Did God’s benevolence fail on Easter Sunday?
Posted on May 22nd, 2019

By  Senaka Weeraratna

The blowing up of over 260 people and injuring over 500 people through coordinated terrorist bombings carried out during Easter services in three prominent Churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, on April 21, 2019, invariably raises serious doubts in God’s benevolence.

If people in Sri Lanka begin questioning God’s relevance, in the light of God’s apparent failure to prevent this massacre, when most of the victims, were ardent followers of Christianity, and praying in some of the hallowed Churches in the country e.g. St. Anthony’s Shrine (dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua and designated a national shrine and minor basilica), located at KochchikadeKotahenaColombo 13, then they will not be alone.

Easter Sunday is one of Christianity’s holiest days and church attendance in Sri Lanka is very high on this day.

The purpose of this brief article is to open and explore significant religious and metaphysical issues that have arisen given the strange co – incidence that such a horrendous mass murder has happened on a very important religious holiday.

Lisbon Earthquake (1755)

We must go back in time. A similar terrible phenomenon took place on a much bigger scale when Lisbon (capital of Portugal) was subject to a series of cataclysmic earthquakes on the morning of Sunday November 01, 1755, which was All Saints’ Day and many people were attending the Churches whose architecture and building structure was not resistant to seismic tremors.  

The earthquakes caused massive damage to the city of Lisbon and demolished around 12,000 households, killing over 60,000 people.

This unfortunate coincidence of the earthquake on a Sunday was definitely one of the factors that had contributed to the extremely high death toll in this event, as the Christian devotees that stood between the weak walls of the churches were crushed in large numbers.

The city walls, houses and buildings were not able to escape the 8.0 magnitude of the earthquake. Almost 85% of Lisbon’s buildings were reduced to rubble.

The earthquake had reportedly lasted about 5 minutes, causing 5-meter fissures in length which split-opened in the city center.

In addition the tremors triggered three (3) tsunamis of 6 meter wave length which were flooding the region wave after wave, drowning and killing even more people.

Fires broke out soon after the earthquakes killing a lot more people.  The flames lasted for 5 days and destroyed many important documents and personal records of the Portuguese people. Many had died from inhaling the smoke and collateral damage.

The resulting chaos forced the citizens, including prisoners that used their chance of escape, to flee the city.

Fall out of the Lisbon Earthquake on changing religious beliefs in Europe

It is said that one of the first modern atheistic movements in Europe commenced after this tragedy, renouncing religious ideologies as basis of critical thinking.

Survivors soon began questioning God’s existence and his absence at a time when God’s help was most needed to save lives. The scale of suffering opened up many issues among thinkers, the clergy, politicians, and philosophers.

On the other hand, the Church authorities in Lisbon did actually announce and state that the earthquake was indeed a demonstration of God’s wrath and punishment for the sins of the victims.

Amusingly, the sinful Lisbon’s red-light district had suffered only minor damages while the churches despite the purported piety were completely obliterated.

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 also opened the door to new genre of literature questioning God and wisdom of relying solely on God and engaging in recital of prayers. Renowned French writer and philosopher Voltaire produced a classic piece of satirical writing called ‘Candide‘ (1759).  The events discussed in the novel are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years’ War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers. Candide satirises various philosophical and religious theories that Voltaire had previously criticized including the belief in God. . . 


Would the tragedy of Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka lead to a more reflective and self – reliant moral community in Sri Lanka? Only time will tell.

Senaka Weeraratna

6 Responses to “Did God’s benevolence fail on Easter Sunday?”

  1. Randeniyage Says:

    Buddha has spoken how “Creator God” concept arises in one of the suttas.
    Supreme Being or GOD concept is the root of all religious evil.

    Christian LTTE leaders directed killing of God worshiping Muslims at Kaatanakudi long time ago ( Christchurch 1) and Muslims did not retaliate. We should remember how Rayappu Josephs behave those days and even the current saint cardinal Malcom Ranjith did not help much in condemning continuing LTTE atrocities. I can still remember many people here on Lankaweb cursing Cardinal those days because of his indifference to LTTE brutality.
    This time (Christchurch 2) one can say Muslims retaliated. They aimed to attack innocent Christian civilians mostly.

    In India Brahmins are supposed to have born from mouth of the God and the Daliths from the toe of the God. This stupid concept was denounced by Buddha (by pure logical argument, which none of the learned Brahmins could not answer him properly and most of the became Buddhists.). Daliths suffered for a long time and even present time.

    In Palastine , Jews are supposed to be “chosen people” and this concept is the root of all trouble in the world.

    Evil words of justifying killing of non-beleivers is found in both Koran and Old testament of the Bible.

    GOD is root of all religious killings.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    ධමෙමා හවෙ රකඛති ධමමචාරි

    (The one who lives by the Dhamma is protected by the Dhamma itself).

    Plenty of other examples including May 14, 1985 Anuradhapura, January 26, 1998 Kandy, Nalanda in India, etc.

  3. Christie Says:

    Beliefs and imaginations got nothing to do with actual events other than a mere coincidence.

  4. samurai Says:

    Some believe in karma. Some do not.

    However belief in karma is better than having faith in an unseen creator high up in the heavens, who is supposed to be loving and merciful. The question arises if He cannot look after his own creations why did he create at all?

    However the Buddhist teaching does not say each and everything happens because of karma.

    Anyway, for people who are not convinced of any religious teaching ( including ධමෙමා හවෙ රකඛති ධමමචාරි ) it is better to be Atheists or Agnostics.

  5. aloy Says:

    The write up does not show any sympathy or out pouring of grief shown by average Sri Lankan in this well planned mass murder carried out by a set of mentally deranged set of people. This is not a coincidence but was to happen on a most important date in Christian calendar.
    I was watching the speeches of UNP parliamentarians in and out of parliament yesterday. They showed similar lack of empathy.

  6. dingiri bandara Says:

    Religion is a state mind and that is why rightly or wrongly people change their religions. The Dalai Lama once when asked as to what best religion is, contrary to everyone’s expectations said ” The best religion is the one that makes you a better person”
    The problem with religions today is,I think that some are practiced as cults wit too much singing, dancing, worshipping and praying instead of living like a good humans as God or those who started the religions Originally.

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