II. The Divine Accidents
"It was an act of God!"
A common reaction to an accident
Questions that will be considered:
Are Divine miracles the cause of our existence?
Are prophets sent by God?
What is the role of religion?
For early civilizations the effects of natural accidents were devastating and frightening: lightening set forests afire, volcanic eruptions darkened the sunlight and spewed stones and dust over the land, earthquakes shook and rendered the earth, and floods wiped out settlements. These natural disasters (which of course still occur today) produced incredible psychological reactions in people hidden in caves and living beneath animal skins. The more accidents, the more prayers they addressed to a supreme power that they prayed could protect them. In time, Homo Religiousus was born out of the necessity of defending oneself from countless accidental calamities.
Efforts to belong to a better and safer world were usually directed to the beautiful and enigmatic sky. Prayers were addressed to what was most impressive: mountains, rivers, a giant tree, a strangely shaped rock, a predatory animal, and of course the sun, the moon and the stars. The prayers invoked good divine accidents to happen: fruitful hunting and fishing, success in fighting rival tribes, and stable life for all the members of the tribe. As civilization grew, creative mythological thinking grew as well.
The Greeks and Romans were the most innovative when it came to mythology. Greek and Roman mythologies had glorious gods ruling the entire universe. Zeus supremely ruled the sky and Earth in the Greek world, while Jupiter was the chief god of the Roman world. Their role was to punish bad gods or demons. Other gods quickly changed from celestial entities to half human, half beasts. The centaur was a believable creature, half man and half horse.
Eventually the supernatural deities ended up as supermen with extended families of sub-gods. The Homeric gods were assigned with a specialized vital mission: to protect families, warriors, sailors, hunters, lovers, and so on. All Olympian gods were immortal, and all of the rituals dedicated to them were the foundation of a systematic religion. Any accidents in nature or at a personal level signaled the need to pamper the gods with prayers, gifts, sacrifices or another temple.
A more structured religion eventually emerged when the realistic Semites refused to get involved with mythological legends. Instead, Judaism provides down-to-earth stories about heroes who, because of accidents, assume mythical proportions. Now there was a monotheistic religion.
The first page of the Bible reveals the first sinful accident that happened to the heavenly-designed earth: Eve gave the forbidden fruit to Adam. A bite of the apple produced effects of cataclysmic proportions: humans lost their immortality, God lost confidence in humanity, and human life became a chain of wrong-doings and punishments. Yet, God was good and always rescued men by inflicting a miracle-like accident on them.
Yet, the Good Book provides us with some interesting information about the mythical and confusing history of the first people on earth. The story of Abram and his numerous life accidents leads us to certain historical reflections. He lived 175 years, married a few times, had different sets of children, moved over large territories, and God spoke to him very often. No doubt he was a great man of his world. The Bible, Torah, New Testament and Koran made good use of his name. Thus we have Abraham for the Jews, Avram for the Eastern Christians and Ibrahim for the Arabs. It looks like after the fall of the Tower of Babel, when the year was limited to 365 days, humanity, at least Abraham's forefathers, went in different directions and was separated into different races.
To argue with the teachings of Bible is impossible: it would mean arguing with God. Each verse seems to incorporate a unique wisdom and its conclusion. For the non-believer, the Bible is a collection of stories about how sin ruled the life on Earth since the beginning of time. It is also a collection of lessons about moral codes and examples of being altruistic and humble. No doubt, Christianity recognizes the power of accidents and their effects (divine or not) because all prayers end with a powerful and hopeful "Amen," which means "so let it be."
When it comes to discussing accidents and religion, there are many who will say that there are no accidents: everything is God's will. I do not argue that, but let us mark the turning points of various events that were unanticipated by anyone but that became the landmarks of faith and world religionswhat I call here "divine accidents." Some of these events were prophesied in general, but no one knew how or when they might occurjust like we know that we will die but we don't know how or when.