Friday, November 11, 2011

Evil, the Fall, and the cause(s) of Natural Disasters

Over the past week, central Oklahoma has been hit with a series of earthquakes and aftershocks. The largest earthquake was a magnitude 5.6, which probably has folks in the Pacific Rim shaking their heads and muttering, 'You call THAT an earthquake? We call that dancing.' Nonetheless, the quakes caused a measure of damage to homes, businesses, and (sadly) a historic and beautiful central building on the campus of St. Gregory's College here in Shawnee, OK.

It caused me to reflect - is it just me, or do natural disasters seem to follow me around? I'm not just talking about the state of affairs in my office at the university. We moved to Louisville, Kentucky in July 2008. In September, Hurricane Ike roared up the Ohio River valley and struck with fury in Louisville - the first ever hurricane to hit Louisville (look at the map - it's nowhere NEAR the coast!). Gusting winds took down tens of thousands of trees throughout the city, and knocked out power to almost half the city. Three months later, a massive (and absolutely beautiful) ice storm struck Louisville, again taking down thousands of trees, and knocking out power to 40% of the city. In both disasters, homes were destroyed, vehicles were demolished, businesses were physically and financially devastated, and lives were lost. Now we move to Oklahoma just in time to experience the most powerful earthquake the state has ever recorded. Is it just me? ...

This raises the question of the cause and nature of 'natural disasters', something that has been on my mind. In the midst of that, I received a comment from a good old friend in response to my September post citing Louis Markos' response to the problem of evil. Here is what Grace wrote:

Hey Tawa - how would you explain to an atheist how the fall of man effected creation? How can a natural disaster be a result from the actions of humans? I can understand it as an act of judgement, but to an atheist this looks cruel.