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Religion and Rationality - Religion and Rationality
Haiti, Pat Robertson, and Excuses for God
Well, Pat Robertson has done it again. On his “700 Club” broadcast following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, he declared that the Haitians had brought down this and other “curses” upon themselves ever since they kicked out their French overlords by making “a pact with the devil.”
One wonders where Pat Robertson found a report on that 19th century conversation between the Haitians and Satan, but one wonders also why the Haitians didn’t choose instead to make the pact with God or Jesus if they were looking for some divine assistance. One must conclude that neither of those worthies was interested in such a deal and preferred to see the Haitians remain under the heel of the French.
Aside from the penchant of all televangelists to utter outrageous inanities from the vantage point of their absurdly twisted view of the universe, these latest remarks by Pat Robertson illustrate the perpetual problem which faces purveyors of the supernatural. How could a loving and all-powerful God allow or perpetrate such horrors—unselectively, since innocent children and babies perished alike along with adults, while survivors of all ages face homeless hunger and disease-ridden misery? The thought that Haitians as a whole remain guilty and deserving of punishment more than a century after their “pact with the devil” would be an insult to any self-respecting Deity, although the greater disgrace falls upon those preaching such nonsense and those who accept it.
God as always, must be allotted no blame for such ‘acts of God’ or else the victims must be accorded some guilt which justifies their divine punishment. The figure of Satan proves very handy here (the evangelical universe could not function without him) as a rival to God, seducing the victims into allegiance, further absolving God of responsibility. This necessary branch of theology is known as “theodicy”: finding excuses for God in the presence of indiscriminate evil and misfortune, substituting for a naturalistic non-caring universe an insane one, in which God is the disciplinarian “my hands are tied” caretaker of an asylum, where mad forces run riot and are responsible for the visitation of mayhem upon us wretched but ever guilty inmates.
In a famous scene from the Old Testament Book of Daniel, King Belshazzar of Babylon sees the writing on the wall forecasting the downfall of his kingdom, together with the judgment of God upon himself: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.”
In the mythical Day of Judgment at the end of time, people like Robertson foresee humanity standing before the judgment seat of God. My own vision fantasizes a little different scene. Humans stand before God’s throne, but it is we collectively who pronounce judgment upon Him: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.”
The other culprit in the misery which the Haitians have experienced in this natural disaster is the Catholic Church. In the most unfortunate and lunatic decree ever issued by the Vatican in its long history of lunacy, the Bull by Pope Paul VI in 1968 declared that God forbade his creatures to exercise birth control. (Heaven forbid! that we humans should enjoy sex for non-procreative purposes.) It should not have taken a prophet to foresee where that decree would lead us on a planet that was already reaching overpopulation when it was issued. In the decades following, the Vatican (to protect its claim of papal infallibility) has condemned and obstructed every effort by the international community and groups like Planned Parenthood to encourage limits on population, especially in poverty-stricken third world countries. Even as a measure in the prevention of AIDS, condoms are being opposed. Evangelical dominated U.S. administrations such as that of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have cooperated with the Vatican in withholding support and funds for such efforts. Such mindless thinking has done its best to dig the grave of this planet.
Haiti is one country which has suffered greatly in this misguided and destructive vendetta against birth control. In a nation made up of the poorest people in the western hemisphere, with substandard living conditions and poorly constructed buildings, the earthquake of January 12 had a devastating effect. In a home housing ten people instead of, say, four, the death toll in its collapse was bound to be higher. (One mother of eight was interviewed who had lost several of her children.) In a nation of many more millions than there would have been if sensible population limits were the social norm, or were encouraged by reasonable religious leaders bent on improving the quality of life in this world rather than focusing on a fantasy one beyond the grave, far fewer would have been hungry and homeless following the disaster.
Instead we have Haitians flooding to their churches to hear those leaders attempt in vain to explain and justify the inscrutable will of God, while declaring that they must still give him unfailing love and worship even in the face of a catastrophe which he had done nothing to prevent. And we have rationally challenged cretins like Pat Robertson telling them that in fact it is all their own fault.
Of course, the simplest answer to the ever-present question ‘Where was God in Haiti?’ is that he was nowhere, since no such entity exists. Perhaps one avenue to demonstrating this to Christians is to show that his Son and agent of salvation, Jesus, did not exist as an historical person and that the Gospel story and character is fictional and symbolic. For this, I would like to recommend my latest book, Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus. For information, please see newadvert.htm.