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I Guess God Must Have Really Liked Say, Stalin,

at least long past the purges. Oh, and Arafat, too; God must have been a big fan. Pat Robertson seems to be telling us that Sharon's stroke -- and Rabin's assassination -- is God's punishment for "dividing God's land" (since it earned him God's "enmity"). Now if this is God's standard operating procedure, then I take it that the absence of divine punishment is something of an endorsement. God didn't send Stalin a stroke during the purges or the Ukraine famine, so Stalin must not have really earned God's enmity. God didn't get rid of Arafat for a very long time. Sharon must have been a much worse fellow than those worthies, in God's eyes.

Of course, even if one thinks that God intervenes in world affairs in such a direct way, one could say that God moves in mysterious ways, and that his failure to send Stalin a prompt stroke is no endorsement. (I'm sure many readers of this blog would take this view, and I have no quarrel with them.) But if God's ways in not killing Stalin and Arafat promptly are a mystery, then I take it that the Sharon stroke is hardly an obvious condemnation, either.

Yet Robertson doesn't seem to think that God's ways are so mysterious -- Sharon suffers a stroke, that's God's hand. So given that Arafat and Stalin lived long and apparently quite prosperous lives, way past the time that I had thought they'd earned God's "enmity," that must be God's hand, too, at least given Robertson's view. God is either a funny sort of God, or he's got a funny sort of servant.

Thanks to Shawn Wesson (Bareknucklepolitics.com) for the pointer.

Mucus Maximus:
When are the doctors going to make Pat take his medicine? So many bad things happen when he doesn't...
1.5.2006 5:08pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
In Sean O'Casey's play Red Roses for Me, a minister tells two members of his congregation "You are too young by a thousand years to know the mind of God." I try to keep that in mind when I am tempted to speak for God; it's a shame that Pat Robertson doesn't.
1.5.2006 5:11pm
chris (mail):
Pat Robertson is an idiot. Almost everyone knows this, including most fundamentalist Christians. It doesn't seem to me that the religious right holds him up as their spokesman. It's the secular left that props him up as their supposed spokesman because they like fundamentalist Christians looking like they're led by idiots. Is their any evidence that a large percentage of fundamentalist Christians actually respect this man?
1.5.2006 5:14pm
Positive Dennis:
Gennadiya, your basic mistake is paying any attention To Pat Robertson. There are those he speaks for but they are a very small representation of christians.

Positive Dennis
1.5.2006 5:14pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Pat's god reminds me of me as a parent -- always with the smiting instead of the redirection or timeouts or positive reinforcement, but lazy and highly distractable and thus inconsistent and unreliable with the smitings. We both need some good parenting books, like maybe that 1-2-3 Magic program. Does Pat's god have a blog with a wish list? We could get him something from Amazon.
1.5.2006 5:16pm
sir mix a lot:
God must also like Hugo Chavez.
1.5.2006 5:18pm
Crispin:
Pat Robertson's habit of speaking off the top of his head leads me to wonder if he hasn't lost his mind.
1.5.2006 5:18pm
Skeptic:
And yet he's courted by the GOP when they want his faithful followers and his corrupt #2 Ralph Reed wants to be Lt. Gov. in Georgia.
1.5.2006 5:21pm
strategichamlet (mail):
chris - I'm sure its all those liberal viewers that keep the 700 Club on the air, not to mention donate money to his various enterprises.
1.5.2006 5:24pm
Joel B. (mail):
I don't disagree with the broader points being made about Pat Robertson being a general idiot in his statement.

Prof. Volokh's complaint here though doesn't seem to fit.

I believe Pat Robertson's broader point (as mistaken as it may be), is that it is a Biblical promise that dividing God's land brings God's enmity. Since there is a Biblical promise to that nature, that is the source of the basis for God's punishment.

This is similar to the promise in Genesis that God says to Abraham that nations that bless him will be blessed and those who curse him will be cursed. So, the theory goes, much the reason America has succeeded is because of its (relative to other nations) its choices to bless Abraham and his offspring (the Jews). Similarly, the Soviet Union, Germany, the middle east generally, were cursed because of their treatment of the Jews.

Maybe this is inaccurate, but I think that's more the point being made. Which is not a judgment of Sharon being more good or evil or anything but instead is a reflection that God keeps his word.
1.5.2006 5:26pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Positive Dennis: No big deal, but "Gena" is short for "Gennadiy." My name in Russian is "Yevgeniy," and the nickname for that is "Zhenya."
1.5.2006 5:27pm
Bub (mail):
chris

The secular left is responsible for providing Pat Robertson with a platform? You are probably on solid ground as long as your argument says that most fundamentalist Christians know Robertson is a moron. But then you let your knee start jerking and suddenly the secular left is to blame for Roberson's stupidity. I'm pretty sure they aren't the one's paying for the 700 Club.
1.5.2006 5:27pm
Chukuang:
It doesn't seem to me that the religious right holds him up as their spokesman. It's the secular left that props him up as their supposed spokesman...

Didn't the Bush administration make a point of noting that PR is one of the people they consulted about whom to pick as SCOTUS nominees? Can't blame that on "the secular left." His TV show continues to get high ratings so even if people don't respect him, somebody is watching him (and I don't imagine it's the secular left here either).
1.5.2006 5:29pm
Cala:
When I see the fundamentalist right disavow Pat Robertson, made good in the form of ceasing donations to his enterprises, and when the Republican Party disavows instead of espousing his views, then perhaps I'll believe that his notoriety is due to Leftist conspiracies rather than say, the fact that really, his mental sanity filter just isn't working.
1.5.2006 5:29pm
Joel B. (mail):
Supposedly the relevant prophecy being from Joel 3 (go figure)

In those day and at that time, when I restore Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.

The broader point being an example of God's fulfilling prophecy, not a broader judgment of Sharon's goodness or not.
1.5.2006 5:33pm
Dave:
Positive Dennis, the Christian Coalition is a major organization with a large audience (I've read that Churches accepted and distributed 100 million of his "voter guides" in the last couple elections). James Dobson (whose views are largely indistinguishable from Robertson's as far as I can tell, though he's better at political correctness) is a major force with the Republican Party, especially Bush. He also claims to have more than 200 million daily listeners worldwide. Jerry Falwell said the same thing about the 9/11 attacks that Robertson is saying about Sharon. These views are dangerous, and pointing out problems with them is important, especially if Dobson, Robertson, and Falwell are as influential as I think they are. Attributing daily events (especially deaths) to divine intervention is really terrible, both intellectually and morally, and it needs to be pointed out and criticized.

Dave
1.5.2006 5:34pm
TJ (mail):
Eugene,

God is either a funny sort of God, or he's got a funny sort of servant.

Any reason it can't be both?
1.5.2006 5:35pm
Mystery Meat:
In 1988, Pat Robertson was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. Whe was deciding whether or not he would run, he asked God for a sign. A hurricane was bearing down on the Carolinas. Robertson prayed that the hurricane not come ashore in the Carolinas, but instead, continue up to New York City, a den of wickedness. The hurricane did in fact skip the Carolinas and pounded New York City instead. Robertson said this proved that God wanted him to run for office.
1.5.2006 5:36pm
sir mix a lot:
ORTHODOX JEWISH LEADER CRITICIZES REV. PAT ROBERTSON FOR ASCRIBING RATIONALE TO ILLNESS STRIKING PRIME MINISTER SHARON; NO PERSON CAN KNOW G-D'S REASONS

This afternoon, as Jews, alongside all people of good will, around the world prayed for the health and welfare of ailing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Rev. Pat Robertson stated on his 700 Club television show that the illness struck Prime Minister Sharon because,
citing the biblical book of Joel, he was dividing God's land. Rev. Robertson went on to state: "And I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, 'This land
belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'"

In response, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, issued the following statement:

"Rev. Robertson's remarks, as reported to me, are deeply troubling. The thrust of his remarks is that Prime Minister Sharon's life-threatening illness is a punishment for the disengagement from Gaza. No person can
know G-d's reasons for human illnesses or calamities. That G-d's ways are often inscrutable is a basic and accepted component of our belief system and that of the world's great religions. Jewish prophets from
Moses on found that G-d's ways were mysterious. Why "Tzadik v'ra lo" - bad things happen to good people - is a question about which libraries of books have been written, but the bottom line is that human humility
demands that we admit our ignorance and bow to His will.

