The enigmatic ways of God

January 6, 2013 • 9:02 am

Thanks Ceiling Cat that guest poster Sigmund is back after a hiatus, and forwarded me two items from the American news. The first, from CNN, involves the reaction of a woman who survived the crash of a small plane into her house.  Although she emerged unscathed, all three people on board were killed.

(CNN) — The woman who scrambled to safety after a small plane crashed into her Florida home gave thanks to God on Saturday for allowing her to escape without a scratch and for keeping her family safe.

Susan Crockett stood in front of her one-story Palm Coast home, which now has a huge black hole where the four-seater plane went down Friday afternoon, killing all three people aboard.

“God is good. He really is,” Crockett told reporters. “I got out without a scratch on me. A little bruise from taking a tumble through the window, but other than that, I’m fine. I’m blessed. Truly, God was with me.”

Crockett offers additional sickening apologetics on a local news site, The Palm Beach Observer:

“If people don’t believe there’s a God, they better start believing,” Crockett said. “I got out without a scratch on me. I have a little bruise from taking a tumble through the window. There’s no way anyone else should’ve got out of there, but God has other plans for me.”

Crockett, who is a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, said she was planning to attend church on Sunday.

Is comment really necessary here? How does God killing three people, and saving one, show how good he is? It amazes me that people can be so solipsistic, and so stupid, that they see such a tragedy as a reason to strengthen one’s faith.

The other three people weren’t so lucky, as God clearly didn’t love them. The Observer adds:

While the Seminole Woods neighborhood is in shock, a community in Albany, Ky., mourns a loss of an educational pioneer.

Friday was [pilot Michael] Anders’ 57th birthday.

Randy Speck, who lives in the same town of Albany, Ky., said Anders was a popular high school teacher at Clinton County High School, where he taught Spanish, golf and chess.

Speck said the community has been impacted by the loss of a popular educator.

“Michael Anders was extremely popular among all students at our high school, as well as throughout the community,” Speck said. “Students are in mourning. Today, they are praising him by saying that he not only taught them Spanish, golf or chess, he also taught them about life. It will take these students a long time to get over his death.”

As a commenter on the CNN site argues below, there must have been something wrong with Anders’s faith!

Truly, this wanton evocation of “miracles” makes me ill.  If one looks at stuff like this or the Newtown shootings objectively, it is absolute proof that people’s common conception of God as omnipotent, merciful, and loving is just wrong.  Undeserved suffering is, in my mind, the strongest evidence we have that the Abrahamic conception of God cannot be true.

Sigmund added, when emailing me this story:

It is, however, heartening to see the [CNN] comment thread. While it is seemingly out of bounds for a journalist to ask the rather obvious question (“If God really was that caring, why didn’t He just allow the plane a couple of extra minutes of flight so that it could have landed in the airport, rather than have it crash into your house, incinerating all three people on board?”), it is posed in many ways by those commenting on the story.

Here are four comments:

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Here’s someone who’s been poisoned by faith:

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But a palliative:

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103 thoughts on “The enigmatic ways of God

  1. “A little bruise from taking a tumble through the window, but other than that, I’m fine. I’m blessed. Truly, God was with me.”

    If God was with her, does God have a “little bruise” as well?

    1. In my part of the U.S., the wanton evocation of miracles that Professor Coyne refers to is a daily, predictable occurrence in the local media. One can always expect to find a quote like the one in this article after EVERY tragedy, accident, disaster, near-tragedy, etc., in which at least one person survived. David Hume be damned, miracles occur so often they are in fact a banality. This is exactly why Hitchens liked to point out that religious belief is often the epitome of solipsistic thinking.

  2. This really is one of my pet peeves – how the for the religious, everything is a miracle.

    I’ve recently subscribed to gentleman by the name of Edward Tarte on YouTube – an older atheist, ex-catholic priest and now atheist.

    He has an on-going debate with a young priest, who in a recent video claimed that a woman who had suffered loss of blood during childbirth, but had survived, as “miraculous”.

