Religion After Katrina

This Wednesday, the Women’s Studies Center and Philosophy and Religion department hosted a discussion on religion after Hurricane Katrina. Steven Kepnes led the discussion, introducing the contemporary issues recently brought to light by Katrina: our relationship to the poor, racism and national priorities. Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Women’s Studies Marilyn Thie and Professor of Philosophy and Religion Harvey Sindima shared their opinions on the aftermath of Katrina within a theological context.

Thie examined Katrina as a theological issue. She raised the debate between the belief of God as an almighty, all-knowing creator, who caused or allowed a terrible event to occur and her personal belief of a God that had no role in the social devastation in New Orleans. She believes it was humans who failed, not God.

“God laments over the tragedy,” Thie said, “but did not cause the tragedy to happen.”

Sindima discussed the question of creation and identified three different ways of viewing God as the creator. He concluded that God cannot control every little detail of our lives, because if life were so unpredictable, there would be nothing to learn. Rather, humans retain some free will so that they are able to predict and continually learn. Sindima also believes that much of the devastation was a result of human fallibility.

After brief presentations of their ideas, the professors opened the subject up for discussion, and attendees postulated intellectual, stimulating questions to the faculty and other students. The idea of human error and Katrina’s possible nature as a punishment for wrong actions was debated.

The discussion eventually posed the question of what the next course of action should be. Participaints suggested an emphasis on a greater commitment to ending extreme poverty and evoking political change.

Several students found the discussion thought-provoking and interesting.

“I liked hearing many different perspectives on the issue,” junior Bob Kortenhaus said. “Opening up the discussion to students was very insightful.”

The next discussion on Katrina and religion will be on October 19.