"We continue to pray that G-d who is the rofeh cholim/Healer of the ill bless Mr. Sharon who, whether one agrees or disagrees with his specific policy positions, is a person who dedicated his life to Jewish
people and the Jewish state, with healing and recovery and bless his family and all of Israel with comfort and peace."
1.5.2006 5:36pm
Pooh (www):
Chukuang, I believe that was Falwell, IIRC, but not a huge difference in any event.
1.5.2006 5:38pm
Dave:
My above statement does depend in part on the similarities between Dobson's views, Falwell's views, and Robertson's views. I will retract the relevant parts of it if someone can show me a quote from any of those three criticizing any of the other three for interpreting events as being God's work.

Dave
1.5.2006 5:39pm
Sebastianguy99 (mail):
The saddest thing is that it is next to impossible for a Republican to candidate for President to get the nomination or be elected without the imprimatur of Robertson, Falwell, and Dobson. Without a strong turnout from those whose beliefs are the same as Robertson's, the Republican nominee will lose the election. This is why we see McCain now changing his stance of 2000 and praising that part of the party.
1.5.2006 5:45pm
Craig Oren (mail):
Eugene,

Is your first name the same as Bazarov's in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons?

BTW, the Joel 3 quote seems aimed not at Israelis but at goyim.
1.5.2006 5:45pm
Joel B. (mail):
BTW, the Joel 3 quote seems aimed not at Israelis but at goyim.

I'd agree with that, my more general point, is that the point Robertson's making, is a point about prophecy fulfillment, now maybe the prophecy isn't relevant, but he's not making a point about Sharon being good or evil. Which we could argue about whether or not the prophecy is relevant.
1.5.2006 5:50pm
Dave:
Craig.

I think you're right, that the quote is directed at people that scatter the Jews rather than Jews that choose not to live in part of God's land.

One could make an argument that the Gaza pullout forced some Jews out of the Holy Land, but I think that's a stretch.

Is the web page's formatting going all weird for anyone else? When I clicked "comments," Volokh's post disappeared and all I saw was the comments.
1.5.2006 5:52pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Kevin Drum wonders why God gave Pat prostate cancer.

Really, Bush likes Sharon as well as he seems to like anybody. If he can't take this opportunity for a Sister Souljah Moment, what better time?
1.5.2006 5:54pm
Dionysius (mail):
Of course, the big problem has to do with the Second Coming. Until thw whole of ancient Israel is reestablished under Jewish government, Jesus can't come back and the Rapture is delayed. To the evangelical and similiarly inclined Christians, the whole function of the Jews is to reestablish ancient Israel, rebuild the temple and let the Second Coming commence. Then, the Jews who do not become Christians will be tossed into Hell.

In the meantime, on the other side of the line, Orthodox Jews are waiting for a red heifer ...
1.5.2006 6:04pm
chris (mail):
strategichamlet is correct that it is Christian fundamentalists who keep the 700 club on the air, not a conspiracy of left wing secularists giving money to make Christians look like idiots. On the other hand, it doesn't take that many to support a low budget TV show. That the 700 club is on cable is not great evidence that Robertson has a big following. James Dobson does indeed have a big following, but it isn't my impression that he's made as loony remarks, so to state, as Dave does, figures for Dobson and then simply assert that Dobson and Robertson are the same doesn't cut it.

Take a look at the comments on Lucianne.com, a very right wing site regarding this issue. As of this writing, only one person is willing to defend Robertson.

As for consipiracy, it doesn't take an organized conspiracy for Robertson to make the news all the time. All it takes is for Robertson to confirm the media's expectations that fundamentalist Christian are nutjobs.
1.5.2006 6:04pm
Esquire:
It's hard to argue that the current leader of the Democratic Party (which Robertson is notably far from being for the GOP) hasn't made comments just as apalling on the other end of the political spectrum -- but curiously the mainstream media doesn't play that up and pressure all Democrats to disavaow him. Imagine the coverage if the GOP made Robertson their leader!
1.5.2006 6:09pm
Chukuang:
It's hard to argue that the current leader of the Democratic Party (which Robertson is notably far from being for the GOP) hasn't made comments just as apalling on the other end of the political spectrum

Esquire,

Could you be more specific? What comments? I'm not doubting you but it's hard to compare without actual examples.
1.5.2006 6:11pm
Michael B (mail):
Robertson should atone in sack cloth and ashes for forty days and forty nights, if not longer. The manifestly wanton degree of superfluous, egoistic, presumptive nonsense exemplified in statements like this is shameful, it deeply and genuinely repulses. That his viewers, fellow leaders he hangs with, et al. have failed to reprove him when it comes to crap like this is also telling and reflective of that set of believers. Belief as reified egoism is just as repulsive as politics as reified egoism, perhaps moreso. eol (end of lament)
1.5.2006 6:19pm
colt41 (mail):
Where's William Saffire when you need him? I think he'd suggest, based on the Book of Job, that no man can know God's purposes.
1.5.2006 6:22pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Almost everyone knows this, including most fundamentalist Christians. It doesn't seem to me that the religious right holds him up as their spokesman. It's the secular left that props him up as their supposed spokesman because they like fundamentalist Christians looking like they're led by idiots.

I don't have enough information to agree or disagree with you on the point about "most" fundies knowing that Robertson is an idiot. But your point re "the secular left" is rather funny. Considering that Robertson has a hugely successful media network, helped found a very influential right-wing public interest law firm (ACLJ), and has met several times with President Bush (even in 2003 to get spiritual advice re whether to invade Iraq, and well after his egregious -- dare I say "treasonous" -- remarks re 9/11) I think "the secular left" is justified in pointing out what a clown this guy is and making the right own him so to speak -- it is your President/hero-of-the-right who embraces him.

Moreover, the right is hardly in a position to cry about things like this --- when one considers that your media figures, i.e. Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hanitty, Instapundit, etc., have still not shut up about some obscure professor in Colorado named Ward Churchill (who Instahack posted about today nonetheless) who no one on the left had heard of prior to his outrageous statements being publicized. I don't ever remember Bill Clinton, or even Howard Dean, ever embracing Churchill. And Bill CLinton certainly didn't consult with Michael Moore (the right's favorite bogeyman of the "secular left") before bombing Kosovo for "secular" guidance. So, in other words, cry me a river. The right owns Robertson so long as it continues to pander to him and his buddies James "every cartoon is gay" Dobson and Jerry Falwell. Those guys have real pull in your party. . . . .

1.5.2006 6:26pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Until thw whole of ancient Israel is reestablished under Jewish government, Jesus can't come back and the Rapture is delayed.

Wow, I am always shocked that people actually believe these fairy tales and put them forward in intellectual debates. . . . And I say that as a moderately religious person actually.

1.5.2006 6:29pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Esquire, I'd like to see those comments. If you mean that Mr. Dean said that we can't win the Iraq War, please tell me why that statement (which may very well be true) is morally "worse" than saying that America brought 9/11 upon itself because of the homosexuals, abortions, etc., and saying that you speak for G-d and that Sharon and Rabin are/were being punished for their "sins." Give me a break with the Fox News/Instapundit BS moral equivalence. It ain't going to work.
1.5.2006 6:34pm
bluecollarguy:
We all have our crosses to bear, Pat Robertson happens to be one of 'ours'. As a lawyer and a Californian, your cross would be the Ninth Circuit. Such is life.
1.5.2006 6:38pm
Sebastianguy99 (mail):
Esquire:
"It's hard to argue that the current leader of the Democratic Party (which Robertson is notably far from being for the GOP) hasn't made comments just as apalling on the other end of the political spectrum -- but curiously the mainstream media doesn't play that up and pressure all Democrats to disavaow him. "


Dean has made comments that seemed outrageous to some at the time, but time has proven him to be mostly correct.

An article in The New Republic feature a sample of his comments that brought scorn from both parties, but ultimately turned out to be head of the curve:

February 2003. After Secretary of State Colin Powell made his case for war at the United Nations, most other leading Democrats applauded. Senator Joe Biden called Powell's case "very powerful and, I think, irrefutable." Senator John Kerry called it "compelling." Only Dean dissented. "I heard little today that leads me to believe that there is an imminent threat warranting unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq," he said.

Later that month, Dean warned that the Bush administration was preparing to invade Iraq unilaterally. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay charged that Dean "either doesn't know what he's talking about ... or he's seriously uninformed, or he's just misleading the American people and his party."



April 2003. Senator Joe Lieberman declared that the capture of Baghdad and the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime vindicated his support for the invasion. "The vindication that I feel is the confidence that with Saddam gone, America's going to be a lot safer than it otherwise would have been," Lieberman said. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt said that "it's a continuation of a historic, long-term trend that we stand on the right side." Once again the dissenter, Dean said, "All these folks who are crowing about their vote and the outcome are going to learn that the occupation will be very difficult." He added, "I'm not a pacifist. We've removed a horrible dictator, but the price we're going to pay is down the road."



