Thursday, April 17, 2008

Did God kill six young students and their teacher?

My first intention was not to blog about this tragedy. But I have changed my mind. The tragedy in question was the deaths of students and a teacher from the Elim Christian school in New Zealand.

The students and teacher were hiking through a canyon when they were trapped by a flash flood. Six high school aged students were killed along with the teacher.

One is tempted to point out that the fervent faith of these fundamentalist Christians didn’t save them from an “act of God”. But I thought it would be rather tasteless to make comments like that.

But of course our Christian friends are utterly tasteless and have no moral compulsion against using such tragedies for their own ends.

One student survived. And like most fundamentalists he immediately attributed his survival to God. Newspaper reports said he was “lying in a Taupo Hospital bed thanking the Lord after his ‘supernatural’ experience.” This poor, misguided boy said: “All I can say is this is my story and this is what happened to me and God saved me.” No doubt he will go around telling this story to others over and over again.

According to this boy he was “gasping for air” as the water took hold of him and he begged God to save him. “I just felt it was God tell me, ‘You have to get up and go, otherwise you’re going to die’, because water just kept coming and was getting higher.”

The principle of the school had to announce the deaths to the student body and told them: “If your faith means anything at all, it must mean everything now.” The father of a dead girl said she had gone to “a better place” and that this was a “test of his belief in God”

When I first heard of these tragic deaths I was saddened for the young lives that were snuffed out. I still am. But this sort of stupidity is sickening. Think about what is being said here.

The young boy who survived attributes his survival to prayer. Are we to believe that in the more than half hour that the students sat hung onto to a canyon wall that none of them prayed? Should we assume that these fundamentalist Christians were without faith and never once asked God to save them the same way this one boy did?

Yet the one boy lived and all the others died horrible deaths. God gets the credit for saving the life of the one but none of the blame for killing the other seven. If God consented to save the one boy then God had to have ignored the other seven. They call this merciful and loving. That is just sick.

The one boy lived because the water crashed him into a pile of logs and he was able to pull himself up onto them and hold on. The others weren’t so lucky. It was luck. It was the pure randomness of falling in the water at the right spot at the right time so that he was pushed in one direction while the deceased were pushed in another direction.

If this was God acting then we have to assume that God was responsible for killing six students and the teacher.

The headmaster of the school implores the students to have faith. Did not the students clinging to the canyon wall also have faith?

And the one parent, no doubt in mourning but still thinking irrationally, said this was a “test” of his faith. Think about that as well. Who is administering that test? Surely it would have to be God.

What he is saying, or seeming to say, is that God drowned his daughter for the sole purpose of seeing if this man would still have faith in God. What kind of monstrous deity would do that?

I truly wish that all these young people had survived the unexpected flood that they encountered. That did not happen. They died because of a natural occurrence. The boy who was saved was saved because of a natural occurrence. It was not a divine being planning. No god picked one boy to live and cruelly sent the other seven to their deaths. I doubt they are in a better place. I tend to think they exist no more. Their life and their consciousness was snuffed out. They lost everything.

I can almost understand the desire to what to make this tragedy make sense. Certainly claiming that God was involved would do that. But the God and his actions which they imagine is so irrational that it makes no sense whatsoever. But I know fundamentalists well and I know that logic and reason play little role in their life.

So the one boy who lived will tell his story about how God saved him and other believers will praise God over it. They will give little thought to how that same God, if he existed, would have had to fill the lungs of other young students with life-denying water. They will have to ignore the pain and horror that those students experienced in their last minutes of existence. They will pretend that this was loving and good and kind and that God was being merciful. They will exhibit the most pronounced trait that I find in the religious -- the ability to twist reality in horrible ways in order to justify an irrational faith in a non-existent deity.

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18 Comments:

Blogger Pure NZ Alt Radio said...

