40% of Americans Think Weather Caused by ‘End Times’

Here’s a perfect illustration of how the influence of religion can distort public policy and foster utter irrationality. A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that almost 40% of Americans believe that extreme weather events are a sign of the “end times” rather than having a natural cause.

Most Catholics (60 percent) and white non-evangelical Protestants (65 percent) say they believe disasters like hurricanes and floods are the result of climate change.

But nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of white evangelical Protestants say they think the storms are evidence of the “end times” as predicted by the Bible.

Overall, 36 percent point to end times and 63 percent to climate change.

There are several ways that Christian fundamentalists use such arguments to fight against taking any action to fix the problem. We’ve had members of Congress make the astonishingly idiotic claim that global warming can’t be real because God is in charge of the weather and he’s promised not to destroy the world again (which is both irrelevant and irrational. And if severe weather is really just a sign of the end times, then there’s nothing we can do to stop it anyway. Such beliefs aren’t just wrong, they’re dangerous.

60 comments on this post.
  1. peterh:

    Ignorance can be corrected, but stupidity can’t be fixed.

  2. Larry:

    40% of Americans are morons.

  3. slc1:

    I’m sure that Sir Lancelot will be along to inform us that climate change is no big deal, even if it is occurring.

  4. Marcus Ranum:

    What does the 47% think?

  5. Doug Little:

    A case of in for a penny, in for a pound?

  6. Bronze Dog:

    The end times sure make for a useful catch-all excuse to maintain the status quo.

  7. machintelligence:

    “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens,” which means “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”

    Friedrich Schiller
    It sounds best in German.

  8. John Pieret:

    … nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of white evangelical Protestants say they think the storms are evidence of the “end times” as predicted by the Bible.

    Well, the Bible never said anything about it, but I think that this may actually signal the “end times” for the United States. Can any nation survive as something more than a Third World basket case when 36% of its population are delusional idiots?

  9. mudpuddles:

    the storms are evidence of the “end times” as predicted by the Bible

    global warming can’t be real because God is in charge of the weather and he’s promised not to destroy the world again

    Don’t you just adore it? God is going to destroy the world. But he’s never going to destroy the world. Although he did do it once before.
    Nutters.

  10. Michael Heath:

    By the mid-2000s it was easy to predict that conservative Christians would claim the effects of global warming was God’s fault after they could no longer deny that global warming was occurring. I think we’re not there yet since many of them continue to deny that the planet’s energy budget is increasingly at an astoundingly fast rate.

    Instead they’re finding themselves in a gray zone of denying AGW where they’ve always seen extreme weather events as an increasing pattern due to the supposedly approaching end times; even when extreme weather events weren’t increasing. So we should expect them to be hyper-sensitive when extreme weather events actually do rise as they are now. But at some point in the next several years or decade or two they’ll have to concede the planet is warming.

    So another easy prediction many people have been making since the mid-2000s. Their policy prescription for the planet warming will be to put laws in place discriminating against who they hate at the time, along with pushing for a more theocratic government that provides Christian privilege at the expense of secularists and other religionists. They will always use whatever “evidence” is available, legit or not, to push pre-conceived positions. Authoritarians have a difficult time adapting, especially if their leaders demand they not do so. So they will continue to oppose policies which reduce the earth’s energy budget like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, at least until the leaders who control the authoritarian voting base in this country tell them otherwise.

  11. The Lorax:

    Was just about to comment on that, mudpuddles.

    It’s one thing to say something stupid. It’s an entirely different thing to say two stupid things that contradict each other. That’s like a Double Down, only instead of using chicken in place of bread, you use another Double Down.

  12. grumpyoldfart:

    Overall, 36 percent point to end times and 63 percent to climate change.

    I’ll bet half of the 63% think bad weather really is a sign of the end times, but they are too shy to make that admission in public. Hey, they believe Jesus walked on water – they’ll believe anything.

  13. Michael Heath:

    Per the survey, which can be found here, about 2/3 of those who deny the fact of global warming oppose government mitigation efforts. That’s less than I would guessed.

    Another interesting observation which continually shows up in surveys since 2000. Conservative Christians comprise about 28% of the U.S. population. Political party affiliates and leaners split about 50/50, at least until recently. Conservative Christians have pretty much all migrated to the GOP and since they vote, those conservative Christians have enjoyed being in the majority of the GOP since 2000. They’ve now come to dominate it as GOP party affiliates from other religions, or none, has decreased in the past twelve years.