    Thousands of women die in childbirth. Millions don’t. Apparently, god only intervenes to save a select few. I’m not sure what his/her/it’s criteria are, but god seems to particularly favour those women who have access to better healthcare during childbirth, not those that pray harder.

    1. And where do most of these women live who are more likely to die in child birth? Impoverished and over populated states, where illiteracy and ignorance allow religion to gain a foothold!
      Where “Mother” Theresa practised her “charitable” business amongst the slums in India and who Christopher Hitchens so eloquently attacked in debates with apologists for the Catholic Church.
      Hell, more is better (offspring) – future adherents mean more contributions for sin city in Rome, not so?

  3. General Sir Richard Dannatt, who retired in 2009, was Britain’s Chief of the General Staff. In an interview with the Evening Standard he related how, in a military action three soldiers either side of him were killed but God spared his life because He had plans for him. I’d love to hear how General Sir Daniel Dennett would react to this.

  4. I hope that Susan Crockett will remember to send her thanks to the friends and family of Michael Anders so that they will be comforted by the knowledge that Michael’s death helped to bolster Ms. Crockett’s faith.

    1. God must love me more. No plane crashing into the side of my house yet.

      That’s obviously my reward for being an atheist — and doing my small bit to weaken faith in God.

      1. No! No! It’s well known that God shows his love for you by wrecking your house. That way you become spiritually and physically strong by cleaning up the mess and rebuilding.

  5. I do think surviving long in God’s world was indeed a miracle. Just look at life expectancy in biblical times.

  6. I think one of my biggest pet peeves isn’t necessarily with the believers’ predictable pointing at the sky and winking (literally or metaphorically) whenever something good happens to them–probably because it IS so predictable–it’s that kind of slippery thinking represented in “lynn”‘s comment in the CNN article: go ahead and believe in god, but don’t be rude about it.

    These are the kind of folks who give cover to the wallopers.

    1. It’s the same protection-mindset as refusing to talk in public about damnation — and who is damned. Yes, your neighbor is going to go to Hell — but don’t bring it up.

  7. How does God killing three people, and saving one, show how good he is?

    It is actually quite simple.

    You start a two column ledger book to keep track of what happens. You label one column “God”, and you label the other column “Satan”.

    Everything good that happens, you enter into the God column. Everything bad that happens, you enter into the Satan column.

    If you follow this practice, then after a while you can look at the ledger book. You will see that God has an exemplary record of goodness, while Satan has a record of unmitigated evil.

    Hmm, I think I have just explained theology.

      1. Actually I thought Man created god and satan.

        If there was no ‘man’ how would there sill be a god – would ‘it’ still have a purpose? or we he just find another world he ‘created’ and start again…

    1. Concise and very clear explanation of theology, Neil. May I ask where did you obtain your Ph.D. in Divinity?

      As for making a living as a theologian for organized religion, you use the same ledger and deposit cash donated for God’s miracles in your bank account. All entries in the other column you label as “Unforeseen”, and take the cash to the bank as well.

  8. In situations like this I can normally cut religious people a bit of slack, in that they’ve just survived an incredibly dangerous event and naturally might say something stupid without thinking, i.e. display a lack of awareness concerning the other fatalities. But then this comment:

    “”If people don’t believe there’s a God, they better start believing.””


    1. “religious people … they’ve just survived an incredibly dangerous event and naturally might say something stupid without thinking”

      But then what explains their similar sayings the rest of the time?

  9. It amazes me that people can be so solipsistic, and so stupid, that they see such a tragedy as a reason to strengthen one’s faith.

    Jerry, you missed out the crucial part of that sentence: “… so self-centered, thinking only about themselves …”.

  10. 1. I’d call it egocentric rather than solisistic. These religiously deluded individuals believe God has hand-picked and coddled them, and since God created the world and everything in it, that world revolves around God’s special individuals. Naturally, they’re so special, they no longer have to worry about going to hell, plus, all the world should look up to them for being so special.

    2. In contradistinction, those who are not so lucky must not have been protected by God. That means they weren’t as worthy.

    The idiots who believe such lies and delusions are not only egocentric, they are heartlessly inhumane to the families and individuals less lucky, as they strut out those religious beliefs ever so publicly.