June 2003. As reports began to surface that the Bush administration might have misled the country about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, many leading Democrats were hesitant to question the administration's probity. Republicans dismissed any doubts. Senator George Allen asserted, "It's not a question." But Dean said, "We need a thorough look at what really happened going into Iraq. It appears to me that what the president did was make a decision to go into Iraq sometime in early 2002, or maybe even late 2001, and then try to get the justification afterward."



December 2003-January 2004. After Saddam Hussein was captured on December 14, Dean appeared to go out on the farthest of limbs. "[T]he capture of Saddam has not made America safer," Dean said. "The Iraq war diverted critical intelligence and military resources, undermined diplomatic support for our fight against terror, and created a new rallying cry for terrorist recruits."


All statements said to be that of crazy man that now could be considered mainstream.His comments are different from those of Robertson in kind and degree.

No calling for assination of some head of state, no warning of catasphrophic weather for having "Gay Day"at Disney, or fortelling of divine wrath after a school board election in Pennsylvania.Seems to me that your analogy between the two men fails.
1.5.2006 6:39pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
I love these righties here who say no one should even pay attention to Robertson. Postive Dennis to Prof. Volokh: "Your basic mistake is paying any attention To Pat Robertson. There are those he speaks for but they are a very small representation of christians." When that "small representation" includes the President of the United States, and includes an extremely influential machinery in the Republican Party, I'd say it's worth paying attention to. Message to Republicans: You own that bigot/anti-semite. Didn't he come in third in the Iowa caucuses in 1988?
1.5.2006 6:45pm
Sebastianguy99 (mail):
I think you are right Greedy Clerk. One must pay attention to them because they provide the electoral strength of the modern Republican Party and conservative movement. In short, they are presently the most powerful voting block in the United States. This is why we have to worry about their influence on foreign and domestic policy.

Btw, I was raised a Southern Baptist and what Dionysius described above is what we're all taught from an early age. Unfortunately the Second Coming influences more than just foreign policy, it also influences other ares such as the enviornment(no need to conserve because the end is near). It may sound absurd to many, but it is a fact of life to millions.
1.5.2006 6:54pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Folks: Unless I'm mistaken, "fundies" is something of a religious pejorative, and I'd prefer that people not use such pejoratives in discussions here. Please feel free to express your criticisms of fundamentalist Christians or of other religions, but please express them politely.
1.5.2006 7:10pm
frankcross (mail):
According to Nielsen Media Research, The 700 Club, aired each weekday, has averaged 863,000 viewers in the last year. While that is not enough to call it a popular program, it is still a significant audience. It is, for example, more than the average primetime audience for CNN last month — 713,000 viewers — or MSNBC, which averaged 280,000 viewers in prime time. It is also greater than the viewership of CNBC and Headline News.

Isn't Mr. Robertson a graduate of the Yale Law School?
1.5.2006 7:13pm
Chukuang:
Greedy Clerk's comments on Ward Churchill and Michael Moore were right on target. Thank you.
1.5.2006 7:15pm
Dave:
Since someone has challenged my association of Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, I decided to do some more research. Perhaps I was slightly overzealous about Dobson, but definitely not Falwell. All three are very influential, though Dobson more than the other two. Below are some quotes from Dobson that indicate that he shares some crucial beliefs with Robertson, though he obviously wouldn't say anything like the Sharon comment publicly. I also included some indications of Robertson's influence. If you're not interested in these issues, you can skip my post, since this will be pretty long; I compiled a lot of data for this post. Here's the infamous Falwell quote about why liberals are to blame for 9/11 for offending God:

throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.


Here are some indications that Robertson's Christian Coalition is influential:

Among the conservative politicians and polemicists who have addressed the Christian Coalition's "Road to Victory" conferences are Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp, Oliver North, William Bennett, William Kristol, Jesse Helms, David Brock, and Dinesh D'Souza. Not only do mainstream conservatives avoid criticizing Robertson and his movement, they rush to their defense in print. When the Anti-Defamation League, in 1994, issued a report critical of the religious right, conservatives like William Bennett, Irving Kristol and his son, William, and Midge Decter denounced the supposed "anti-Christian" and "anti-religious" bias of the ADL and of the media in general. Bennett, for example, has written that "Christians active in politics are now on the receiving end of an extraordinary campaign of bias and prejudice."


The chief motive for conservative appeasement of Robertson and the religious right is strategic; as the editor of a leading conservative magazine explained to me in 1992, "Of course they're mad, but we need their votes." Such conservatives are so impressed with the political power of the Christian Coalition that they even refrain from criticizing the religious right's "biblical" economic proposals, like the banning of usury and the abolition of debts in a periodic "year of jubilee." In addition, many Jewish neoconservatives value fundamentalist support for American military and economic subsidies to Israel. Writing in Commentary in 1984, Irving Kristol called on American Jews to recognize that American Protestant fundamentalists are "strongly pro-Israel." Excusing an evangelical leader who said that God does not hear the prayers of Jews, Kristol wrote: "Why should Jews care about the theology of a fundamentalist preacher?... What do such theological abstractions matter as against the mundane fact that this same preacher is vigorously pro-Israel?"


Both quotes about Dobson are from this article, which is unfortunately not available online.

Additionally, Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice was tapped by the White House "to make the rounds among the Religious Right and testify for [John] Roberts" and Robertson
Like I said before, and like Anderson and Greedy Clerk said above, the real test is whether conservatives with any power criticize Robertson. They don't. Google searches for
"Dobson criticized pat robertson" and "Dobson criticized robertson" both come up empty, as do similar searches about Bush. Google searches aren't always the best research tools for something like this, but the article I cited above supports this as well.
1.5.2006 7:16pm
Paddy O. (mail):
It's fun being a Fundamentalist. No thinking involved. On one side the leaders tell you what to think, and on the other side folks who disagree with you tell you what you think.

Now, I've got my Fundamentalist credentials going back quite a number of generations, with even a couple of degrees from approved institutions, so if I can actually share what we believe I'd sure appreciate it. If, of course, folks will give me a moment in between telling me what we believe.

Now the Dionysius thing is rather a bit of bunk. I don't know anyone who thinks this and don't know anyone who teaches this. In any belief system there are bound to be some stretches of the theology, but I dare say that's a rather entire misconception of Christian eschatology (end times stuff). Seb99, I think you must have been gone a while. I am a Fundamentalist, and I certainly don't hold to any of those views, nor was I taught it over the many years of my apparent indocrination. Making caricatures of religious folks may be fun at parties, but it's really a sign you have no idea what is going on in actual churches.

As for Robertson, he was quite the leader in his day, comparable to Jesse Jackson. Now, however, he's lost a significant amount of influence, and I don't know any one who would actually believe he speaks for us. Again as with all movements there are those who go off the deep end and unfortunately have money so they keep themselves around, and enough supporters to make a show.

Robertson lives on his past influence but is really equivalent to Louis Farrakhan. Now I dare say Minister Farrakhan is not highlighted as the voice of most African Americans, and even as he's said a number of rather offensive things we don't insist he's the voice of the Democratic Left.

Robertson is widely considered a heretic by many, and is only able to have a voice because he's quite wealthy and he does indeed have a surviving pocket of supporters who by no means represent anything about contemporary Christianity.

Now that I've said my part, you can get back to telling me what we actually believe.
1.5.2006 7:23pm
Dave:
Doc Volokh, I think you're right that the term "fundies" is fairly pejorative when applied to religious people. In the defense of the people that used the term, it is possible that they were referring to a denizen of the Fundy Isles

Dave
1.5.2006 7:24pm
Dave:
Sorry for the triple post, but I just finished reading the definition of Fundy I linked to, and the latter half of it definitely isn't family friendly, which I hadn't realized when I posted it. Dr. Volokh might want to break that link. Sorry if it offended anyone.

Dave
1.5.2006 7:27pm
Paddy O. (mail):
To be precise about this all, Fundamentalist is really not at all appropriate term in this context. Robertson is considered an Evangelical Christian. The distinction is a historical split made by academics and other leaders in the 1940s, who decided the traditional Fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century was moving far too anti-intellectual, in contrast to its earliest founders, as revealed in the set of books called the Fundamentals.