    I bring this up because once again we observe polling results at the national level which show about 2/3 of the country on the side of sanity and 1/3 of the country holds indefensible positions which sync to the positions of conservative Christians. It’s really amazing how consistent this break-out has become over the past twelve years. So conservative Christians have some allies, but they comprise only about 5% of the country. It’d interesting figuring out who they are, I’m guessing it’s libertarian know-nothings like those who support the Pauls and Koch brothers.

  14. Michael Heath:

    Correction, I would have guessed more than 2/3 of those who deny global warming would have opposed government mitigation efforts.

  15. davidct:

    The bible indicates that that god gave man dominion over the earth and its creatures. Where is the part about god promising to fix everything if his people decide to trash everything. Why is it that it does not occur to believers that if they trash their god’s gift there will be hell to pay. Of course there is the mentality that there is no need to worry since the world is about to end. This in spite of the end of the world being imminent for the last 2 thousand years.

    There are real consequences to failing to to educate a large part of the population and relying on imported talent as needed for the shortages created. Fortunately most of these people do not vote but there is always the risk that they might.

  16. Reginald Selkirk:

    Speaking of end times, Robert Bork met his.

  17. Kevin:

    @16.

    What makes you think they want their god to fix things?

    These nutters really and truly believe that when the last drop of oil is burned and the last tree is felled, then Jesus will come and send them to heaven.

    James Watt, the Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan, held these views. They are extremely common among the “end-timers”.

    They should not be given the keys to the car.

  18. Kevin:

    Sorry, my reply was to 15, not 16.

  19. heddle:

    Kevin,

    These nutters really and truly believe that when the last drop of oil is burned and the last tree is felled, then Jesus will come and send them to heaven.

    James Watt, the Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan, held these views. They are extremely common among the “end-timers”.

    You are wrong. Citation needed that it is “extremely common” for the “end-timers” to believe that when the last drop of oil is burned and the last tree is felled, then Jesus will come and send them to heaven. You are making up shit.

  20. dingojack:

    So help me with the maths here -
    percentage are ‘white evangelical Protestants’ and what percentage are ”evangelical Protestants’ relative to population as a whole? That would be meaningful.
    Dingo

  21. heddle:

    DJ,

    As would be a definition of “evangelical.” I poked about a bit but couldn’t find their definition. You’re good at this sort of forensic discovery–it you see their definition please post it.

  22. dingojack:

    Think that severe weather is related to climatic change or end times
    Catholics: 60:40 (all catholics?)
    White non-evangelistic: 65:35
    White evangelistic: 25:65
    non-white non-evangelistic: ?:?
    non-white evangelistic: ?:?
    Total Population: 63:37

    Some data is missing.
    Dingo

  23. tacitus:

    These nutters really and truly believe that when the last drop of oil is burned and the last tree is felled, then Jesus will come and send them to heaven.

    It would be more accurate to say that if you believe that we are in the End Times then you are likely to believe:

    (a) that things are inevitably going to get much worse,
    (b) that there is nothing anyone can do about it, and
    (c) it will all be over long before we have to worry about running out of oil or forests

    In other words, short-termism at its worst.

  24. Modusoperandi:

    Marcus Ranum “What does the 47% think?”
    I don’t know, but Sandra Fluke wants other people to pay for the warming in her underpants!

  25. fifthdentist:

    “This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.”

  26. F [disappearing]:

    End Times: Making bad weather for 4.5 billion years.

  27. Runcible Fungo:

    Of course the end could not have happened earlier.
    I was not around then. Now that *ahem* I am
    on the scene, Jesus can come back & finish up all that end times
    business.

  28. tacitus:

    There is definitely a clear impetus amongst many fundamentalists and/or evangelicals that compels them to believe that their generation is different from the hundred or so that have gone before since the founding of Christianity. After all, this is not the first generation to believe the End Times are upon us, and it won’t be the last.

    Even though they have had a perfect record of failure — they are batting exactly zero – nothing stops them from believing that *this* time, it’s different.

