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THE TSUNAMI & SECULAR HUMANISTS

I say, as do all Christian men, that it is not fate but a Divine purpose that rules us.

King Alfred the Great

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The tsunami that struck the Asian littoral on 26 th December 2004 and its horrendous effects presents secular humanists with a dilemma.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald written just prior to Christmas, journalist Adele Horin proclaimed her secular humanism to the newspaper’s million or so readers––[W]e can defend our values to our children because they derive not from a mindless acceptance of tradition, or a higher authority, or what is written in an ancient book, but from logic…

This sums up their position fairly well: they won’t learn from those who have gone before them and they won’t obey authority. But she is wrong about logic. There isn’t much logic in the secular humanist position.

Its first defect is its fundamental assumption that there is nothing beyond the material. Her 13 year old, she said, had never seen proof of God’s existence. The child, presumably, understands the interplay between cause and effect. He understands that he did not bring himself into existence, did not give himself his nature as man (rather than as dog, seahorse or mosquito), does not provide himself each day with air to breathe, with health or vigour, yet is happy to continue receiving these priveleges without acknowledging that they have any author.

Adele’s insistence on the independence of her children’s views is all contrived, of course. They are doing nothing but parroting her own secular views and those of her husband––the secular humanist sins of the parents visited upon the children.

Another secular humanist, Sian Powell, a journalist for The Australian, reporting from Aceh in Sumatra on 30 th December 2004, described an excavator working overtime scooping corpses into a truck for rapid transfer into a mass grave as ‘the stuff of nightmares’. She is the journalist who, in a notorious article in the same newspaper some years ago, praised abortionists as ‘heroes’. What on earth does she think abortionists do?


There is an interesting jumble in the expressions of secular humanist anger over the event. Typical is a remark made to a group praying outside a Sydney abortion clinic early in the new year––‘Look what your God did to 200,000 people!’––as if He wasn’t the God of the speaker too. And as if Almighty God should be judged by the laws that He gave to man[1].

* *

So how are secular humanists to cope with this evil? If there is no God, there is no one to blame; nor any intelligent explanation for such evil.

There are perhaps two courses open to them. The first, and most fatuous, is to deny the evil. It may be difficult to do but they can maintain, at least privately, that life is just an accident of forces concatenated over eons of time, a continuum; and the sudden death of upwards of 200,000 people is simply a reduction in that continuum. (Materialism inclines one to this sort of monism, the thesis that says there is no qualitative difference in being, only a quantative one[2].) In any event there are far too many people on the planet. What is a few hundred thousand more or less? Besides, evil is just a four letter word, isn’t it?

Mind you, they wouldn’t say any of this publicly.

Or, they can acknowledge, and be moved by, the evil but accept that it is only the effect of the mindless forces of chance, a sort of natural selection in action. But they are troubled. Their security in the only good they acknowledge, their own life, is shaken. For there is no security for those who deny the existence of God.

* *

What answer is there?

If, for the sake of argument, they are prepared to admit that there is a God, at once they have someone to blame. But if they do so they are bound to admit as well all that goes with acknowledging his existence––that he is the giver of their life, their own existence and their human nature. They must admit, too, their utter dependence upon him and, what is perhaps even more frightening, their accountability to him for the evil they have done, and will do. And they must admit that he is the master of life––and of death.

The most logical assessment of natural disasters was penned by Augustine, one of those higher authorities Adele Horin despises, sixteen centuries ago––

God, since he is supremely good, in no wise would allow something of evil to be in his works were he not good and omnipotent even up to this point, as to bring forth good even from evil.[3]

Yes, God can draw good out of evil. He can draw good out of this horrendous disaster. He can even shake the complacency of atheists.

Michael Baker

[1] Mind you the chaos of their thinking is not helped by the remarks made by clerics such as the Dean of Sydney¹s St Mary¹s Cathedral, Fr Neil Brown, who said during Mass offered for victims of the tsunami on Sunday, 2nd January 2005: ³[That such disasters are God¹s will] is not a Catholic belief, and it¹s a rather horrible belief when you begin to think about it.² Here is a modernist priest incapable of thinking straight or of expressing himself clearly, leading the faithful from confusion into confusion. He and his ilk reinvented Catholicism some years ago along secular humanist lines. He appears to give little credence to Christ's words about the disasters which will befall the world.

[2] To put it philosophically, that the term ‘being’ is univocal--the being in a man is no different from the being in a brute animal like a dog, no different from the being in a gum tree, no different to the being in a lump of plasticine. Contrary to this view, the term ‘being’ is analogous—the same in some measure, but in some measure unsame; and more unsame than same. A lump of plasticene is a being, but not the same sort of being as a gum tree, even less the same sort of being as a brute animal, and infinitely less the same sort of being as a man.

[3] St Augustine of Hippo, Enchiridion n. xi