Monday, February 01, 2010

Pat the Dick

Richard Dawkins has weighed in on the silly and malicious comments that American evangelist Pat Robertson made about the recent earthquake that has devastated Haiti. As ridiculous as Robertson's views are - that long-standing Haitian misery and poverty originate with a supposed "pact with the devil" made by Haitian revolutionaries - Dawkins's comments have attracted a fair amount of attention themselves.

I'd like to highlight a few passages from Dawkins's article in the UK.
Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonised theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable “mystery”, or who see God in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti, or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God “suffering on the cross” in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.
Here, the important point is that Robertson articulates the unadulterated Christian message quite well. Sin and suffering, despite the murkiness of their definitions, centrally ground Christian belief and teaching. Bad things happen because someone sinned. And the suffering of Jesus is the main spectacle that Christians witness every Sunday. His getting the shit kicked out of him and his agony are the point, regardless of whether this aspect of the faith gets admitted in mixed company.

Dawkins continues:
Your entire religion is founded on an obsession with “sin”, with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the odious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus’s incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the “sins” of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the “sin” of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed?

Yes, I know you hate the word “scapegoat” (with good reason, because it is a barbaric idea) but what other word would you use? The only respect in which “scapegoat” falls short as a perfect epitome of Christian theology is that the Christian atonement is even more unpleasant. The goat of Jewish tradition was merely driven into the wilderness with its cargo of symbolic sin. Jesus was supposedly tortured and executed to atone for sins that, any rational person might protest, he had it in his power simply to forgive, without the agony. Among all the ideas ever to occur to a nasty human mind (Paul’s of course), the Christian “atonement” would win a prize for pointless futility as well as moral depravity.
I completely agree with Dawkins here. Nothing about the alleged "passion" of Jesus is beautiful or noble outside of a literary-mythical context. A person who knowingly allows himself to be scourged and tortured unnecessarily is hardly worthy of worship.

Dawkins sums up his article with a direct admonishment of the aloof believer who sleeps safe and warm in suburban comfort:
Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for “sin” — or suffering as “atonement” for it? You may weep for Haiti where Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.
Christianity is the prolonged celebration at a distance of the suffering of others. Supposedly, a Jewish preacher was tortured and killed by Roman authorities over 2,000 years ago. But that was way back when and "we" of course are saved.

Certainly, Haiti was laid waste by natural forces of the Earth. But that was way over there and "we" of course are insulated.

It's a miracle, hallelujah.

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