    I’ve had a good number of discussions with such people over the years. It usually begins with me pointing out their track record of abject failure, against which they will point to the return of Israel to the world stage as the key event that makes the difference. Then I raise the issue of “this generation shall not pass” and the fact that the generation in question (one that turned 18 in 1948) is indeed passing with increasing speed, which usually results in a bout of goalpost moving (the occupation of Jerusalem), which, I tell them, is exactly what every generation before them has done. Who amongst those who were convinced that the End Times were upon us in the 50s and 60s didn’t believe that the 1948 founding of the modern state of Israel wasn’t the pivotal event that would kick things off?

    It’s usually at this point they run out of arguments except to say that they *know* this is the final generation somehow, that it feels different this time, or even if it’s not in 10 years, it’s going to be within the next 50.

    In other words, their position is pretty much impervious to reason.

  29. raven:

    Overall, 36 percent point to end times and 63 percent to climate change.

    It isn’t good but it isn’t that bad.

    1. Half of all Americans have IQ’s less than 100, the median.

    2. Half roughly thought George Bush had a working brain and Romney would make a good president.

    3. 20% and 26% of the fundies are Geocentrists and can’t diagram the solar system, a task I learned in the first grade.

    4. There are still some Flat Earthers around.

    The number of people who will believe anything, no matter how stupid it is, is around 20%.

    And of course, the End Timers are much higher among the fundies. They really are exactly what they appear to be, dumb and crazy.

  30. LightningRose:

    The irony is that global climate change may well be signaling the end times for humans, but not for the mythical reasons they think.

  31. raven:

    Climate change is here now.

    The focus has changed from is it happening, to how will we adapt.

    Sandy the recent storm is going to cost 70 or 80 billion dollars and there is a bill in congress right now for that money. (FWIW, the engineers knew this was going to happen sooner or later. They wrote a lot of reports about it which were eerily correct.)

    People are still drawing up estimates of how much adaptation will cost the USA. A rough estimate is 100′s of billions of dollars during the 21st century. A lot but not undoable. Iraq cost 2 trillion and produced nothing useful.

  32. peterh:

    A goodly portion of 1st-2nd Century church writing / bickering had do do with the End Times not being on schedule – or even at the other end of the proverbial tunnel.

  33. baal:

    I hear the gods can be appeased. Depending on which gods you like, we should 1) start throwing virgins (women only) into volcanoes 2) human sacrifice (preferably male warriors) on the tops of ziggarauts 3) let the Jesus into our hearts. While that last one doesn’t involve physical death, it might not be my first choice.

  34. bradleybetts:

    So 36% of Americans are fucking idiots and only 1% have to nous to realise that hurricanes can be caused by things other than global warming or magic? Awesome. Honestly, the readership of FTB seems to be the only people left over there with any intelligence whatsoever.

  35. slc1:

    Re tacitus @ #28

    Their latest dodge is to claim that the 2nd coming of Yeshua of Nazareth can’t occur until the temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt. Currently, the site of that proposed temple is the Al Aqsa Mosque, which would have to be razed, an event sure to start another world war.

  36. raven:

    Their latest dodge is to claim that the 2nd coming of Yeshua of Nazareth can’t occur until the temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt. Currently, the site of that proposed temple is the Al Aqsa Mosque, which would have to be razed, an event sure to start another world war.

    Yeah, some say that although I don’t know if that is in their magic book.

    Not seeing though why the Third Temple has to be on the temple mount, which is now a Moslem holy site.

    God is all powerful. It’s not clear why a specific few hundred yards of area matter one way or the other. They could just put in next to the temple mount or somewhere else around Jerusalem.

    IIRC, a lot of Jews think building the Third temple is a bad idea for theological or other reasons. Judaism was based on animal sacrifice in a central temple where god supposedly lived. The religion has evolved since those days. Religious animal sacrifice is sort of old fashioned.

  37. jenniferabel:

    Back in the 80s, I had a Sunday school teacher (a substitute, filling in while our regular, non-insane teacher was out having her baby) who assured us that we were indeed living in the end times (BTW, the Chernobyl meltdown was the “Star Wormwood” mentioned in Revelation), and advised us to practice reading our Bibles in our closets with pen flashlights, because Bible-reading would be illegal when the Antichrist came.

    Of course, I was of two minds: on the one hand, still young and naive enough to think “If a grownup teacher is saying this, it must be true” but on the other hand still sarcastic enough to think “So when the Antichrist comes, there will be no more going to church, no more Bible reading, and the whole world will be like one of those sexy videos on MTV — yeah, well, I bet there’s a downside, too.”

