"Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die."

Natalie Lewis, 24, Ginny Doyle, 44, and a still-unidentified pilot died when a hot air balloon burst into flames shortly after takeoff on Friday night near the University of Richmond. Horrified onlookers heard the women screaming for help as they desperately jumped from the basket to escape the flames.

"Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die. Oh my God, I'm going to die," witnesses reported hearing one of them scream as the gondola and balloon separated.

Jesus did not perform a miracle to rescue the woman as she cried out to him. Why not? Google search featured a blog entry where Google user and atheist Tessa Schlesinger asked this very question. She's been flooded with support, condemnation and (of course) explanations from religious who claim to know the answer.

A sample:

"...I believe some people are more "God-obsessed" and angry - and so willing to be nasty about faith that they lose the compassion that even non believers have.  No offense to you sir.  It is a tasteless comment on a horrific death of 3 human beings.  It is also notable to me that this person who cried out in sheer terror as her life was ending is probably in the presence of the God she cried out to.  I feel badly for the families in mourning."

God does not work in mysterious ways - he works EXACTLY as if he does not exist.  Keep up.  ;-)

"Atheists often wonder why they are viewed negatively. For my part, it's because they can't resist saying "where's your Messiah now, eh?" when tragedy strikes."

"I have had many a prayer unanswered in my life so far and I still believe that God exists and that he is good. Why? Because he always comes through in the end even if it's in a way I don't expect. God promises to hear prayers and he says that he will answer them, but you're missing the whole point! The point of "If you ask my father for a fish, will he give you a stone?" is not that God will give you exactly what you want every single time. If that were true, our lives would be a complete mess. What Jesus meant by that example is that God gives good gifts to his children when they ask, and sometimes we have to go through hard times in order to receive them and fully appreciate them. Indeed, God works in mysterious ways, but he promises to bring good to those who love him and he never leaves us without instruction."

"Wow! I came to a different conclusion. I was thinking of all the people who die tragically and how few times I hear of them crying out to God or Jesus in that moment. Here is a victorious woman who probably loved God dearly. She was ushered in to Gods' presence because of Jesus death for her. It is much more tragic to be facing death and having no one to cry out to but yourself. We all die eventually. You should read "Foxes Book of Martyrs" and see the incredible miracles of people being burned alive and praising God until their body fell apart in the flames. God be with the friends, family and students as they say goodbye. I will remember this cry to Jesus, our only hope for forgiveness."

Shoulda prayed to Joe Pesci.  Woulda been just as useful.

"I must say that the "comment" smacks tasteless, unnecessary, and fundamentally inappropriate within the context of the dying moments of those individuals.  But then it is your prerogative to comment as you see fit.  That said, it would appear that your "comment" showed more desire for opportunistic expression and exploitation of a tragedy. Not enlightened humanism. It displayed a great unwillingness to consider that "sometimes" that which we cannot see or explain within our own selectively skewed purview (be that out of conviction, indoctrination, academic enrichment, ignorance or simple obstinance) can still ring true for some but not others. Human compassion and love were nowhere to be found.  An individual calls on the Lord and some earth bound observer always has to take issue with it from an "enlightened" "on high" perspective.  The death of an individual who cry's out for help does not disprove that the God of the Bible is "incapable" or "absent" or "insufficient." Nor does it technically prove anything "on face value." It is within the overarching intention and framework of scripture examined "within appropriate context," along with faith and belief as a result of personal experience that one comes to understand that there "just might be" something beyond the supposed self sufficiency of strict rationalism or blind denial.  Still others might come to an opposite conclusion.  And that's fine. Unfortunate, but fine.  I am a scientist, but from 'my experience' all is not "science," if you will, and science is not all."
Obviously some other 'christian' either had a stronger faith or prayed more fervently that they wouldn't be save. Concluding, prayers are in fact answered. 

And so on...

Tessa Schlesinger claims she was simply asking a legitimate question. Even if taken at her word, was this done in poor taste? Do you think Schlesinger accomplished anything positive in starting a discussion this way?

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There is almost always a moral component to every "accident". Once I accidentally hit a kid in the head with a brick. It was an accident, but I was a careless kid and he has a plate in his head.

If there is an all knowing, powerful god that takes interest in our daily lives and has the ability to intervene as most theists claim, then he must be a very cruel god.

Robert, can I ask, what were the consequences for you of knocking that kid in the head with a brick? 

I think that carelessness is immoral but not as morally serious as deliberate evil.  Perhaps it was enough that you may have been taught a lesson and learned not to be so careless. 

As far as God's intervention goes, I'm thinking more of assisting good:  but it would be interesting to analyse a large number of immoral acts and find out just what the consequences were in each case for the perpetrator.  Sadly, this is impossible, so it will have to remain conjecture.  Oh nooo....

Of course these days my family would have been sued, but back then it was the typical ass-kicking, 6 months of bedroom prison, and making me visit the kid in hospital to apologize. I did become more careful, still about a year later I shot another kid with a bb-gun and even though he was barely hurt, I got in big trouble again. We were a bit wild in the 60's with little supervision, running around like maniacs. Damm I miss that !

There you go.  You got punished and you learned.  No need for supernatural intervention in this case. 

I think it's attitudes as much as actions that get punished or rewarded.  You became more careful, you've got a good heart. 

What normal human would stand by and let three people roast in a burning gondola if they could do something easily within their power to intervene? What then of a god?

U, the god you ask about doesn't give a damn.

People die every day, that's the way the world goes and is supposed to go.  They fully understood the risk of what they were doing.  If we follow your argument, nobody would ever die. 

They could live a life free of painful death and die a natural death in their sleep and go join God in Heaven. Is dying in flames in a burning gondola some sort of last-ditch character building exercise.

It's just the natural course of nature.  They chose to go up there: they can take the consequences when it goes wrong just like we all have to when we do something risky.  I don't think it would make sense for God to prevent that.  I do believe it would make sense for Him to help us out when we are doing something charitable, since "God is love".  There's no accounting for idiots. 

"idiots"  - bless 'em.  I'm sorry for what happened to them all the same. 

I guess my uncle accidentally backing over his 3 year old daughter with his vehicle in their driveway was just "the natural course of nature." The callousness required by any being to allow that to happen is inconceivable. Neither my uncle or his daughter, who was killed BTW, did not make a conscious choice in the matter. If a being is unwilling or unable to make a difference in such an event then it is hardly worthy of worship.

Ed, my deepest sympathy goes to your uncle and your family.  This is the kind of awful random tragedy that could happen to any one of us at any time.  It's kind of like winning the Shit Lottery.  

I don't want to seem at all callous, but I am required to use this terrible event as an illustration in an intellectual argument.  

You raise a persuasive objection.  You're right, this is how life is.  What is God for, when this is what happens?  

At the same time, it doesn't prove or disprove a thing in (I'm ashamed to use it in this way) this abstract argument.  Maybe God didn't set up the universe to be all nicey-nice.  Frankly, our only hope is morality.  That's what can make or break the proceedings.  This is what Jesus was all about. 


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