Different cultures deal with crises in their own way and we should respect the way in which the diverse peoples and cultures of the world handle the fear and anger that often accompany disasters like the people of Japan are currently facing. In the March 15 edition of The Miami Student, Professor Nicholas P. Money opined that two phrases in president Obama’s condolence speech to Japan, ostensibly on behalf of the American people, were meaningless. I wholeheartedly agree that the phrase “our hearts go out to the people of Japan,” are words, used so much, that the expression has become meaningless. But then he sets out to correct the President for mentioning the fact the American people are praying for the people of Japan. Professor Money goes on to argue that because he does not pray, President Obama is not speaking for “the American People.”
Although the professor has a point that the rhetoric chosen is often overused and half-heartedly conveyed, he misses the mark when he assumes his opinion that prayer is meaningless is correct and that there should have been no mentioning of the sort in an address expressing our condolences here in America.
The president speaks for the American people. And because it is impossible to convey each and every communal sentiment, the next best approach is to convey the sentiment that, on average, is felt by the common American. Because a vast majority of Americans pray and a majority of praying Americans do so in times where there is a negative impact on society or societies they are connected to, the mentioning of prayer — regardless of the overused rhetoric or a personal opinion of its efficiency — is in fact, a desired reference to the majority of the American people. And because a majority sees value in such an act, it is, therefore, not meaningless — majority rules.
But prayer isn’t the only qualm brought up. The problem of evil was implicitly referred to when he said: “(if) I believed … that there was a God involved in this disaster, I would be inclined to curse its existence.” But thinking about the problem of evil a bit more abstractly, how could we know good, if nothing was bad? It is not as if good, without bad, could possibly lead to discovering bad — bad doesn’t exist and thus wouldn’t exist.
If there were no destruction on a grand scale, or the threat thereof, how could we, as humans, progress in the leaps and bounds that we have? Therefore, I disagree with rebuking a god if it would have caused this to happen. Because, if there was a god, and many believe there is, we could not conceive of a being that is omnipotent and omnibenevolent if throughout history destruction was on a miniscule or nil scale. And if that destruction is the cause that leads us to recognize that a god is omnibenevolent, the less benevolent we believe that particular god to be, the more destructive it is. The failure, then, is not in the god for allowing or making the destruction happen, because it is necessary for humanity to know what good is. The failure exists in those who are less powerful and less good and fail to recognize the omnibenevolence of their creator. Therefore, god should not be rebuked in times of crises because god is necessary.
But all of this god talk is just hypothetical, right? I mean no being could be greater than the omnibenevolent being we are all thinking of, because, by definition, that being, formally ‘God’ if you like, is the greatest being than which no greater being can be conceived … well, unless this same being existing in our mind also exists in reality, but that’s another argument.