God’s Will Hunting
I’m an agnostic about two big things in life.
The first is God. On the one hand the existence of a higher power just feels true to me. I see evidence in my life and the lives of others and a lot of people, people I respect greatly, sure do seem pretty darn convinced. But at the same time on a gut level I’m not totally sure I buy the whole thing hook line and sinker. Like I think maybe there’s something to this, but I’m not quite sure the people who are telling me all about it totally have their facts straight.
This is pretty much identical to the way I feel about global warming. It feels…if not true, at least plausible. I see evidence (it was 110 degrees here for 2 weeks straight last year, ffs) and I know a lot of people, people who I totally respect, are really super convinced but eeeehhh. I’m just not quite sure the acolytes got the details worked out yet.
So, hurricanes. Had kind of a lot of em lately. I recall a few years back when a hurricane would come along and these obnoxious jerks would crawl out from some rock and be all like “Hurricanes are totally God’s will, divine judgment, y’all” and then mention homosexuals or blasphemers or fornicators or whoever and aagggh didn’t ya just want to punch them in the face? I did. Nazi punchers got nothing on me when people invoke God’s name over random natural disasters. Seriously, that’s absolute BS, it’s gross and wrong, it turns my stomach when people do that.
Imagine my dismay the last few months when I read things written by people, good people, people I respect, claiming that the latest round of hurricanes were in fact basically divine judgement dispensed by Mother Earth only instead of punishing heathens and reprobates it was punishing rednecks because they voted Trump or didn’t drive Priuses and or had historically allowed the Exxon Corporation to set up shop in Texas and forcibly extract black gold from our planet’s sacred crust. Some folks – again, decent people, all – were out and out saying that Texans deserved a hurricane because they didn’t believe in global warming, because they’d made money from oil or were Republicans. Gross and wrong.
I’m sure they found great satisfaction in spreading their faith to the masses. I’m sure they felt justified because these sinners deserved to be punished for their wicked wicked ways. I’m sure they believe they’re not operating under the precepts of religion, calling it science instead since they think they have facts to back it up. Maybe they do; maybe at the end of the day it will be proven to me but for now I’m still an agnostic in the global warming department (oh wait I forgot I’m supposed to call it climate change now). But even if the facts are on your side, it is no less gross, no less wrong to get your schadenfreude on when people who don’t happen share your personal code of ethics are having their lives destroyed or even dying from a random natural disaster. It doesn’t matter if your sense of morality involves the kind of hole you stick ur peepee into or the way you choose to cast your vote, it’s still an act of priggish self righteousness that we’d probably all be better off if we tried not to indulge.
I wish we as modern-minded folk could get to a point at which we stop to consider, gee whiz, maybe some of the “bad” qualities and personal failings that so many like to point a finger at Christians for, are not necessarily Christian foibles per se, but human foibles that can be exhibited by certain members of any group of people at any given time. We happen to associate them with Christians because they happened to be a socially and culturally dominant group of people for the past couple of millennia and it was kinda hard to ignore them but the qualities are not limited to Christianity, not at all. You see them on full display in fantasy football leagues and workplaces and in the PTA. You see them on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Being a non-Christian does not somehow inoculate you against self-righteousness, it simply makes you a clueless hypocrite when you partake.
It is concerning to me to watch so many people casting judgement and calling out sinners simply because it isn’t a God Thing. It’s STILL a God Thing even if you call your God by a different name and swear on a stack of copies of The Selfish Gene that you are a card-carrying atheist. If you believe that some incredible hypernatural Spaghetti Monster is going around singling out groups of people who deserve to be smited and smiting them for they have sinned against the mighty forces of goodness that you believe in, that IS a God Thing. And taking pleasure in another person suffering at the hands of a higher power is how Church Ladies are born, my friends.
And I know, science. It’s all science. It’s all justified in the name of science. Because the science is settled, idiots. It is known that science is a thing that can be settled. Because, science rules! Bill Nye told me so.
Now, I may just be a simple country woman but one thing we know in the country is that some years have bad weather, and some years have good. Some years you have a lot of snow, other years it’s a green Christmas. Sometimes there are droughts, other times floods. I’ve gone trick or treating one October in a tank top and the next in a parka. Weather varies from year to year, always. Weather follows patterns and trends and it comes in streaks and dry spells both literal and figurative. That’s why it is different than “climate” and why it requires some pretty intense upper-level math skills to study it (Remember that whole thing, guys? How insistent you’ve been that weather is NOT CLIMATE? It isn’t.)
Because it isn’t obvious based on one storm or two or 7 or even 7 years’ worth of storms, what the overall pattern really is. Meteorologists can predict, not perfectly, but well, that some years may have heavy rains, heavy snows, while others may be dry. These patterns can go on for years. So a layman cannot completely ignore the actual science of meteorology and say “lookit, peeps, this year has had like a butt-ton of hurricanes and this totes ma goats proves Mother Earth is going all Kill Bill on Republicans!! Suck it, Texas!” and call that science. It isn’t science, it’s a God Thing. It is exactly as convincing to my agnostic ass as some spittle-spewing Bible thumper showing me quotes from Revelations and telling me this proves that a hurricane in Miami was stalking gay people.
We had a lot of hurricanes this year because it was a hurricane-y year. Some other years lately have been un-hurricane-y. You can’t just count up the number of hurricanes that occurred in a single given year (even if it seems unusual) and use that to prove anything. Other years have had more than one big hurricane, like 2005, which brought us Katrina, Rita, and Wilma among lots of other alphabet letters. And you can’t use death tolls or financial damage to prove climate change either, since more people live in these coastal regions than ever and there are more structures to destroy, causing billions more in damage. So when I see people try to use these unscientific datapoints whilst lecturing everyone within hearing distance about precious science, again, it feels to me like the kind of people who try to explain why the Bible is true by using pseudoscientific explanations about how Noah’s Ark worked via genetic engineering, the geological mechanisms by which the Red Sea parted, how architecture explains how Samson was able to push down a temple, and how harmonics explain how Joshua could blow a horn and destroy a city.
God did it, ok? God did the magical stuff. That’s the answer.
That answer works for religion. It doesn’t work so good when it’s coming from people who claim they’re being eminently rational and informed. And it super doesn’t work when it’s coupled with the God Thing – this sense of perverse delight that those cowboy-booted, ten-gallon-hatted effers are finally getting theirs, that Mother Nature has come blazing in with a vengeance to give them Pai Mei’s Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique only in the form of a hurricane to get rid of their backwards asses and make way for whatever Brave New World that these type of people want, which I assume must be a race of atheistic sea otters that worship Richard Dawkins.
We are all subject to the fickle whims of Mother Nature. Regardless of where you live, fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, frigid cold and blistering heat – somethin’ gonna getchu if you don’t watch out. And many times even if you DO watch out. There is not a single one of us on the planet who is immune to the fickle finger of Fate when she points your way. Are we really supposed to believe, as rational, enlightened, modern-minded people, that everyone who has ever perished in a natural disaster deserved it, and those of us who haven’t are in some way morally better because we haven’t?
Of course not. The idea is ridiculous and primitive and beneath us. It’s the kind of thing espoused by fanatics who believe that people who don’t think the way that they do deserve to die. Which we aren’t, right? Us intelligent intellectual science-types? We don’t think like that, no, nu-uh, not ever. We aren’t those kinds of small-minded people so let’s not act like them; let’s have compassion and use our giant capable science-y brains to rise above our worst tendencies and never, ever say that a natural disaster is punishing anyone for their beliefs again.