mail):
Eugene Wrote >from a Christian orientation, that God would punish immorality through disasters, wars, and plagues that disproportionately hurt the poor with little regard for whether they are morally responsible for their poverty. It seems to me that an omnipotent, omniscient, merciful God would use somewhat finer tools than that (or at least that's what the story of Sodom, which would have been saved had there been only ten righteous men in it, seems to mean).<
To borrow from William Occam’s - pluralities should not be posited without necessity; following on from this what does the concept of an omniscient, omnipotent supernatural entity add to our understanding of anything….absolutely diddly squat, it is simply a superstition alongside leupricorns and fairies at the bottom of the garden. Sure there are good reasons as to why folks seek attachment to this
These include social conditioning at an early age, wishful thinking and alleged beneficial consequences of belief, but this is not an argument that cuts to truth. For example arguing that its beneficial and wholesome for kids to believe in Santa doesn’t bear on the truth value of the existence of Santa.

The usual arguments put forward to support the truth value of the existence of Daities …or God/s are the Teleological (argument from design), Cosmological (first cause argument) and ontological (God is a ‘necessary being’). All well refuted, the only convincing one having been completely pole-axed by Darwin and Wallace over 100 years since. The last common argument - Pascal’s wager (précis’d as, it is better to chance believing than chance that you might rot in hell) isn’t an argument that cuts to truth. It commits the consequences of belief fallacy as well as the argument from force fallacy (Ad Bacculum) as well as assuming there is some entity that survives our physical death; something for which there is not a jot of compelling evidence.

In essence Eugene’s point about God not caring for poor folks is a variation of the atheist’s ‘problem of evil’ argument against the existence of any supernatural, omniscient, omnipotent entity (deities or God). The problem of evil/ suffering etc is that God appears to be capricious and malevolent…cancer for kids, Tsunamis and so on, bad things DO happen to good folks. Theists typically trot out the ‘God works in mysterious ways byline’, ignoring the more parsimonious explanation which is that there aint no God, it’s just a man made hoary old myth.

The Greek Philosopher Epicurus summed it up rather well
"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?"
9.7.2005 4:06am
Perseus (mail):
Quaker: It doesn't strike me as critical whether diseases, floods, wars, etc. are sent by a God or the pagan gods. Prof. Volokh's main point seems to be that it's lamentable for people to interpret such evils as being sent by any sort of divine being to punish human sin because such evils affect too many "innocent" people (and since when is mere human reason sufficient to define what constitutes guilt and innocence in the eyes of God or gods?). And, of course, your point leaves intact my quote from Lincoln...
9.7.2005 4:35am
Divine Justice:
Well Duhh! Of course God hates poor people.

How do you think they got to be poor to begin with?
9.7.2005 5:01am
Gary McGath (www):
Perseus:
If Thulicydes and Lincoln committed the same fallacy, how does that make it any less a fallacy? As you state, innocent people died in large numbers as a result of the events they mentioned. Moreover, the most reasonable explanation for the Civil War is that the governments of southern states chose to secede, and the U.S. government chose to take military action as a result. Does Lincoln's claim mean that God influenced their minds in order to drive them to a war they otherwise wouldn't have fought?
9.7.2005 7:10am
syn4me (mail):
Oh yeah, we enlightened over God rational thinkers really have progressed to the point that we have convinced ourselves to use discarded human embryos to magically find a voodoo witchcrafted cure for all human dis-ease.

So glad we moved beyond those irrational thinkers from the Iron Age.
9.7.2005 7:42am
speedwell:
syn4me, if that was true, you might be right, but, unfortunately for your overblown rhetoric, it's not true. Magic in any form, voodoo, witchcraft, or superstitious desperation, is not what is involved here, and good scientific biology is. Reason, not mysticism.

But you aren't listening anymore, are you.
9.7.2005 8:12am
daniel (mail) (www):

(2) whether some course of action is sinful, and therefore leads to punishment -- to the actor and to innocents -- inflicted by an omnipotent, omniscient, just, and loving God.

Yes.
9.7.2005 8:35am
syn4me (mail):
Embryonic stem cell cure is an over-hyped myth. Biological common sense will tell you that discarded embryos will never, in this world, be able to cure human dis-ease. However, embryos allowed to live just might product humans who will discover cures not based on junked-up witchcrafted junk science.

