Thursday, July 22, 2010

An act of God?......sez who?

It is pretty much of in our human nature to claim credit for the good things that happen and blame God for all the bad stuff. Take the recent flood for example. The flood mitigation efforts are all credits and kudos to PUB, but when floods occur, it's an "act of God", no less.

It kinda made me wonder where this expression came from. Actus Dei. Not much help from my fav source of knowledge, Wikipedia. Phrase Finder tells us that it originated from religious texts dating back to the 13thC CE. Not a particularly enlightened period of european history. It apparently began to appear in legal documents in the 19thC.

I would actually prefer the other phase "vis majeur" refering to a "superior force of such a degree that no effective resistance can be made to it". No need to blame God. Our own stupidity, ignorance, incompetence or negligence can also be that superior force.

On another note, I was also wondering what that term meant to atheists, who clearly do not believe in God. Actus Dei? Or actus non-humanus....., or simply, 'whatever it is, don't blame me'.


angry doc said...

Wouldn't the term "natural disaster" do the job?

gigamole said...

Clearly it can....but people often appear to need a stronger absolution. Actus Dei would fit the bill.