Pat Robertson, pagan

Believing, as Pat Robertson does, that the suffering of those you despise is inflicted by a god on your side, and that the suffering of those you pity is the result of a devil’s curse, seems to come awfully close to paganism. Which is ironic, because the source of Robertson’s conclusion about the Haitian curse is an 18th-century voodoo prayer which expresses a theology that doesn’t seem to vary much from his own: their god is of the darkness, ours is of the light, and ours will afflict them with suffering.

When faced with a tragedy that he can’t pin on people he hates, however, Robertson reverts to a materialist position that even weak-kneed Christians would likely have a hard time with — a God who “doesn’t reverse the laws of nature,” after all, would have a hard time getting himself resurrected. In short, whenever Robertson breathes out a sentence with the word “God” in it, I’m pretty certain he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

Comments

  1. Tom

    “So why does God see fit to strike an already suffering nation with a devastating earthquake?”

    He didn’t see fit to strike them with an earthquake. He created the universe, and subsequently the planet on which we live, and a consequence of living on the earth is the occasional earthquake, tidal wave, or plague.

    As for Pat Robertson I’ve come to believe that he’s a tool of Satan. He wears his Christianity like a coat of many colours yet everytime he opens his mouth the most unchristian things pour out. As a result atheists and agnostics re-affirm their stances because “Christianity”, as they see it espoused by Mr Robertson (I refuse to use the title Reverend for him) is obviously evil.

  2. Ilya Lozovsky

    He apparently saw fit to create conditions in which senseless random horrible things happen to people for no discernible reason. As the creator of the universe, the planet, and life on the planet, isn’t he responsible for what happens on it?

    This, more than any other reason, is why I don’t believe in God. The universe is so obviously a random place, in which things which are both good and bad, from a human point of view, happen as a result of no human agency. You said it yourself: the consequence of living on a small rocky planet with an active crust, unpredictable weather, and dangerous microorganisms is that millions of people and animals are subject to misery and death for purely “mechanical” reasons.

    I’m not trying to be a snarky nihilist here or anything. I’ve just never, ever heard a satisfactory reply to this from any religious person of any religious persuasion. There’s a reason people have struggled with this question for thousands of years: there is just no good answer.

    Read the front page of the New York Times, paragraphs like this:

    “Please save my baby!” Jeudy Francia, a woman in her 20s, shrieked outside the St.-Esprit Hospital in the city. Her child, a girl about 4 years old, writhed in pain in the hospital’s chaotic courtyard, near where a handful of corpses lay under white blankets. “There is no one, nothing, no medicines, no explanations for why my daughter is going to die.”

    …and tell me with a straight face that we live in a universe created by a just and loving God.

  3. Fajita

    Ilya, you pose a powerful argument against God. In fact, it is almost completely impossible to undo within the limitiations you have set for it. It is based on as many or more assumptions as a faith-affirming view. It assumes no after life. It assumes that only what the senses can sense is what is. It takes a view of love from limited perception and sets it next to pain from limited perspective and makes grand claims about God (that there is not one).

    I agree that for there to be so much pain in the world, espeically pain cause by no one’s foolishness, that there are legitimate questions. I cannot buy the argument that your conclusion, however, is legitiamte. It sounds like giving up rather than engaging. It sounds like taking control in whatever little way a human can in an indiviudalistic nature rather than risk.

    As one who believes in God, I hold the same questions you do, but arrive at a differnt conclusion. Granted, my conclusion makes me vulnerable to being a fool if I am somehow making up a thing I call God. Why risk being so much a fool? Because I have chosen (and keep doing so) not to judge God by only the worst of what happens in this world. There is so much good that also bleeds into the unknowable.

    Finally, there is a story of redemption that confronts my own rejection of God and lends out hope that perhaps there is somehing so great that the worst of all worsts can be conclude in a stroy of redemption.

    So I believe in what I cannot prove…just like you.

  4. Tom

    “…and tell me with a straight face that we live in a universe created by a just and loving God.”

    I can, and it was.

    I was born and raised a Roman Catholic and eventually fell away from the faith for the reason you mention in the last line of your comment. I came to believe that God was anything but just and loving. I spent many years yearning for something to fill the hole that leaving the church left in my soul with no luck.

    After many years I slowly came to the realization that I was wrong in my view, partly because I was poorly catechized and partly because I was an “angry young man” – a fault I’m still working on. I came to the view that you can’t lay the blame for all the evil and horrible things in the world on God.

