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Act of God

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Crux of the matter
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An act of faith

An Act of God is an unusual natural event which religious people ascribe to the power of God. The term has a legal definition for natural disasters such as floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and asteroid impacts for which no human entity is responsible, which in turn is a part of the broader legal term of force majeureWikipedia for unforeseen events, which also includes things like war and crime.

Although most people recognise that natural disasters are random freak events, some people with a religious conviction see them as divine retribution for sinful behaviour (in other words, their personal friend is beating up people for behavior they don't like). This can lead to contradicting claims, such as in the case of 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake:

Striking Lisbon and other areas of southern Portugal, southern Spain and North Africa on the morning of All Saints’ Day (2 November), many people attending church were killed by falling masonry and hundreds of religious buildings were destroyed when fires were kindled by altar candles and houses collapsing on kitchen hearths. Such catastrophic losses led many commentators to ascribe the earthquake to divine wrath visited on the sinful people of Portugal, the group singled out for opprobrium being the people a particular writer wished to blame. For example, one Jesuit, Father Gabriel Malagrida, claimed the earthquake was punishment for the Inquisition not being sufficiently severe whilst, in contrast and writing from a Protestant viewpoint and from the safety of England, John Wesley blamed the disaster on the Inquisition’s excesses.

It can also lead to differing claims based on personal flavor of bigots. Some evangelicals ascribed "Superstorm Sandy" in 2012 as punishment for the legalisation of gay marriage in America[2]; those people killed by Sandy in the Caribbean beforehand were, of course, just collateral damage. However, Muslim clerics claimed it was divine revenge for the Innocence of Muslims,[3] an American-made film that mocked Mohammed (and again, victims outside the United States were acceptable collateral damage to Allah).

See also[edit]