by Patrick Appel
Daniyual Mueenuddin's article on the flooding in Pakistan in yesterday's NYT is well worth a read:
This disaster is not like an earthquake or a tsunami. In the 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, 80,000 people died more or less at one blow; whereas the immediate death toll from this flood is likely to be in the low thousands. The loss of property, however, is catastrophic. It is as if a neutron bomb exploded overhead, but instead of killing the people and leaving their houses intact, it piled trees upon the houses and swept away the villages and crops and animals, leaving the people alive.
I see no intrinsic reason why great suffering should destroy one's faith in God, or why it should strengthen it. I think it all depends on the individual, and on the cultural context. The Black Death struck Europe in the 14th century, and killed far more people ... but religious faith survived, and likely helped the survivors find hope amid the ruins. The 1755 disaster struck a very different Europe, as did the singular man-made catastrophe of World War I, with tragic results. In the case of modern Pakistan, I don't know enough about Islam as it's believed and practiced there, or the culture of the local people, to predict.