Thanks Opus. Dennett is very succinct, such a clear mind.
Dawkins and Dennett were responding to the universally condemned comments of Pat Robinson regarding the cause of the Haiti earthquake.
The great and good were invited to contribute their perspective on the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog.
Here are a few highlights of their collective wisdom; click the author's name to read their full post ...
I read the Book of Job almost as satire, mocking the simplistic answers and apologetics of Job's "pious" friends and acknowledging that we don't always get the answers we request. At the risk of being accused by Rev. Robertson of dealing with another devil, I believe what Mick Jagger sang: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need."
Rabbi Jack Moline
When evil strikes, it's easy to ask, where is God. The answer: God is suffering in the midst of the evil with those who are suffering. Throughout the Scripture, we find a picture of a God who is with the people, even in their darkest hours... Today, in Haiti, God is suffering with those who are suffering. God's heart breaks with the heart of those survivors looking for their families, the injured crying in pain, the orphans weeping for the parents they will never see again.
Jim Wallis CEO of "Sojourners"
A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening... Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ's people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded, and comfort the grieving. If Christ's people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti?
R. Albert Mohler - Southern Baptist convention
Suffering overwhelms us like a wave, but it cannot defeat us. Those who love suffer. Those who love much suffer much. It's part of the human calculus. Ours is not to judge things we cannot totally understand in the present moment. Why did Jesus choose to die such a terrible death, in front of his own mother? Love is stronger than death, it cannot be defeated.
Thomas G. Bohlin - Vicar of Opus Dei
I don't want to undervalue the importance of relief efforts ongoing right now in Haiti. These are vital and so much more is needed. But if we are trying to figure out where God is in all this, I would say we are asking the wrong question. I ask myself often, where am I with God? And how is my life reflecting His Love, especially in a world capable of such horror.
Phil Davies - Christian Scientist
We will never understand God in full. As He has said in Isaiah 55, "just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts." Who do we think we are to imagine we could judge God? We are mere creations of the All Powerful. It is not for us to advance our faulted human understandings of justice against His authority
James Standish 7th Day Adventist
I see those who experience such suffering as going through one of the most difficult of life's lessons and courses. It is something we all must experience and learn in one lifetime or another, maybe in several of them until we are able to realize the lessons to be learned. The next disaster could be the time for any of us to learn that lesson. It is important to remember that first graders are given easy lessons, and some lives are rather easy. The harder ones are for those who are the higher grades
Ramdas Lamb - Hindu Monk
Catastrophes get people to talking more about God/god, and some even to thinking more. While from this I do not infer that catastrophes are a divine attention-getting device, I do infer that religion and catastrophe, separately and in their interaction, stir human beings to widen their attention from the everyday to ultimate concerns. And I do believe that human life is enriched and even ennobled by the increase of appreciative and critical awareness .
Willis E Elliot - Baptist minister
Humanly-caused suffering is of course only a part of what human beings must endure. Disease and natural disasters have plagued our history, and there is no adequate answer to the anguish and death these have wrought. Part of the response of faith is to understand what role suffering might play in the way human souls grow
Rabbi David Wolpe
Robertson's callous comments came out of the sin and brokenness that led to the current catastrophe. We choose faith when we resist the sinful worldview that produced his remarks. Ultimately God intervenes through the faithful. Perhaps the question is not, "where was God," but "where are the faithful?"
Jennifer Butler - Rep of Presbyterian church
Blaming the victims for their suffering is an all-too-common human response for some people of faith who think they need to protect God. Bashing belief in God is another solution for inexplicable suffering. Either way, talking badly about God keeps the focus off what human rights ought to do. For those of faith, a better way is to ask what is it that God wants us to do. Faith in action avoids the fruitlessness of the theologically inexplicable
Robert Parham - Baptist Center for Ethics
Rather than trying to answer the question of "why, God" though, we would do better to ask where can God be found in the midst of these horrible events. The "why" I leave to God, both because all of the answers are unsatisfying and because the "where" will help us so much more.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield
And the prize for stupidity goes to journalist Cal Thomas
The Creator of the universe has His own purposes and is not required to explain them to us. But if one is looking for a "reason" why natural disasters happen, it is because the world is fallen. God did not make the world the way it is with fault lines running through the earth
With a few exceptions the posts are quite brief and worth a read if for no other reason than to observe the collective sense of bewilderment.
The question the contributers were asked to address was -
Many have criticized Pat Robertson for suggesting that the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti was the work of the devil or a form of divine punishment. But if one believes God is good and intervenes in the world, why does God allow innocents to suffer? What is the best scriptural text or explanation of that problem you've ever read?
There is a common theme that runs through all of the replies; they insist on changing the question. Where they do get close to dealing with it, their reply, when all the rhetoric is stripped away, amounts to this;
"I have no idea, it contradicts everything I believe, but I am going to go on believing it anyway"
Pat Robinson is as vindictive as he is vacuous, but at least he has the balls to face up to the inevitable consequences of theism.