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Pat Robertson’s God

January 16th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This past week an intense earthquake completely devastated the nation of Haiti, killing perhaps hundreds of thousands of people and destroying millions of lives. The scope of the horror is overwhelming. It’s completely impossible to wrap your head around, like the tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean five years ago killing millions. Such a mind-blowing tragedy, pain and suffering impossible to quantify, and absolutely nobody to blame.

Unless you’re Pat Robertson or any of his followers, who place the blame squarely on the people of Haiti who apparently were asking for it. Everyone probably already knows what he said, but here it is again:

Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it’s a deal. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.

Much has been said and written expressing outrage over these comments, understandably so. Like many people I tune in to the news not just because I believe it’s important to be informed but also because it almost always invokes my favorite emotion—righteous indignation. No matter what the story is, the media can always find someone to be outraged by, and since there’s nobody to blame for the Haiti earthquake, we can focus our ire on buffoons like Robertson and Rush Limbaugh for exploiting the tragedy.

But rather than engage in one of my typical rants, I’d like to focus on the deeper implications of what Robertson actually said. It’s a very simple theological argument.

1- Everything that happens is God’s plan.
2- God is just.
3- Therefore, everything that happens is just.

Not all Christians accept this reasoning, but Fundamentalists do. And when a person accepts this argument, a lot of terrible conclusions follow. Because if everything that happens is just, and suffering happens, that means suffering is just. It means that anyone who is suffering must somehow deserve it. If tragedy befalls you, it must be your fault.

Needless to say, the world would be a pretty horrific place if everybody thought this way. The fact that so many people already think this way is one of the biggest problems facing humanity today. People with this kind of worldview who take it to its logical conclusion and live their lives accordingly won’t do anything to mitigate suffering or prevent tragedy. Certainly natural disasters like the Haiti earthquake couldn’t be prevented but we can at least donate to the relief effort now that it has happened. But if all great tragedies are God’s plan then it’s not our place to get involved. Let the cursed endure their curse. It wasn’t us. God favors us.

The ideas of grace and damnation have been one of the worst aspects of Christianity since St. Augustine conceived of them and embedded them in Church Doctrine. The conception of God as a Divine Judge who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked is what has turned many people away from religion over the centuries, myself included. I simply can’t accept that the creative force behind the entire universe could be such a petty and loathsome character.

Consider the kind of God that Pat Robertson and his followers actually worship. This is a man (remember—their God is anthropomorphic) who sits on His throne in Heaven keeping the score of a game He has created for all His children. All people are His children but among them are those He favors and those He disfavors. (Those He disfavors, coincidentally, usually tend to have darker skin.) His opponent in this game is Satan, whom he lets manipulate His children at will so that He can punish those children accordingly. And when He decides to dole out punishment, He makes sure there can be no question as to His capacity for wrath. It’s not just the actual guilty parties He punishes, but their children, their grandchildren, and all their descendants through many generations. Two thousand years ago some Jews called for the execution of Jesus, so He cursed all Jews to oppression and persecution for centuries, even letting millions of them be rounded into camps and exterminated. Millions of the killed were small children, completely incapable of understanding the crime of their ancestors for which they are being punished, but because God is responsible for everything and God is just, the brutal murder of millions of children must be just.

And now here we have this devastating earthquake in Haiti which has killed millions—left wives without husbands, parents without children, children without parents—every horror you can imagine, and this was God’s will as well. And what was their crime? Two hundred years ago they rose up against slavery and tossed out the French. Apparently God endorsed their brutal treatment as slaves, and He was Divinely Pissed Off when they broke free of their shackles. He resolved to condemn them to centuries of poverty and then, when they least suspected it, to kill hundreds of thousands of their descendants who had absolutely nothing to do with the revolt. That’ll show ‘em. That’ll teach them to desire freedom.

It boggles my mind that anyone could have such a conception of God and still worship him. Seriously, if there is a God and He is really like that—he merits no worship at all. Why would you worship such an enormous prick? It seems that the only reason is fear—the fear that if you don’t suck God’s ass continuously, He will fuck you up too. You and your children. Better to worship a tyrant than get on his bad side.

Well, I don’t think God is exempt from moral judgment. And if God really is responsible for the earthquake in Haiti and the reason really is that their ancestors didn’t want to be slaves—God is an awful, awful person. I would rather burn in Hell for all eternity than to worship such a piece of shit.

To be clear, I’m only talking about God as conceived by Christian Fundamentalists. There are many ways to deal with the problem of evil—you can say that God exists but is not an interventionist, that He allows natural evils such as tsunamis and earthquakes because such things nurture the long-term growth of the human spirit, that God is not a He but an It that is so vast and incomprehensible that what happens on the tiny little rock called Earth is insignificant, and on and on—but to say that the reason evil exists is because people get what they deserve is profoundly ignorant and extraordinarily harmful to humanity as a whole.

I suppose I should thank Pat Robertson for being the one legitimate target of righteous indignation in this grave tragedy. But let’s get beyond the pure outrage and really consider where he’s coming from to actually believe what he said. If humanity is to have any hope as a species we have to take responsibility for what we are and what we do. We must confront the philosophy that says everything is God’s responsibility and we are merely passive observers. Only after purging ourselves of this way of thinking can we hope to improve our lot and the lot of everyone with whom we share this world.

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