  38. Ichthyic:

    I’d note that while 60% of americans might believe extreme weather is because of global warming, that this is no indicator of specific intelligence on the matter.

    increases in the frequency of extreme weather under certain circumstances is a general prediction of the models, and makes perfect sense even if you look at it from a pure energy input standpoint.

    However, claiming any specific storm is extreme BECAUSE of global warming is pushing it.

    For example… we would expect to see, over time, a gradual increase in the frequency and size of storms arising over the oceans (more heat = more energy to form things like hurricanes and cyclones), but that still doesn’t mean that Sandy specifically occurred BECAUSE of global warming.

    It would be something like saying a 5% increase in storm frequency and power would translate to a hurricane hitting Florida on a specific time and date. It doesn’t work like that.

  39. Doug Little:

    Judaism was based on animal sacrifice in a central temple where god supposedly lived. The religion has evolved since those days. Religious animal sacrifice is sort of old fashioned.

    I rank animal sacrifice as one of the telltale signs that it was all made up by a bunch of dudes that just wanted an excuse to get away from their womenfolk and BBQ some steaks.

  40. Ichthyic:

    now, selfishly, I’m happy for any impetus Sandy gave towards convincing people that global warming is real, and hell, even to re-electing Obama over Romney come to that.

    but… it IS a tad more complex than claiming any specific storm is because of global warming.

  41. Ichthyic:

    I rank animal sacrifice as one of the telltale signs that it was all made up by a bunch of dudes that just wanted an excuse to get away from their womenfolk and BBQ some steaks.

    which is why god “spared” Isaac, of course. The dads just wanted an excuse to drag the kid to the BBQ pit for some male bonding time.

  42. raven:

    rank animal sacrifice as one of the telltale signs that it was all made up by a bunch of dudes that just wanted an excuse to get away from their womenfolk and BBQ some steaks.

    LOL. Sure.

    My understanding is that they killed and cooked the sacrificial animals. Then god could take and eat what he wanted.

    What god left was consumed by the priests and their helpers. Oddly enough, god never had much of an appetite for meat and oddly enough, usually left the entire carcass behind.

    Xians do the same thing these days. Except with money, not animals. People send around $90 billion to the churches each year. What god doesn’t take is used to mostly support the churches.

  43. Doug Little:

    People send around $90 billion to the churches each year. What god doesn’t take is used to mostly support the churches.

    Man I wish they would just get back to their roots and concentrate on BBQ, now that’s something I could believe in.

  44. Joshua:

    God never promised not to destroy the world, just not to destroy it with a flood. He is free to burn it to a crisp. I’d say something about how they should know their own Bible, but…

  45. slc1:

    Re Raven @ #36

    Because that’s allegedly the site of the first 2 temples.

  46. democommie:

    @ 16:

    I googled “Robert Bork dead” and got”

    “About 245,000 results (0.30 seconds)”

    I’m sorry, I know it’s an old joke, but I just can’t hear, “Bork is dead”, too often.

    “Yeah, some say that although I don’t know if that is in their magic book.”

    Nor do most of them.

    “People send around $90 billion to the churches each year. What god doesn’t take is used to mostly support the churches.”

    I think that’s untrue. What GOD doesn’t take–which is all of it–goes for a lot of things; depending upon how fucked up the church hiearchy is the amount going to support the church can be pretty weak beer.

  47. raven:

    Because that’s allegedly the site of the first 2 temples.

    Yeah, I know that. I’ve even wandered around on the temple mount.

    But why is the historical precedent important? A temple is a temple.

    Seems to me their god wouldn’t much care if they moved it a few hundred yards or a mile or two away. If the Israelis knock down a few not very important buildings they could easily put it right next to the temple mount in the Jewish quarter of the old city.

    I don’t think the Jerusalem old city would be a good place anyway. It’s small and crowded with old buildings and tourists. Things have changed in 2,000 years. We all drive cars and there are billions of people, not millions. With a Third Temple, they are going to need a world class…parking lot.

    Even the Mormons figured that out. They have both churches and Temples. In dawned on them long ago that trying to stuff millions of people into one temple wasn’t going to work. Now they have temples that look a lot like Tinkerbell’s castle everywhere.