These leaders established Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, started Christianity Today, and Billy Graham served as the popularizing public face. Fundamentalism now implies something entirely different, referring in common parlance to conservative religious believers of any kind, which then lumps the anti-intellectuals in with the quite intellectuals. Fundamentalism itself is still around, mostly in the South, with significantly reduced influence. Most conservative Christians are within the Evangelical camp.

That all being the case it might be worth considering what the pillars of these movements have to say on the present subject. Fuller students and faculty, to a person, would uniformly denounce Robertson. Christianity Today posted this article not too long ago, which I believe would quite suffice as a message Evangelicals are not led by Pat Robertson.
1.5.2006 7:35pm
Milhouse (www):
I've got no problem with Robertson's premise that Sharon committed a terrible crime, and were God to strike him down it would be no surprise. But it seems that He didn't do so until after Sharon carried out his evil plan; had he had the stroke back in July, before 10 000 Jews were cruelly expelled from their homes, it would have been far more plausible to see that as the Hand of God.

Or, what Eugene said.
1.5.2006 7:38pm
Michael B (mail):
"It's fun being a Fundamentalist. No thinking involved."

Yea, like the myopic, stunted and self-affected Ideological Fundamentalists (IFers) who imagined and dreamed their utopian dreams cum nightmares, producing hecatombs in the process. Now that's the mark of genuinely profound "thinking".
1.5.2006 7:38pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Frankcross -

You wrote:


According to Nielsen Media Research, The 700 Club, aired each weekday, has averaged 863,000 viewers in the last year. While that is not enough to call it a popular program, it is still a significant audience. It is, for example, more than the average primetime audience for CNN last month — 713,000 viewers — or MSNBC, which averaged 280,000 viewers in prime time. It is also greater than the viewership of CNBC and Headline News.



That's fine, but for the purposes of this comparison, isn't dividing up the various newscasts somewhat artificial? I mean, wouldn't a more relevant comparison be Pat Robertson vs all the other news programs put together?

(Put another way, if a viewer decides not to watch PR, what difference does it make whether he turns to CNN or NBC?)

Also, I think comparing the 700 club to TV newscasts introduces another flaw: People who want their daily doses of Pat Robertson really have to watch TV to get it. On the other hand, people who want the news are turning to the Internet more and more. I'm exhibit A: I haven't watched a national newscast in years.

(FWIW, I've never seen the 700 club, so I don't pretend to be an expert on all this.)

- Alaska Jack
1.5.2006 7:40pm
Gordon (mail):
God may not work his mysterious ways on Earth in a manner easily discernable, so perhaps Pat Robertson's comeuppance is coming after he leaves us on his way to (he thinks) heaven.

I slate him for about the 15th level of hell (Dante's Inferno). The Ayatollah Khomeini will be a lot closer to three-headed Satan, in hotter lower precincts.

Here's a trivia quiz - in Dante's Inferno (actually The Divine Comedy, Part One) who are the three individuals inhabiting one of Satan's three mouths?
1.5.2006 7:40pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Larry, Moe and Curley.
1.5.2006 7:43pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Professor Volokh, it's funny you should say that re "fundies." I learned the term from reading this very blog -- from David Bernstein. http://volokh.com/posts/1074660205.shtml for an example. A google search of your site and "fundies" shows tons of hits from Bernstein. I honestly did not know it was pejorative (if it indeed is) -- I actually did not mean to use a pajorative term and I do apologize, I was just trying to use it as a shorthand.
1.5.2006 7:46pm
Gordon (mail):
I've never heard the "fundie" term used as in this thread. The closest use I remember is from the 1980's, when the German Green party was split between the "fundi" faction and the "realo" faction. I think you can guess the particular political positions of these two factions from their names ...
1.5.2006 7:50pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
OK, one more thing off topic: Not all professors are "doctors." I could be wrong, but I do not believe Prof. Volokh is a "doctor" (unless you count JD) so the reference to "Doc Volokh" and "Dr. Volokh" are mistaken.
1.5.2006 7:50pm
Sebastianguy99 (mail):
Paddy,


I spoke about my experiences(Sunday School, Baptist Youth, revivals, retreats, Vacation Bible School, etc...) and that of those I grew up with in the South, if they are different than yours then good for you. If writing about my experiences hurt your feelings, that is unfortunate.

I would point out that I never said all fundamentalists, just the one's I knew and grew up around in Georgia(friends and family). I would never hold my beliefs up as what "we" all believe because I am not a fundamentalist.

I would invite anyone to attend services, read literature, listen to certain radio stations, and watch daily/weekly tv shows in order to draw their own conclusions.Heck, just do a quick Google search and see whether or not what Dionysius and I spoke about is in fact widespread or not.
1.5.2006 7:52pm
Horace (mail):
Contrary to Paddy's statement, I was taught Dionysius's views concerning the end times all through church and school, through the Christian Reformed Church, one of the more right-wing/evangelical/conservative-type sects.
1.5.2006 7:55pm
Matt Barr (mail) (www):
Candidates for national office court Robertson? You'd think he owned a TV station or something. (Well, sold it on the condition his show air in perpetuity)

Considering Robertson's last five years of doozies, I think next time there's a contested Republican primary you're going to want to be the one he doesn't endorse.
1.5.2006 7:58pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Here's some more good stuff re the association of Dobson, Robertson and Falwell, and how Bush uses them to go to bat for him (here re Harriet Miers) for those in denial.

http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/5521.html
1.5.2006 8:00pm
Gordon (mail):
The answer is:

Judas
Cassius
Brutus
1.5.2006 8:12pm
Paddy O. (mail):
To those with differing experiences I admitted there are lots of variations in teaching.

However Seb, while you spoke of your experiences, and I spoke of my experiences Dionysius implied this is what we all believe.

Unfortunately, even if taught in churches this isn't acceptable theology. It's getting the message wrong. Just like in all other subjects there are teachers who don't get it and pass on heresy. Churches are, sadly, filled with people entirely ignorant about theology.

To make the heresy into normative belief, as Dionysius did, is a mistake. It sounds like your experiences were precisely the sort which rightly gives Christianity a bad name. However, broadly speaking this isn't acceptable theology and I don't know anyone who would hold to this.

And my feelings weren't hurt. Just wanted to clear up a common misconception.
1.5.2006 8:16pm
Chukuang:
Now I dare say Minister Farrakhan is not highlighted as the voice of most African Americans, and even as he's said a number of rather offensive things we don't insist he's the voice of the Democratic Left.

That's because the Democratic Left, as represented by, say, Clinton, did not consult with him on major policy issues they way Bush has with Robertson and others. Oh, and the Democratic Left regularly condemns him. When Clinton or Dean ask for Farrakhan's advice on Middle East policies then he can be compared to Robertson.
1.5.2006 8:20pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Robertson lives on his past influence but is really equivalent to Louis Farrakhan.

I do not disagree -- given that the right now seems to agree with us I expect the National Review, PowerLine, Instapundit and the other Bush worshippers to condemn Bush for his extensive involvements with the equivalent of Farrakhan. Until then, you own the equivalent of Farrakhan -- Robertson, a hero of the right.

1.5.2006 8:31pm
Fishbane (mail):
Bub: The secular left is responsible for providing Pat Robertson with a platform? [...] But then you let your knee start jerking and suddenly the secular left is to blame for Roberson's stupidity.

Oh, but it is true. If only the "secular left" went away, then Robertson could turn his guns on the "secular right" - all those evil libertarians that don't want God and Country telling them how to live. The Enemy Within is always worse, and the closer to totality one comes, the worse it becomes.
1.5.2006 8:42pm
Sebastianguy99 (mail):
"It sounds like your experiences were precisely the sort which rightly gives Christianity a bad name. However, broadly speaking this isn't acceptable theology and I don't know anyone who would hold to this."


One of the reasons why I am not a fundamentalist is their penchant for telling people that what they believe is correct and what other's believe is wrong. What we then have is what I like to call the "cycle to hell', where the focus becomes who's right and who's wrong, who best represents "true" Christians. You have represented a part of this cycle quite well and should accept your part in that which "gives Christianity a bad name".

Again, consistent with this topic, I would invite readers to do some easy investigation and draw their own conclusions.
1.5.2006 8:46pm
Paddy O. (mail):
Seb,

I happen to represent a part which has studied what we believe. Christianity is a historic faith, and has an element of study which is quite, quite extensive. The problem with approaching a faith like Christianity is that those who are part of it are accused of ignorance, and those who are not ignorant are accused of arrogance.

I wonder if you would dismiss Professor Volokh's arguments on the law in the same way.

To say what is appropriate in this context is no different than a law professor pointing out what is and what is not acceptable. There are differences of opinion, but there are also lines which reveal ignorance.