I’m a regular to your blog and a live in Christchurch, New Zealand. So I’m based in the South Island where as the tragedy (no better term) in question was in the North. This incident and its aftermath has been the number one story here, remembering N.Z has a population of just 4 million. The subject of ‘Gods Involvement’ came up at the pub I was at last night, and no it wasn’t me (a rabid atheist) that broached the subject. Everyone, including two guys who dabble in religion, were in agreement that it was simply a matter of luck whether you lived or died. The teen you allude to in the story to owes his survival to have been lucky enough to grab hold of a log, nothing more nothing less. His companions died being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone at our table last night saw the juxtaposition of “God saved me” ignoring the parallel that “God must have therefore by rights killed his most avid followers”. To give you better context Kiwi’s are about 40% Atheist and that percentage grows generation by generation. Enjoy your blog so keep the hard work-up. It’s appreciated.Paul.

April 17, 2008

 
Blogger ZenTiger said...

What he is saying, or seeming to say, is that God drowned his daughter for the sole purpose of seeing if this man would still have faith in God. What kind of monstrous deity would do that?

No, he's not saying that, so all your logic stemming from this is pointless babble.

April 19, 2008

 
Blogger Rebel Heart said...

don't see why not zentiger... ever heard of Job and how God gave Satan free reign over his family and friends?

April 19, 2008

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Zentiger: I was a fundamentalist, I know how these people think. This is precisely the way they interpret things. Either Satan is trying to destroy their faith or God is "testing" it. They take that interpretation from the Book of Job. I've heard more sermons than I would care to making precisely that point. Rebel Heart is right, that is their inspiration and this is precisely how fundamentalists think. God is sovereign. Nothing happens without God willing it. In this case he said it was to test his faith. Who else could test his faith but the sovreign God???

April 19, 2008

 
Blogger Dave said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 22, 2008

 
Blogger Dave said...

Lets see
If you dont attend an exam because you are ill you will fail the exam. Either illness is trying to destroy your studies or the examiner is testing it, based on your story. Nothing happens without the examiner willing it. THe examiner is more powerful than your illness. In this case it is to test the students knowledge. No exam, no test. Sit the exam, pass (or fail) the test.

There is a way out of the devil attempting to destroy faith in the same way as an agretat pass gets your through the course with credits. The devil does not always win. Usually doesnt. Illness does not always prevail in terms of getting a pass. Usualy doiesnt. thats cause the examiner ( god) has the final say. If you perservere with your studies you`ll pass the test in the same way as if you perservere with your faith you`ll get through Gods "test". God doesnt disappear when Satan tries to destroy faith just as the examiner doesnt disappear when a student falls sick and cant sit an exam.

Does that mean there is no examiner? No. Likewise does that mean there is no god. No.

conclusion. there is an examiner that is more powerful than illness. there is a god that is more powerful than the devil.

Only a fool will conclude other wise.

April 22, 2008

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Talk about dropping context and bad logic. If you don’t attend an exam due to illness you may or may not fail. At the schools I went to genuine illness meant you could take the test later. But that is neither here nor there.

You are comparing a natural human being, the examiner, to your imaginary friend with super powers and total control over the universe. The examiner is not supposed to be all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, etc. So any comparison between the two is from such different contexts as to be meaningless. Plenty of things happen without the examiner’s knowledge because the examiner is supposed to have limited knowledge. Nothing happens without the god’s knowledge because he is supposed to be all-knowing. Or do you imagine that god is really like a university professor and no different than any other human being?

You outrightly compare the alleged supernatural being to a very natural one and then conclude that the supernatural one is no different. Yet a god has very different traits than a human which nullifies all your arguments. The absurdity of this is as follows:

A man come along and sees you eating a picnic. He walks over to where you are and then steps into the food you are eating. He does this until he has stepped on each item of food. You conclude it was no accident. He knew what he was doing. He had the power to do it. He did it. You assume he is a very unpleasant fellow. A week later you have a picnic. An ant walks across a crisp (chip) lying on plate. You then assume that this is a very unpleasant ant which maliciously decided to ruin your picnic because of it’s evil nature. To jump from comparing the actions of a ration being (man) to that of a non-rational being (the ant) is absurd. They don’t fit in the same category and anything you learn from the one does not necessarily apply to the other.

Yet you compare a human with limited knowledge, no supernatural power, etc to an all-knowing, all-powerful deity and conclude that the deity couldn’t be any different than the first. Such comparison has entirely dropped context about the traits claimed for the deity as to render any conclusion valueless.

