On the thread about the video where the woman found her dog after the tornado, commenter “Randy” wrote:
there is a lot of religious blindness on this thread. we celebrate God for answering this woman’s prayer about her dog, but ignore the fact that he did not answer the prayers of the parents of the 6 elementary school children who suffocated to death. I could care less about this woman’s dog.
I was waiting for someone to write something like that. It’s a very common reaction; I’ve seen a number of similar comments on other discussions about the dog video.
The person voicing such a sentiment seems to think that prayer is a zero-sum game—that if a person believes that this woman’s prayers were answered (or, more importantly, if she believes it, and if the person respects that belief), it has to be at the expense of the children who died. An either/or proposition, where we either care about people or care about little fluffy dogs.
It does seem that some people do have a sort of Santa Claus concept of the deity; they ask for stuff or for favors. It is pretty much a part of human nature to do this—especially about one’s very survival (or the survival of loved ones). This is the source of the expression “there are no atheists in the foxholes.”
But a deeper understanding of religion is that although most people, in a terrible crisis, will naturally and understandably pray for God’s help through it, and pray to God to sustain them and their loved ones, and thank God for helping them and their loved ones (yes, including dogs) when they do survive, most people also have some sort of understanding that it’s hardly that simple, and that God, providence, Fate, work in mysterious ways.
It is a conundrum that has never been solved, although it’s been wrestled with since the dawn of religion, and probably the dawn of mankind. The Bible’s Book of Job deals with questioning the “why” of the misfortune that sometimes befalls people who have led upright lives. So do books such as Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People, a popular religious, philosophical, and psychological treatment of the same conundrum.
In the video in question, the woman is above all thankful. That is one of the major functions of prayer; to express thanks. Her prayers were answered, as far as she’s concerned. I am virtually certain that she fervently wishes the children had lived, as well. But one thing is unrelated to the other, and she has every right to thank God for her own survival and that of her beloved dog.