Freethought Today · October 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Who’s to blame for natural disasters? By PJ Slinger

By PJ Slinger

Forget climate change. Forget poor civic planning.

You wanna know what really caused Hurricane Harvey to devastate Houston? Or Hurricane Irma to upend Florida? Yeah, it was God. An angry God.

But the real blame lies elsewhere, of course.

According to many on the Religious Right, God is upset with abortion and/or the LGBTQ community in this country. Therefore, he took out his vengeance on Houston and southern Florida (for whatever reasons, but certainly none having to do with the fact that they are coastal areas prone to flooding after a major storm).

For those religious conservatives who think that God is upset with the gays and abortion, do they truly believe that if our country would somehow stop all abortions and magically end homosexuality, these horrific storms would cease to occur in the United States?

Believers were quiet

In the immediate aftermath of Harvey, which caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and the deaths of at least 60 people in the Houston area, the zealots were surprisingly quiet. Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service even wrote a column about it.

She wrote that Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, said "the reaction from the usual finger-waggers 'is different this time around.'"
Why was that?

"One theory is that Texas, with a few exceptions like the famously liberal Austin, is a Religious Right stronghold," Winston wrote. "Gov. Greg Abbott is very popular with conservative Christians, so perhaps they are less willing to suggest God is unhappy with him. Another theory is that Christian conservatives don't want to suggest Houston deserves divine retribution.

In 2015, city voters soundly struck down an anti-discrimination bathroom law with support from many conservative Christian groups and leaders."

In her article, Winston also listed several other storms that were apparently God's wrath.

"Usually, their logic revolves around LGBT themes — Buster Wilson of the American Family Association claimed God sent Hurricane Isaac to stop an annual LGBT festival; the Rev. Franklin Graham blamed Hurricane Katrina on 'orgies'; and Catholic priest Gerhard Wagner called Katrina 'divine retribution' for New Orleans' tolerance of homosexuality," Winston wrote.

And here it comes

Her column was rendered moot shortly thereafter, however.

"I think that the entire state of Texas and the entire United States of America needs to take note of this, and realize that there is a God in heaven," pastor Kevin Swanson said on his radio show. "He brings his judgments and he calls nations to repentance, as he is doing right now."

Swanson said Harvey was, among other things, punishment for Texas failing to pass its "bathroom bill," which would have restricted transgender people's access to public restrooms.
"Unless you repent, you will likewise perish," Swanson continued. "And repairing your houses in Houston after a hurricane is useless if you're just going to go to hell."
Ah. There it is.

And then there's Christian radio host Rick Wiles. He blamed the hurricane on Houston's "affinity for the sexual perversion movement."

"This is a proud city that, in recent years, has boasted of its allegiance, its dedication, its devotion to the homosexual/lesbian agenda," Wiles said on his TruNews radio program.

And Dave Daubenmire, the former Ohio high school football coach who was given the title "America's Most Christian Football Coach" by Forbes magazine, blamed Harvey on the former lesbian mayor of Houston — and abortion. (Annise Danette Parker was mayor of Houston for six years, starting in 2010.)

"How's it working out for them right now?" Daubenmire asked of Houston residents. "Here's a city that has boasted of its LGBT devotion, it's affinity for the sexual perversion movement in America. They're underwater."

But he wasn't done.

"Isn't it amazing? Katrina slammed New Orleans — we know about voodoo and the darkness in New Orleans," he said. "Then it moved right down the coast to Houston, Texas . . . Boom, here it comes, now it's underwater. Water is a sign of judgment and cleansing. Is now not the time for the voice of the church to rise up and declare, 'Let's stop killing the babies!'"

Regarding Hurricane Harvey, televangelist Jim Bakker declared "This flood is from God," punishment for the former mayor of Houston attempting to subpoena ministers' sermons. Pastor Rick Joyner, who joined Bakker on his show, agreed that these huge storms don't "happen by accident."

What about other 'sins'?

So how come it's always the LGBTQ community or abortion that's at fault? God doesn't seem to care about many other "sins" when it comes to his major natural disasters. You don't hear of people claiming that a deadly tornado was because God was mad at people for stealing.

God isn't very discerning in his ability to mete out punishment, either. You'd think an omnipotent being might be able to better pick and choose who suffers though his weather catastrophes.

We're all familiar with the biblical flood story, where God killed nearly every animal and human on Earth, so yes, he's being a bit more choosy here. But still, he's killing the anti-choicers along with the pro-choicers. He's flooding the homes of evangelical straight white men along with lesbians and gays and the transgendered.

And, finally, these people who claim to speak as if they know God's mind clearly aren't afraid of the hypocrisy inherent in their proclamations. After all, the true believers' ultimate answer to anything is, "God works in mysterious ways."

Instead of saying that hurricanes Harvey and Irma were those unknowable mysteries, they claim to know exactly what God was thinking. But if a child from a religious family is stricken with cancer and dies, they fall back on the "mysterious ways" answer.

Apparently it's only mysterious if you can't blame abortion or the LGBTQ community.

PJ Slinger is the editor of Freethought Today and a Lifetime Member of FFRF.

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