Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Katrina – “the unnatural disaster”

Ted Steinberg author of Acts of God: An Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America has been commenting in recent press stories on the root causes of Katrina.

In a story in the Wall Street Journal exploring how our efforts to control and populate the coastline has exacerbated the suffering, Steinberg says:

“This is an unnatural disaster if ever there was one, not an act of God,” says Prof. Steinberg, an environmental historian at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland. “If the potential for mass death and destruction from extreme weather existed anywhere in the U.S., it existed in New Orleans.”

AND, in an article from The Washington Post, “Where Most See a Weather System, Some See Divine Retribution,” where a parade of the religiously minded claim that Katrina is God’s retribution for a variety of society’s moral shortcomings, from homosexuality to abortion to the War in Iraq and even the expulsion of Jewish settlers from Gaza. Seeking balance, the Post reporter turned to Steinberg:

In his opinion “as an atheist,” [Steinberg] said, Katrina “was an unnatural disaster if ever there was one.” By building levees along the Mississippi and draining marshland, he said, the Army Corps of Engineers and local officials hastened the sinking of New Orleans below sea level and destroyed the barrier islands that protected the Gulf Coast.

“Blaming God,” he said, “is moral hand-washing.”

ChristianityToday has a very interesting roundup of Katrina theodicy questions. LINK

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *