The adjective awful is derived from the noun awe, meaning the feeling of great respect linked to absolute weakness which believers feel at the idea of God. The word awe has been used for other phenomena that inspire terror or dread, such as volcanic eruptions or storms, and has been used as a form of hyperbole about people's responses to such things as an individual's anger. ("I was in awe at baby's tantrums.")
From that sort of exaggeration, awful has weakened into a slang meaning of 'not to my taste' - "he was wearing his awful green suit"; "the gig was awful." This is slang, and is not to be recommended in academic writing. Only use awful when you are discussing theology - and make sure that you do so with proper respect.