Richard Dawkins is responding to Christians who are looking in all the wrong places for some sort of supernatural “reason” that the earthquake in Haiti caused so much devastation. Obviously, Pat Robertson isn’t helping any Christian PR campaign, but neither are pastors who say “God did this for a reason”:
You nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and bleating in your pulpits, you disclaim Pat Robertson’s suggestion that the Haitians are paying for a pact with the devil. But you worship a god-man who — as you tell your congregations even if you don’t believe it yourself — ‘cast out devils’. You even believe (or you don’t disabuse your flock when they believe) that Jesus cured a madman by causing the ‘devils’ in him to fly into a herd of pigs and stampede them over a cliff. Charming story, well calculated to uplift and inspire the Sunday School and the Infant Bible Class. Pat Robertson may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own Bible. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?
This is what Christian pastors do best. They instill this (false) belief in people that awful occurrences like natural disasters don’t just happen randomly or in certain, pre-determined parts of the world; instead, they occur in placed where God wants to make a point. And if you live in a Christ-filled, God-fearing area, you’ll be spared.
People who want any sort of hope will cling to that like rope on a cliff.
It’s a shame. There are reasons Haiti (or New Orleans or Southeast Asia) was susceptible to such disasters. We can understand this better with scientific knowledge.
Bad things happen. Sometimes, there are no reasons for it. Other times, there are understandable reasons. The Haitian earthquake falls into that latter category. There’s no need to bring a god into the mix.
Daniel Dennett is especially frustrated by God getting a pass when disasters occur:
The idea that God is a worthy recipient of our gratitude for the blessings of life but should not be held accountable for the disasters is a transparently disingenuous innovation of the theologians. And of course it doesn’t work all that well… All the holy texts and interpretations that contrive ways of getting around the problem read like the fine print in a fraudulent contract — and for the same reason: they are desperate attempts to conceal the implications of the double standard they have invented.
Maybe some pastors don’t believe this characterization. If that’s true, then they need to be the voice of reason when members of their congregation say that God had any type of role in this tragedy, good or bad.
Otherwise, they’re just part of the problem.