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On God, earthquakes, and human kindness

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As I write this editorial, a giant earthquake has just rocked Haiti. It seems fitting to ponder the existence of God amidst such a huge tragedy.

Christians and atheists have chimed in with their opinions about why events like 7.0 earthquakes occur and how the world should respond.

“I am tired of hearing that many believers in God are struggling with why this horrendous disaster in Haiti has occurred….Whether you are a believer in a god of your understanding, a humanist or atheist, we must all do our part,” wrote Pat Reid in the Winnipeg Free Press. In her estimation, God really has nothing to do with it.

Televangelist Pat Roberston had a completely different view: “[Haitians] got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you get us free from the French.’…Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing or another.” In Robertson’s opinion, the devil did it (while God allowed it to happen). Unfortunately, Robertson’s comments, lacking in human compassion and Christian love, only served to further the cause of atheism.

For others, God had everything to do with it. Bob Braun, a writer for Religion News Service, said that for Haiti’s people of faith, “hope is found in the idea that indescribable destruction and death must be proof its people are on the threshold of salvation….What happened… was not an example of God’s absence, but rather proof that he is coming back soon. Proof that the good people of Haiti will be the first to welcome him because they suffered first.”

So, what gives evidence for the existence of God in the midst of tragic events? I don’t believe it’s the shaking of the earth (because science can easily explain that), nor do I believe it’s the miraculous stories of survival (because there are also terrible stories of loss).

I believe the evidence of a loving God rests in the fact that compassion, prayer, rescue, financial support, and sacrifice rise up in the hearts of millions around the world. The evidence of a loving God is in the moving of human hearts.

Yes, people other than Christians act in loving, altruistic ways. The fact that folks all over the globe, from every background, are prompted to reach out to Haiti is a sign that unselfish behaviour isn’t a gift exclusively for Christ-followers.

But acts of kindness also signify something more than a common humanity – they point to something, or Someone, beyond ourselves. Altruism isn’t just about making us feel good about ourselves. There are too many acts of altruism that put Good Samaritans in danger, like when rescuers risk their own lives by digging through treacherous rubble.

Author Timothy Keller, in The Reason for God, explains it this way: “We all have a pervasive, powerful, and unavoidable belief not only in moral values but also in moral obligation….If we see a total stranger fall in the river we jump in after him, or feel guilty for not doing so. In fact, most people will feel obligated to do so even if the person in the water is an enemy. How could that trait have come down by a process of natural selection?”

For Keller, altruism proves that God exists (beyond evolutionary science) and that he created humanity. I agree. Scripture seems to agree, too: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11–12, emphasis mine).

Our love for others says, yes, there is indeed a God.

— Laura Kalmar

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