Friday, January 15, 2010
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Having written a law review article that wonders if a financial catastrophe bears any relationship to a natural catastrophe like an earthquake, I'm just agog when I listen to modern "theologues" like Pat Robertson mouth sentiments that were fairly common in 1755 or so. Indeed, Pat Robertson is to modern religion as Andy Fastow is to prudent financial reporting. That is, he is the knucklehead who is the basis for the availability heuristic that everybody in similar circumstances is like him. (If you missed it, the "Reverend" Pat accounts for the earthquake by the fact that Haiti "made a pact with the Devil" to get rid of the French a couple hundred years ago.) If you want to defend either corporate management or religious sentiment, these guys don't do you any favors. We have very good friends who were on a church sponsored mission at the University of Fondwa in the mountains between Leogane and Jacmel. As far as I know, they did not enter into a pact with the Devil, although I guess the Rev would say for sure they didn't because they are safely in Leogane and waiting to be evacuated.
The philosopher Pierre Bayle's reaction to theodicy (Alan, that's not a typo of "the idiocy") of this sort (even in the 17th century) was that God could be all good or all powerful, but not both. Why would an all good and all powerful God punish an innocent Haitian baby (or any innocent for that matter) in 2010 for something Toussaint L'Ouverture did 200 years ago? Any decent human being would have to conclude that you either have to reject God as being evil concept, or significantly scale back what power you are willing to attribute to God. And if this is simply an imponderable, that is, it's not for me to say that God could be evil (not understanding God's ultimate purposes), why did God give me a mind that could reason to the conclusion that God, if all powerful and allowing catastrophes, would have to be evil?
By the way, the "Caribbean pact with the devil" is not a new thing. Port Royal, Jamaica was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692, and nobody gave it a second thought among the European intelligentsia because it was, as everybody knew, a den of iniquity. Sixty-three years later, an earthquake destroyed Lisbon, and it shook the Enlightenment to its core. It didn't make sense that God would punish a good and beautiful Christian city unless it turned out that God didn't control earthquakes.