6:21 PM Dec 27, 2003

by Rob Ritchie

First off, I want to express my sorrow at the horrible loss of life in Iran. This is truly a tragedy of huge proportions, the magnitude of which far outweighs any political or religious differences that exist between nations and individuals.

It will be interesting, though, to see how various people in the world react to this event.

In the United States, we will temporarily put aside our differences with the government of Iran in order to offer aid and assistance in the recovery and reconstruction. That is because the people of this nation care about people elsewhere, even when they live in a country that has goals diametrically opposed to our own.

Fundamentalists of all stripes (Christian and Muslim) will, of course, assume that this earthquake was God’s will, and will act accordingly. Sunni’s will point to the death of their Shiites neighbors as proof that Allah hates them; Christian Fundamentalists of a certain type will put this forward as evidence that God hates Muslims. That’s what’s so infuriating about fundamentalist, in my view: they always seem to know what God’s thinking.

Even non-fundamentalist people of faith will vaguely speak of the earthquake as “God’s Will” but not jump to the conclusion that God wanted the people of Iran to die. The question “Why does God let people die in earthquakes?” has been asked and answered many times over the years, to no satisfying result.

Complete secularists will point to the earthquake as being an event totally unrelated to any spiritual realm, the result of tectonic shifts outside the control of god or man.

Fringe elements on the web have speculated that the earthquake was caused by the United States in sort of super-weapon test. Expect to hear this repeated again and again for many years to come.

I think it’s interesting that just last week, an earthquake on California’s coast killed only two people. If I were of a fundamentalist mind, I would think long and hard about what it means that God only kills two Americans one day, and 20,000 times that number another day.