    He’s given us the basic materials to work with, physically and spiritually, and when things go wrong it’s generally our fault.

    What happened in Haiti is a true tragedy and after relief has been given and reconstruction begins cooler heads might want to consider why the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Republic of Haiti, escaped with little to no earthquake damage. It may have escaped damage due to the location of the epicenter, or geology, or more likely building codes and the lack thereof.

    In other words, it isn’t God’s fault that Los Angeles or Tokyo can escape relatively unscathed from an earthquake that would level Port-au-Prince. It’s Man’s fault.

  5. Jeff

    It is my opinion that God created a paradise called Eden for people too live in. Mankind rejected God’s plan for Eden and set suffering in motion. It is sobering to know/ to realize that God is not to blame. He didn’t create suffering we (man) did.

  6. Susie

    Ilya, I am answering you with a straight, compassionate face. I believe that God is still good and just despite what our eyes see going on in Haiti.

    I think you are sincere in asking your question and that same question has always been asked of Christians. And you may not like the answer, but in all honesty, it remains a great mystery why God continues to allow evil and suffering. Saying “I don’t know?” is the answer. Christianity does not have an answer (an neither does any other worldview)but what we do have is this:

    It doesn’t mean that God does not care. He cared enough to do something about evil and suffering-He came into history, personally in his son Jesus Christ. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection prove God is loving and just.

    The cross changed it all and is the best proof that God is not remote from us in our suffering.

    I have thought long and hard about the very same questions you raise. Aside from the bible, there are many great thinkers I turn to to see how they wrestle with the issue of evil and suffering. One of them is Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church is NYC, he says that God is “so committed to ending the suffering and brokenness of this world that he himself would become embroiled in it and pay the ultimate cost. And we ask: Why isn’t suffering over yet?. The answer is: we don’t know, but the proof he is committed to it is the cross”.

    I highly recommend his book “The Reason for God” for further inquiry.

    Thanks.

  7. Jonny

    Ilya,

    Well said. Few “brands” of “Christianity” escape a dualistic view of God– that is, God is good and compassionate but God is in control of everything (or else He wouldn’t be “God”) and thus responsible for the pain and suffering in the world.

    However, one should be cautious to equate true Christianity with those that are branded as such.

    I don’t know if you are a parent or not. If you are, perhaps the analogy to parenthood may help you get a feel for a true Christian approach to suffering. Parents have choices in how they raise their children. The parents who wish to live their agenda vicariously through their children will control the crap out of their kids, make all of their kids’ choices for them, and do everything possible to mold them exactly as the parents wish. Now, we’re obviously not omnipotent, so these parents ultimately screw something up and their agenda probably doesn’t get fully realized. If God was really like this, as so many brands of “Christianity” believe He is, we should rightly hold him responsible for the suffering of the world. On the other hand, some parents give their children freedom, perhaps less at first and more later, but, ultimately, the child becomes full grown and independent. A good parent, out of an abundance of love and concern, will permit the child to experience pain of the natural consequences of his choice, and not prevent it, so that the child learns on its own what is harmful and what is not. A good parent, out of love and with great pain to the parent, will permit a child, at some point, to completely reject the parent if the child so chooses. However, if the child experiences suffering in the presence of the parent because of his hatred for the parent for whatever reason, this suffering is not brought on by the parent but by the child’s choice to hate. This is because love necessitates freedom; one cannot have one without the other. We know this from our own experiences of love. I guess you could make the argument that the parent is responsible for the child’s pain because the parent didn’t control the child so tightly as to prevent the child from ever making a choice that caused it pain or simply removing the capacity for choice from the child, had the parent exerted such control, we would be likewise prevented from asserting that the parent loves the child.

    Thus, I might posit, humbly and incompletely, that the Christian approach to suffering recognizes that suffering is the result of the exercise of the freedom that a Creator gave to His Creation. It may be our own personal exercise or the exercise of generations before us, but it is ours. Could He fix it all? Sure, but it would require destroying our freedom. Is that Love? I think not.

  8. Bill M

    Why do we assume that death is tragic for anyone other than surviving loved ones. Perhaps death is not the “evil” that is presupposed. Perhaps destruction presents opportunity. There is certainly loss, devastation, suffering and grief. But if you believe, if you have faith, is not death only a new beginning? Who are we to think we can understand God’s will for us let alone all of humanity. If we truly believe, deep in our souls, then there is no fear. There will be sadness and grieving for OUR losses, but those who have moved on, well perhaps they are indeed in a better place.

