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Why is it that, after every natural calamity, some prominent figure will inevitably blame the mayhem on God’s wrath? These declarations (whether  serious , speculative , or as a  botched half-joke ) are then just as inevitably followed by an outpouring of scorn from mainstream religious figures, comedians, and various other sensible people in society.

But in an era of computer-model storm tracking, why is it that we seem unable to keep ourselves from reenacting this ritual of having a sacrificial idiot offer up the thesis of divine retribution only to collectively shoot them down? The hubris of anyone (and particularly political candidates) claiming to have discovered not only exemption to the laws of the natural world but also the specific intentions of God in a particular news event is colossal, of course, and such presumption ought to be subject to harsh cross-examination and, frequently, derision.

But what it seems that many commentators really object to is not the particular opportunism or foolishness of any one politician, but the very notion that God may be interfering in human affairs at all, or utilizing natural means as a way of conveying supernatural meaning. What is not reiterated is that the natural world generally, or nearly always, functions according to its own laws; the only response is to assert that it is totally independent of higher authority and that anyone who thinks otherwise (even in the rarest circumstances) is to be anathema.

The fact that this speculation-derision-relief cycle must occur after almost every single natural calamity (and many man-made ones, too) suggests that, at least, we’re not as secure in our secularism as we like to claim.

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