Pat Robertson and the Onion of Insanity

patrobertson1 I have kind of a love-hate thing going with Pat Robertson. On the one hand, he's a virulent bigot and ignorant worm who likes to preach hate. This is bad. On the other hand, he is the source of a seemingly never-ending stream of blog-worthy material.

Yesterday, on his daily television show, Robertson suggested that Haiti is "cursed" because it made a pact with the devil to secure its freedom from France in 1804. You can watch the video here, because I don't want such vile material on my blog. You'll recall that Rev. Robertson, a prominent religious conservative, also thinks that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for America's sinful ways.

For the record, this is what Rev. Robertson said:

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," he said. "They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'

"True story. And the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal,'" Robertson said. "Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."

This is an excellent example of what I like to call the "Onion of Insanity". Some insane ideas, such as the conviction that your dog is a concert flautist or that your apartment is made of cheese, are fairly straightforward. They are what they are. However, there is a category of insane thinking that operates on several different levels. While presenting itself as a single insane idea, it is actually a densely layered, highly nuanced ball of crazy. In order to understand it, you've got to peel back the layers of the Onion of Insanity to get at each separate piece of nutbar logic while fighting the urge to weep.

In this case, the Onion of Insanity has three layers:

  1. Incredible indifference to human suffering. Thousands upon thousands of people were killed in Haitian earthquake, and many million more are struggling through the aftermath. To suggest that this cataclysm is somehow the fault of the Haitian people is monstrous. It is especially disgusting to suggest that this punishment is the result of an alleged event that can only be described as superstitious nonsense.
  2. Failure to grasp the theology which is presumably his entire job to understand. Pat Robertson is a Christian minister. Now, I'm not sure what they're teaching in seminaries and bible colleges these days, but I assume that at a minimum, a cursory reading of the Gospels would be high on the list of required material. Funny then that Robertson has somehow missed the large sections dealing with "loving thy neighbour" and empathy towards the suffering of others. Maybe he just fell asleep after finishing the Old Testament.
  3. Total disconnect with reality. Or, it's a "True Story". No, it's not. This has never happened anywhere, ever. Satan does not make pacts with humans, for the simple reason that he doesn't exist. Anyone who believes that "The Devil" is an actual guy who has the power to influence events in the real world is at best profoundly uneducated and at worse willfully ignorant. Look, it's no secret that I give zero credence to religious interpretations of the natural world. And I would hope that most modern religious people understand that concepts like "Satan" are moral parables that speak to the human potential for evil. But if you really think that a horrible earthquake is the result of an unholy transaction between the founders of Haiti and Lucifer, then I am forced to conclude that you're crazy. It's not a rational belief, based on anything even remotely resembling evidence, science, or a basic grasp of how the world works. It must therefore be considered crazy.

Voila. Pat Robertson's onion of insanity.  I have long since abandoned the hope that it will be forced from the public sphere and relegated to the compost heap of stupidity. But I suspect it will continue to grow and become more ponderous with each passing example of idiocy. Oh well. At least I'll get a few more posts out of it.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann says it much better than me.