Sunday, January 16, 2005

An act of God?

By Hasan Suroor in The Hindu Friday, Jan 14, 2005

Similarly Jonathan Sacks, head of Britain's Jewish community, admitted that it was a "question of questions" for believers to answer the question: "How does God permit a tragedy such as the Indian Ocean tidal wave? How does he allow the innocent to suffer?"

Dr. Sacks says that by placing man in a "physical world," God set human life "within the parameters of the physical" — subjecting it to both physical pain and pleasures. In a physical world, "planets are formed, tectonic plates shift, earthquakes occur, and sometimes innocent people die." "To wish it otherwise is in essence to wish that we were not physical beings at all. Then we would not know pleasure, desire, achievement, freedom, virtue, creativity, vulnerability and love," he wrote in The Times.

There is a greater acceptance of "fate" among Hindus and Muslims than their Christian peers. "To blame God is infantile... We have chosen to enter a realm in which suffering exists. We are doomed to suffering and death," said Shaunaka Rishi Das of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies echoing a Muslim scholar, who said, "None of us is going to live for an indefinite period... what form it [death] takes is always beyond us."

In a presumably unintended aside, a television channel replayed a film, The Man Who Sued God, in which a lawyer exposes a powerful cartel of churchmen and insurance companies who refuse to pay up claims relating to natural disasters describing them as "acts of God." The lawyer argues that if, indeed, these are acts of God as claimed both by religious leaders and insurance salesmen then the Church, as the representative of God, should cough up the money. Faced with the choice between losing money and compromising faith, Churchmen end up denying that disasters such as storms, floods and earthquakes are "acts of God"!

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