  9. staffaction

    Ugh, how sad. Haiti, Robertson, etc. Al Mohler wrote a great column answering the question “Does God hate Haiti?”. He ends by quoting John 3:16 to say he doesn’t. He Jesus to prove that he doesn’t. And he is sending a host of rescue and aid workers to prove that he loves them and is in control. Even that – the mechanics of aid response is a miracle in way. If such emergencies were to occur say, more than 50 years ago or more the kind of aid received would have been pathetic compared to the kind given to Haiti today. If the curse of a fallen world is great the mercies of a living God increase even more.

  10. SwamiDave

    Sadly, Pat Robertson chose this opportunity when Christians have a visible and immediate chance to positively impact the lives of thousands of people whom God loves to sound a voice that is both unloving and lacking in compassion. Maybe Mr. Robertson has forgotten, but my Savior (and the one he claims) died to redeem the residents of Haiti to God just as he did everyone else.

    As for the “why would God allow this” questioning, the reality is that it was us and our rejection of him that damaged his Creation. It is our choices and refusal of Him that leads to these types of terrible consequences.

  11. Deb Johnson

    “So why does God see fit to strike an already suffering nation with a devastating earthquake?”

    There is an answer, but it is not one that is easy even for Christians to accept. God has revealed Himself in the Bible to be both good and sovereign. As you have rightly noted, horrific tragedy has struck Haiti and yet God did not stop it from occurring though He has the power to stop such horror. It makes me sad to contemplate even a fraction of what the people are suffering.

    The Bible asks us to trust that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil and suffering which is in this world. But the Bible does not tell us what that sufficient reason is.

    We have a choice: Will we trust that God is good without His explanation for the reason of human suffering or do we demand that He explain everything first and then we will weigh the evidence?

    Adam and Eve faced a similar dilemma in the Garden of Eden.

  12. Doug Taylor-Weiss

    While comparing Robertson’s earlier comments to this may prove him a pagan, what he has said about Haiti is interesting. He’s not saying that GOD punished Haiti for their purported pact with the devil, but that the DEVIL has caused the earthquake. That’s not too different from what lots of thoughtful Christians would say–that there’s a darkness or brokenness inhabiting creation. See Romans 8:19-21.

    (Contrary to the previous post, that is NOT to say that God has a “morally sufficient reason for the … suffering.” The suffering of innocents is evil and not justifiable. It’s not God’s fault. That God allows it is simply to say that he is patient with us and has not yet brought history to its conclusion.)

    For a secular version of the Robertson hypothesis, in the New York Times no less, see David Brooks’s column at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/opinion/15brooks.html?em . It’s the same argument: the Haitian culture is messed up, making earthquakes a zillion times worse there. If you can agree with Brooks, Robertson’s easy to accept. Brooks recommends “paternalism”; Robertson evangelical conversion.

  13. Ilya Lozovsky

    Hi everyone,

    In the first place, I want to thank everyone for responding to my post in the same spirit in which I wrote it. I enjoyed reading your responses and it’s a testament to Tony Woodlief that his readers are such a civilized bunch. 🙂

    I wrote a long post responding to everyone, but in the interest of not clogging up Tony’s blog any further, I suggest that anyone who wants to continue this conversation write me by e-mail. It’s my first name and last name, separated by a dot, @gmail.com

    On to the responses:

    Fajita:

    I don’t agree that I am making “as many assumptions” as are made in a faith-based view of the world. There being no after-life is a pretty safe assumption, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. Our senses and our scientific tools really are the best (and only) way to find out what is true about the world and what is not. The claim that God exists is grander than the opposite – extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But this is really a whole different debate…

    Not much in the rest of your comment really engages with my argument. I see words about giving up, taking control, that you arrive at a different conclusion – but why? The fact remains that over 100,000 people, including pregnant women, children, and babies, are dead, and not only that, but many suffered in horrifying agony for days before they died. How many desperate prayers from Haiti were answered this week? How many were not?

    I’ll add that I find it especially infuriating when people crow about “miracles” when a person is pulled from the rubble here and there. Inevitably there are claims such as “God was watching over me and saved me” or “I just knew I had to trust in God, and he got me out.” I am not one to belittle someone’s faith if it comforts them, especially in such circumstances, but we can all see the logical fallacy here, can’t we? God is responsible for one person being saved, but not responsible for the earthquake which killed 100,000 of his countrymen? You can’t have it both ways: either God is able to exert an influence on the world or he is not. If he is, why not save everyone, except maybe the child molesters and murderers, just to show he’s still checking up on us?

