|Thanks for the essay. It was timely. One aspect of this is that religious people generally believe in an afterlife. (Some Christians say that you have to be born again to enjoy that, otherwise when you die, you are just plain dead, as in dead.) Believing in an afterlife, these religionists put a lot of misery -- including the stuff they cause -- into a convenient context.
I do not expect that many people will change their minds. Events like this are pretty much understood in terms of existing conceptual frameworks. As traumatic as this was, it was just another disaster.
I note Adam Reed's "Youngest Objectivist Hero." A story on CNN told of "sea gypsies" who understood and got another village -- their own, actually, I think; the sea is a part-time living -- to move uphill in time. On the other hand, my wife downloaded some pictures of people watching it come right at them while they photographed it. It kept coming... and coming... and finally, they ran. If I remember correctly, in the first Godzilla movie, didn't the fisherman see the wake in the water and beat the gong with a timber? They all ran uphill, thinking it was a tsunami.
So, this one -- as devastating as it was -- was not really bolt out of the blue, so to speak. As for "bolts out of the blue" I know one place where that happens. When I was living in Brevard County, Florida, there would be these lightening strikes with no clouds, usually taking out a local power substation. Huges masses of air move in from the ocean and they build and carry huge charges. So, a bolt out of the blue can be an expected event. As for lightening, the Atomic Science Museum at Oakridge, Tennessee, sells wooden umbrellas. Their theory is that getting hit by lightening is not an accident: it comes from ignorance. So, they sell non-conducting umbrellas.
These disasters bring people closer together. Charity and faith are stronger. Seldom does anyone get the idea that every place on Earth is subject to natural events that are "catastrophic" to humans. Certainly, no one stops inhabiting these places. People in Kansas live in tornado alley and you don't find them moving away... or questioning the existence of God. Sometimes, The Cato Institute or the Foundation for Economic Education will publish an essay saying that natural disasters are expectable events and no one owes anyone else anything for being dumb enough to get caught in one.
Sometimes. random events kill people. Then new agers explain why "bad things happen to good people." I believe that the rational response is to grieve if you lost someone and otherwise just to continue with your own life.