To discover spiritual significance in natural disasters, we should ask: What does God want us to do for these suffering people? Obviously, God wants us to be compassionate, to be His hands reaching out to those who suffer. . . .

Just as important, we must create a society which protects the poor, black, aged and infirm. A disaster like Katrina calls us to create a biblically just society -- where the rights and needs of God's most needy children are as important as those with wealth and power.

-- Mary Curry Narayan, Vienna

The natural disasters that happened on the Gulf Coast have absolutely no religious or spiritual significance. I do, however, believe that these natural disasters in the last few years are caused by mankind's abuse of the earth's natural resources.

There is only so much that the earth can take before it "fights" back. Maybe if more people thought about what/how they consume and what/how they dispose of, then we wouldn't have to continue drawing from our natural resources at the rate we are. Maybe harvesting oil and other natural resources from the oceans is causing changes which bring about different weather patterns or causing earthquakes.

I think it is just nature's way of getting our attention.

-- Andrea Edelen, Camp Springs

I see a significance in storms such as the Indonesia tsunami, Katrina, Rita, etc. The spiritual significance is God wanting to get the attention of his people to come back to Him -- to repent. The Lord gave a promise/covenant in Genesis 9:12-17 not to destroy the world with rain again. Matthew 24:3-14, particularly 24:7, states, ". . . There will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places." These are signs of the end of time.

-- Sharon G. Atterbury, Silver Spring

God does not cause natural disasters. Instead, God works through natural disasters. God works through love when humans open their hearts to help disaster victims. We are God's hands; when we are moved by love to help others, there is God.

Through the devastation of the recent hurricane, which fell disproportionately upon the poor and people of color, God has shown us how we as a country have failed to live up to our ideals of opportunity for all. If, as a result of the hurricane, we recommit ourselves to those ideals, God would be working a miracle indeed.

-- Elizabeth F. Meyer, Silver Spring

Natural disasters have no divine source and have no spiritual meaning themselves. Yet there is a religious and spiritual answer we Ethical Society members can give to the cries of suffering and pain caused by them. Our Humanist faith is one of duty to our fellow human beings rather than to any divinity. We are called upon to help those who, through either natural events or human action, need our assistance and support.

The spiritual message of natural disasters should be . . . "Get off your knees and roll up your sleeves."

-- C. Martin Centner, Reston

Next month's question: Do you agree with the federal government's decision to reimburse religious organizations for the services they are providing to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita? Send your answer (100 words or less) to voices@washpost.com. Include a daytime phone number.

A cross teeters atop a church in New Orleans, where hurricanes caused severe damage last month.