‘You Have to Thank the Lord, Right?’

That’s what Wolf Blitzer said to a woman who survived the tornado in Oklahoma: “You have to thank the lord, right? Do you thank the lord?” The woman informed him that she is an atheist. And no, you don’t. If you’re going to thank God for one person remaining safe, don’t you also have to blame God for all the people who died? I just don’t understand why anyone takes comfort in the idea that God is deciding who lives and who dies during natural disasters. That’s not comforting, it’s horrifying. It’s also completely nonsensical.


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  • UnknownEric the Apostate

    “Hey thanks, invisible sky dude, for killing all those kids instead of me. You’re a stand-up bloke!”

  • tbp1

    I never figured out why people don’t connect the dots here. If God is in charge, as we keep hearing, then he’s culpable no just in this case, but for all the suffering in the world since creation. It really is that simple.

    In a similar vein, I’m always bothered when someone whose life has just been saved by a firefighter, lifeguard, or perhaps police officer, who might literally have risked his/her life to do so, immediately and publicly thanks God for their safety. I’ve always thought that I would be tempted to throw them back in the water or the fire if they did that just after I had put my life on the line to save theirs.

  • gshelley

    Perhaps this is what Robertson meant that God could have stopped the tornado. This woman didn’t prey, so god let it kill lots of other people

  • Larry


    Or a severely injured or sick patient who, through the extraordinary efforts of the surgeon and the medical team, saves their life, and who then turns around and thanks god for the miraculous cure.

  • gopiballava

    I am reminded of the neologism coined by Edward Current, “tragicle”:


  • mudpuddles

    That’s not comforting, it’s horrifying. It’s also completely nonsensical.

    Yep, and it suggests a disgusting sense of exceptionalism. God saved me, but let the others die because its more important that I live than that little girl. God has saved me when I asked him to, because my life is more important than the thousands who prayed to him but died anyway when that tsunami hit Indonesia, and more important than those prayerful people who are suffering horribly in Syria. Oh, and you should definitely pray before you get on that football field, because god will totally consider keeping you safe from injury, since your risk of groin strain or concussion would bother him much more than the loss of a child to lukemia or meningitis. You prayed, and still got raped? Not me, I prayed but I’m special.


  • Scr… Archivist

    I’ve been thinking lately that these comments of praise to invisible sky-demons sound a lot like what you might hear addressed to a king or local potentate.

    People kneel and bow before him, they compose long-winded speeches to honor him by all of his titles, and they humbly request justice. Of course, the supplicant sees justice as forgiveness for himself and the punishment of his personal enemies. That would resolve the mercy/damnation contradiction. It would also explain the acceptance of mass killing at the ruler’s whim. He is a king after all.

    If I’m right, it fits the idea that there have never been any gods, merely ancient people elevating their social order to a level beyond reach and beyond reform.

  • My wife’s aunt and uncle recently flew to the Philippines and the aunt posted her thanks to God for the safe flight on Facebook. I couldn’t help myself and commented “Don’t leave out the pilot and the air traffic controllers!”

  • If I had been in that person’s position and he asked me that, I would have said “thank the Lord?? Dude, look around you”

  • georow

    I love the way she replied to Blitzer’s question. No attitude or acrimony. She simply states her beliefs in a positive way.

  • A Hermit

    Just watched another inane CNN interview, this time with the pastor of a church which survived the storm and is serving as a kind of marshalling centre for relief efforts. The talking head doing the interview points out that it’s remarkable to see the church standing while the school across the street was demolished ! o.O The pastor spouts some nonsense about believing it was God’s Hand™ that directed the tornado away from the church building…

    Just once I’d like to see a reporter in this kind of situation ask the obvious question about God’s judgment in choosing to run the tornado over the SCHOOL FULL OF CHILDREN in order to spare the (presumably) empty church building. Surely the school would be just as useful as a relief centre, if not more so, and it was FULL OF CHILDREN at the time…

    Any politician or public official making such a horrendously bad choice would be subjected to a journalistic assault. But God gets thanked….

  • Abby Normal

    No, no, a true believer thanks God for sparing them then thanks God for “taking home” the ones he didn’t. They have earned their just reward, are in a better place and they’re rubbing elbows with Jesus. Hallaluja!

  • “Wolf, that’s a perfectly stupid thing to say.”

  • Subtract Hominem

    <obligatory reference>

    “We don’t have a Lord.”

