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Is God to Blame for Weather that Kills People?

god in control of the weather

Is God to blame for weather that kills people? If you are a Christian and you believe the Bible is truth then the answer to this question is an emphatic YES. People killed by tornadoes? God’s doing. The people killed by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy? God’s doing. Mudslides, floods, tsunamis, lightning, thunderstorms, blizzards, ice storms . . . all of these come from the hand of God, and he is ultimately responsible for any death or injury caused by these weather events.

The Bible is clear:

  • And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. Exodus 10:19
  • And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. Numbers 11:31
  • For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: Job 28:24-26
  • But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Jonah 1:4
  • But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.  Jonah 4:7-8
  • He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.  Psalm 78:26
  • These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.  Psalm 107:24-25
  • He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. Psalm 135:7
  • And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! Matthew 8:25-27
  • Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Exodus 9:18
  • And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. Exodus 9:22
  • Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. Isaiah 29:6
  • And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.Genesis 6:17
  • Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers. The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Psalm 74:16
  • For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-6
  • For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. Genesis 7:4
  • And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Deuteronomy 11:13-15
  • That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45
  • For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.  Job 37:6

If you are a Bible-believing, born-again, Jesus-loving Christian, there’s no doubt about who’s in control of the weather. The Bible makes it clear that God is the divine weatherman. If God controls the weather, then HE is responsible for the devastation and death that come when bad weather comes our way.

Not happenstance.

Not Mother Nature.

God.

Not any God, the Christian God.

Dear Christian friend, the next time you are bitching about the weather please turn your bitching towards your God. He’s the one to blame.

Several years ago, a Christian commenter left this gem:

The thing is you want a God in your own image. You are justifying yourself and bringing him down to a human level. Complain, mock all you want. Like a crybaby. He is God and is right and as God can make the rules, not you. He is truth, whether you like it or not. The creator has the right to impose what he deems correct on His creation according to His standards. I am sorry for whatever has brought you to the point that you have set yourself against Him so, but it is just pitiful that in the end you are going to find out that the reason He does what he does is for your good and final happiness also, not because He is a tyrant like you think. But you will have missed out, because all you think of is “poor me.”

According to the Bible, this commenter is correct. Basically, God is God and he can do whatever he wants to do. How dare any pimple-on-the-ass-of-God human beings say anything about what God does. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 9, shut the fuck up

Every day, somewhere in the world, the Christian God is using his control of the weather to bring devastation and death.

Who are we to complain?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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How Many Prayers Does it Take to Stop a Hurricane?

hurricane irma prayer 4

Evangelicals fall into three camps when it comes to the recent spate of hurricanes, tropical storms, and flooding. One camp says these weather events are retribution from God over homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, or _________________ (fill in blank with latest “sin” Evangelicals are offended by). The second camp sees these events as tests of their faith; that God is ready and willing to perform miraculous works if they will but storm the throne room of Heaven with their prayers. A smattering of Evangelicals, deeply immersed in the teachings of John Calvin, believe that God is the divine weatherman; that recent weather events are manufactured and controlled by God — according to his sovereign — often secret —  purpose and plan. I recently wrote a post on this third camp titled, Hurricane Harvey: Where is God When the Flood Waters Rise?.

Today, I want to write about the second camp: Evangelicals who see hurricanes, flooding, and other cataclysmic events as tests of their faith; that God desires to hear and answer their prayers, if and when enough Christians, in one accord, pray for him to come to their rescue. Presently, social media is flooded with hurricane levels of praying. Some of these praying Evangelicals believe that since Hurricane Irma was not as bad as weathermen thought it would be, this is proof that God heard and answered their prayers.

Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, recently wrote a post titled These People Think Their Prayers Had an Impact on Hurricane Irma. Hemant shared social media screen shots to illustrate his post:

hurricane irma prayer 5 hurricane irma prayer 6 hurricane irma prayer 7 hurricane irma prayer 7 hurricane irma prayer 9 hurricane irma prayer hurricane irma prayer 2 hurricane irma prayer 3

These Christians, along with countless other praying believers, think that their prayers reached a certain numerical threshold upon which God answered their prayers; that if they will only keep praying and encourage other people to pray, the sheer number of their prayers will reach the “stop hurricane in its tracks” level. Evidently, God is a busy man. If Christians want him to stop what he is doing and answer their prayers, there better be a lot of praying going on. This is the Evangelical version of the government petition website established by President Barack Obama. If a petition reached a signature threshold, the government would respond to the petition. So it is with God and prayers.