I am listening. And reading.
9.7.2005 8:53am
Nick (South Africa) (mail):
Syn4me wrote>Embryonic stem cell cure is an over-hyped myth. Biological common sense will tell you that discarded embryos will never, in this world, be able to cure human dis-ease<
I’m certainly not a professional or even qualified biologist (merely a recreational gynecologist ), however I know enough of this topic to confidently state that your argument sits with all fours working against the views of those best qualified to judge these things – mainstream biologists and scientists.

If you object to stem cell research on dogmatic, theological or ethical grounds, that's fine and dandy. However you should make your case on that basis rather than attempt a very poorly disguised feign of a reason based objection. This comes over as a tad disingenuous….Indeed the technique is rather redolent of those folks, seemingly over represented in the US, that seek to advance their non reason based theology similarly thinly disguised under the rather eye brow raising oxymoronic epithet - ‘creation-science’.

Regardless; if stem cell research blocked in the States, as is the nature of things, financial and human resources will be diverted out of the US to less theocratically stymied jurisdictions. My bets are on Canada, the UK, India, Singapore, and Australia as leading contenders…other parts of the Anglosphere. Perhaps the benefits of this research will not accrue quite as quickly as if the big R&D 'engine' of the States were engaged; but the research will no doubt still be done. Such scenario realised will contribute towards subverting a large part of the US economy’s competitive advantage….technological prowess and the ability to innovate.

Granted this is not an ethical justification, it’s a real World, pragmatic view but then your argument against stem cell research was not an ethical argument. So I’m playing you in your own space.
9.7.2005 10:46am
syn4me (mail):
Actually Nick, most of the information I have read about the over-hyped embroynic stem cell cure comes from Britain. No where in the US has embroynic stem cell research been banned. Government funded research is rightfully in question.

In any case, if you believe embroynic stem cells will cure all dis-ease then I have a cup of alcohol soaked raisins to sell you. Tereza Kerry-Heinz recommends them to all her friends in Africa.
9.7.2005 11:35am
syn4me (mail):
Correction that's "embyronic" my apologies.
9.7.2005 11:38am
syn4me (mail):
Nick,

My skepticism towards embyronic stem cell as a cure-all is driven by my distaste for all things considered junk-science. Has nothing to do relgion or morality at all.

Junk science brought to our world the concept that man-made activites are responsible for global warming/ice age/climate change yet real science cannot provide justification (proof) for such claims. Using junk science in order to discover cures of human dis-ease is a waste of valuable time, resources and man-power. And human lives.

Look at what has happened in Africa after Rachel Carson's (late 1960's) junk-science book gave birth to the Environmental Green Movement and drove the use of DDT out of Africa and around the world. In the 1970's maleria across the globe was almost wiped out but, because of the irrational hysteria based on junk-science, maleria is today killing more Africans than is AIDS. Real science has determined DDT to be the safest, cheapest and most effective way to prevent the spread of maleria yet junk science hysteria prevents rational thought to occur.

But hey, just my own pragmatic view lost in junked-up Global hysteria.
9.7.2005 12:01pm
Rhadamanthus (mail):
"Hilarious nom de guerre, Rhadamanthus. Assumed for the occasion of this thread?"

Thank you Anderson, no not specific for this thread, its the nom de guerre I use on line 90% of the time- when some one of equal wisdom hasn;t stolen it- a plague on their houses!
9.7.2005 12:39pm
Sparky:
Isn't this kinda the reverse of the famous quotation: "The Creator, if He exists, must have an inordinate fondness for beetles . . . ."

(I had to look it up; it's attributed to J.B.S. Haldane, and it comes in several variants.)
9.7.2005 12:44pm
civil truth (mail):
This thread reminds me of a old story...

A golfer and his friend were out for a round of golf on a bright, cloudless Sunday morning. On the third hole, a long par 5, the golfer stood up at the tee and took an enormous swing at the ball, whiffing the ball. "O damn, missed again!" he exclaimed.

His friend rebuked him, saying, "I'd be careful swearing like that on the Lord's Sabbath. He might just strike you down."

