Religious meteorology needs more rigorous science

David Silvester, a town councillor with the UK Independence Party, caused a bit of a stir this weekend by asserting that recent foul weather and flooding were a direct consequence of the legalization of same-sex marriage in his country:

David Silvester, who defected from the Tories last year in protest at David Cameron’s support for same-sex unions, claimed he had warned the Prime Minister that the legislation would result in “disasters.”

The Henley-on-Thames town councillor, 73, said the country had been “beset by storms” since the passage of the new law on gay marriage because Mr Cameron had acted “arrogantly against the Gospel.”

In a letter to the Henley Standard he wrote: “The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.

“I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill.

“But he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so.”

Blaming the Prime Minister for the bad weather, he added: “It is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods.

“He has arrogantly acted against the Gospel that once made Britain ‘great’ and the lesson surely to be learned is that no man or men, however powerful, can mess with Almighty God with impunity and get away with it for everything a nation does is weighed on the scaled of divine approval or disapproval.”

The response has been pretty brilliant — see Nicholas Pegg’s “UKIP Shipping Forecast” or the delicious @UkipWeather Twitter account.

Silvester’s theology is as dubious as his meteorology. Just look, for example, at his repeated use of the phrase “the Gospel,” which he seems to regard as interchangeable with and identical to Mosaic law. Like pop-predestinarian John Piper here in America, Silvester rejects the possibility of natural causes for natural events, preferring to regard the weather as a collection of discrete acts of divine intervention. Severe weather, then, is not the product of severe weather systems, but of divine displeasure with specific, identifiable human actions.

The front page of my local paper. Thanks a lot, Jimmy.

Thus, for example, this coming October 23 there will be a partial solar eclipse. NASA claims that this is due to something about the relative positions of the Earth, Moon and Sun. But theologians like Piper and Silvester know better. When the penumbral shadow begins to darken eastern Siberia at 19:37:33 GMT, they know that this is not because of the alignment of orbits, but because God is displeased with the sins of those living in Kamchatka. This evidence of divine displeasure will then sweep across much of North America, with transgressors cast into shadow from Vancouver to the East Coast.

And, like the recent flooding in Henley-on-Thames, this can only mean that God is punishing our sins. Especially those of the vile sinners in Nunavut, near Prince of Wales Island, where the peak of the wrathful eclipse will occur at 21:44:31 GMT.

I don’t know what grievous sins the people of Prince of Wales Island have committed. I didn’t even know there were people on Prince of Wales Island — which has no permanent settlements due to the severity of the winter weather there. (Some theorize that this severe weather is due to the island’s Arctic location, but that’s just a denial of the power of sin.) I suppose, since this eclipse is still 10 months off, it’s possible this great sin has not yet been committed. Rest assured, though, it will be. And God will look down, displeased, and cast the island into (partial) darkness.

Because, as David Silvester says, no one “can mess with Almighty God with impunity and get away with it.” (I can’t decide if that’s redundant or contradictory.)

The fun part of Silvester’s approach is that it goes beyond even the usual nonsense of Piper-iffic Bildadism to offer greater specificity and precision. He is identifying particular weather events and connecting them to particular sins.

This opens up new possibilities in the field of religious meteorology. If this correlation between identifiable sins and identifiable weather events can be fully mapped and charted, then we ought to be able to control the weather.

It won’t be easy — requiring concerted, unified action at a regional or a national level. But with a rigorous and scientifically targeted program of abstinence and repentance, we ought to be able to reduce the frequency and severity of extreme weather events — or maybe even eliminate them entirely!

Let’s stop wasting money on weather satellites and meteorological studies and put that funding to good use. Form a joint commission of top religious scholars and top property reinsurance actuaries and set them to work at the task of identifying the specific kinds of sin that produce specific kinds of severe weather events. We can then determine the best program for controlling and containing those sins and, thereby, controlling and containing those events. I’ll leave it to the experts on the commission to determine the proper effective balance of incentives and penalties (reduced insurance rates for the chaste, discounts on indulgences, etc.).

David Silvester has already got us started with his discovery of the link between same-sex relationships and flooding.

I believe I have discovered another link. My own research has determined that the heavy snow and extreme cold now besetting us here in Chester County is due to the sin of masturbation. Specifically, it is due to the excessive self-abuse of Jimmy Parker, 14, of Thorndale.

Anyway, I’ve got to go shovel my driveway. Thanks a lot, Jimmy.


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