The number of prayers required for God to answer must be quite high. I am certain that tens of millions of devout, Jesus-loving, church-going, sin-hating Evangelicals prayed for God to turn aside hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Based on damage reports coming out of Texas, it is evident that Evangelicals must not have prayed enough prayers for God to stop his vacation early and deliver Houstonians and other Texans from Harvey’s murderous rampage. However, according to the aforementioned praying Christians, the “you are a winner” level was met and God reduced Irma from a category 5 storm to a category 2. Evidently, not enough Christians prayed, so God refused to stop Irma in her tracks. God did — thanks to his tender mercies, love, and kindness —  however, turn down the wind, lessening the carnage wrought upon Florida. Or so Christians say, anyway.

A friend of mine on Facebook by the name of Bonnie has several Christian friends who resolutely and infallibly believe that the prayers of God’s chosen ones led to a better storm outcome in Florida than in Texas. Trying to point out the absurdity of their comments falls on deaf ears. No amount of skepticism, reason, and science moves them. These prayer warriors know what they know, and facts will not move them off the notion that prayer can and does change things. They are certain that God not only listens to their prayers, but he also, when so inclined, answers them.

I learned long ago that people who believe in supernatural magic — a God-man who lives in heaven and is capable of hearing millions of prayers at the same time, will, on rare occasions answer Christian prayers — cannot be reached with reason, facts, and logic. Convinced that they can manipulate the material world though uttering words to the ceiling or saying silent words in their minds, these worshipers of the one true God are impervious to arguments and data that challenge their worldview. These believers in the prayer-answering God will continue to pray because it is the only way they can make sense of the world. They want to and must believe that their lives have meaning and purpose; that the Christian God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives; that this God is their Father and he is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Using the recent carnage in Texas and Florida as a focal point, ask yourselves, is God acting like a loving, caring Father? Is God acting in ways that would lead people to think that he is your BFF? Some readers might ask, How can we know what God can and can’t do or what God did or didn’t do during the recent weather events? This question, from an Evangelical perspective, is quite easy to answer. God is the Creator, the first-cause of EVERYTHING. The Christian God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He is the sovereign Lord over the heavens and the earth. Nothing happens that is not according to his divine purpose and plan. Whether he actively decrees things or passively allows them to happen, God is in full control of what happens. He has the absolute power to stop or change events such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If people are maimed and killed, it is because God commanded it or allowed it to happen. The thoughts and ways of this God — Jesus is his name — are above ours, and as the Apostle Paul stated in the book of Romans, we are not to question what he does or doesn’t do. In other words, God is always right, regardless whether a hurricane kills zero people or three thousand. Simply put, God is God, shut the hell up.

I am grateful that Irma turned out not to be as deadly and destructive as it could have been. The weather is an unpredictable beast. Weathermen trained in meteorological science and predictive methodology do what they can to warn us when bad weather is headed our way. Sometimes, they miss the mark; other times they are spot on. Either way, prudent people pay attention to weather reports. I am always amused at Evangelical hypocrisy when it comes to “trusting” God during severe weather events. If God is as caring and powerful as Christians say he is, then why don’t praying believers hunker down and pray out the storm? Surely the God who promised to never leave or forsake Christians would be right there with them as the winds blow and the flood water rise. While a handful of Evangelicals will foolishly put their God to the test, most of them wisely and prudently flee to safer and higher ground. Their behavior in times of calamity reveals that Evangelicals talk and pray a good line, but when push comes to hurricane, they will do all they can to keep from being killed. When forced to ride out severe weather, many Christians will make sure their pantries are stocked, water bottles are filled, and that they have the necessary supplies to successfully weather whatever comes their way. Again, why not trust God to meet their every need — as Elijah did at Brook Cherith when God sent ravens daily to bring the prophet bread and meat (I Kings 17)?

