Can We Finally Stop This? Please?
Okay, I admit that the title is a bit vague. With all the insane/horrible things going on in the world, the “this” in the title could apply to just about anything, right? But in this case what I’m talking about is a small blurb on the front page of the September 20 edition of the New York Times that caused my head to (figuratively) explode. It appeared under the headline and above the story that reported on the horrific earthquake in Mexico City. In big letters it said “It Feels “Like God Is Angry at Us”, One Survivor Says”. Sigh. What year is this again? Now, before anyone gets too upset with me for being too literal, I acknowledge that the person who made this statement might very well have not meant it literally; s/he might have simply been using a metaphor to express the extent of the devastation, and the Times might simply be expressing the same sentiment. But this is serious. There are many people in the world, including right here in the USA, who truly and passionately believe such insanity, and some of them are very influential people in our society and government. It is very past time for this stupidity to stop.
Here in the year 2017 (to give an answer to the rhetorical question set forth above) we know what causes earthquakes and hurricanes. They are purely natural/scientific phenomena with no connection to any deities. And yet people persist in believing this nonsense. Influential pastors, people who have the ears of high government officials, are busy telling us why Harvey and Irma happened, which is that God, (whoever the heck s/he is) got mad at us. Which God? Why, their God, of course. It’s not like the leader of some Texas megachurch is telling us that Harvey slammed into Texas because Allah or Buddha got annoyed. And what, exactly, is their God so mad at? Why, just by coincidence, it’s the very same things about society that they don’t like. Whoda thunk it? Can’t be that God sent Harvey to Texas and Irma to Florida because both of those states went for Trump and have idiot Republican governors, could it? Nah. Must be because somewhere in each of those states there exists a person who doesn’t hate gay people quite as much as the Right Reverend Head-Up-His-Ass thinks they should. Did I mention that it’s 2017?
So what, you might ask, is the harm in some people believing in some petty superstitions? The harm is incalculable, actually. It is part of the diminution of science, learning and knowledge. Global warming/climate change comes immediately to mind. Science has taught us that the warming of the planet will cause storms to be more severe, and the concurrent rise in sea levels will render us more susceptible to these enhanced storms. But if we think that storms are caused by the anger of some deity, then there’s really no point in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, is there? (An aside: is a deity who would cause such widespread suffering among innocents because s/he’s pissed at something, really deserving of anyone’s worship? I’m just asking). And why try to develop stronger building materials or methods in Mexico City when we could stop the earthquakes altogether if we could just figure out how to avoid pissing off God? And so people will say their prayers and make their devotions and then the next earthquake will come and the process will begin all over again. Call me cynical, but I don’t see this as progress.
Now, when we really need science, we’re turning our back on it. The country of Turkey just announced that they will no longer be teaching the theory of evolution in their schools. Well that will help the Muslim world to compete in the international marketplace of innovation and ideas, don’t you think? So please, let’s stop this. If you want to go to church on Sunday, go ahead. But let’s not pay even the slightest lip service to the concept that destructive natural phenomena are the result of angry, petulant deities. It is, after all, 2017.