    Tom:

    Sometimes humans ARE responsible for other humans’ suffering – though often in a maddeningly indirect way that does not leave much room for justice. You can claim something like the holocaust happened because people are evil, but finger-wagging about how we are all fallen doesn’t do much for the victims, does it? Sure, Hitler is evil, but why does it make sense for god to allow his 6+ million victims to perish in horrible agony? To prove a point? How many of THEIR prayers were answered?

    As for Haiti, there is not even an evil human perpetrator. The dominican republic was not affected because the quake hit Haiti’s capital directly, and its effects did not really strike across the border. See this map from the US Geological Survey: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/shakemap/global/shake/2010rja6/

    A strong case can be made that human ineptitude: incompetent government, lax building codes, no precautions taken, greatly increased the damage and lives lost. Again, this does not really make it just for innocent children and babies to die because of the mistakes of their country’s government, but even if it did, and the death toll could have been half what it was with the proper precautions – does a death toll of 50,000 rather than 100,000 really change the argument? Even if San Fransisco could have withstood the same earthquake with only 50 lives lost, my original point still stands. WHY?

    Jeff:

    All I can say is, I did not reject any Eden and neither did anyone you or I know. This argument is particularly baffling to me. We all abhor the principle of collective punishment, used by the secret police in my native Soviet Union to threaten dissidents’ families when they could not be quieted, punishing sons for the sins of their fathers, etc. Why does that make it okay when God supposedly does it? And don’t tell me God is on a different level than us – this may be true but surely he can’t be subject to a different moral law: Isn’t our innate sense of right and wrong supposed to STEM from him?

    Susie:

    You are right, Christianity does not have an answer, and neither does any other religion. In my mind this is a large and insurmountable hole in the theory that there is a God in the first place. The facts we plainly see all around us on this earth – even small children can see that the world isn’t even close to fair – make it, to my mind, ridiculous to claim that there is any kind of cosmic order or just governance or benign force acting on everything.

    Jonny:

    I see what you’re saying with your analogy, but it doesn’t really go far enough. Sure, a parent may allow a child to experience pain to learn from his mistakes and to make his own choices, but what would we say to a parent who lets his child run into the street and get hit by a car? Much less 100,000 children? How many examples do we need?

    I think there are enough problems with a God for whom the deaths of innocents are a rueful but necessary consequence of free will – hello, God is supposed to be OMNIPOTENT, couldn’t he have created a world where the innocent are not subject to cruelties perpetrated upon them by evil people – who are themselves ALSO a creation of God??

    But even laying that aside, let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine a version of the earth which is identical to this one, except several billion years older, with a less active crust and cooler planetary core. On this Earth, earthquakes and volcanoes happen much less frequently than ours. For good measure, let’s say this planet has a weaker planetary tilt, making for much less violent and unpredictable weather. Couldn’t God have put us on such a planet? There would be no less free will – we could still murder each other to our hearts’ content – but at least we would not be subject to random physical forces tearing our poor fragile bodies limb from limb on a regular basis? Of course there is still falling from ladders and traffic accidents and horrifying tropical diseases (which God in his infinite wisdom also saw fit to give us) but surely you can agree that this planet would be more “just” in the sense of people getting what’s coming to them? Why don’t we live there, if God can do anything?

    Deb:

    Weighing the evidence is exactly what I am starting off with, primarily because the scientific process is the only way humankind ever really learned anything. The evidence for God is non-existent; and all around us we see signs of a world that is not designed for us but simply there, chaotic and random.

    Doug:

    At least you admit that the suffering of innocents is evil. What does this say about a God that permits it in such abundance? He is patient with us? That is not really the point – it is not his patience I am worried about. It is the people who lived in the rubble for 5 days before dying of thirst or infection. I guess they were not patient enough for him?

    Thanks for reading – I’ll look forward to any responses in my inbox!

    Ilya

  14. Susie

    Ilya,

    Thanks for your reasoned answer, however you did not really read my post.

    I did say that Christianity did not have an answer, which you pointed out, but you did not respond to what I DID say.

    If you are truly seeking an answer, you will have to wrestle with the cross and it’s implications.

    Until then, any objections you have are not sincere.

  15. Deb Johnson

    Ilya, Thank you for the invitation to e-mail, but as long as it if fine with Tony, I’ll stick with his blog.

    I know the suffering of innocents is evil because the Bible says so.

    How do you know it is evil?

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