Fundamentalists, by the by, are clearly not just a religious phenomenon according to your definition. Most everyone in their opinions on a subject tell people what they believe is correct and thus how others are wrong. If I'm not mistaken this is part of a conversation. Only if on a subject like Christianity, whose body of learning and extent of academic study is quite profoundly vast, study is discounted. Only opinion counts.

Is there a subject which does not entail those who are educated in the subject being allowed a teaching role for those who are not educated in the subject? Indeed, in my suggesting wrong teaching I thought I was expressing how sad your experiences were, and how you really were spiritually victimized. This isn't as much a "cycle to hell" as much as an expression of what is valid thought according to people who have spent a good deal of time thinking through these things over the course of the last 2000 years.

I personally would invite people to click the link I posted above and see how actual and present Evangelicals view Robertson.
1.5.2006 9:02pm
b.trotter (mail) (www):
Pat Robertson has always been way out in right field when it comes to his theology and his politics. I quite paying attention to him years ago, although I used to spend quite a bit of time refuting his interpretations of scripture through current events...

Just to be clear, though, while God has in the past affected direct intervention for a specific act, there was generally a prophet around to make sure everybody knew it was God who had done it... Pat Robertson is not a Prophet (you have to never be wrong for that to work). IMO, if he wants to delve into politics, he should quit preaching from the pulpit... and if he wants to preach from the pulpit, he should learn to read his bible.
1.5.2006 10:32pm
Nathan Hall (mail):
I'm a conservative Bible-believing Christian and know many others of like mind. And Robertson speaks for exactly none of us.
1.5.2006 11:02pm
Dave:
IMO, if he wants to delve into politics, he should quit preaching from the pulpit... and if he wants to preach from the pulpit, he should learn to read his bible.

That reminds me of a story I heard a couple of weeks ago. A guy I met was at a major college debate tournament about five years ago, and Falwell was the keynote speaker or something (I thought it was the National Debate Tournament, but Google appears not to think that he was there. For this story, it doesn't matter which tournament it was.)

As a group, college debaters are probably the best cross-examiners in the county aside from trial lawyers, and also quite liberal. Many of them knew Falwell was coming and did their research ahead of time about various theological positions, statements in the Bible, etc. that they could nail him with. According to the story, Falwell didn't know what hit him until it was too late.

Wish I had been there.

Point is, the Bible is complex enough (internally inconsistent enough?) that you can justify quite a large number of mutually incompatible ideas from it, ranging from the profound to the absurd to the grotesque. The rest is politics, power, and persuasion.

Falwell-types are much better at what they do when dissent can be suppressed (as in theocracies) or ignored (as on talk radio) than they are when they can be challenged openly and have to really defend what they say. One of the many reasons to like free speech and especially democracy, where what people do (in theory) has to be justified to "the people."

Dave
1.5.2006 11:15pm
'Nonymous:
Chukuang, Greedy Clerk:

It's true that Farrakhan isn't nearly as influential as Sharpton. But what about Al Sharpton? How many liberal politicians are willing to criticize him? And how many liberal voters would they lose if they did?
1.5.2006 11:55pm
Chukuang:
Most of the left regards Sharpton as a joke, as they should, and I can't imagine that anyone would actually lose many votes by taking him on outside of some very particular areas that are going to vote Dem anyway. But you are correct that he doesn't come in for nearly as much criticism as he deserves. And as much as I loath Sharpton (though I'm not on the left) and his past actions, one can't deny that he's actually getting at least a bit more reasonable as he gets older, while Robertson seems to be getting worse. It's been well over a decade since Sharpton has come up with anything anywhere near Robertson's frequent insane outbursts.

But again, he deserves far more criticism than he gets.
1.6.2006 12:35am
Marcus1:
The intellectual conservative, such as those who come here, may be embarassed by Robertson's remarks. There are many many people, however, who are simply not intellectual. Many many people think that when someone dies, it is necessarily because God willed it. Those people don't often visit the Volokh Conspiracy, but they're a large percentage of our country. Consider those studies that show that some 10% of college graduates can read a political column and tell you what it is espousing. Less than 50% "believe" in evolution.

In my experience, except where it becomes extremely embarassing, the conservative establishment loves pandering to Pat Robertson and the Pat Robertson crowd.

I found Joel B's comments quite interesting, though. It may be that to the religious fundamentalist, it makes sense that God keeps his promises by killing people, but won't otherwise go out of his way to prevent carnage. In that speech, though, I don't see Pat Robertson making the subtle point about promises. Seems like he just said God got mad and had Sharon and Rabin killed.

What I want to know, also, is, why did it take God two strokes to do the job? And if God had Rabin assasinated, what does that say about the "free will" defense for criminal behavior?
1.6.2006 12:41am
Cornellian (mail):
In my experience, except where it becomes extremely embarassing, the conservative establishment loves pandering to Pat Robertson and the Pat Robertson crowd.

There's a post on Prof. Bainbridge's blog quoting some email by Abramoff (might have been Scanlon) speaking about the religious right in the Republican party in very derogatory terms. I suspect quite a few persons in Republican leadership positions regard the religious right as a distasteful bunch to be tolerated because of their usefulness at election time. String them along with an "I believe in traditional values" speech here and there and they'll back you on the stuff you actually do care about. Anyone heard Bush talk about a constitutional amendment lately?
1.6.2006 12:57am
Esquire:
Marcus,

I understand (and share some of) your frustration, but be careful not to over-dichotomize between "intellectual" conservatives and religious conservatives. While most of both would not condone speaking "for God" beyond the extent to which the Bible plainly allows, there are many seemingly mysterious yet eminently legitimate articles of faith to which highly intelligent people indeed subscribe (e.g. how God created the world, whether He appoints the hour of every man's death, etc.).
1.6.2006 1:01am
Justin (mail):
"As a group, college debaters are probably the best cross-examiners in the county aside from trial lawyers, and also quite liberal."

Heroes in your own minds. College debaters are arrogant pricks who all go to law school with varying degrees of success but much determination to waste both the professor's and their classmates' time talking about themselves.
1.6.2006 1:28am
minnie:
God is either a funny sort of God, or he's got a funny sort of servant.

Eugene, you just noticed? Presumably the fact that Catholics have you recite a few Hail Marys after you murder someone to get on God's good side again (but do put some money in the plate on your way out) and Orthodox Jews think torturing and strangling a live chicken to death is good way to score points with God and thousands of notions equally, how shall we say, hilarious, were not tip-offs?
1.6.2006 1:37am
VC reader:
There was an interesting article related to this topic in the Jerusalem Post. The article discussed the spilt between the two chief rabbis in Israel. One thought that all Israelis should be asked to pray for Sharon's recovery and the other suggested that only those Israelis who believed Sharon was an asset to Israel should pray for his recovery (but those who thought he was harmful should not pray for his demise). You can read the whole article here.
1.6.2006 1:46am
Dave:
"College debaters are arrogant pricks who all go to law school with varying degrees of success but much determination to waste both the professor's and their classmates' time talking about themselves."

1) I didn't comment on their classroom activities.
2) The good ones (like the ones that would have attended this tournament) are better speakers and researchers than their classmates, even if they abuse that.
3) I still wish I could have seen them thrash Falwell.

Dave
1.6.2006 3:33am
BikerDad (mail):
Okay, I'm a conservative, religious, and a thinker. So my question is this:

Can anybody here prove that Robertson is wrong on this subject? No, they can't. In fact, nobody has even tried. For a crew of lawyers and lawyerly types, such piss poor logic is distressing. Instead of methodically demolishing Robertson's contention, y'all have simply launched into a full-blown ad hominem assault.

You can argue that a simpler explanation is at hand, i.e., Sharon is simply suffering at the tender ministrations of Old Age, an argument that I would advance myself as the most likely cause.

Sure, Robertson's words were intemperate, but they do have solid theological foundation. (And no, I'm not talking about the "lets accelerate the EndTimes" malarkey.) If we're to take the Old Testament as an indicator of how God "manages" the Chosen People, then yes, He has struck down wandering Jewish leaders. Perhaps He warned Sharon, but Sharon, being a solid Reformed/secular Jew decided that it wasn't God talking, it was his imagination. That God didn't strike down Stalin, Hitler, Mugabe, Amin, Pot, Mao, or a few thousand other warts on humanity doesn't in any way disprove Robertson's contention, because even in the OT there are various and sundry despots that God allowed to continue on their bloody way.

