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Testing god
Religious justification for earthquakes

January 4, 2004
The Iranian

On All Saints Day 1755 (November 1st, a Catholic Holiday), a devastating earthquake shook Lisbon the capital of Portugal with the death toll surpassing many tens of thousands and a near total destruction of the city. The following day, while the bereaved surviving inhabitants were wailing, mourning their losses and fighting the many fires, the city's priests were roaming the streets hanging people of suspected of heresy, blaming them for the natural catastrophe, which they said was a manifestation of God's anger.

When news of the earthquake and the priests' reaction reached Voltaire, it propelled him to compose the lengthy poem "On the Disaster of Lisbon", one of his most beautiful and serious writings. In this poem he objectively dismisses the idea of natural disasters being of will of God. He followed it up four years later by writing his masterpiece, Candide.

Candide is a satirical tale of a simpleton who adopts the philosophy of his teacher, Dr. Pangloss. After witnessing and experiencing one disaster after another, in each case Dr. Pangloss assures him that in spite of appearances everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.  Dr. Pangloss says:

"After the earthquake which destroyed three-quarters of Lisbon, the wise men of that country could discover no more efficacious way of preventing a total ruin than by giving the people a splendid auto-da-fe. It was decided by the University of Coimbre that the sight of several persons being slowly burned in great ceremony is an infallible secret for preventing earthquakes."

Twenty two years ago a devastating earthquake in Iran's Kerman Province killed many thousands. The leader of the Islamic Republic at the time, Ayatollah Khomeini, during a condolences message to the bereaved nation declared, "We must know that these unfortunate occurrences are hardships and tests from the high and lofty God ... "

In the early hours of the morning on Friday December 26, a devastating earthquake leveled the town of Bam, also in Kerman, and many villages surrounding it. The casualty count hast risen to more than 40,000 deaths and many more injured.

Three days after the earthquake, the current Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei, made a surprise two and half hour visit to the town, replete with his contingent of hundreds of body guards and familiar kaki colored armored Velaayat-Mobile. During a brief speech at one of the rubble strewn traffic circles he declared: "My dear brothers and sisters, these unfortunate occurrences are hardships and tests from God..." >>> News & politics forum

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By Shahriar Zangeneh



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