I probably shouldn't get as mad at Pat Robertson when he says something as horrifyingly stupid as he did in the clip below. After all, he's not the only religious freak who thinks his god kills innocent people for the "sins" of their ancestors, or who equates resistance to slavery with resistance to Jesus. And it's not like he's never done this before. He connected abortion to Hurricane Katrina and agreed with Jerry Falwell when he famously linked "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way" to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. I would be surprised if he hadn't said something stupid today.
And yet it still set me off, and I don't really know why.
I suppose it has to do, in part, with the story Pat Robertson sells. Religion is already (as Amy likes to say and will hopefully write about some day) the most successful fiction ever, so successful that most people take it as a literal reflection of the world they live in. But Robertson's story is insultingly stupid. It's SyFy Original Movie stupid. Haiti wasn't the victim of plate tectonics--it was another example of God's revenge on them for making a deal with the devil two hundred years ago in order to throw off their chains. New Orleans wasn't hit by Katrina because hurricanes are natural occurrences--it was hit because abortion is legal and his god doesn't like that.
It's also because Pat Robertson isn't just some crank. Robertson is a powerful man in the religious right. His "ministry" takes in nearly $500 million a year, and he established Regents University Law School, which gave us Monica Goodling and a large number of other lawyers in the Bush administration. Politicians of all stripes show up on his tv show in order to reach his audience--an audience which presumably doesn't have any problem with his claims about his god smacking around innocent bystanders for the supposed sins of nonbelievers or the long dead. Even though his story is dumb, it's still popular.
And it's dangerous. It's dangerous because the more people believe that a god is able and willing to send a hurricane spinning toward a city, the less they're likely to believe that sounder construction codes and levees will save lives, and the less they're going to believe that emitting carbon into the atmosphere will eventually result in more powerful storms.
Most of the Christians I know look at Pat Robertson like he smells bad. They're also people who know the basics of plate tectonics, who understand that AIDS is not a plague sent to kill gays, who understand the basics of biological evolution and are worried about the environment. They're not stupid, and the god of their stories is more complex than Robertson's, who seems to be a two year old autistic child. I should just ignore him, because the chances his "ministry" is harmed by this latest inanity are small, and what people do walk away will likely return before long. And if things go well, I won't think about Pat Robertson for a long time, perhaps until he dies.
Or until there's another natural disaster, and he blames it on rap music.