April 22, 2008

 
Blogger Dave said...

How can you claim an imaginary power - a god who does not exist - have any traits - let alone different traits than a human?

What are these traits of this non existent being?

April 23, 2008

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Dave: Once again you have dropped context. The discussion is about the Christian concept of a god. I agree no god exists and has no traits. I don’t think a god allowed these children to die because I don’t there is a god. I think it was a tragic accident.

So I don’t claim that this imaginary being has “any traits”. I am am pointing out the irrationality and contradictions of the beliefs within the Christian context. So my argument was entirely with Christian assumptions about the nature of god. I granted you the premises of Christianity in order to show where it leads.

April 23, 2008

 
Blogger Dave said...

Actually your logic is a bit skewed. If god saves some people from a nasty river and others are not saved they are not ignored by god. Thats not an athiest belief nor is it a christian one.You appear to know full well what the christian belief on this is. But you need to grant the premises of christianity a little more honestly to have a convincing argument. To start with you have to understand the nature of god ( I guess?) in the same way any philosopher understands the nature of man.

April 24, 2008

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Dave: Are you paying attention? Remember I don’t have an imaginary friend in the sky doing anything. I quoted one of the students who survived attributing his being saved to God. But he’s not alone and many such tragedies bring forth survivors, usually Christians, who claim their god saved them from death -- apparently not worried about the others. So don’t attribute theology to me it is what Christians often say in such circumstances. But I’ve heard such rubbish from ministers and theologians as well. So your implying that this is my view is absurd -- it can’t be my view. There is no god so I don’t think he acts in any manner whatsoever.

Next there is no nature of god to understand. But there are certain theological premises which ae widespread in Christianity -- at least these were widespread when I was in seminary but I’ll bow to your apparently superior training in theology (was it Sunday School??). I will recount some of these alleged traits and then discuss them.

First, the deity is supposedly has perfect knowledge. That means he knows all the past, the present and the future. So he knew about the flood and deaths before they happened.

Second, he is supposed all powerful. That would mean he could have prevented it if he wished. So why didn’t he? You would. I would. Anyone with a smidgen of decency and compassion would stop it if they could but not god.

How does the typical Christian and theologian deal with this conundrum? They fall back on the mysterious ways of god. They contend that this served some “higher” plan. Apparently killing children is some form of divine collateral damage. To make sense out of the arbitrary the religious frequently resort to attributing such things to something god cooked up. It isn’t me doing that, it is they. Any tragedy where such survivals take place (and it is most) will bring forth testimony to the “will of god”. Your beef is with your fellow believers not with me.

Some theologians in the orthodox Protestant tradition would argue that foreknowledge of god predetermines the results of any situation. If god knows something will happen before it does, then the actors in that incident can’t change their actions, or the results, from that which god already knows. To do so would be to make god’s foreknowledge wrong which is allegedly impossible. These kind rely on verses like Romans 8:29, 30: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined....” Some say such foreknowledge applies to people not events, which would mean god doesn’t have perfect knowledge and is flawed.

Acts 4 speaks of how Herod and Pilate allegedly acted against Jesus but were really doing the purpose of god that was predestined to occur.

Others, such as Arminius, say god knows but gives man free will. The problem with this free will argument is that it can only apply to human acts not to “acts of god” such as killing floods. The poor kids who went hiking choose to hike but they lacked the alleged perfect knowledge of god and didn’t know about the flood. And who makes the rain? It isn’t humans. It is called an act of god for a reason.

What the Kiwi Christians said is not outside the mainstream and my interpretation was based on those comments. But my interpretation of their remarks fits a long time theological viewpoint that was common to Christianity for centuries. When you say it is not a Christian concept it comes out of your own ignorance about the theological traditions of Christianity.

April 25, 2008

 
Blogger Dave said...

Paying attention indeed. And being consistant.

Of course you dont believe in acts of God or god-given free will. So the kids killed down the river is unfortunate fate.

But when discussing from a christian worldview you dont share, you appear to have a different view on the christian belief of acts of god - and gods will/exercise of power - as they interact with the christian belief of free will.

