After Pat Robertson said that Haiti’s earthquake had occurred because Haiti had made a pact with the devil, other Christians distanced themselves from his statement, and had a different reaction: don’t worry so much about the question of theodicy, but help those in need and see God’s hand in those offering assistance. But this response from some Christians has irritated atheist Richard Dawkins to no end, and he has now declared himself with Pat Robertson (in his interpretation of what Christianity is really all about):
Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. . . . It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.
I think that Richard Dawkins’s essentialism is informative. I suppose that he might feel the same way about Osama Bin Laden in relation to Islam. Religious traditions (in Dawkins’s schema) possess genuine forms and false forms, and since religion is ultimately an evil force in the world, its genuine forms are reflected most accurately via their harshest, narrowest, and most literal-minded adherents. Hence Tertullian and Pat Robertson are true Christians; William Blake and Reinhold Niebuhr obscurantists and false Christians. To be sure, seeing the world in essentialist terms has its advantages, but isn’t it curious that Richard Dawkins’s most fundamental assumptions about religion actually mirror those of Pat Robertson?