God Smites 79 Percent Fewer Men Than He Did in the ‘60

Slate's Culture Blog
July 19 2013 5:00 PM

God Smites 79 Percent Fewer Men Than He Did in the ‘60s

One reason it may be a good idea to spend time indoors: lightning

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The numbers are in: God smites at least 70 percent fewer people now than He did 40 years ago. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lightning deaths have fallen 78.6 percent for men and 70.6 percent for women since 1968. From the report:

During this 43-year period [1968-2010], a total of 3,389 deaths from lightning were recorded, an average of 79 per year. The highest yearly total of deaths from lightning (131) was recorded in 1969, and the lowest total (29) was recorded in 2008 and again in 2010.

These figures exclude mortalities that result when lightning causes a fire or snaps a heavy object off a house or tree—in other words, they describe pure, Old Testament-style celestial smackdowns. Assuming God is just, our good behavior must be paying off! Perhaps Steven Pinker was right to argue, in The Better Angels of Our Nature, that our world has softened over the years, becoming ever more peaceful. (Or perhaps God has simply begun favoring global warming over lightning strikes as his meteorological attack method of choice. He does work in mysterious ways.)

Men incur more divine wrath than women. “During the period, 85.0 percent of lightning deaths were among males,” says the CDC. Are reckless guys more likely to go outside during a thunderstorm, thereby provoking God when He’s already in a bad mood? An alternative explanation for the decrease in lightning deaths is that we all spend more time indoors. In 2007, the National Academy of Sciences released a study demonstrating that participation in “nature-based recreation” had dropped 25 percent since 1981. Relatedly, the average American adult communes with some sort of screen for eight hours each day.

If the inside/outside hypothesis is correct, prestige television and Halo may actually be saving our butts. Talk about shocking.

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s  Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 11:13 AM Your Own Personal Rand Paul How the libertarian hero makes his foreign policy contradictions disappear.
Sept. 22 2014 12:07 PM Divestment Isn’t the Answer To destroy demand for fossil fuels, universities can do a lot better than just selling some stocks.
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 12:00 PM Dear Prudence Live Chat For September 22, 2014.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:21 PM Watch John Oliver Take on Miss America
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 12:22 PM The Age of the Streaming TV Auteur
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.