In response to the earthquakes in Nepal, many religious people have suggested that this is an indication of the endtimes, or that Yahweh is punishing the heathens (mostly Hindus) in that country for ignoring him, or that he is using it as an opportunity to allow Christians to share the good news of the love of Jesus Christ, etc. When challenged on whether such events cast doubt on the goodness of their deity, the response is that God is by nature good, but there are some bad things that are simply beyond his control. (Philosopher Steven Law argues that the nature of our world is just as well explained by a God who is by nature *evil* but some good things that happen are simply beyond his control.)
As a rationalist and naturalist, all I can say is that sometimes crappy stuff just happens – the universe was not designed for the happiness, comfort and convenience of humans. At this writing, the death toll from the Nepal earthquake and aftershocks is nearing 5000, and has been predicted to rise as high as 10000. According to the UN, about 1.4 million people will need food aid.
Religious people often credit God for motivating their altruism, but the science shows that humans have evolved as social animals, so wanting to help others is a natural trait (and altruism has also been observed in other animals such as vampire bats and rats ).
For those who want to help, here are a few suggestions for making donations to secular* organizations:
Canadian Government Gift Matching Program: For donations made by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities between April 25 and May 25, the Government of Canada will contribute an equivalent amount to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. This matching contribution will support humanitarian, early recovery and reconstruction assistance in Nepal through projects undertaken by Canada’s international humanitarian and non-governmental partners (up to a maximum of $100 000).
- Donations to Unicef Canada have an additional dollar-for-dollar matching fund provided by corporate supporters (Thanks to commenter Jon for the information.)
- The Humanitarian Coalition includes Care, Oxfam, Plan Canada, and Save the Children
$75 can provide emergency food for 15 days
$112 can provide clean drinking water for 12 families
$220 can provide emergency shelter to a family of 4
- Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF Canada)is is sending eight teams to assist those affected by the earthquake in Nepal.
- The Foundation Beyond Belief’s Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive is currently collecting fundswhich they will be distributing to local organizations, details to be announced. (Note that donations made through FBB will not be eligible for Canadian tax receipts, and will not attract the matching contributions.)
* for those who want to discuss the meaning of the term “secular” see this post.