Religion Rises After Disaster Strikes

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People turn to religion after natural disasters – but it doesn’t actually provide much solace.


So say researchers Sibley and Bulbulia, who examined the population of Christchurch, New Zealand, before and after the 2011 earthquake. 185 died and many city landmarks were damaged in the disaster.

The paper, Faith after an Earthquake, opens with a Biblical quote.

Sibley and Bulbulia took advantage of the fact that a longitudinal study of the ‘health and values’ of the New Zealanders was already underway when the quake struck, and the survey included questionnaires about religious beliefs.

They found that, compared to before the event, residents of the affected Canterbury region were more likely to report becoming religious (8.6%) than of losing their faith (5.3%); in the rest of the country religion declined from 2009 to 2011, so the earthquake-hit area was exceptional.

Written By: Neuroskeptic
continue to source article at neuroskeptic.blogspot.co.uk

12 COMMENTS

  1. People turn to religion after natural disasters – but it doesn’t actually provide much solace.

    I think that’s a very important “but”. That something rises after bad things doesn’t mean it helps anyone. After a recession, unemployment rises; does being unemployed help anyone?

  2. Psychologically, this makes sense. After a disaster, people don’t want logic, they just want comfort. Same phenomenon as those thousands of church services and hundreds of thousands of prayers for the children killed in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. It’s a temporarily infantilization in a time of distress, like running to your mother after you fall down.

  3. Missionaries are usually among the first to rush in and mix proselytising with relief efforts, while others get on with the rescues and reconstruction.
    They then make a big publicity feature of religious gatherings, when people are looking for comfort and support.

    There will also be those opportunist doom-sayers who will con the gullible with disasters-as-a-punishment-from-god-stories, as way of expanding the influence of their woo!

  4. <It’s a temporarily infantilization in a time of distress, like running to your mother after you fall down.>

    I mentioned something similar to this on another post, but I wouldn’t go so far as calling it infantile. It is a natural human need of being connected to another human being. It is the knowledge and expectation that we are a social species and others will help.

    This is an issue of supply and demand. People have a need and religion is called upon to supply it. Without better options they will call upon what they know and this means religious leaders. Supply another service and market it well and the need for churches will decline.

  5. Jos Gibbons aks:

    After a recession, unemployment rises; does being unemployed help anyone?

    Well it helps those who were previously paying their wages. No-one employs anyone else unless they can make a profit from doing so. No profits, – workers lose jobs.

  6. I know that, but those capitalists aren’t helped by being unemployed; they’re helped by others being unemployed. Bearing in mind my original words, being unemployed helps no-one; their being unemployed helps someone else. We could just as easily emphasise that, however much more people attending a sermon benefits the priest, it may well not benefit those people.

  7. The first earthquake damaged a lot of churches and other buildings but no one was killed. People said it was a ‘miracle’ and thanked god. That was mainly because it happened in the early hours of the morning when most people were asleep.
    The second major earthquake struck on a weekday morning with people at work and school, destroying a lot of already-weakened buildings. This time people died.
    I have a vivid memory of an American couple being interviewed and thanking god for ‘saving’ their family. I was so furious I almost threw something at the TV. What about the many who did die, including a little baby killed by a falling television? Why didn’t the ‘merciful deity’ save them?
    All the same, it’s hard to describe the feeling of grief I had when I walked around the ruined city of my childhood. There is a need to get together with others in some kind of ritualistic way and the churches are quick to take over that sort of thing. There was a lot of public praying going on. I think poetry and music are needed at times like these to express the grief of a community. We atheists need to be more organised.

  8. apes are natural masochists. they have a relationship with their imaginary friend but as with all relationships they go off him when it all turns a bit dull and samey. then one day god rocks up all “oooh you’re so gonna get it” and does a big disaster on them and they’re all like “mmm yeah god we’ve been reeaaaly naughty, we so diserved that, maybe if we all grovel and beg forgiveness it’ll make you feel good hmmmm?” and then it get’s really heated as they all point at other apes saying things like “those man-apes were doing it with each other and i bet they’ve all been having rude thoughts too… does that make you get all cross with us…?”

    utter filth. there are special clubs you can go to to get that sort of thing without having to drag innocents down with you

  9. I have a vivid memory of an American couple being interviewed and thanking god for ‘saving’ their family. I was so furious I almost threw something at the TV. What about the many who did die, including a little baby killed by a falling television? Why didn’t the ‘merciful deity’ save them?

    I’m reminded of a comment made by a woman when I used to attend a New Thought church. A tornado struck her neighborhood and skipped her house. In New Thought “God” is within. She proudly said it was her strong adherence to a spiritual path and her spiritual work that allowed her to escape any harm or damage. I tried to point out the absurdity of this view to the group discussion because it implied that everyone else in her neighborhood was spiritually inferior to her. It implied that the neighborhood’s group Consciousness intentionally attracted a tornado to destroy their own homes. I was drowned out; they agreed that everyone in the neighborhood was spiritually unaware that they attracted this disaster in order to learn a “spiritual lesson.” (No wonder some people at church didn’t like me. I realize this now.)

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