So, the upshot is this: for those of you who think that Robertson is exercising extreme hubris to say God did this, what level of intellectual or spiritual pride does it take to say that God most certainly did not do it? (If you're an atheist, disregard, you may continue your superior mocking of Robertson.)

FWIW, I go with Old Age as the most likely culprit. And no, I don't watch the 700 Club and I'm not a fan of Robertson's.

p.s. The 700 Club was talking about Darfur long before anybody else. Hmmm, maybe they're not just a bunch of ignorant rubes after all...
1.6.2006 5:05am
jallgor (mail):
Biker Dad,
I didn't post above but I'll defend some of the posts. You don't have to be an atheist to think that anyone who beleives that God smites people is an idiot. You also don't have to be an atheist to think that anyone who reads that Bible and takes the stories as literal truth is a bit deluded. Obviously proving that God didn't smite Sharon is impossible. It seems to me though that most of the posters don't believe such a thing exists and, if they do, they have no faith in Pat Robertson's ability to predict when it happens.
To me, saying that an argument has "solid theological foundation" is pretty meaningless. The Bible says that Jesus turned water into wine too so under your logic, if someone claimed that God turned their water into wine that argument would also have "solid theological foundation"?
1.6.2006 9:43am
Michael B (mail):
BikerDad,

"Prove" that Robertson is wrong? What exactly would be the terms or qualifications of that proof? Kitchen table biblicist or theological construals? Or what? It's certainly true there's a lot of grade-school and middle-school level triumphalism and bravado in many of the above comments. One need only compare, as some have done, Sharpton's prominent influence with that of Robertson's. And yes, you're right when it comes to Darfur (actually Sudan, since what you're referring to reflects southern Sudan's history more than Darfur specifically).

But this specific comment of Robertson's is not merely an "embarrasment" as it more substantively reflects an egregiously arrogated, an egoistic and highly presumptive quality which is deserving of forceful and unalloyed rebuke and censure. If it's "proofs" you're concerned with, then it's Robertson which needs to forward his own proof, his oracular pronouncement is not an adequate substitute for any "proof," however construed and regardless as to how you might define that term. Rebuke and censure; not apology or deflection.
1.6.2006 9:46am
Michael B (mail):
Too, if anyone is interested in Darfur and Sudan in the vein alluded to, here: The Shame of Darfur.
1.6.2006 10:07am
Marcus1:
Bikerdad,

Robertson said not only that God caused Sharon's stroke, but also that God had Yitzhak Rabin assassinated for his political stances.

I suggested two problems with this in my post: 1. Why did it take 2 strokes to incapacitate Sharon, and 2. I thought murder was supposed to be the result of man's free will, not that God was sending out assassins.

Come to think of it, that's what Volokh's whole post was about! If God is in the business of having people killed, why did he not stop Stalin or Hitler? I guess according to Robertson, it must be that God was acting through Stalin and Hitler. If he was working through Rabin's assassin, why not?

Of course, Robertson only invokes God when something fits with what Robertson thinks God is trying to do. But still, that god would send out an assassin? (Or somehow guide the assassin to success?)

I don't think free will is a good explanation for the evil in the world anyway, because I think an omnipotent and benevolent God nevertheless easily could stop people like Hitler or Stalin, or as Pat Robertson believes, Ariel Sharon (comparison rhetoric not intended). I still thought free will was a fundamental Christian doctrine though. So theologically, that seems rather inconsistent with God having Rabin assassinated, whether or not it takes God to give a 77 year old morbidly obese Middle East leader a stroke.
1.6.2006 10:48am
NYU Jew (mail):
Eugene,
Sharon was born over a year before Arafat and has been alive for the last year while Arafat hasn't. According to the Robertson metric, I'd think that G-d must like Sharon at least a little more than Arafat.
1.6.2006 12:18pm
colt41 (mail):
David Brog, Arlen Specter's recently departed chief of staff, has authored a book called, "Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State".

Mr. Brog's premise is the "liberal" jewish elite in the US should be more embracing of the religious right . . . because, after all, the religious right supports Israel.

Well, with friends like Robertson on the right, why should jews need any more enemies?
1.6.2006 12:18pm
dweeb:
to add to Joel B's comment, Robertson may or may not be an idiot, but professor Volokh's line of reasoning, basing that conclusion on Stalin, et al, not having strokes, is fallacious. The Bible makes it clear that God holds his faithful more accountable. Sharon, as leader of Israel, and ostensibly, at least, a faithful adherant to Judaism, would therefore be more subject to direct earthly punishment than many other people. People have been violating God's clear commandments since the Fall, but how many were swallowed up by a whale - only Jonah, a faithful man who God picked for a special role. As others have pointed out, we cannot know why Sharon had a stroke. However, the good health enjoyed by Stalin and other past evildoers is no more a basis for speculation on the reason than are Robertson's words.
1.6.2006 12:34pm
minnie:
You can argue that a simpler explanation is at hand, i.e., Sharon is simply suffering at the tender ministrations of Old Age, an argument that I would advance myself as the most likely cause.

77 is not old for a Seventh Day Adventist. It is old for someone who abuses animals and then eats their dead carcasses. Age is not the culprit.
1.6.2006 12:59pm
colt41 (mail):
Minnie -- "Orthodox Jews think torturing and strangling a live chicken to death is good way to score points with God"

I'm not sure what you're saying, but if it's that strangling chickens is the manner of slaughter, you're incorrect.

The Torah (see Leviticus and Deuteronomy) requires that meat and poultry be slaughtered in a prescribed manner known as "shechita."

The trachea and esophagus of the animal are severed with a special razor-sharp, perfectly smooth blade, causing instantaneous death with no pain to the animal. Only a trained kosher slaughterer (shochet), whose piety and expertise have been attested to by rabbinic authorities, is qualified to slaughter an animal for kosher consumption.

The point of shechita is to minimize the pain inflicted.

If your point was something else, Minnie, then sorry for the digression.
1.6.2006 1:16pm
eddie (mail):
Why do charlatans become religious leaders? Somewhere in the gospel I have read "My Kingdom is not of this world."

When will true "christians" stand up and condemn the hatred being spewed by these anti-christs.

I think applying logic to religion is precisely the problem, so the Professor's line of reasoning instead of invalidating the "logic" of "Reverend" Roberts' actually provides a toehold of legitimacy, i.e. that religious principles can be used logically to deduce truths about reality. (See, e.g., Intellegent Design). Logic will tak me to the threshold of that which I cannot know. If I feel an emptiness upon that threshold, then belief will take me through the door to the realm of mystery. But do not expect logic or science or politics to have any applicability in the land of mystery. And don't presume to understand mystery, but merely stand in awe and believe.
1.6.2006 1:26pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
It's true that Farrakhan isn't nearly as influential as Sharpton. But what about Al Sharpton?

Nice try. I don't recall Bill Clinton ever meeting with Al Sharpton to talk about whether to bomb Iraq. YOu can keep throwing out names, but face it Robertson is a loon and, more importantly, he is a very important figure in mainstream Republican circles.

1.6.2006 1:50pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Also on Sharpton: compare Sharpton's performance in the Democratic primary with that of Robertson's or Buchanan's. Yup, no comparison. But thanks for trying, we have some wonderful parting gifts for you.
1.6.2006 1:52pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
Eugene, I think your point is on, but what strikes me about it is that it seems to mock a kind of thinking endemic to most monotheists, viz., that God intervenes in the world in identifiable cases to wreak or bestow divine justice.

Now, usually you counsel against mocking (though not against politely criticizing) religion and religious beliefs. Here, however, you freely mock what I would take to be a religious belief. Would you agree there's a tension there? Is your critical imperative general, or is it content-specific?
1.6.2006 2:00pm
Cheburashka (mail):
I don't think Robertson's been taken seriously in Republican political circles for a very long time. He's still taken seriously for his comments on religious matters, but today everyone but the left (who uses him as a foil) views him as a funny old man out of his depth when it comes to politics.
1.6.2006 2:01pm
BikerDad (mail):
Regarding Rabin, the simple Biblically coherent argument is "God removed his protection when Rabin went off the reservation." Thus, its not a case of God "sending assassins" after Rabin, rather, its allowing those already intent to succeed. Again, that is a supportable argument based on God's prior dealings with Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. Somebody with even a passing knowledge of the Old Testament would understand this, whether or not they agree with it. Crimminy, just watch The Ten Commandments


You don't have to be an atheist to think that anyone who beleives that God smites people is an idiot. You also don't have to be an atheist to think that anyone who reads that Bible and takes the stories as literal truth is a bit deluded. Obviously proving that God didn't smite Sharon is impossible. It seems to me though that most of the posters don't believe such a thing exists and, if they do, they have no faith in Pat Robertson's ability to predict when it happens. - Jallgor


First, I agree that skepticism regarding Robertson's ability (or anybody's) to determine whether or not Event X is a result of God's direct action is reasonable and warranted.