The golfer, looking a bit crestfallen, addressed the ball again and took another huge cut at the ball, again whiffing. Almost involuntarily, he shouted out, "Oh damn, missed again!"

Before his friend had a chance to say anything, dark clouds suddenly began to rush in from all four directions to forms a huge menacing thunderhead right above them. A huge thunderbolt then fell from the sky followed by a loud clap of thunder.

When the golfer opened his eyes again, he saw only a small pile of ashes where his friend had stood. He puzzled at this for a moment, but then heard a deep voice from on high, saying "Oh damn, missed again!"
9.7.2005 3:02pm
The Unbeliever (mail) (www):
I'm not defending Shanks' statement at all, and I personally think he's grossly mistaken.

But if you're going to make a logical extension of his argument, instead of "God dislikes poor people", wouldn't it more accurately be "God doesn't care so much about collateral damage"?
9.7.2005 3:10pm
civil truth (mail):
Seriously, a thoughtful post, Eugene, along with many thoughtful and honest comments. I would just venture three points:

1) To you Christians out there, remember that the whole world (or even the whole of creation, as Paul phrases it) is fallen, not just humanity.

2) It is extremely perilous to posit a causal connection between a specific act of nature and a specific act of God. I for one would not want to venture there. Many of the previously commentators have defined the hazards of making such connections.

3) Katrina also highlights that despite the technological advancements of human society, which not infrequently do mitigate the ravages of nature, we are nonetheless still not in full control of the forces of nature and that nature is still quite capable of reminding us that. In our protected environments, we all are still "dust to dust".

None of this is to minimize the depth of tragedy of this event nor to assign any blame. I am gratified by the examples of charity and heroism that people near by and far away (U.S. and abroad) have exhibited.
9.7.2005 3:19pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Perseus really *is* a Straussian---someone who assumes that it makes more sense to criticize God than to criticize Thucydides ... ;)
9.7.2005 3:31pm
Nick (South Africa) (mail):
Syn4Me wrote >In any case, if you believe embroynic stem cells will cure all dis-ease then I have a cup of alcohol soaked raisins to sell you. Tereza Kerry-Heinz recommends them to all her friends in Africa< I never suggested stem cell would prove a panacea, I don’t know of anyone who has. As for your recommendation of alcohol fortified beans; forgive me if I pass on the offer. I'd sooner go for a competent glass of Shiraz, nectar from the fairest Cape, available in easily in good measure in these here parts!

Shankfield Wrote >But what is certain is that God will judge all upon at the end of their life<
The most helpful observation that I can make here is to humbly suggest that this rather stretches the meaning of the term ‘Certain’!

Sadly meaningful communication becomes rather compromised when we confuse opinions, beliefs and values with empirical scientific facts. It’s fair to say that any assertion of the truth in any entity that survives our physical death is, in the literal sense, an extraordinary claim. Personally I find writings and speech that seek to assert metaphysical phenomena couched as absolute certainties rather than expressed in thoughtful, measured and carefully qualified terms have a rather desperate, unconvincing ring to them, but I accept that this is a personal view.


Sparky wrote >Isn't this kinda the reverse of the famous quotation: "The Creator, if He exists, must have an inordinate fondness for beetles . . . ."<
Yes it is quite droll. In a similar vein there is this famous quote by Darwin made with typically English penetrating wit. It has a Zen Koan like brain cleansing quality…
“I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.”
9.7.2005 3:40pm
AndrewSpencer (mail):
This thread appears to be the discussion in which no one is right and no one is wrong. I've read post after post of competing Bible passages and arguments of logic that support diametrically different positions on God. (Has anyone ever noticed how much the Bible contradicts itself, by the way? I am sure it can be explained away, of course, as everything by us humans must be.)

There is the loving God vs. the wrathful, vengeful God vs. the just God, etc. The only thing I have garnered from any of this is that everyone has their own interpretation of God, and that God may be nothing more than our individual, idiosyncratic manifestations of a higher power. Reformed One argues that God is like "X". Someone else argues that God is like "Y". Others argue that this or that historical figure thought God was like "Z". I don't think that any two people agree on exactly who or what God really is or what "type" of God He is (ask for descriptions of God sometime--it is amazing the different responses you will get).