  48. raven:

    Speaking of end times, Robert Bork met his.

    When I saw the headline this morning, I cheered.

    The old monster is finally good for something.

  49. mildlymagnificent:

    Even though they have had a perfect record of failure — they are batting exactly zero – nothing stops them from believing that *this* time, it’s different.

    Because it’s not only ignorance, it’s arrogance. Or maybe toddler/teenager confidence that the world revolves around them – personally.

    It’s one thing to believe that the world will end in a particular way. It’s entirely another, for people who claim to humbly follow whatever path their god/s set before them, that they will be among the especially privileged few to be on the spot to see this marvel for themselves.

  50. gregorypeterson:

    I think that the belief that God essentially had to wait until you were born to “rapture” you and the elect into heaven is a way of turning one’s insecurities, which are quite understandable in our rapidly changing times, into a sense of divinely anointed entitlement. They aren’t stupid at all…they’re something way more pathetic than being mere dimwits. I’m not sure what the right label for that would be, however. Since I’m reading about the Apostle Paul and his Gospel for the Foreskin, I’m going with “apocalyptic idolaters” for the time being, if only just to be snarky. (“Paul the Apostle: His Life and Legacy in Their Roman Context: by J. Albert Harrill. Ohio State University 2012)

  51. dingojack:

    gregorypeterson – how ’bout ‘Revelatory idolaters”?
    :) Dingo

  52. slc1:

    Re raven @ #47

    It is my information that it’s the Christians who think that the 3rd temple should be built on the site currently occupied by the Al Aqsa Mosque. As I understand it, Franklin Graham tried to persuade former Prime Minister Sharon to raze the mosque and rebuild the temple.

  53. dingojack:

    Since Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship essentially the same god….
    ;) Dingo

  54. d.c.wilson:

    What god left was consumed by the priests and their helpers. Oddly enough, god never had much of an appetite for meat and oddly enough, usually left the entire carcass behind.

    The Greeks actually had a story about how Prometheus tricked Zeus into accepting the inedible parts of the cow as his due, leaving the steaks for the people in the temple eat.

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  56. khms:

    Since Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship essentially the same god….

    … maybe Al Aqsa is the third temple? ;-)

    In any case, I’d agree that the more believable interpretation of Revelation would be along the lines that the end comes with global warming, that the people following the Antichrist are those conservative Christians (and their friends in other religions, like the Taliban for example), and when we finally get rid of them, we’ll be (metaphorically speaking) in heaven.

  57. pacal:

    You have to remember that many Fundamentalist Evangelicals want and desire the end times to happen. So that all the destruction and death too come is something to look forward too.

  58. raven:

    You have to remember that many Fundamentalist Evangelicals want and desire the end times to happen. So that all the destruction and death too come is something to look forward too.

    The fundies lead empty and miserable lives.

    Their best idea is to sit around in a catatonic daze, hoping and praying a sky monster shows up 2,000 years late, kills them and 7 billion other people, and destroys the earth.

    The rest of us have better things to do with our time.

  59. gingerbaker:

    “People are still drawing up estimates of how much adaptation will cost the USA. A rough estimate is 100′s of billions of dollars during the 21st century.”

    Joe Romm has had posts on this. The figure that his source documents is $1204 trillion (!).

    rant:

    Which is why I am arguing to anyone who will listen is that if civilization is to survive we need to have the Federal government become our electric utility. By covering the Mojave with PV panels, for example, we can generate all the electricity we need with zero CO2 emissions.

    My back of hand calculation [much of it directly out of my ass] is that we can construct the facility, upgrade to a smart grid, retrofit every home and business to 100% electric, and add electric induction charging to our roads (to allow a 100% electric fleet) for $10 trillion, which is hell of a bargain if the $1204T figure is correct.

    Oh yeah – and give the electricity away for free – that is what sunlight costs, you know – so people would actually vote for the project, since on average, we all spend $3800 per year per person on energy.

  60. democommie:

    “Oh yeah – and give the electricity away for free – that is what sunlight costs, you know – so people would actually vote for the project, since on average, we all spend $3800 per year per person on energy.”

    Wow, somebody else is burning a lot of juice. My total for heating and electric was about $1300 last year. Of course my house is 56 degrees at the moment.

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