Religions Try To Explain Tsunamis

vidura buddhist monk evening news jim stewart

If talking to God is as easy as lighting a candle, then the Lord has been mighty busy this week, because from every corner, in every language, mourners for the tsunami dead seem to be asking the same question: "Why, God?"

And, as CBS News Correspondent

, no one is getting the same answer.

In India, a leading Hindu priest explained that the disaster was caused by "huge pent-up man-made evil on earth" and the positions of the planets.

Israeli chief rabbi Shlomo Amar proclaimed, "The world is being punished for wrong-doing."

But Muslims, who lost more people than any other religion, have a different take.

"It has nothing to do with God punishing evil," says Imam Yahya Hendi, a Muslim chaplain. "Otherwise, why doesn't God punish evil in other places?"

CBS News went to a Buddhist temple and asked why.

The monk there explained that under his religion, the answer is, "just because."

"This is how nature works, it is like a cycle," says Vidura, a Buddhist monk. "From time to time these things happen. We never know where it happens."

It has happened before. In 1755 an earthquake set off fires that destroyed Lisbon and then tsunamis that drowned most survivors. When the rest cried out, "Why, God?" priests roamed the streets hanging whomever they felt had incurred the Lord's wrath.

Episcopal bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington believes to even ask, "Why?" implies God is handpicking the victims.

"I don't see God as a puppeteer," says Rev. John Bryson Chane, an Episcopalian bishop. "God doesn't pull strings and God doesn't choose who's going to live and who's going to die."

So therefore, the Lord is surely present among those who deliver comfort to the survivors, Chane argues, but is in no way responsible for what happened.

"When plates shift on this planet, plates shift on this planet, and that's a geologic statement," says Chane. "That's not a theological statement.

"Stuff happens. Stuff happens."

Only how do you explain that to the parent of a dead child, 10,000 times over.