That's all. Like most christians, if you are going to discuss christian belief you need to be consistant in discussions reflecting that belief. It's biblically inconsistant to link free will/acts of god/imperfect knowledge in the way you have done. If humans had perfect knowledge, free will would ensure right choices are made, with or without god.

April 25, 2008

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

You think because I am not a theist that I have no understanding of theology. While many people have more theological “training” than I do I’m pretty safe is saying I have more than you do. I did attend seminary -- even preached from the pulpit if you must know.

Free will has nothing to do with the flood. Floods don’t have free will only people would -- if you are Arminian in theology (which I was). If you are Calvinist then free will is out the window. Luther was pretty much against the concept as was Augustine but he wavered later in life.

You say one must be consistent in discussing beliefs in god. I say one can’t be consistent. God is a jumble of contradictions and the more people try to understand it the more contradictions they commit. The internal conflicts and contradictions of god-talk alone ought to be enough to convince one of the invalidity of the concept. It was that, in fact, which caused me to reconsider all my beliefs.

It is not biblically inconsistent. I didn’t link free will to the situation and if you think I did you didn’t understand it. I said it was not related. I said that god had perfect knowledge and the ability to change things. If he didn’t change them but he caused the rain (and he does according to theology) then it was his decision to kill those students. You can’t have one Christian running around telling people that god saved him from the flood without implying that god choose not to save the others but to let them die. That concept is rampant in Christianity. As I said, if you don’t like it then bitch to your fellow believers. That is the sort of nonsense that comes up in almost any tragedy of this kind. The religious who escaped attributed their escape to god’s intervention implying that god choose not to intervene with the others but to send them to their deaths.

April 25, 2008

 
Blogger Dave said...

The internal conflicts and contradictions of god-talk alone ought to be enough to convince one of the invalidity of the concept. It was that, in fact, which caused me to reconsider all my beliefs.
Yeah, christian god talk can be a real turn off.So can religion.So can athiest talk. Faith and personal belief in whatever, on the other hand, is a different matter. Invalidity or otherwise of a faith or belief should not be judged based on followers' factions. Thats a bit like saying don't travel in cars because too many people crash cars.It's a lot harder to invalidate someone's belief.

April 26, 2008

 
Blogger Ethereal said...

Hello NGZ, how you been doing so far? I am glad to know that you are doing well and putting up articles. Good debate by the way, this dave fellow would never understand, he is to deep in his confused beliefs.

Robert

April 26, 2008

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Dave: Faith, indeed, is a different matter. It is different but not better.

I do not judge a belief immediately or primarily by the actions of the believers but by how that belief corresponds with facts. Faith is belief without evidence. Now, it is possible, that the faith might accidentally correspond with reality but religious faith does not.

A belief need not be respected if it is false. In fact to respect a belief that is false is to betray reality and reason. Faith is an excuse used to belief any whim or fanciful idea the person wants to believe. It is an excuse used by people to surrender reason and thinking.

People falsely assume that reason and faith are similar. They do this because a logical conclusion is something held in the mind. Faith is something held in the mind. Thus they assume they are the same thing. But one is held with reason and the other without reason. The latter is not the same thing as the former but the polar opposite. The comparison is like property. Two people may possess something but if the first earned his property and the second stole it then the second is the opposite of the first, not a different form of it. Belief is not a different form or thinking but a refusal to think.

It is very easy to invalidate beliefs. Does the person’s belief correspond with that which is real? Does he have evidence to substantiate the conclusion he has drawn? If there is no evidence, or if the logic used is fallacious then one need not respect the belief.

April 26, 2008

 
Blogger Dave said...

Belief is not a different form or thinking but a refusal to think.
So If I believe the bus timetabled at 1:00 is going to arrive at 1:00 and I want to be in that bus I go to catch it and get there by 1:00. Thats my belief, based on what I think about the timetable. You`d, however, call that logic or reason, which means that belief is to be respected - but that belief is hardly a refusal to think, as you asserted.

April 26, 2008

 
Blogger luggage79 said...

I know I'm a bit late with my comments - however, I just wanted to say that I appreciate your way of handling this delicate matter. I would not want to hear a Christian blogger comment on the death of 6 atheists. I love your respect for those involved.

July 22, 2008

 

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