Making Sense of Tragedy Seldom Works

When there is a terrible tragedy in the U. S., a standard “follow up” news story is one about a prayer service.   When their are mass shootings or tornados, they are followed by stories about prayer services.

If these services help people, they should attend.  And, the press can do stories about the services. It’s just that, in a perfect world, there also might be news stories about people who don’t pray when disastors happen. 

The prayer story script is so institutionalized in the U. S. news media it is even being followed in the Norway event.  There was a headline, “In Their Grief, Norwegians Turn to Prayer.”  I said to myself, “That can’t be true.”

So, I read the entire story.  Yes, a Christian talk show host was praying and some extra church services were scheduled.  But, there was nothing in the entire story indicating the secular country of Norway was having second thoughts about being secular. It seemed like the story was posted because in the U. S. a story like that is always written after a disaster.

I recall after 9/11, President Bush gave a speech in the St. John’s Cathedral were Presidents always do this.  By appearing there, the President contributed, at least a bit, to blowing the importance of 9/11 way out of proportion.

Our 9/11 was a rogue event.  So was the one in Norway.  Praying will not help anyone understand them because they have no good explanation.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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24 Responses to Making Sense of Tragedy Seldom Works

  1. “blowing the importance of 9/11 way out of proportion.”

    Really?? Think about that statement for a while after you remember how many people died. That is a horrible statement.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Steve & Meghan 3:29 I know there were 3,000 people killed by 9/11. By now, that is about 300 deaths per year. There was never a threat to our national security. The 3,000 deaths with no threat to our national security is not significant enough to add trillions of dollars of “defense” and invasions into our privacy. If you want a significant number of needless deaths of innocent people, try automobile safety, 40,000 deaths each year. Nearly everyone of these deaths could be prevented EVERY year if we cared. But, we don’t care. We only care about human lives if they can be attributed to group or individuals we can demonize and if the deaths were attributed to someone else, not ourselves.

      • Jon in another 20 years it will be down to 100 deaths per year. What’s your point?? The United States has always depended on the main source of our defense by the two oceans protecting us. I see nothing wrong in boosting our defense that was lacking at the time to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. You and I do not see eye to eye in our faiths but because of our military we can enjoy these religious differences without persecution.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Steve and Meghan 6:19 “I see nothing wrong in boosting our defense that was lacking at the time to protect the freedoms we enjoy today.” I wrote earlier, and maybe I need to explain it again, that national security was not threatened by 9/11. No part of our government nor any of our freedoms was under attack. It was simply a rogue attack by a small group of criminals. It is not polically appealing to explain it that way, however. It is better to ignore the facts and explain it as a threat to our security.

          There is a rational way to approach all of this. It is to decide how to use our tax money and legal wherewithall to save as many lives as possible per dollar spent. This might be reducing deaths in automobile. But, the public is gullible to phrases like “protect our freedoms” so politicans use money which could actually save lives and throw it away on political purposes.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Jon; Using your kind of math, even the holocost won’t seem so bad in a few more years. phew.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 6:37 I recall last time I compared the 40,000 deaths per year in avoidable traffic deaths to the one time 3,000 in 9/11 you said they were merely accidents that could not be prevented. Now, you’ve changed the subject again to the holocost. It would be more rational to compare the places public money could be spent to save innocent lives. That would not be from most of the money spent on defense stuff since 9/11. There are places we could spend money that would save far more lives, but our public is not really interested in doing that.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            and you’re point would be? Are you now considering the holocost to an accident? The fact of the matter is that there are accidents. Are you denying that? There are of course factors that can enter into the equation; poor driving conditions, poor equipment maintenance, alcohol, drugs, speed. We can’t controll the quirks of weather, but we could imprison poor judgement for driving in that weather, or just kill everyone for driving drunk. We could cut off the right foot of those that speed. That otta learn them for doing that, and the cost of a bullet or ax is cheap. Just think of all the money saved. Yes, I think you just may have solved it. And now, we have come full circle to the holocost.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 8:44 A small percentage of accident fatalities are not preventable. The vast majority are. You make light of these deaths by saying we could cut off the feet of speeders, imprison bad judgement and so on. Your attitude is a typicaly Americanl one, It reflects our odd view of death. Some deaths, we will do almost anything to prevent (another 9/11, abortions), others, just don’t matter, (traffic deaths).

