Natural disasters as divine retribution

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Natural disasters have been described as divine retribution by some religious leaders, especially fundamentalists of varying theological orientations. Such claims are always controversial since they carry the implication of victim blaming.[1]

Hurricane Katrina[edit]

Various Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders claimed that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment on America, New Orleans or the world for any of a variety of alleged sins, including abortion, sexual immorality (including the gay pride event Southern Decadence), the policies of the "American Empire", failure to support Israel, and failure of black people to study the Torah.[2][3][4]

2007 UK flooding[edit]

The 2007 UK floods were claimed by the Right Rev. Graham Dow to be God's punishment against homosexuals.[5]

2010 Haiti earthquake[edit]

Televangelist Pat Robertson stirred up controversy after claiming that the 2010 Haiti earthquake may have been God's belated punishment on Haitians for allegedly having made a "pact with the Devil" to overthrow the French during the Haitian Revolution.[6] Yehuda Levin, a Jewish religious leader, linked the earthquake to gays in the military via an alleged Talmudic teaching that homosexuality causes earthquakes.[7]

2011 Virginia earthquake[edit]

Levin posted a video onto YouTube the same day as the earthquake in which he said, "The Talmud states, "You have shaken your male member in a place where it doesn’t belong. I too, will shake the Earth." He said that homosexuals shouldn't take it personally: "We don’t hate homosexuals. I feel bad for homosexuals. It’s a revolt against God and literally, there’s hell to pay."[7]

2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami[edit]

Third-wave charismatic preacher Cindy Jacobs, of the Generals International ministry, linked the 2011 earthquake in Japan to the United States' Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy regarding gays in the military, quoting the non-canonical Book of Josiah to support her claim. Jacobs has links to C. Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation.[7][8]

Hurricane Isaac[edit]

Chaplain John McTernan said that Hurricane Isaac, like Hurricane Katrina, was God's punishment on homosexuals.[5] Buster Wilson of the American Family Association concurred that statement.[7]

Hurricane Sandy[edit]

McTernan also said that Hurricane Sandy may have been God's punishment against homosexuals. In addition, WorldNetDaily columnist William Koenig, along with McTernan himself, suggested that American support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led to the hurricane.[7]


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has criticized religious leaders who always blame the victims of natural disasters for their own plight, writing that "For many of the faithful, the closer they come to G-d, the more they become enemies of man." He contrasts the Jewish tradition, which affords a special place to "arguing with God", with an approach to religion that "taught people not to challenge, but to submit. Not to question, but to obey. Not how to stand erect, but to be stooped and bent in the broken posture of the meek and pious".[1]

Likewise, a Jesuit priest, Fr. James Martin, wrote on Twitter in response to Hurricane Sandy that "If any religious leaders say tomorrow that the hurricane is God's punishment against some group they're idiots. God's ways are not our ways."[9]

See also[edit]