    On the other than, when good luck manifests, there is, sometimes, an innate feeling of thankfulness. Without religious/spiritual delusion, there is no entity to thank. Childhood indoctrination overcomes that, providing “god.”

    That said, it’s time we all grew up: Be thankful without being delusional.

    (Atheists are there, already. I used “we” to collectively represent all of humanity.)

    1. I was going to suggest the term “narcissistic,” but “egocentric” will do.

      This focus on self is entailed by the Playpen Theory of Reality endorsed by religion and spirituality: the universe is like a giant playpen and we humans are the babies. The Grownup (God, Higher Power, Consciousness, whatever) puts everything in the playpen for a reason.

      Generally, this reason is “to teach.” And, often, what is being taught is the lesson “you are only a baby in a playpen.”

      Miraculously, people who think they have learned this lesson in the Playpen Theory of Reality also think they’ve now avoided the charge of egocentrism, narcissism, or solipsism. They’re only a BABY. They’re not in charge. How could this be anything but humbling?

      From inside the Playpen, you don’t see the problem. From outside the theory — oh yeah. Big problem.

      The people who died in the plane crash were tools used to help others increase their faith in God and their belief in the Playpen Theory of Reality. The people in the plane crash also had their faith in God increase. How? Right before they died, they probably called on God and “knew” He existed. That’s how their faith was strengthened. No doubt God killed two birds with one stone, and used the same toy on different babes.

      1. I could understand adding “narcissistic” to “egocentric” on grounds that each believer has made his or her god in his or her own image, but I have to disagree with the playpen thing. There is no intent to teach or learn, only to suck up to the deity in order to become favored as the most special.

        1. We are supposed to learn that

          God is there
          God is bigger than us
          God is better than us
          God loves us “unconditionally” anyway
          On conditions
          Appreciate that
          Be humble
          Suck up

    2. From Merriam-Webster–see def after “also:”

      a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; also: extreme egocentrism

      1. Ah! Aha! I had quickly looked up the definition, and the online sources I saw didn’t say anything about egocentrism. Good! Now, I can start using solipsistic for the really extreme cases. Thank you!

  11. Alexander Whitaker was a preacher and early settler in the colony of Virginia, 1611. He’s the guy who baptized and converted Pocahontas into the Christian faith (I believe they called her Rebecca afterward). By 1613 he was preaching from his pulpit that “God hath opened this passage unto us and led us by the hand unto his work.”

    It seems this idea of “God is good” and the Christian faith at the expense of others is still deeply rooted in some people here.

  12. I don’t get it, if you truly believe you have an eternal afterlife and in a god who holds all strings to what happens in the world and that you’re on his good side. Then why do you care whether you live or die? If heaven is such a wonderful place and god such a wonderful fellow, then isn’t death the real blessing? How is staying alive in this fallen world a blessing from god if you believe the above? People can’t wait for the end times to come and for this world tomeet its end, yet every extra minute people get tostay in this world is a blessing from god…

  13. Hmmm…. I’ve just realised although an atheist I’m still nearing 75 in spite having participated in a number of very high risk sports for my entire adult life, and am in very good health and quite wealthy. Many of my religious acquaintances have sadly died during my lifetime. Following Crocketts clear line of reasoning, god, if he exists, actually hates religious people and much more prefers sinners like myself.
    The lesson to my religious friends, better get sinning post haste!

    1. My wife and I (both atheists) survived a car crash (caused by oil on the road) that killed a devout catholic mother and her two lovely daughters. Mysterious ways indeed.

    2. This reminds of the survey a Christian did about 100 years ago (I think – the Internet connection here is too slow to let me research it) to investigate the contention that clergymen, living under God’s protection, would live longer than lay people. Of course he found the opposite, that vicars pop off younger. I’m sure an apologist could explain this by claiming that God called them home early for good behavior.

    1. What’s the stand-up comic line about it? “That’s not a miracle, that’s God avoiding a shutout in the 9th inning.”

    2. Why don’t theists apply this criterion when assessing the virtue of other humans? Say, Adam Lanza? Why, just look at all the people he didn’t shoot! He could have shot them, but instead he lovingly saved them. Praise Lanza!

