Fundamentalists and the Atheists Who Love Them
By ROSS DOUTHAT - THE NEW YORK TIMES
Added: Wed, 27 Jan 2010 00:00:00 UTC
Thanks to mirandaceleste for the link.
As a general rule, I try to avoid writing about both Pat Robertson and Richard Dawkins. (The attention only encourages them). But Dawkinsâ âdefenseâ of Robertson, against the âmilquetoastâ Christians who rushed to disavow the televangelistâs suggestion that the Haitian earthquake victims were being singled out for divine punishment, offers an interesting illustration of militant atheismâs symbiotic relationship with religious fundamentalism. Hereâs the new atheist:
Loathsome as Robertsonâs views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonized theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable âmysteryâ, or who âsee Godâ in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti, or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God âsuffering on the crossâ in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.
Where was God in Noahâs flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for âsin.â Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock stock and barrel, as punishment for âsinâ. Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated Christian, your entire religion is founded on an obsession with âsinâ, with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the obnoxious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesusâ incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the âsinsâ of all mankind, past, present and future …
The piece continues in this vein for some time. Dawkins is quite right, of course, that Christianity lays a heavy emphasis on sin, atonement, and (yes) the possibility of damnation. But whether this means that Christians are obliged to interpret the disasters that befall human beings in this life as Godâs punishment for specific sins is another question entirely. Letâs consult one of Christianityâs leading authorities on the matter (the emphases are mine):
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