By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 2:01am BST 02/07/2007
The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops.
One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.
While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation's decision to ignore biblical teaching.
The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society's moral decadence.
"This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way," he said. "We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused."
The bishop, who is a leading evangelical, said that people should heed the stories of the Bible, which described the downfall of the Roman empire as a result of its immorality.
"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," he said.
"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.
"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."
He expressed his sympathy for those who have been hit by the weather, but said that the problem with "environmental judgment is that it is indiscriminate".
The West is also being punished for the way that it has exploited poorer nations in its pursuit of economic gain. "It has set up dominant economic structures that are built on greed and that keep other nations in a situation of dependence. The principle of God's judgment on nations that have exploited other nations is all there in the Bible," he said.
He urged people to respond to the latest floods by turning away from a lifestyle of greed to instead live thinking of the consequences of their actions.
Global warming has been caused by people's lack of care for the planet and recent environmental catastrophes are a warning over how we behave, according to the Bishop of Liverpool.
"People no longer see natural disasters as an act of God," said the Rt Rev James Jones. "However, we are now reaping what we have sown. If we live in a profligate way then there are going to be consequences," said the bishop, who has previously been seen as a future Archbishop of Canterbury or York.
"We have a responsibility in this and God is exposing us to the truth of what we have done."
The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, said: "We are all part of the problem and part of the solution. Instead of living as if we owned the earth we need to recover a sense of being participants in a web of life with responsibilities to other life forms and to our children."
The Bishops' warnings came as flood-hit communities were being warned to brace themselves for more torrential rain this weekend, with the Met Office issuing a severe weather warning for large areas of England and Wales, with up to 50mm (2in) of rain forecast.