“I think [it] is tembatsu (divine punishment), although I feel sorry for disaster victims,” said a leading Japanese politician after that country was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami in March 2011.

When more than 220,000 people were killed in the earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010, a prominent televangelist claimed that it was because they “swore a pact to the devil” and needed to have a “turning to god.”

“God wants to awaken our deaden[ed] and indifferent conscience,” declared a Catholic priest when 79 people died in a stampede in Manila, Philippines. A newspaper there reported that “twenty-one percent of adults believe God is unleashing his wrath with landslides, typhoons and other disasters” that frequently pummel the country.

THE belief that God brings about disasters to punish bad people is not new. In 1755, after some 60,000 people perished in an earthquake, a fire, and a tsunami that hit Lisbon, Portugal, well-known philosopher Voltaire queried: “Was then more vice in fallen Lisbon found, than Paris, where voluptuous joys abound?” Indeed, millions have wondered if God is using natural disasters to punish people. In many countries such disasters are in fact called acts of God.

In view of all of this, we need to ask: Has God really been using natural disasters to punish people? Is the recent barrage of disastrous events punishment from God?

In their rush to blame God, some point to Bible accounts where God brought destruction by natural elements. (Genesis 7:17-22; 18:20; 19:24, 25; Numbers 16:31-35) An examination of these Bible accounts shows, however, that in each case, there are three major distinguishing factors. First, there was warning beforehand. Second, unlike today’s natural disasters, which kill good and bad people alike, destruction from God was selective. Only the incorrigibly wicked or those who refused to listen to warnings were destroyed. Third, God made a way for innocent people to escape.​—Genesis 7:1, 23; 19:15-17; Numbers 16:23-27.

In the countless disasters that have wreaked havoc on the lives of millions of people today, there is no evidence that God was behind them. What, then, accounts for the apparent increase in such disasters? How can we cope with them? And will there ever be a time when disasters are no more? You will find the answers in the following articles.