The role of religion in shaping responses to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions: a comparison between Southern Italy and the Azores, Portugal
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AbstractIn contrast to the situation only a few years ago, the case for religion being accepted as a vital element in the cultural responses to disasters has been largely accepted by both academic writers and international agencies, such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Religions are far more varied in their approaches to natural catastrophes than is frequently recognised or acknowledged by academic writers who are trained and socialised within a 'western' post-Enlightenment tradition. In this paper we seek to demonstrate how detailed religious responses to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions vary even between two societies, southern Italy and the Azores, which are broadly similar in terms of their southern European Catholic religiosity. In southern Italy, popular Catholicism has conflated two approaches to theodicy: the retributive and the Augustinianism (i.e. free-will). Divine wrath may be propitiated through piety and Christian action, which includes worship, repentance, changed conduct and is often associated with well-choreographed ritualistic actions, some of the latter being far removed from Catholic orthodoxy. Such reactions to disaster are not confined to the past but remain strongly embedded in present-day practice. In the Azores a combination of: a history of a better educated and more enlightened church leadership; greater emphasis on praxis following disasters; the growth of the distinctive, egalitarian and pastorally focused Cult do Esparto Santo (i.e. Cult of the Holy Spirit) and the spread of alternative models of theodicy through educational outreach, has produced a strongly contrasting religious response. We conclude that, in the case of the Azores the religious milieu favours active collaboration between the Catholic faith community and the Civil Defence authorities in the aftermath of disasters, whereas this is not the case in southern Italy, although there are some recent signs of change.
Chester, David K. and Duncan, Angus M. and Coutinho, Rui and Wallenstein, N (2017) The role of religion in shaping responses to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions: a comparison between Southern Italy and the Azores, Portugal. Philosophy, Theology and the Sciences. ISSN 2195-9773 (Accepted for Publication)