Second, it is a logical fallacy to conclude that because JoeBob cannot accurately predict Event X, Event X doesn't happen. That seems to be an undercurrent here.

Third, a substantial number of non-idiots have believed that God does, in point of fact, occasionally smite people. Sometimes even a lot of people. He also is believed to allow bad things to happen to good people. Numbered among these "idiots" as you so graciously refer to them are legendary jurists, Founding Fathers, Nobel Prize winning scientists, literary giants, etc, etc. Identifying them as "idiots" says more about you (none of it positive) than it does about them.

Grace and peace, BD
1.6.2006 2:23pm
Marcus1:
Q the Enchanter,

It's one thing to say God intervenes in the world in mysterious ways. It's another thing to directly suggest that an assasination and a recent stroke are the work of God.

When Robertson advances a specific theory that someone's death was caused by God, he opens himself up to have that view challenged. When the theory turns out to be as outlandishly absurd as the one here -- that not only is God in the assasination business, but that of all the people in the world to assassinate, he chose Rabin and Sharon -- that must open Robertson to ridicule.
1.6.2006 2:38pm
Marcus1:
Bikerdad,

>Thus, its not a case of God "sending assassins" after Rabin, rather, its allowing those already intent to succeed.<

Were there not assasination attempts agaisnt Hitler? Could God not have allowed them to succeed?
1.6.2006 2:41pm
Cris:
As usual, Scott Ott (ScrappleFace) nails it. Take and read!
1.6.2006 2:43pm
abb3w:

"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?"

I believe Robertson needs to reread the Book of Job again.
1.6.2006 2:48pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
Marcus1, as I pointed out, the distinction you rely on seems content-based. Again, Robertson's assertion reflects a type of belief held by (I think) most monotheists. It's a "religious belief." But Eugene generally seems to object to ridiculing (not necessarily to "challenging") religious beliefs.

I'm wondering if this reflects the fact that Eugene thinks some sorts of religious beliefs are subject to ridicule, but not others. (I would argue that "outlandish absurdity" is unlikely to be the criterion given the nature of the subject matter.)
1.6.2006 4:33pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I remember seeing Robertson back in the 80's talking about the EEC in relation to the end of the world. What drove me crazy is he said it like his audience was in Kindergarten "DO YOU KNOW WHAT EEE-EEE-SEE MEANS???" in that stupid variation of a southern accent.
1.6.2006 5:18pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Q the Enchanter: I certainly try to avoid using insults or epithets related to religious beliefs; on the other hand, as you point out, I have nothing against politely criticizing them.

Criticism with an edge -- say, with sarcasm -- is a tougher call. My general view is that I don't find it inherently rude, but I try to avoid it as generally unproductive (especially where I'm talking about others' religious beliefs) unless I think that the target is really asking for it. Suggesting that God works by sending assassins, or even physical diseases, strikes me as "asking for it." I realize that this is a subjective matter, but it's really more editorial esthetics (and a sense of one's audience) than morals or even manners.
1.6.2006 5:47pm
Tom952 (mail):
Since 9/11 I have evolved a less tolerant view of fundamentalist's right of expression. We now know that fundamentalist speech can incite mass murder, mayhem, and chaos. While the United States and others have a tradition of tolerance for anything religious, I now think that a religious proselytizer who also collects and distributes significant funds should be held to a standard of factual accountability with respect to their public statements.
1.6.2006 5:47pm
Cris:
Tom,
I now think that a religious proselytizer who also collects and distributes significant funds should be held to a standard of factual accountability with respect to their public statements.

Held by whom?
1.6.2006 5:57pm
Colin:
Cris,

I volunteer.
1.6.2006 6:33pm
Tom952 (mail):
Cris:

Held accountable by governmental regulatory authorities.

A religious fundamentalist engaged in inciteful speech, who also collects and disburses significant monies should be treated in a manner similar to a business that is using false claims to sell a dangerous product resulting in harm to the public. I assert that recent events have proven that the hands off policy of the past regarding religious business enterprises is insufficient to protect the public interest from harm by religious fundamentalists.
1.6.2006 7:31pm
Splunge (mail):
Even the writers of television shows grasp the fact that the precise way to intervene in a hugely complex, highly interconnected system like human society to achieve a given outcome some decades later is, at the least, not obvious -- and perhaps utterly contrary to common sense, from time to time.

Which means any halfway decent theologian could easily argue that, had God not permitted Stalin to live, or smitten Ariel Sharon earlier or later than He has, then it's quite possible something far worse would have happened than what actually happened. Who knows? No reasonable person can argue that it's easy to predict the full consequences of the life or death of one man, unto the furthest ramification of influence on the price of tea in China fifty years hence.

Mind you, personally I wouldn't make that argument. But then, I wouldn't even argue that were Stalin to have been felled by a stroke in 1933 the history of the world in the late 20th century would obviously and necessarily be less bloody. Probably, yes. But certainly? Hmmm. Why human history turns out the way it does is far too much a mystery to say.

In short, that God (if He exists) doesn't run the Universe the way any one human being think He ought doesn't even begin to start to prove He doesn't exist or is out of his mind -- it just proves God isn't human.

Of course, it's possible to argue that what doesn't make sense to humans must ipso facto not make sense at all. But that seems a tad arrogant. At least, we think it arrogant when our children say that what doesn't make sense to them can't possibly make sense at all.
1.6.2006 8:28pm
Dave:
Splunge: Interesting post, but I doubt Robertson will ever make the argument that Stalin was an agent of God. He's not Fred Phelps

From Phelps's website (warning: this is vile stuff):

Why do you say "Thank God For September 11?"

...First, God ordained and decreed these acts. He determined in eternity to hurl those airplanes like fiery darts out of the sky. He used the evil followers of Osama bin Laden to punish even more evil people... His acts by definition are perfect and all humans are duty bound to be grateful for all that He does... You are supremely arrogant and evil if you don't believe that your Creator was responsible for September 11... God is fully entitled to utterly destroy the nation immediately. The fact that instead He gave us a fair warning on September 11 is something that those who fear and obey God as all mankind is bound to do are thankful for this warning. Thank God that we were not all killed on September 11, as we deserve nothing less... Third... The worse this world becomes in its institutionalized iniquity, the greater the hope that the return of Christ is nigh. September 11 was comforting evidence to the saints of God that every word of the Scripture is true and that our hope is a good one... Furthermore, it [shows that] his nation (and world) has crossed the line... September 11 was child's play compared to what is coming...


Even though Robertson agreed with Falwell that 9/11 was liberals' faults (and made similar statements about New Orleans and Louisiana), I doubt he'd go so far as to make Stalin or Osama bin Laden out as an agent of god. But that's probably more for political reasons than theological ones.

Dave
1.6.2006 11:33pm
Marcus1:
Dave,

>Even though Robertson agreed with Falwell that 9/11 was liberals' faults (and made similar statements about New Orleans and Louisiana), I doubt he'd go so far as to make Stalin or Osama bin Laden out as an agent of god. But that's probably more for political reasons than theological ones.<

Exactly. It seems self-evident from Robertson's other views that he would necessarily think that God caused or purposefully allowed the murdering of Hitler and Stalin because of specific human transgressions. Really, this says a lot about the God that people like Pat Robertson believe in.

Like the God Fred Phelps believes in, this is not a loving god. This is a God completely indifferent to human suffering. Sure, he allows those who believe in Jesus Christ to go to heaven, supposedly because he "loves" us, but the fact is that this god's behavior has absolutely nothing to do with love. It is a vengeful spiteful god that promotes his own while killing and torturing those who "reject" him, for them then to be tortured eternally in ever-lasting fire.

Really, it seems to be the same ideology that justifies a Mafia boss's behavior. As long as he treats his own people well, it's perfectly fine and just if he robs and murders everybody else. This is the ideology that people like Robertson ascribe to God. Hey -- he created them, so if they aren't fully appreciative, they deserve to burn in everlasting fire. After all, Adam brought sin into the world.

