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God's Pat Problem | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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God's Pat Problem

It cannot be easy being God these days, what with so many of His self-proclaimed followers launching wars in His name.

So the last thing that the Almighty needs is a whackjob calling down the wrath of, er, well, God on communities that fail to follow the instructions in the "Christian Coalition Voter Guide."

But that's what God's got in the person of Pat Robertson, the religious broadcaster who frequently uses his 700 Club television program to pray about weather patterns or to encourage the assassination of foreign leaders.

Last week, Robertson went the next step and began deciding who can and cannot talk to God.

After the citizens of Dover, Pa., voted to remove eight school board members who had attempted to introduce an "intelligent design" curriculum -- which encourages the rejection of science and established views of evolution in order to promote the notion that the universe was simply popped into being by the Big Guy -- Robertson announced that people living in that community are off God's Christmas card list.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Instead of praying to God, Robertson said the folks in Dover will have to worship science. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin," the television personality declared. "Maybe he can help them."

To be sure, there will be those sincere disbelievers who suggest that prayers to Darwin would be of equal consequence with prayers to the Almighty. That's a debate for another day.

But the choice that Robertson sets up for followers of his Christian faith is false one.

Many of the greatest evolutionary scientists of history and the present day have been men and women of deep religious faith -- with Christians well represented among their number. These scientists have suggested in some of the most thoughtful and elegant essays of our time that the study of evolution can -- and should -- be seen as an endeavor that is entirely in synch with their faith. After all, they ask, what could be wrong with trying to better explain God's creation?

The answer, of course, is "nothing" -- unless you've made a fortune setting yourself up as God's "spokesman."

Robertson and his ilk despise science because it provides explanations and insights that expose their pseudo-religious rants about who is on the right or wrong side of God -- not to mention who gets to pray and how -- for what they are: schemes to scare Christians into voting for Robertson's right-wing allies and writing checks to Robertson's enterprises and causes.

The so-called "Christian broadcaster" is wrong this time, as he has so frequently been in the past.

Despite what Roberston says, the people of Dover can pray to whomever they choose: God or Charles Darwin or even Pat Robertson.

And they can believe, as no doubt most Dover, Pa., voters did when they cast their ballots, that sound religion and sound science need not be in conflict.

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