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Saturday
Mar192011

God's Wrath? Japan Quake Stirs Religious Debate

Thomas Northcut/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- The devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last week has renewed an age-old debate over God's role in a natural disaster. Though he later apologized, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said Monday that the calamity that hit his country was "tenbatsu," or divine punishment, for the wickedness of the Japanese people. In some right-wing religious circles, leaders have called the disaster a prophecy about the need for more Japanese to turn to God.

"Because the Japanese people shun God in terms of their faith and follow idol worship, atheism, and materialism, it makes me wonder if this was not God's warning to them," Rev. David Yonggi Cho of South Korea's Yoido Full Gospel Church, considered to be the world's largest single congregation, told the online newspaper News Mission.

Religious experts say that while comments blaming humans for natural disasters are not unusual, they reflect a misplaced desire by some leaders to promote adherence to certain beliefs and behaviors.

"Personal or communal suffering often elicits questions -- why me, why us? That's understandable," said University of Virginia religious studies professor James F. Childress. "Religious perspectives offer ways to help explain or give meaning to such suffering."

"However, it is one thing to use suffering as the occasion for self reflection on personal or communal relations to the divine; it is another to blame the victims of an earthquake, for example, for provoking divine wrath," he said.

U.S. Christian televangelist Pat Robertson said the 2009 earthquake which rocked Haiti and claimed more than 200,000 lives was because the country was "cursed" after making a "pact to the devil." In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans, Texas mega-church pastor John Hagee said the storm, which left 1,400 dead, was the "judgment of God" for the sins that took place on its streets. And in 2001, just two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Rev. Jerry Falwell said the U.S. shared blame for the crisis which had befallen it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio