One Cheer (Amid a Chorus of Boos) for Pat Robertson

January 14, 2010

Many condemnations have been made of Pat Robertson through the years -- all of them richly deserved. Robertson is the object of scorn once again for his recent claim that the people of Haiti made a "pact with the Devil" in order to gain independence from the French in the early 1800s. Robertson was so sure of his facts that he emphasized this point by saying: "true story." As a result of this pact, Haiti has been visited with many problems and natural disasters, including the recent devastating earthquake.

Robertson's intimate knowledge of Satan's contracts makes one wonder whether he's ever worked in Satan's legal department, but I'm not here to ridicule Pathetic Pat (why pile it on?) but to thank him for being honest and forthright about God.

In recent years, in response to increased critical examination of religion, many liberal religious apologists have claimed that these critiques of religion have it all wrong. There is no all-powerful, personal God, overseeing and intervening in our world, who guides hurricanes away or toward land depending on His will. Instead, there is only some nebulous spirit or life-force that fills us with joy, and makes us want to join hands and sing "Kumbaya." In fact, some scholars, such as Karen Armstrong, argue that religion is not about belief in a personal God at all, but about commitment and activity.

For the ordinary believer this is all rubbish. Ordinary believers - and they do believe - have faith in a robust God, who can deliver them from evil (or not). Pat Robertson reflects the views of the ordinary believer. You see them all the time on TV being interviewed after some natural disaster. They claim they prayed to God to spare them from the tornado/hurricane/earthquake and God answered their prayers. Notably, the people who died can't speak to the issue of why their prayers were not answered, but Robertson at least tries to offer an explanation. The victims were cursed for some reason, and in the case of Haiti it was because of an imprudent pact with the Devil. (Is there ever a prudent pact with the Devil?)

Of course, Pat Robertson's claim is absurd. But his claim usefully underscores the absurdity of religious belief in general, instead of obscuring it with a veil of touchy-feely doubletalk. So, one small cheer for Pat Robertson.

But he's still a jerk.


#1 J. (Guest) on Thursday January 14, 2010 at 3:39pm

Robertson’s and all religious beliefs are absurd. Drawing a link between his remarks and the confluence of right wing religious and political extremism is surely correct but to link them with religious beliefs in general is neither correct nor identifies their true foundation. Robertson’s beliefs propagated in his public statements reflect a malignant, odious and malicious world view for which the fundamentalist right deserves to receive their full measure of credit.

#2 darshialoo (Guest) on Thursday January 14, 2010 at 7:22pm

You are always so timely — and clever!

#3 Pau (Guest) on Friday January 15, 2010 at 5:10am

WAs Robertson aware that two years ago, seismological studies had alerted Haiti that the forces concentrating on the Enriquillo fault were about to produce a major catastrophe in the area.?
Perhpas Satan had no informed him, since it prefers to work in secret.

#4 BrainUser on Friday January 15, 2010 at 2:04pm

Although I haven’t read details, is it safe to assume that the Christian churches were spared?

Or maybe this is one way we can tell what the “True Christian™” churches are since obviously THEY will have been spared.

What utter nonsense. And to think people are actually stupid enough to donate money to this man or his lame “ministry.” It’s a travesty on modern humanity.

#5 asanta on Friday January 15, 2010 at 7:27pm

I wonder what percentage of the donations to Robertson’s charities will actually GO to Haiti, and what percentage of that money will actually be put to productive use (i.e. using the money to go to Haiti to proselytize is NOT a productive use of the money), and how much will be put to EFFECTIVE use, i.e. do they know what the heck they are doing, or will they just get in the way, spinning wheels and giving the USA a bad name.

#6 Kritikos on Saturday January 16, 2010 at 9:43am

Robertson was so sure of his facts that he emphasized this point by saying: “true story.”

“True story” means: “This isn’t something that I just made up; it’s something that was made up a long time ago!”

I think that it’s a stretch to say that “Robertson’s claim . . . usefully underscores the absurdity of religious belief in general” (emphasis mine). You make a case for saying that it exposes the absurdity of the faith of “ordinary believers” in “a robust God,” if that means a God whose actions in the world can be identified by them. But I don’t see how that touches the “touchy-feely doubletalk” of Karen Armstrong and other sophisticated apologists.

Still, your post is almost unique among the public responses to Robertson’s remarks in addressing the question of what is really objectionable in them. I discuss the matter further in a blog post: “Pat Robertson, Propagandist for Atheism?

#7 Pau (Guest) on Saturday January 16, 2010 at 10:14am

what Robertson`s rantings prove, is hte tremendous power that the irrational brain may have upon the rational part of it if toone does not make the effort to analyze ones own reasons and feelings.
For the most of the known part of human existence, irrationality has prevailed over rational behaviour, specially if it is a matter of turning a club into a lethal weapon.
Fortunately there seems to be some evidence, in spite of the latest century human behaviour,to the thought that in last thousands of years we have been giving more weight to the rational weigh.

#8 Ronald A. Lindsay on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 5:52am

Kritikos is quite correct: my statement should have been explicitly qualified. Robertson’s comments highlight the irrationality of belief in a personal deity who can cause storms and earthquakes, intervenes continually in human affairs, and responds to petitionary prayer, that is, the type of deity that appears to be accepted by most believers. Robertson’s comments have no implication for those holding a belief in an attenuated deity lacking these characteristics—apart from showing that the concept of God as some sort of nebulous life-force bears scant resemblance to the understanding of God held by the ordinary believer.

#9 Max (Guest) on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 3:38pm

Haitians held a Mass this Sunday.

The AP reported:

Celebrating Mass at the once-proud pink-and-white cathedral, now a shell of rubble where a rotting body lay in the entrance, the Rev. Eric Toussaint preached of thanksgiving to a small congregation of old women and other haggard survivors assembled under the open sky.
“Why give thanks to God? Because we are here,” Toussaint said. “We say ‘Thank you God.’ What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now.”
“I watched the destruction of the cathedral from this window,” he said, pointing to a window in what remains of the archdiocese office. “I am not dead because God has a plan for me. What happens is a sign from God, saying that we must recognize his power - we need to reinvent ourselves.”

#10 Ronald A. Lindsay on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 6:21pm


Take away Robertson’s imaginative speculations about Satan’s deals, and what he said was not that different in substance than what Rev. Toussaint said.

The next time you read or hear some academic theologian claim that no one believes in the type of God described and criticized by atheists, remember Rev. Toussaint—and the thousands of other clergy like him, and their millions of followers.

BTW, Max, thanks for this timely quote.

#11 Kritikos on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 8:05pm

I find it saddening to read Reverend Toussaint’s comments. That guy is just setting himself up for another fall. I don’t expect these people to give up their faith, but the least that they can do is give the Book of Job a serious read. God afflicts the most righteous of human beings with the worst of sufferings just to prove a point to Satan (not the same character as the devil of Pat Robertson’s fantasies), and when the man complains that he has been wronged, God thunders at him: “Are you as mighty as I am? No, you’re not! So shut the f*** up, little man!” (I paraphrase.)

If you take the Bible as divine revelation, then you must either conclude that God is a total prick, or that his might makes him right even when what he does is the grossest possible injustice by any standard intelligible to us. Either way, it follows that all human attempts to make out worldly events to be part of God’s justice are as fatuous and deluded as the words of Job’s comforters (whom God also tells to shut the f*** up).

#12 BrainUser on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 8:32pm

This is all good evidence as to the utter folly of taking the bible even remotely literally.

Haiti is one of many evidences making it plainly obvious that its made-up foolishness is clearly not divine. An intelligent person should shudder at the thought that fellow humans treat it as such.

#13 Pau (Guest) on Monday January 18, 2010 at 3:33am

Ohh, thank god that I have been given this tremendous headache this morning! And I didn’t even pray for it! All for free, but the ways of the lord are indeed misterious. Perhaps this headache will force me to stay at home and will not get ridden over by a truck….But then, why not close the door and leave my poor head alone?

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