Do "Unnatural" Acts Cause Natural Disasters?
By Janis Walworth, July 16, 1998
Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, recently warned Orlando, Florida,
that it was courting natural disaster by allowing gay pride flags to be flown along its
"A condition like this will bring about ... earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a
meteor," Robertson said.
Apparently he was referring to his belief that the presence of openly gay people incurs
divine wrath and that God acts through geological and meteorological events to destroy
municipalities that permit gay people the same civil liberties as others. (Robertson also
warned Orlando about terrorist bombs, suggesting the possibility that God may also employ
Before Pat and his Christian cronies get too carried away promulgating the idea that
natural disasters are prompted by people who displease God, they should take a hard look
at the data.
Take tornadoes. Every state (except Alaska) has them some only one or two a
year, dozens in others.
Gay people are in every state (even Alaska). According to Pats hypothesis, there
should be more gay people in states that have more tornadoes. But are there? Nope. In
fact, theres no correlation at all between the number of gay folks (as estimated by
the number of gay political organizations, support groups, bookstores, radio programs, and
circuit parties) and the annual tornado count parties) =3D .04, p =3D .78 for you
So much for the "God hates gays" theory.
God seems almost neutral on the subject of sexual orientation. I say "almost"
because if we look at the density of gay groups relative to the population as a whole,
there is a small but statistically significant (p .05) correlation with the occurrence of
tornadoes. And its a negative correlation a =3D -.28).
For those of you who havent used statistics since 1973, that means that a high
concentration of gay organizations actually protects against tornadoes. A state with the
population of, say, Alabama could avert two tornadoes a year merely by doubling the number
of gay organizations in the state. (Tough choice for Alabamas civil defense
Although God may not care about sexual orientation, the same cannot be said for
religious affiliation. If the underlying tenet of Pats postulate is true that
God wipes out offensive folks via natural disaster then perhaps we can find some
evidence of whos on Gods hit list.
Jews are off the hook here: theres no correlation between numbers of Jews and
frequency of tornadoes. Ditto for Catholics. But when it comes to Protestants,
theres a highly significant correlation of .71.
This means that fully half the state-to-state variation in tornado frequency can be
accounted for by the presence of Protestants. And the chance that this association is
merely coincidental is only one in 10,000.
Protestants, of course, come in many flavors we were able to find statistics for
Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Others. Lutherans dont seem to be a problem
no correlation with tornadoes. Theres a modest correlation correlation =3D
.52, p =3D .0001) between Methodists and tornadoes.
But Baptists and Others share the prize: both groups show a definite correlation with
tornado frequency correlation =3D .68, p =3D .0001). This means that Texas could cut its
average of 139 tornadoes per year in half by sending a few hundred thousand Baptists
elsewhere (Alaska maybe?).
What, you are probably asking yourself, about gay Protestants? An examination of the
numbers of gay religious groups (mostly Protestant) reveals no significant relationship
with tornadoes. Perhaps even Protestants are less repugnant to God if theyre gay.
And that brings up another point the futility of trying to save the world by
getting gay people to accept Jesus. It looks from our numbers as if the frequency of
natural disasters might be more effectively reduced by encouraging Protestants to be gay.
Gay people have been falsely blamed for disasters ever since Sodom was destroyed by
fire and brimstone. (We have been unable to find any statistics on disasters involving
brimstone). According to a reliable source, the destruction of Sodom was indeed an act of
God. (see Genesis 19:13) Its destruction was perpetrated because the citizens thereof
were, according to the same source (see Ezekiel 16:49-50) "arrogant, overfed and
unconcerned [and] did not help the poor and needy"not because they were gay.
Now Pat would have us believe that gays are the cause of tornadoes (as well as
earthquakes, meteors, and even terrorist bombs), in utter disregard for evidence showing
that Baptists are much more likely to cause them.
I say "Kudos!" to Orlando. Despite Robertsons warning that Orlando is
"right in the way of some serious hurricanes" (hardly a revelation), note that
it was not struck by the very destructive Hurricane Andrew a few years ago. And amid the
recent conflagrations (thats fires) in central Florida, which occurred just after
Pat sounded his alarm, Orlando was spared. [Later note: Hurricane Floyd, predicted to be
aimed directly at Orlando, closing Disney World, instead hit Baptist-infested North
Carolina.] Keep those flags waving!
As any statistician will tell you, of course, correlation doesnt prove causation.
Protestants causing tornadoes by angering God isnt the only explanation for these
data. It could be that Baptists and other Protestants purposely flock to states that have
lots of tornadoes (no, we havent checked for a correlation between IQ and religious
But if Pat and his Christian crew insist that natural disasters are brought on by
people who offend God, let the data show who those people are.
Sources: Tornado Occurrence by State, 1962-1991 1990 Churches and Church
Membership; Population by State, 1990 US Census; Gay & Lesbian Political
Organizations, Support Groups, and Religious Groups from Gayellow Pages, National Edition,
Permission is given to all to reprint this article in its entirety on a
[Home] [News] [Wackos]