Eyjafjallajökull; photograph by Reuters from Telegraph.co.uk
Reading God’s intentions off natural events is a great game: any moron—and not only morons but even persons of intelligence, provided that they indulge in the intellectual habits of morons—can play it. The recent earthquake in China and the more recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, though disasters for millions of people, have brought forth a harvest of prophet-cretins. Here are three of them, one for each of the three Abrahamic religions:
For Judaism, Rabbi Lazer Brody, writing on his blog Lazer Beams on April 16:
Some people think they’re smart, like the British folks who run the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The day before yesterday, the senseless stuffed-shirts declared that the Western Wall and the site of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem are not part of Israel, banning Israeli Tourist adverts that included photos of these holy sites.Well, at least the events that Rabbi Brody regards as cause and effect had some geographical connection: the eruption of Eyjafjalljökull (if you want to learn how to pronounce it, spend a few minutes studying this page and practicing) did indeed ground all air traffic over Britain. Of course, it grounded traffic over most of continental Europe as well, which seems a rather excessive, not to say ineffective, way of punishing a few supposed “stuffed shirts” in the British Advertising Standards Authority; but I suppose that such grossness of aim and disregard of the innocent is nothing new in the record of God’s supposed exhibitions of wrath.
The bumbling Brits didn’t realize that when you mess around with Jerusalem and the Wall, you mess around with Hashem. . . .
So what did Hashem do?
Hashem let a remote volcano in Iceland erupt, from the Icelandic mountain Eyjaffjalljokull [sic], whose ash cloud grounded all air traffic above Britain yesterday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
For Islam, Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, as reported on April 19 by the Associated Press:
“Many women who do not dress modestly . . . lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader. . . .
“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon Friday. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes.”Now I don’t want to make Sedighi appear more foolish than he actually is: as far as I know, he was speaking about earthquakes in Iran, rather than ones in far-off places like China!
Last and decidedly least, for Christianity, Rush Limbaugh (sorry, but Pat Robertson seems not to have spoken up on this occasion) on his radio show on April 16 (transcribed by me from this recording at Media Matters):
You know, a couple days after the health care bill had been signed into law, Obama ran around saying, “Hey! You know, I’m looking around here, the earth hasn’t opened up. No Armageddon out there, the birds are still chirping.” Well, I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied. This volcano in Iceland has grounded more—air space has been more affected than even after 9/11 because of this plume, because of this ash cloud, over northern and western Europe. . . . Earth has opened up. I don’t know whether it’s a rebirth or Armageddon. Hopefully, it’s a rebirth—God speaking.In fairness to Limbaugh (not that he particularly deserves it), he does not flatly attribute the volcanic eruption to divine wrath over the passage of the health care bill, but says only that it may be God’s reply. Yes, it may be that God is a Republican and is offended by the health care bill, and that he reacts to legislation that offends his sensibilities with retribution, only a few weeks late and a few thousand miles wide of the mark. Or it may be that Rush Limbaugh has no idea of what he is talking about. The latter seems to me by far the more plausible explanation.
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