Cognitive Dissonance and Haiti

I just listened to an interview on BBC radio with a woman running an orphanage in Haiti, affected by the horrific earthquake there yesterday. Fortunately she and the children in her care survived unhurt.

During the interview she described how, during the earthquake, she prayed. And after the earthquake she felt that God had blessed her by sparing the orphanage from collapse. A few sentences later she described how hospitals and schools had been destroyed, with the loss of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives.

Now, I feel I have no right to criticize this woman. Her compassion and willing to act against the suffering of those less fortunate puts me to shame. So this is not intended to be a snarky swipe.

But it just completely baffled me how that thought could go through your mind. How you can possibly think God has blessed you in the midst of a catastrophic and completely pointless natural disaster? I simply don’t understand.

The rantings of evil vampires like Pat Robinson (who blamed the earthquake on Haiti having made a pact with the devil) I can understand. Some people are just evil. But this woman… no, I don’t understand.

Anyway, get your credit cards out and head to the Red Cross or your favorite disaster relief charity. There are people who need your disposable income much more than you will this month.



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3 responses to “Cognitive Dissonance and Haiti

  1. atimetorend

    A couple of years ago one of my children had an ER visit followed by two nights in the hospital after being dehydrated from a stomach virus. It ended up being a fairly routine cure, but really, he was not that far from dying at one point, at least not far if we had lived in another country or a different era. I often wonder how people can make a statement of thanking God in a situation like that without it seeming a slap in the face to those who were not so blessed with protection, particularly when they just live in a poorer part of the world than I do.

  2. Well, I think people mainly mean “Luck” when they use the word “God” in these situations. Just substitute the word and it does not seem ridiculous.

    Even you atheists say, “Well, thank goodness I didn’t take that train.” “Goodness” is just a simple word like “Luck” or “God”. The brain cares not what sound you put on a feeling.

    To assume people to be rational is the mistake here.

  3. ian


    You’re right. She made more of a kind of feature of it, which I suspect just sounded more specific to a British ear.


    I wonder about that. My family is currently feverishly praying for a family member dying of cancer far too young. I really hope more than anything that she pulls through. If she does I know the prayers will be credited. I can’t help but think of the tens or hundreds of other young mums who die of cancer every day. God moves in mysterious ways…

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