An excerpt from a History.com article about the Black Death bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s, titled, Black Death , reads:
Because they did not understand the biology of the disease, many people believed that the Black Death was a kind of divine punishment – retribution for sins against God such as greed, blasphemy, heresy, fornication and worldliness.
Primitive thinking is ever quick to attribute incurable diseases to God’s wrath. I mean, if humans don’t understand it, the cause has to be supernatural; right?
One other occurence that was often attributed to gods or God is the manifestation of dark clouds, lightning, and thunder on top of mountains and hills. As someone who has seen this phenomenon first-hand, I understand clearly why people of old would fall down in worship, trembling in fear of a deity at the dreadful sight.
Typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, locust invasions, famines, and more, are other things that humans of all races once attributed to an angry God or god. Hence the phrase, “act of God”. The common denominator was that if it wasn’t understood and couldn’t be stopped by human agency, God, or a god, was responsible.
As knowledge has increased, we have understood these occurrences better. Where once our ancestors would fall to the ground in fearful worship when a volcano rumbled, we no longer do so. We know why eruptions happen. It has nothing to do with a vengeance-seeking god venting in unbridled anger.
1. Black Death. Source.