"A few weeks ago a hurricane struck the little religious community of Bethany,
Okla. A number of pious citizens of the little town were killed. Houses were
destroyed -- homes in which prayer and devotion reigned. A church was
Only a few miles away is the large, wicked city of Oklahoma City -- at least
we can certainly assume that, from the religious viewpoint, many sinners live
in Oklahoma City. Assuming also (which is a great deal riskier assumption)
that there is a God, why should he perpetrate this grim and sardonic joke?
The sinners in the big city were left untouched. The godly folk in the little
nearby village were punished by the evidences of God's wrath. How do the
religious people interpret this calamity? Often and often they explain such
calamities as flood, fire and storm by saying that God is angry at the sinful
people and is warning them or destroying them for their sins. Was the
hurricane in Bethany a sign of the love of God for his faithful worshipers?
And God missed an even better chance, if there were a God who wished to punish
rebels against his majesty and inscrutability. Just a few hundred miles north
and east of Bethany, Okla., is Girard -- the home of The American Freeman: and
The Debunker and The Joseph McCabe Magazine and the Little Blue Books -- the
center of American free thought where an enormous stream of atheistic
literature and. godless modern knowledge pours forth to enlighten the masses.
If there were a God directing hurricanes and he wanted to really "get" an
uncompromising foe, whom he has no chance of persuading in the ordinary way,
it would have been a devastating stroke for him to send his howling punitive
blasts through the town of Girard. It would be a more remarkable suggestion
of the avenging act of a God if only the Haldeman-Julius plant were destroyed
and the rest of the town left unhurt -- and, as good neighbors, we shouldn't
wish the Christian and respectable, people of Girard nor those who are
respectable and not so Christian nor those who are Christian and not exactly
respectable to suffer from our proximity and our propaganda of atheism.
Is God a joker? No -- let us whisper it -- the joke is that there is no God.
Hurricanes come upon the just and the unjust, the pious and the impious."
[E. Haldeman-Julius, "The Meaning Of Atheism"]