Q: Many have criticized Pat Robertson’s suggestion that the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti was the work of the devil or a form of divine punishment. But if one believes God is good and intervenes in the world, why does God allow innocents to suffer? What is the best scriptural text or explanation of that problem you’ve ever read?
I’m not particularly concerned about flat earthers and Holocaust deniers in this country, because they have no influence. I can’t even name one, and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Pat Robertson, a household name to Americans. Even worse, he is influential and respected by millions. According to the book of Robertson, the reason for every disaster is sin, and the solution usually involves sending him money.
While Haitians may not blame past sins for the earthquake, many have a worldview similar to Robertson’s. Numerous Haitians gave thanks to God for keeping them alive. They, like Robertson, believed that what happened was the will of God.
Here’s an alternative view. The “fault” lies under the Atlantic Ocean, not in the sins of Haitians. The earth’s tectonic plates are neither good nor evil. The more we learn about their shifting, the better we will be able to predict future earthquakes.
And for those who still believe in the supernatural at the exclusion of scientific discovery, I’ll confidently predict when you will again see God’s wrath: July 11, 2010, the next total solar eclipse. And my home state of South Carolina will see such wrath on August 21, 2017. Fortunately, most people no longer think of an eclipse as a warning from God. Science works whether you believe in it or not.
If an all-powerful god either caused the earthquake in Haiti or stood passively by as thousands perished, he would be a god more worthy of blame than praise. Some days the best thing you can say about God is that he doesn’t exist.
Natural disasters like the one in Haiti require action by humans, regardless of their theological views. Human lives can be saved by other humans, and the sooner they act the better. Many of us who want to contribute, but are not sure how, should do a little homework and contribute to organizations they trust. I’ll not be contributing to Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” which is soliciting for prayers and donations. I will contribute through the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, which has joined forces with 13 other freethought groups to collect donations for two fine non-religious relief organizations. Contributions will go, depending on one’s stipulation, to either Doctors Without Borders or the International Red Cross.
To quote Robert Ingersoll, “Hands that help are better far than lips that pray.”