The Divine And Profane As Hurricane Factors

Assorted public officials still suffer popular scorn for their action (or inaction) in response to Hurricane Katrina, but God seems to be off the hook. In an ABC News/Washington Post survey, just 23 percent of adults said they regard the recent hurricanes as “a deliberate act of God.” The chart below indicates how a number of population segments feel about the matter. The age breakdown is particularly intriguing, given that young adults are less likely than their elders to attend religious services or otherwise pay attention to a deity. Maybe they’re simply less inclined than older Americans to see God as a nice guy. Among respondents who do view the hurricanes as a deliberate act of God, “just 8 percent see it as a punishment. About half instead see it as a warning sign, just over a quarter say it’s for a reason we cannot understand and 14 percent say it’s a test of faith.” If God isn’t to blame for the hurricanes, how about global warming? The collective response on that topic was surprisingly nuanced. A majority of the respondents are convinced—23 percent “completely” and 33 percent “mostly”—that global warming is taking place. (Twenty-two percent are “not so convinced,” 17 percent “not at all convinced.”) But significantly fewer (39 percent) believe the recent hurricanes are a result of this phenomenon; 54 percent think they’re “just the kind of severe weather events that happen from time to time.” Still, 41 percent see global warming as “an urgent problem that requires immediate government action,” while 47 percent think it’s “a longer-term problem that requires more study before government action is taken.”