    </obligatory reference>

  • Trebuchet

    According to Glen Beck, as noted by a couple of other FTBlogs, Blitzer was set up by some sort of Satanic plot.

  • Part of why religion persists is that it appeals to human self-centeredness. “See, you’re important. You’re the center of the world. You’re so important God kept you safe, unlike those other unimportant people.”

  • footface

    The god who spares Joe because he prayed, but lets Jim die because he didn’t? That god is kind of a jerk.

    And the god who sends non-Christians to hell (even though he knows that a lack of strong evidence of his existence PLUS the people’s almost irresistible upbringing and culture will make it all but impossible that they’ll believe in him)? Kind of a jerk.

    All in all, I don’t see the appeal.

  • Doug Little

    What do you expect, religion makes no logical sense what so ever if you think about it for more than a second.

  • After I’d ordered one of the “I’m actually an atheist” T-shirts, I found out that I know this woman; when she was a teenager, called “Becca’ and with a different surname, she was a friend of my son’s. They even “went out” for about a week. If she was an atheist then, I didn’t know it. I wasn’t an atheist then, though I am now. (My son graduated h.s. in 2002, and Becca may have been a grade older, I’m not sure.)

    She handled the question as well as she could have! Who’d have thought Blitzer was going to ask that?

    I caught the end of the Talladega NASCAR race a few weeks ago and the winner said “I have to thank the Lord” as if he were contractually obligated to do so. If I ever win something big (I did once win on “Jeopardy!” but you don’t get to say something when that happens and my first thought was “fuck! I won!”) I’ll thank whomever is relevant.

  • There’s an Indiegogo campaign by Atheists United to raise $50,000 for the woman. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/atheists-unite.

    So far, they’ve raised $56,898 and have 59 days to go.

  • “So far, they’ve raised $56,898 and have 59 days to go.”

    Paging Wolf Shitzler, paging Wolf Shitzler; hie thee unto Casa democommie–STAT!

  • otrame

    As I said elsewhere, it was obvious he was fishing for a “thank God” so he could close the interview and move on the the next one. It made me wonder how many people are pushed into those videoed “thank gods” like Blitzer was doing to her.

    I also wonder how many people have said, “Thank God? Are you kidding? I cannot think of anything more obscenely insensitive that a person could say while surrounded by scattered corpses and all this destruction” I think even a devote Christian might say that, but you sure as hell won’t see it on the news.

  • You gotta wonder how many hindu, Buddhist, Santariists, Voodun and other religions’ practitioners are skipped during these things.

  • What’s weird is that if you pay attention to what Blitzer says, he’s actually asking her if she thanked God, not for saving her life, but for making the decision to leave. Why would anyone, even a Christian, thank God for a decision they made? It wasn’t God that made you decide it – or is Blitzer seriously willing to give up on free will?

  • matty1

    I doubt he was making some serious theological argument, he was just using the standard tropes of his own cultural background. When everyone around you uses ‘thank the Lord’ as a synonym for ‘I’m glad I’m OK’ it can be easy to use it without thinking about the implications, especially if it seems the most likely way to get a TV worthy soundbite.

    Often people say things like ‘thank the Lord’ and ‘I’ll be praying’ not because they’ve sat down and decided those things make sense but in the same way they say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. Experience has taught that is what you say in a particular situation.

  • @25:

    Listen to Shtizler’s question. He says:

    “You gotta thank the LORD! Right? Do you thank the LORD, for that split second decision?”.

    That’s a bit more involved than a reflexive, “Thank GOD!” or something of the like.

    As a supposedly responsible and ethical journalist, Wolfie should certainly know better than to ask leading questions of someone standing in the wreckage that used to be their home. Actually, I’m sure he DOES know better, he just doesn’t give a fuck about anything but his own ratings and paycheck.

  • Nick Gotts (formerly KG)

    “I have to thank the Lord” as if he were contractually obligated to do so

    The Lord is my sponsor. I shall not want…

  • birgerjohansson

    Why should I thank Sauron? The Lord of the Rings could command Orodruin to erupt but he never showed any interest for tornados.

  • birgerjohansson

    …And since a tornado is a storm, it would be in the domain of Baal!

  • mobius

    Last night my neighbor informed me she had seen a tornado funnel forming a few days ago, she had prayed and the funnel went back up into the clouds. By implication, she was saying this was proof of God.

    I didn’t say anything to this nonsense, but felt like asking her why all the prayers of people in Moore didn’t accomplish the same thing? Does God think she is special? Or did he feel that Moore needed to be punished for something?