Try as they might to paint themselves as benighted beings who live on some sort of supernatural plane of existence, Christians are, in every way, quite human. Much like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines they condemn and deem sinful vermin, Evangelicals like houses, lands, and property, love their families, and they want, to quote the venerable Spock, to Live Long and Prosper. Doing so requires, not prayer, but human decision and action. Nothing fails like prayer, and all the anecdotal stories in the world won’t change this fact. Prayers might provide comfort to those inclined to believe that God exists, but I suspect, for many Christians, praying is an exercise they know is futile and changes nothing. They pray because the Bible commands them to and their upbringing demands it, but deep down they doubt the value and efficacy of praying.

Rick Stedman Gives God All the Credit for Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

rick stedman

Rick Stedman, an Evangelical pastor, recently wrote an article for Fox News that asked the question, Where is God in the Terrible Tragedy in Houston? I tackled the same question last week in a post titled, Hurricane Harvey: Where is God When the Flood Waters Rise? I concluded that not only did God — if the Bible is indeed true — send Hurricane Harvey, he is directly and completely responsible for all the death and destruction. If God is, as the Bible says he is, the divine weatherman, then he alone is responsible for what we humans call “acts of mother nature” or “acts of God.” In the aftermath of Harvey, humanity at its best was on its display as strangers helped and rescued strangers. Over the coming months, humans will continue to help Houston and coastal Texas recover from the devastating rains and flooding.

Stedman sees “God” in the rescue and recovery activities. Since we are all created in the image of the Christian God, Stedman theologically theorizes, this means it is God doing all the rescue and recovery work we see currently going on in Texas. Stedman writes:

When hurricanes like Harvey devastate so many lives, where is God?

That’s a really good question—one which I’ve heard whenever a hurricane, tornado, or tsunami wreaks havoc—and it deserves an honest, though maybe surprising answer.

It’s been said that tragedies bring out the best in people, and that certainly is the case in Houston. In addition—and here is my answer to the question posed above—tragedies bring out the imago in people, the biblical claim that humans are created in the image of God.

We’ve all seen the stirring TV images of people helping others in Houston. What some fail to see is the reflections of God’s own character in these moving images.

Compassionate volunteers helped nursing home patients flee before the rising waters inundated their residences. Did the volunteers always act this compassionately in the past? Or did the enormity of the crisis bring their true design, based on God’s love, to the surface?

In moments of crisis, Stedman asserts, God bubbles up to the top of our lives, leading us to act compassionately towards those who are suffering. Stedman, of course, has no evidence for his claim other than he believes it and the Bible says so.

I propose we put Stedman’s assertion to the test, say later this week when Hurricane Irma blows through Florida. Instead of humans opening up their checkbooks and making donations, gathering needed supplies, or traveling to Florida to aid rescue efforts, we should do nothing. Let’s let go and Let God. Let’s allow the Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Sovereign ruler of All, and the Savior of humankind, take care of Florida. Instead of opening up our hearts to Florida, let’s stay home and busy ourselves with watching college and professional football. Surely God, who balances the universe on his index finger and knows how many hairs are on seven billion heads, can alleviate the suffering and meet the needs of Floridians. You Go, God, I say. Does anyone doubt that Floridians would suffer greatly if everyone who could help didn’t and stayed home?

I don’t doubt for a moment that many of the people who help in time of human need, do so out of religious motivations. That said, their doing so doesn’t mean that the Christian God exists. Humans are capable of doing all sorts of things out of motivations that are untrue. I readily admit that millions of Americans find great value, help, and hope through believing in the existence of God. The same could be said of most of the world’s religions. However, this in no way proves the existence of God. Surely, Bruce, you don’t believe millions upon millions of people act benevolently out of belief in a lie? Yes, I do. History is replete with examples of humans being motivated to do good (and bad) things because of their commitments to religious, political, and secular ideologies. The Mormon Church, for example, is considered by most Evangelicals to be a cult. Yet, fifteen million Mormons worship a God that Evangelicals say is a fiction. Evangelicals say the same the about all other Gods but theirs. This means that non-Evangelicals who act benevolently in times of need and crisis are doing so out devotion to false Gods.

