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Is God a Terrorist?

Definitional game-playing by the Coalition of the Willing (Part #1)


On 11 September 2001 approximately 2800 people were killed by an "Act of Terrorism". This exploration was produced on the occasion of the death of an estimated 30,000 people in the earthquake at Bam (Iran, 26 December 2003) -- declared to be an "Act of God".
Introduction
"Acts of God"
"Wrath of God"
"Terrorism"
Combining some threads
Politicization of the definitional process
Towards a generic model of definitional game-playing?
Is God a Terrorist?
Misrepresentation of "God" with respect to risk management
Conceptual gerrymandering
Conclusions
References

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Introduction

Concerns about the "Wrath of God" in contrast with "God as Love" have long been part of the debate in religious circles. Theologians of different religions have stressed one perspective over the other. The question might be perceived as relatively distant from the practical realities of an international community faced with "terrorists".

The following exploration is inspired by the film The Man Who Sued God (2001) in which a man whose "comprehensively insured" fishing boat was destroyed by lightning was refused compensation by the insurance industry because the small print provided for exemptions in the event of such "Acts of God". The owner then proceeded to bring legal proceedings against the main religious groups, who all claim to be representatives of God, in order to be compensated for the destructive consequences of that "Act of God". The case turned on whether the religious groups believed that God existed, and whether they effectively represented God and could in consequence be legitimately sued. The script was written by Don Watson. The film has been widely reviewed [more ]

The film is a comedy but the core theological, insurance and legal questions relating to the widely used legal device of an "Act of God" are especially relevant at a time of the death of 30,000 people in Bam (Iran, 26 December 2003). Indeed, depending on how exactly "terrorism" is legally defined, there is a probability that such "Acts of God" may be understood as "Acts of Terrorism". This would then imply that "God" was a "terrorist" or should at least be put to the question as having some complicity in "terrorism" -- according to the procedures envisaged by international conventions against terrorism, the US Patriot Act, and matching legislation in other member countries of the Coalition of the Willing. Although "God" cannot be extradited, there may be a case for extraditing his representatives to Guantanamo Bay!

The following exploration could be considered frivolous and trivial were it not for the importance attached to "Acts of God" by the insurance industry (and therefore in contract law), by theologians, and in the light of the religious dimension introduced both by the devout Christian leadership of the Coalition of the Willing into the pursuit of the "war against terrorism" as well as by those yhjery oppose as instigatorgs of that "terrorism". Christian fundamentalists have identified eight major "Acts of God" between 1991 and 1999 that are understood to be warnings to the USA by God as a result of its asking Israel to give up land for peace (see God's Final Warning to America) [more]. Increasingly the collective response to (and preparation for) "Acts of God" is allocated far less institutional resources than what are categorized as "Acts of Terrorism".

Statistics in the USA indicate that 88% of all accidents are caused by unsafe acts of people, 10% by unsafe conditions, and 2% by "Acts of God" [more], although in the case of aircraft accidents it is estimated by the insurance industry that 38% are due to "Acts of God".

It is interesting that the secular nature of international legal conventions makes no provision for "Acts of God" [more], although the United Nations General Conditions of Contract defines "Force majeure" to include "Acts of God" -- perhaps the only acknowledgement of God by the UN?

Others, as noted below, have explored the theme "Is God a Terrorist?". One of them carefully and amusingly demonstrates that, according to the Old Testament, God must necessarily be considered a self-confessed terrorist. Related themes have been humourously explored by The Onion (notably Lord Under Investigation For Failure To Provide, 1997; God Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, 2001).

onion3716/god_diagnosed_bipolar.html">God Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, 2001).


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