  14. The gods must love me even more than that woman in Florida.

    I have never had my home destroyed by a plane crashing into it. It’s a miracle!!!

  15. I’ve been keeping track (most unscientifically, I’ll admit), of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s reporting of this sort of incident. I’ve noticed that lately most of the reports use adjectives like “amazing” or “incredible”, and have been pleased to note that “miraculous” is rarely heard. (Of course this just lends credence to the accusation of the CBC being the voice of leftist godless commie liberals.)

  16. Slightly off-topic:
    Reading through the comments I wondered “What does God do all day?”, not to mention Jesus and all the people in heaven. We know what happens in Hell, but what is going on in heaven?

      1. Although I can appreciate the answers sofar, it is ment as a serious question. What is God doing all day? Do theologians have an answer to this question?

        1. Whatever He does all day, if the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics is accurate, it must seem a lot like Lucille Ball keeping up with the conveyor belt at the chocolate candy factory.

        2. Actress Scarlett Johansen once said that whenever an musician or actor thanks God after winning an award, she thinks to herself- that’s why the world is so screwed up, because God is concentrating on your career.

  17. Living in Poland it’s been interesting to see the follow up to the Smolensk air crash, in which members of the Law and Justice Party, self-styled party of God, were killed. There were no survivors so no miracles to ‘save’ the unfortunate members of ‘His’ party. It must be very difficult for the majority Catholic population here trying to reconcile their faith and devotion to the man in the sky with his actions (or lack of action) on that day. The lengths to which they have so far gone to blame someone’s ‘free will’, rather than God’s failure to act, are laughable and become more absurd as time passes. I’ve heard everything from Russian fog making machines to strategically placed steel plated trees. It’s strange though that God is apparently powerless to intervene to help the God fearing Poles against the godless Russians.

    1. I’ve rolled two cars and put one sideways into a tree (mostly when I was young and foolish). And so far, not a scratch. Didn’t hurt the tree, either.

      So I guess G*d must be protecting me, even though I’m an atheist. Maybe I should show my appreciation by leaving my seatbelt undone in future…

      1. Damn! That was meant to be a comment, not a reply to Geoff Boulton. The God of WP obviously hates me…

  18. I wonder if it isn’t better to ignore idiotic statements (and people that are uninterested in critical thinking as a matter of personal policy), as time is precious and life is too short … I certainly enjoy the scientific parts of this blog far more than the criticisms of foolishness.

    1. I really would prefer NOT to be told what to write. If this website doesn’t have the right mix of topics for you, I suggest you go elsewhere. Otherwise, I don’t appreciate advice on what I should or should not write.

    2. How would things improve if no one applied any pressure to improve them?

      Do you think the foolishness of theists and the consequences thereof do not wreak havoc in the world?

      Life is short. I’d love it if my children and grandchildren could life a longer, happier life because our generation worked to quell theistic foolishness.

      1. Hope you don’t mind if I second that emotion and add all the spiritualistic woo to it. My particular pet peeve is woo cloaked in medical meta-lingo to hide the fact that it’s woo. Patients die from falling for that malarkey.

  19. The thing that strikes me about Susan is her apparent narcissism. God saved her, she thinks, but not a word about the others that died. The other thing is the superstitious thinking, because she wasn’t scratched it must be proof of the divine.

    I get quite annoyed by people that think because something is unlikely or improbable that it must be some supernatural event, or even miraculous (apply sarcastic tone). Its odds folks, just odds.

  20. Christopher Hitchens had a nice riff on this topic in a column a couple of years ago. Orwell, for instance, was shot during the Spanish Civil War and if the trajectory of the bullet would have been just slightly different, it would have gone through his spine or a major artery and paralyzed or killed him. People kept on telling him how lucky he was to be alive and Orwell responded that he would have been luckier if the bullet had missed him entirely.

    Then there is the case of the Japanese businessman who was on a business trip to Hiroshima on the day of the atomic bombing. He survived and then went home — back to his home in Nagasaki where he was present for the second atomic bombing which he also survived. Really lucky or really unlucky?