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; No, I don’t make light of these deaths, they are tragic. I do make light of your simplistic solutions. You sound like a new social worker with a new diploma not yet dry , or a young cop just out of cop college with a new gun, and a shiny badge. Just thought I would present some solutions you might like to save money for other social problems. May I recommend you to take a few days off, and spend it on an M Farmall, and smell the dirt. You just may begin to appreciate the value of ALL life.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 12:07 “…a few days off..on an M Farmall and smell the dirt..” Actually, I wish I could do that. “You just may begin to appreciate the value of ALL life.” Now, here, YOU are sounding like the kid with the new deploma. We cannot stop ALL (untimely) deaths as you relerence to valuing “ALL life” implies. What we can do is prevent as many untimely deaths as our Nation’s resources allow. This can be done by spending our limited time and money in ways that maximizes the number of lives saved. That seem to me to be much more practical and doable than referring to “the value of ALL life.” If one acutally values “ALL life”, he would endorce ideas that save the largest number.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; Your rather careless calculations of the 9/11 death values remind me of dollar cost averaging is what causes me to doubt your sincerity of the value of life. Your last comments ring rather hollow.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 1:01 I see we don’t have an answer for the point I have been making, there are limited resources in the world. You would have made a good candidate for the old Monty Python bit, “Every sperm is sacred.”

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; Not familiar with the bit, but I’m sure Monty Python would have understood that you can’t stupid proof everyone, no matter how much money you throw at them. Prevent death and suffering when and where you can, and respect those you can’t. I calculate that your anualized significance of the holocost would be minimall in about 200 years. I suppose you could paralell the death significance under Stalin in about 300 years if run concurrent with the Jewish holocost. All a man made situation, not accidental.

  2. Avatar of Long John Long John says:

    I just cannot understand people praying to a God that could have very easily prevented the disaster in the first place.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      If there was a god as you appear to desire, you wouldn’t have the free opportunity to reject him.

  3. doubtful says:

    Norwegian atheists do nothing after tragedy.

    Great story.

  4. Bob says:

    I’m half fluent in Norwegian, and I’ve been reading the online newspaper from Oslo, the Aftenposten.
    And uploading video from the Aftenposten, and there is very, very, very little of any type of god talk in the Norwegian media. Almost zero. For me, it was refreshing that unlike in American, the media in Norway focused instead on the victims, and the 5w’s, instead of all the nauseating god talk that followed the event in the U.S. media.
    Bravo, bravo, bramissimo!! Alt Norge.

    • Bob then you are obviously not looking hard enough at the people of Norway. Norway has the lowest church going population in all of Europe, on a good Sunday less than 5% of the population goes to church. On July 24th in many Oslo churches and cathedrals there was standing room only. They may not be putting it on TV the way the United States does, but the people of Norway are looking for answers. Unfortunately none of those can be truly answered by us. I know that it doesn’t make sense to us, but in the end I pray that something good comes out of this tragedy.

  5. Bob says:

    Gender studies would be good to come out of this. For example, Why is it almost all the shooters and all of this type of violence is done by males of our human species? I’m sure many experts in different fields have an idea about why.
    I’d like to see more of their opinions and reasons in the media. Knowledge is power and knowledge is the best way to arm oneself and society to prevent any future incidences like this from occuring. Males everywhere need to be informed that they are more at risk for doing this type of behaviour.

    On the front page of the Aftenposten, the title says in Norwegian that “The Children Need to Understand” about what the terror shooter Anders Breivik did.
    Not once in the article was god, or any kind of god talk mentioned. The children there in Norway are not having god understanding of the tragedy shoved down their throats the way they would here in the U.S. Thus they are not doubly victimized.

    Bravo Norge!

  6. Athiests seem to feel it is their duty to criticize any Christian who pray, attend worship, read their Bibles, attend Bible studies, et al…….do Christians spend as much time criticizing Athiests for what they do or don’t do? MYOB.
    holocost is spelled holocaust by the way.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Buffalogal 2:37 “…do Christians spend as much time criticizing Atheists…MYOB.” I would offer up Pres. Bush I who said atheist are not citizens of the U. S., we are one nation under God. There would be equity in acceptance if every President alternated the end of each speech this way: One speech would end in the usual way with, “God bless you, and, God bless America.” The next speech would end in “Thank you, Americans, for not believing in invisible ghosts and gods.”

  7. PS but then there would be nothing about which to blog!

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