Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The wrath of Pat

Last week, I commented that politics was the only venue where you could make a statement that was demonstrably false, continue to defend it, and not lose your credibility.  It may therefore not be a coincidence that in the job of political commentator, you can make statements that are neither true nor false, but completely insane, and people will keep listening to you.

I'm referring, of course, to Reverend Pat Robertson, who is wildly popular despite being crazy as a bedbug.  And I don't think that people are listening to him for the humor value, either, the way people will sometimes read Ann Coulter just because they can't wait to hear what she's going to blame liberals for next (I have money that eventually she'll find out a way to blame liberals for the Black Death).  With Pat, though, I have a feeling that the people who listen to him mostly agree with what he's saying, which is a scary thing, given that he's said the following:
  • The Haitian earthquake was a "blessing from god" because the Haitians had sworn a pact with the devil during the French Revolution.
  • Be careful about studying martial arts, because in some martial arts traditions the practitioners "inhale demon spirits" prior to working out.
  • Hurricane Katrina was sent by god to "teach a lesson to the American people" because they support laws that allow abortion.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke because god was punishing him for his negotiating with the Palestinians.
  • We should nuke the US Department of State and send in covert operatives to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
So you have to wonder why we would expect anything he says to make sense, but only after spending a lot more time wondering why anyone listens to someone who seems to have a giant wad of Laffy Taffy where most of us have a brain.

Be that as it may, Pat's latest pronouncements are still making news, and this time he's turned his Roving Rant Machine onto the subject of Halloween.  Halloween is often a sticky subject with evangelicals, who don't like its occult origins.  You'd think, however, that sooner or later they'd relax about it, now that it's turned into little more than a day for kids to wear plastic Buzz Lightyear masks with eyeholes that don't line up, wander around in the dark being followed by parents who would really much rather be home watching television, and collect enough candy to meet the diabetes needs of the nation for another ten years.  All pretty innocent, no?

No.  Christians shouldn't participate in Halloween, Pat says, because "Halloween is Satan's night.  It's the night for the devil."  He goes on to say that, "we (Christians) don't believe in hauntings, we don't believe in ghosts, we don't believe in all that stuff," and then in the same breath follows it up with, "(Halloween) is skeletons, it's like, it's the dead rising."

So, let me get this straight; you don't believe in ghosts, but you do believe in the dead rising?

Of course, it's not the first time that a prominent evangelical has spoken vehemently against Halloween.  Two years ago, Kimberley Daniels of the Christian Broadcasting Network implied that not only was Satan abroad on Halloween, even the candy wasn't safe:
During Halloween, time-released curses are always loosed.  A time-released curse is a period that has been set aside to release demonic activity and to ensnare souls in great measure ... During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities.  These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings.  For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.  I do not buy candy during the Halloween season.  Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store.  The demons cannot tell the difference.
Given the volume of candy sold during October, I wonder how the candy manufacturers manage to curse it all. They must employ thousands of witches, working round the clock, saying satanic prayers like mad over moving conveyor belts. I guess the witches have to pray quickly, or they'll back up the whole process, and end up flinging un-cursed candy about in the manner of Lucille Ball.

In any case, I find it baffling that people listen to these people, and downright astonishing that anyone believes it.  On the other hand, is it really so inconsistent with what the bible actually says?  One thing you have to say for people like Robertson and Daniels: they walk the talk.  The bible is full of stories of people, and sometimes entire cities, who did something naughty in god's eyes and got the crap smitten out of them.  God had no problem with the righteous killing the unrighteous, including unrighteous infants ("Happy the man who takes your babies and smashes them against a rock!" [Psalm 137:9])  Natural disasters were always attributed to "god's will."  Demons and evil spirits were everywhere.

So, honestly, once you decide that the bible is literally true, it's a reasonable result that you'll believe all of this sort of stuff.  Reverend Pat is just the furthest reaches of the logical chain that begins with the assumption, "the bible is god's revealed truth."  It is perhaps the rest of the Christians that have some 'splainin' to do.

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