Stedman spends a few moments taking a cheap shot at atheists. Stedman writes:

Think about it: if atheistic materialism is true, don’t you think we would have become used to death in 3+ billion years of life on planet Earth? Wouldn’t we have settled the case that human deaths are par for the course and shouldn’t trouble us more than the death of a plant or pet?

Stedman is evidently ignorant of the fact that thinking, reasoning homo sapiens have been around for less than 500,000 years. As far as getting used to death, while most atheists may be quite stoic and matter-of-fact about the natural process called death, we certainly haven’t gotten used to it, and neither have Christians. No one likes facing the prospect of death, of losing people they dearly love. Christians try to placate their feelings by believing in the afterlife and heaven — a time and place when God’s faithful will be rewarded with an eternity of prostrating themselves in worship before God. Christians deal with death by resting on the promise of Heaven. Jesus — putting his carpenter skills to use while waiting for his Father to tell him it is time for the rapture — is busy building rooms in the Trump Tower of Heaven® for every person who has the right beliefs. While death causes sadness for Evangelicals, they know — or so they think, anyway — that in the not too distant future their room will be ready and they will be reunited with Christian loved ones who have gone on to Heaven before them. (This thinking, by the way, is a gross distortion of orthodox/historic Christian theology concerning death and resurrection.) Death, then, becomes somethings that must be endured, with a divine payoff awaiting beyond the veil.

hurricane harvey

Atheists, of course, do not believe such nonsense. Ever the realists, atheists know, based on the evidence at hand, that humans only get one stab at this thing called life. There is no afterlife, no second chances, no heaven or hell. When death comes knocking at our doors, that is the end for us. All that matters, then, is this present life. Unlike many Christians who devalue the present in hope of finding great reward beyond the grave, atheists embrace life with gusto, knowing that dead people — Jesus included — don’t come back to live. Every homo sapien who has ever walked upon the face of planet of earth has died, or will die in the future. Cemeteries are poignant reminders of the permanence of death. Living in denial of these facts doesn’t change them. Death will, one day, likely sooner than later, come calling for each and every one of us. Knowing this, how then should we live? If we care about our parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, extended family, friends, and neighbors, how should we respond when the Hurricane Harveys of life come our/their way causing heartache and destruction? Why, we act and do what we can help others. Why? Because we love them and desire a better life for those who are important to us. We can extend this farther to people we don’t know. Surely, atheists and Christians alike want to see suffering alleviated and wrecked neighborhoods returned to wholeness. Must we believe in God to care?

Stedman admits that it “appears” that God is nowhere to be found as we survey the havoc wreaked on Texas by Hurricane Harvey. However, according to Stedman, appearances can be deceiving:

God is not absent but is very, very subtle. He hides himself in plain sight, but can be found when we learn how to decipher the clues that point toward his presence. And the clues are abundant right now in Houston.

In other words, God is playing a game of hide and seek. We can’t find him, but, Stedman assures us, God is here, there, and everywhere. Stedman sounds like man who is tripping on LSD. He is seeing pink elephants where there are none. Stedman needs to see God lest his absence invalidates his theological beliefs and renders moot his assertion that God is alive and present in our day-to-day lives.

As an atheist, I believe in giving credit to whom credit is due. When God shows up and does the work, I will gladly give him the credit. Until then, I plan to continue to praising and thanking my fellow human beings for the good they do. They alone deserve my praise and thanks.

The next time Stedman talks with his God, perhaps he can ask him WHY he sent Hurricane Harvey to start with? Explain to inquiring minds, Pastor, why your God caused so much suffering, devastation, and death. Did he do what he did so Christians would look good or have something to do besides watching football? If the Christian God is the compassionate, caring deity Stedman says he is, why doesn’t the Big Man Upstairs make sure the weather everywhere is as sunny and delightful as San Diego? From my seat in the atheist pew, it is hard for me to see a loving, caring, compassionate God at work in his creation. If I were God, I certainly wouldn’t have sent a Hurricane Harvey to Texas just so I could give them a test. In my mind, those who could alleviate suffering and don’t are the worst of people (and gods). The good news is that most Christians are far better people than their God. And hand in hand with atheists, agnostics, and people who worship other deities, Christians can help to make the world better for all who will come after us.