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Mar 21 2006

Is god punishing Kansas?

The last year has seen too many examples of the devastating power that nature can unleash. The Asian tsunami, hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Pakistan all caused massive destruction and loss of life, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and impoverished and grieving for lost loved ones.

From time immemorial, people have looked on such events as indicators of god’s feelings towards humans. Of course, some despicable people have tried to use this natural tendency to seek signs of god’s power to actually wish for some calamity to strike some community as a sign of god’s righteous anger. Pat Robertson is just one of those despicable people who seems to think that what makes him angry must also be what makes god angry.

Recall that he was upset with the citizens of Dover for the way they voted out the school board that had adopted the pro-IDC (intelligent design creationism) statement in biology classes. He said: “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.” (See here for the video.)

But unfortunately for Robertson, God’s anger seemed to have been directed not at the rebellious people of Dover, but at the state of Kansas, which was recently hit by a series of over 100 deadly tornadoes that raced through the midwest, causing widespread destruction, most of it in Kansas.

The irony here is that Kansas is, according to Robertson’s measures, perhaps the most pro-god state in the nation, inserting IDC-friendly language into its science standards and even going so far as to rewrite the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

The state of Kansas did not rest on these laurels, but in addition overwhelmingly passed (with 71% of the vote) a constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying or entering into civil unions. There was already an unchallenged law on the books that did the same thing but the people of Kansas wanted to send an even stronger signal to god of their devoted opposition to gay rights.

As Rep. Steve Huebert said “It is the right thing to do, based on the truth that was spoken (in the Bible).”

Kansas is even the home of Reverend Fred Phelps and his merry flock of gay-hating funeral disrupters.

How much more can a state do to please the almighty? So if any state felt entitled to special favors from god, it was Kansas. Getting hit in return with a series of tornados seems like a pretty ungrateful act on the deity’s part.

So what will Robertson say about Kansas, and not Dover, being the target of tornados? Perhaps he will say that the people of Kansas must be harboring some secret sins that made them deserving of this.

Or maybe god was aiming the tornados at Dover but they veered unexpectedly away, thus making Kansas the victim of friendly fire, so to speak. (Coriolis forces are tricky to account for when you are dealing with fast flowing wind currents, and have caused many a seasoned meteorologist to err in their predictions of where and when a storm will hit.)

Or maybe the good people of Kansas, and Pat Robertson, may consider the possibility that this evidence suggests that god is sending a message that he or she is actually strongly pro-gay and anti-IDC.

Or maybe, just maybe, these kinds of things are called ‘natural disasters’ for a reason, not just because they involve nature, but because they have no supernatural cause.

POST SCRIPT: Peter Singer lecture today

Peter Singer, the well-known ethicist, will give a lecture today on “Our Changing Ethics of Life and Death” at 4:00 p.m., Ford Auditorium, Allen Memorial Medical Library, 11000 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland

The talk is free and open to the public. No reservations required.

For more details, see here.

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