I recall listening to the news report on the radio that day, and I remember the news reader saying that the accident could have been much worse, and added: "God was smiling on South Africa today." I guess, if I had any belief in the supernatural at all, that I could bring myself to accept the idea that God chose to guide the pilot's hands so as to avoid the homes; that God somehow tweaked the natural order of events so that there were no passengers on board; that God somehow arranged that this happened on a holiday, so that no children were injured.
I could bring myself to accept all this, but for four problems . . .
- Captain Alistair Freeman: he later died from his injuries.
- Co-pilot Sonya Birman: she sustained multiple fractures and broke both her ankles.
- Flight attendant Rodelle Oosthuizen: she sustained a fractured spine and facial injuries.
- Ebrahim Mthethwa: a municipal worker on the ground who was hit by the plane, and later rushed to hospital in a critical condition.
God might have been smiling on South Africa, but was he smiling on these four, and their families? Some theists claim that God is all-loving and all-powerful, but if this is the case wouldn't he have used his omnipotence to help all parties involved by ensuring that this accident didn't occur at all?
If a theist praises an all-loving god for only helping some and not others, are they not implicitly acknowledging a god who struggles, sometimes unsuccessfully, against suffering; a god who has the ability to help only a little, but is often beaten by forces greater than himself; a tinkerer of events, rather than the master helmsman? If I ever come to a point of believing in some sort of god again, this is the only concept of god that would make sense to me, considering what we observe in the world around us.