Of course, many would read my comments and suggest that I am "angry with God." Far from it -- the point is that a god like this could not possibly exist. To be angry at this kind of cartoonish figure would be just as silly as creating it.
1.7.2006 2:11am
minnie:
Colt41,

I am hardly a religious scholar. However, there is one thing I have been told, and you can correct me if I am wrong, and another thing I know for a fact:

l) I am told that in Orthodox religious communities such as some in Brooklyn, there is a certain day of the year where the people get together and each one strangles a chicken to death. Something about helping the poor. How those chickens suffer and are terrorized as they are transported to the places where they are to be strangled to death is beyond description. Even children participate, thereby insuring that they grow up to be insensitive adults who care nothing about inflicting pain and death upon innocent sensient beings. Some may even grow up to have 1,000 acre cattle farms, like Sharon. The only light in this sickening situation is that some modern, humane Rabbis and Orthodox Jews have started suggesting that instead, people put money in a hankerchief to give to the poor.

2) Now. About kosher slaughter, a topic I DO in fact know about. There are few practices in this world less humane than the kosher practice of killing cows. If you have been told otherwise, you have been misled. I have never personally known a single human being who was able to sit through an entire 45 minute tape demonstrating what goes on in a kosher slaughter house without fainting or getting extremely ill, physically and emotionally, and having to stop watching. Before the Internet, when these tapes were never seen by anyone, people could be fed lies and told these practices were humane. No longer. If you want, I will post the web address of some of these tapes so you can watch for yourself. Make up your own mind before you say I am mistaken. However, I hate to do that, because I don't wish on anyone in this world something so horrible as to have to watch one of those tapes. Only a person with a heart of stone could watch it and not weep.

As for Eugene's original thesis, anyone with an average or above I.Q. knows that the basis of almost all monotheist religions is that God can, if he wants to, intervene in human events. And that is why people pray. The miners who were praying for their loved ones were acting on that same widely held belief, as was the President when he said he was praying for them. For Eugene to be smacked in the face with how preposterious this concept is when contemplating Robertson's words, and then coping with the consequences of that position by making a scapegoat out of Robertson who was merely voicing what almost every religious person believes, is disingenous. Further, most deeply religious people want those who are against their religious beliefs to, how shall we say this, er, not prosper. The only difference with Robertson is he is brazen enough to say so out loud. Most Christians, in fact, believe that those who are not Christians are going to hell to burn in eternal damnation. And I don't notice them shedding any tears about that, do you?
1.7.2006 4:13am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Minnie, tapes and movies of Kosher Slaughter WERE available before the Internet, and people did see them. "The Eternal Jew" was one of them, and its available on several white supremacist web sites.
1.7.2006 12:22pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Further Eugene, if we agree that an interventionist G_d does indeed work in mysterious ways, then it would follow that ANY of the virtuous behavior called for in the Tenach/Gospels/Koran will not necessarily deliver the expected result. As such, they are virtually worthless.
1.7.2006 3:51pm
Splunge (mail):
minnie, I doubt you could watch 45 minutes of brain surgery, too. What does this prove?
1.7.2006 7:12pm
Dave:
The chicken thing is called Kaparot. The idea is transferring your sins to the chicken, then slaughtering it. It's an annual thing for very religious Jews. I don't believe that it is killed by strangling, though I don't know the details. Minnie is correct that some people use money instead.

I don't have an opinion on Kosher slaughter versus other methods. I doubt I'd be able to watch either one. I doubt I'd be able to justify eating meat at all if someone really pressed me on the subject.

Dave
1.7.2006 8:04pm
David8425 (mail):
Professor Eugene Volokh somehow dropped the ball with his analysis.

1. Professor Volokh is not a theologian, as far as I know. Yet, he is making a political comment on Pat Robertson's opinion based on the Biblical text about Sharon's medical condition.

2. Professor Volokh should at least use his legal methodology/interpretation when analyzing a legal document:

a. The text of the Old Testament on many occassions clearly and unequivocally states that the Lord G-d gave the land to Israel. For example, after the Exodus God told Joshua, the military leader of the Jewish army, that the land - Israel - belongs to the Jews.

b. God's intent was and is to have a place for His chosen people to live, reside and prosper in Israel.

c. The New Testament, further, states that the Jews (ones who accept Jesus, of course) will have a special place in Israel, during the Messiah's rule.

d. If the land was given by God to the Jews, then nobody, including General Sharon, a military hero in his own right and a statesman (who apparently is either a Reform Jew or a secular Jew) cannot divide the land and give it to the Palestinian Arabs or Syrians or Jordanians or the EU or the Martians.

e. Throughout Jewish history the Old Testament is replete with examples of God punishing the Jews (individuals or the entire nation) for disobedience. (So, yes, God is more demanding on Jews than He is on Joseph Stalin, a human beast or evil incarnate. By the same logic, you can ask why did God allow 6 million of His chosen people perish during the Holocaust?)

f. Therefore, it MAY very well be (and is logical) that Sharon, who was contemplating of giving up a portion of the West Bank to the Arabs, was punished by God. There is a Biblical basis for it.

g. Indeed, its impossible to say with certainty whether God caused Sharon's stroke. To claim as such will imply reading God's mind, which by definition is impossible. (Prof. Volohk alluded to the argument that "God acts in mysterious ways.")

3. The real issue is this: How does God view Israel's giving up the land given by God?
(a) Pat Robertson believes that Israel should not give up the land, because nobody has a right to disobey God.

NOTE: Many Orthodox Jews also believe that. Moreover, Likud Party chairman Natanyahu was opposed to giving up Gaza, yet alone the West Bank.
NOTE: Pat has impeccable record of supporting Israel.

(b) On the other hand, Albert Mohler, a prominent evangelical thinker and leader, contends that the Israel will get the land given by God during the tribulation and/or Messiah's return. Mr. Mohler does not view the giving up land by the present Israel as a violation of the Old Testament Rule.

NOTE: So, there are different ways to interpret the Bible and/or answer the question.

(c) Bear in mind that this is a theological question. However, it also has political, social, economic or military components and/or implications. Of course, for seculars or atheists, it may well be only a political question or "human rights question."

4. Now, there are others who:
(a) do not believe that the Bible is divine, but merely a collection of writing by men without any divine inspiration and/or guidance.
(b) think the Bible is crap (they should ponder over Pasquale's Dilemma)

For them, of course, any opinion based on the Bible - for example about Israel giving up land - is "insane," "dangerous," "ridiculous," "fundamentalist," "theocratic," "fascist," and so on.

5. Every person of good will, and presumably Pat Robertson, feels bad for Sharon's medical condition. And, no Christian rejoices or should rejoice that he is suffering.

6. Before, attacking or criticizing or disagreeing with Pat Robertson, you should first and foremost answer this question:

If any person who is giving up Israeli land violating the Biblical promise by God to His chosen people?

(Many will end up arguing with God, and we know who will lose that argument, don't we?)
1.8.2006 2:29am
subpatre (mail):
Eugene,
This post highlights the worst of blogs:
On one day a prominent TV personality associated with a political party is reported making an appalling statement. Your post attacks the dubious logic in the statement.

The next day the POTUS, defacto-leader of his party, supervises the condemnation of the statement.
In the intervening period, the blog has --in comments-- damned the political party; then roundly misrepresented and insulted a large set of religious beliefs; the last threads misrepresenting and criticizing a another religion for a rare custom. The few commenters who've stayed on or near the subject should be commended.

Reported in Jan 5th's press, Robertson's Jan 4th remark on television
"Sharon was personally a very likable person… [but the Bible] …makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land' "

The White house denounced Robertson's remarks on Jan 6th. At a press briefing, with the POTUS present
Q Do you have anything to say about what Pat Robertson said about Sharon and it being some sort of divine retribution for his Gaza pullout?

MR. DUFFY: I think those comments were wholly inappropriate and offensive, and really don't have a place in this or any other debate. Press Briefings
Where's the responsibility for this blog's comments? Chukuang, Cala, Dave, Sebastianguy99, Michael B, and Greedy Clerk's comments aren't valid in view of the President's remark.

This post and comments amounts to a slash and run. Even the MSM manages to choke out retractions or add balancing factors.
1.8.2006 11:56am
Jens Fiederer (mail) (www):
Regarding
I really like this story
( work-safe, and don't worry -- no chickens were harmed in the telling of this story )
1.8.2006 3:57pm
Jens Fiederer (mail) (www):
Regarding kaparot, that is!
1.8.2006 3:58pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Why would God give a 77-year old man a stroke that leaves him in a coma?
He won't know why God did it to him, it doesn't kill him, and few will be sure that God did it to him.

Oh, and minnie, get a life. We don't need or want `your trolling. And I, for one, don't really care if my dinner had a pleasant life.

Nick
1.9.2006 12:23am