  21. Shortly after Sandy, a tree fell across a car containing a husband and wife.  It crushed the car.  When the EMTs arrived they figured they would be pulling out bodies.  But the passenger, the wife, heard the crack as the tree fell and dove into the foot-well and from there she made the 911 call.  Her husband leaned over the console and only had his shoulder hurt.  When interviewed he said “Someone was watching out for us.”  Strange, I thought someone was trying to kill them.


  22. The most passionate rebuttal to this I know of is in Vincent Bugliosi’s book “The Divinity of Doubt” in the chapter “Why the Christian God Cannot Exist”.

    This is a form of religiosity to which every decent person should have an aversion reaction. And I speak as someone still very attracted to (good) religious poetry and art, who occasionally “misses” my discarded religion.

    The issue is not just that this is silly and stupid, but that it is also fundamentally ugly because of its arrogance and solipsism (a word I am comfortable with in spite of posts above.)

    I mean if you just believe in some nebulous cosmic energy that gets you up in the morning, OK by me, but when every good thing is a miracle and every bad thing is a mystery, then I think we have a POV that is unfalsifiable, and therefore both meaningless and useless for guiding our lives.

    Looking forward to watching the Ben Goren video links.

  23. I’m reminded of that bit in the middle of Woody Allen’s monologue at the conclusion of “Love and Death”,

    You know, if it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that He’s evil. I think that the worst you can say about Him is that, basically, He’s an underachiever.

    The entire monologue is from 2:35 to 3:50 in this video of the movie’s conclusion. Of course, the whole thing is worth watching

  24. Perhaps Crockett would have a point that sort of aligns with reality if she were a believer in Zeus instead of a believer in Christ. Now Zeus is,in general, totally indifferent to human happenings, but occasionally and very capriously comes down and arbitrarily does something nice or something rotten to some random individuals. Even though a committed atheist I can see “the hand of Zeus” in this event. Hallelujah!

  25. Believers would; or rather could, also state that god was kind and eased the suffering of the passengers of the plane by calling them to him and relieving them from this worldly suffering.

    In all probability, god might be treating the deceased to a multitude of beautiful universes and setting their consciousness free to explore them all.

    I wonder how this simple flaw in any believers logic not stand out to their fellow men. If paradise is a prize, god is punishing the survivor and awarding the deceased. Or is it the other way round? Either way, the argument from evil (this one being a natural calamity) is one religion wishes to brush under the carpet.

    1. No, Max, you have it all wrong. If God loved you more, He would have crashed a jumbo jet into your home destroying your whole neighborhood but saving you.

    1. Now that is a much more rational Jebus. Only zaps the people he hates, rather than incurring major collateral damage so He can demonstrate his love for his chosen few.

      That Jebus would make the world a much safer place. (‘Safer’ being a relative term, of course).

      (I think I’ve just suggested the vengeful God of the Old Testament is less dangerous than the new lovin’ Jebus. Gotta ponder that…)

        1. Oh dear, I feel a joke coming on.

          Paddy and the local priest are out duck-shooting.
          The first flight of ducks goes over and Paddy bangs away with both barrels. “F*ck, missed the bastard!”
          “Paddy, please don’t use such language, it offends the Lord”. “Sorry, father”.

          So Paddy restrains himself for most of the morning, till he misses an easy shot – “F*ck! Missed the bastard”. “Paddy, please, if you go on like that the Lord will strike you dead!”

          So Paddy tries extra hard to comply till, some hours later, another duck comes over in a perfect shot – and Paddy misses again and can contain himself no longer – “F*ck!! Missed the bast..”

          And there’s a blinding flash and a deafening roar and where the priest was standing is a smoking hole in the ground six feet deep and ten feet across. And out of the heavens comes a thunderous voice: “F*CK! MISSED THE BASTARD!”

  26. the pure arrogance and special snowflake-ness of Christians never ceases to disgust me. “Golly, I’m so important God saved me but those other people who died must have been eeeeevvviilllll.” It certainly takes a prating selfishness to make such claims.

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