Last year, during the deadly fire in Mati, a popular website uploaded the ‘news’ of the rescue of an icon of the Virgin Mary, after personal intervention of… herself.
Forgive my naivety, but a supernatural entity of any religion (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Hellenic Polytheism not excluded) that ‘permits’ the horrific death of one hundred and two people and the life-long disfigurement of hundreds of others, while at the same time “intervening” only to save an icon of itself is far beyond my comprehension.
Our planet is marked daily by unspeakable natural disasters and atrocities with countless victims, those we are used to calling ‘innocent’, obviously in contrast with some others … ‘guilty’. Is it possible for a supernatural entity – of any religion, I repeat – to turn its gaze away from all these tragedies and deal exclusively and complacently with the affairs of its ‘house’?
But even if we accept such a narcissistic and inhumane interpretation, how does one explain the fact that concerning her ‘house’, her interventions are also selective? For every monastery that didn’t burn, google a monastery that did. What happened in the second case? Was the supernatural entity in no mood to intervene?
I wonder if well-meaning believers all over the earth, who accept that divine interventions exist, take even five minutes of their time to consider how painful and offensive this belief is to a number of their fellow men. What should a relative of an accident victim think when he sees a saved-by-the-bell victim lighting a candle for his rescue – that the supernatural entity ‘judged’ and ‘decided’ that his own relative was not… worthy of saving? What should the doctor, who fought all night in the operating room, or the fireman, who opposed the flames for hours without food or sleep, think, if their labor and their self-sacrifice are credited to a supernatural entity? On the other hand, if it is already ‘written’ which of us will be saved and which will perish in a natural disaster because a not-so-compassionate deity so decreed, what is the point of pre-planning, deterrent measures, water bomber aircraft, and other stuff? Do we realize what slippery paths this criminal fatalism leads us to?
As I had written, “Every man’s faith includes a providential safety valve. As a strict and unruly system of self-fulfilling prophecy, it spares us the trouble of asking for evidence.” However, no believer, no matter how much he has separated himself from rationalism, will remain idle, in the event the temple where he prays catches fire: he will first look to locate the nearest emergency exit, and then he will ask for the assistance of the supernatural entity. Merchants of faith, who profit from the exploitation of the faith of their fellow citizens without necessarily believing themselves, know very well that their target group combines “blind faith” with “practicality” and make sure that they cover both needs of their customers. They demonize any poor skeptic who comes their way – he is antichrist, ethno nihilist, etc. -, they resort to Coelio’s puffery – “something will happen as long as you believe that it will happen” – to sell you whatever monstrous their head downloads and, although “God takes care of all the birds of the sky”, they advise you better to take some food for the road with you. Elementary, my dear Watson.
(Published in “Ta Nea” newspaper, August 20, 2019)
(Image: “The miracle in the remains”. First page of the “Orthodox Truth”, a religious newspaper in Greece. It claims that after a wildfire monasteries and places of worship remained untouched by ‘miracle’.)
Petros Tatsopoulos is a writer and former Member of the Greek Parliament.