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WATCH THIS: God and the Tsunami

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The news, footage and photographs from Japan have been overwhelming and often unbearable, no matter how close one's connection to the Tohoku region or one's distance from it. For many people the disaster raises serious philosophical issues, for the faithful (of any religion), doubts.

In the days following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, in which more than 300,000 people lost their lives, Tom Honey, the Canon Pastor of Exeter Cathedral, in the UK,  found it necessary to address the question that many were asking then, as they are now: How could God let this happen? His response, in which he challenges the notion of an "almighty" being, feels relevant again today.

Click on the video below to hear his moving lecture.

Honey's talk may be thought-provoking and helpful to audiences in the West of any religious order, and perhaps even non-believers. In Japan, however, where there isn't a tradition of putting one's faith in a single all-powerful God, the question of "why" is less likely to dominate the public conversation.

The world has been watching in astonishment as the Japanese react to the disaster with patience and a stoic attitude, but it's helpful to remember that what we're seeing is not a lack of emotion. As Glenda Roberts, an anthropology professor at Tokyo's Waseda University, told the AP: "It strikes me as a Buddhist attitude ... Westerners might tend to see it as passivity, but it's not that. It takes a lot of strength to stay calm in the face of terror."

Additionally, as Honey says, quoting the Archbishop of Canterbury , "The people most affected by devastation and the loss of life do not want intellectual theories about how God let this happen. If some religious genius came up with an explanation of why these things do indeed make sense, would we feel happier? Or safer?" 

Probably not.

See also: Minyanville Cares: Japan

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