Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Concept of Karma Common in Faiths; Followers of Many Religions Believe in It, but Some Deny It's Divine Punishment

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Concept of Karma Common in Faiths; Followers of Many Religions Believe in It, but Some Deny It's Divine Punishment

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

Actress Sharon Stone stunned viewers around the world last week by suggesting the earthquakes in China were karmic retribution for that country's persecution of Tibet.

"They're not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a friend of mine," Stone, who has practiced Buddhism, said in a video carried by CNN.com. "And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma?"

She wasn't alone. The folks at Westboro Baptist Church - a Kansas group infamous for celebrating the combat deaths of American soldiers - issued a news release declaring the May 12 quake, which killed about 80,000 people, as proof that "God hates China" for rebelling against him.

While some may be outraged by such attitudes, they shouldn't be surprised. Belief in some form of divine or karmic retribution exists in most faiths, including Buddhism and Christianity, said Julie Ingersoll, a religion scholar at the University of North Florida.

From ancient to modern times, believers have interpreted everything from wars to hurricanes to disease as divine punishment for wayward individuals and societies.

Many saw the Civil War as punishment for slavery. Indigenous people in the Philippines considered the volcanic eruptions of Mount Pinatubo to be expressions of an angry god.

More recently, evangelical leaders Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell said the Sept. 11 attacks resulted from God lifting America's "veil of protection" because of national sins.

Others believe God punished gays with AIDS and New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.

EXPLAINING EVIL

Scholars call it the theodicy - the effort to reconcile the existence of suffering and evil with belief in the fundamental goodness of God or the universe, Ingersoll said.

"If you believe in an ultimate force in control of everything - God or the law of karma - ultimately you have to believe those things," she said. …

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