So to answer the question of the post:

God dislikes poor people only if you think He does.
9.7.2005 9:52pm
Perseus (mail):
Anderson: Speaking exoterically, others had already addressed the theological side of the issue, so I concentrated on the profane side...

And on the profane side, Prof. Volokh doesn't adequately address the implication of his view on the role of rhetoric and poetry in providing sanctions for moral and political principles, not that I really expected him to in post like this, but it was worth mentioning. After all, even the secular-minded Jefferson recurred to such language when he wrote about the sin of slavery: "And can the liberties of a nation be thought to be secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are but the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever…"
9.7.2005 10:31pm
fulldroolcup (mail):
Well, I think it's obvious that God dislikes the poor, otherwise why would He send so many tornadoes to destroy trailer parks? ;)
9.8.2005 12:32am
Nick (South Africa) (mail):
Maybe God is just a lousy shot, irrespective of which weapon of wrath from his arsenal he chooses to use to inflict his calamities on sentient beings, be they tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, tidal waves, pestilence, plague or lightning. Why else would churches need lightning conductors:)

>After all, even the secular-minded Jefferson <
I understand Jefferson to have been a Deist, pretty much along the lines of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinoza, of course Jefferson, like the rest of the founding fathers pre dated Darwin and the publishing of his seismic work which pulled the rug out from the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument. It is I posit, odds on that Jefferson and the bulk of the founding fathers would be atheists today, which would; given the theistically inspired prejudice of so many Americans against freethinkers, make them unelectable. A little ironic me thinks.

If you're an atheist running for office in the States, to stand a chance of election you need to keep your views in the closet. After race and sexual orientation Atheisms is the last taboo where it’s socially acceptable in polite company to display prejudice and bigotry given that almost all top US scientists are atheists this is also ironic.
9.8.2005 4:31am
Nick (South Africa) (mail):
Sorry link labels a bit iffy, the lins work though
9.8.2005 4:32am
Igor (mail):
Foolish pasteror Shank.
God loves all people. Especially poor. Think, poor people who died now with HIM in the Heaven. But rich they are still suffering on this Earth.
9.8.2005 4:46am
Perseus (mail):
Sigh. Yet another example of Enlightenment prejudice. Modern science has relatively little interesting to say about theological issues. In any case, the Founders didn't need modern science to wrestle with them. Understanding Jefferson as a Deist would correct if one also understood that during that time Deism was frequently the public position of the private atheist: Jefferson declared himself to be an Epicurean in a letter to William Short. In an 1831 sermon, the Reverend Bird Wilson thundered: "the founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected not a one had professed a belief in Christianity." Yet most of the Founders thought religion to be useful, if not necessarily true in all of its particulars, which is why I originally brought up Thucydides and Lincoln. Does no one study pre-Benightenment political philosophy any more?
9.8.2005 6:03am
Nick (South Africa) (mail):
Perseus wrote >Modern science has relatively little interesting to say about theological issues<
Of course not! Science is reason based, many....nay most theological views are unreasonable (in the literal sense). Discussions about theology amongst the pious are from a reason point of view all too often just so much incoherent babbling. There is nothing for reason to gain any traction with.

It’s often argued that religion and science occupy different domains; something I vehemently challenge because theists all too often make scientific claims that directly contradict what we know about how the cosmos functions. I'm thinking of virgin births, rising from the dead, miracles and much more besides. Religions come to hard and fast views without underpinning the conclusions with evidence; more these views are not nefarious and practically irrelevant. They underpin folks behaviour and worse, far from being passive and benign these folks all too often seek to impose their nefarious norms and arbitrarily rules on others.

Thus I personally I see no grounds for giving such claims a 'free pass', of not subjecting them to the harsh light of reason and critical thinking just because they're 'branded' theological/ religious. Indeed I think too many folks have been too polite on this sort of thing for too long...Sept 11th did it for me in removing my humble diplomatic acquiescence …Richard Dawkins, the British Zoologist and professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University captured the point well

>My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the "Day of Prayer" in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say "Enough!" Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe<

Read the whole thing ..http://www.ffrf.org/timely/dawkins.php

Yup time to stop indulging this trite superstitious nonsense’s, because it’s dangerous nonsense.
9.8.2005 3:14pm