They Just Can’t Help Themselves, Can They?

14 January, 2010

The earthquake in Haiti is tragic and horrific.  And the response from America was quick — U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard units were underway within, literally, hours.  And the the response from one of the most prolific mouthpieces of the religious right was adding insult within, literally, hours.

Pat Robertson (always quick to blame tragedy on the victims), to the surprise of all many none, blamed the Haitians (from the New York Daily News):

The Rev. Pat Robertson is offering his own absurd explanation for why a quake hit Haiti: Many years ago, the island’s people “swore a pact to the devil.”

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” the controversial televangelist said during an interview Wednesday on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“They were under the heel of the French…and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.'”

Robertson continued: “True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.”

Robertson went on to note that though Haiti shares the same island with the Dominican Republic, it remains desperately poor while its neighbor is “prosperous, healthy and full of resorts.”

“[Haitians] need to have a great turning to God, and out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come,” Robertson said.

Loose (and snarky) translation:  The black people threw out their white rules and the only way the blacks could win would be to make a pact with the devil.

And, Mr. Robertson, the ‘pact with the devil’ was a purely financial one (From Boing Boing):

Haiti was forced to pay France for its freedom. When they couldn’t afford the ransom, France (and other countries, including the United States) helpfully offered high-interest loans. By 1900, 80% of Haiti’s annual budget went to paying off its “reparation” debt. They didn’t make the last payment until 1947. Just 10 years later, dictator François Duvalier took over the country and promptly bankrupted it, taking out more high-interest loans to pay for his corrupt lifestyle. The Duvalier family, with the blind-eye financial assistance of Western countries, killed 10s of thousands of Haitians, until the Haitian people overthrew them in 1986. Today, Haiti is still paying off the debt of an oppressive dictator no one would help them get rid of for 30 years.The rest of the world refuses to forgive this debt.

So, in a way, maybe Robertson is right. Haiti is caught in a deal with the devil, and the devil is us.

Not to be outdone, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Albert Mohler quickly put together an essay entitled (and I really wish I was kidding), Does God Hate Haiti?:

In truth, it is hard not to describe the earthquake as a disaster of biblical proportions. It certainly looks as if the wrath of God has fallen upon the Caribbean nation. Add to this the fact that Haiti is well known for its history of religious syncretism — mixing elements of various faiths, including occult practices. The nation is known for voodoo, sorcery, and a Catholic tradition that has been greatly influenced by the occult.

Haiti’s history is a catalog of political disasters, one after the other. In one account of the nation’s fight for independence from the French in the late 18th century, representatives of the nation are said to have made a pact with the Devil to throw off the French. According to this account, the Haitians considered the French as Catholics and wanted to side with whomever would oppose the French. Thus, some would use that tradition to explain all that has marked the tragedy of Haitian history — including now the earthquake of January 12, 2010.

Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment.

God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now.

For someone who’s judgement is perfect, his aim is pretty damn piss-poor.  He missed the Duvaliers, the bankers who funded them, and all those who profited from Haiti’s misery.  And hit the general population of Haiti. 

So, according to the mouthpieces of the right wing, the earthquake is just punishment from god(s) for an imaginary deal done almost 200 years ago.  Does that stop the radical religious right using the tragedy to beg for more and more and more money?

In the world of reality, the Caribbean Plate (delineated in the north by Cuba, the various Virgin Islands, and Dominica) is moving east.  It’s neighbor to the north (us) is heading west.  The slip fault slipped.  No god(s) involved.  No holy retribution.  Just geology.



  1. Pat Robertson is a jerk, there is no doubt. But it would have been nice if America had responded decades ago to the dire poverty of Haitian by helping to rebuild their country. This would only be just, since it was America that destroyed Haiti by supporting a ruthless dictator there. Before American involvement–as in so many places, Afghanistan included–Haiti was fine, the standard of living exceeded the rest of Caribbean, and it was well on its way to being one of the most advanced countries in the Southern Hemisphere. Likewise Afghanistan, forty years ago, before the U.S. and Soviets came barging in, was one of the most advanced, secularist countries in the Middle East. By being dragged into the ridiculous spectacle of ‘global politics,’ both these nations were ruined. The U.S. owes Haiti. And it owes them a lot more than a few plane-fuls of food and medicine.

    • Othergardener, I don’t mean to knitpick, but Afghanistan is not in the Middle East. It’s considered more of a Central Asian country. And it was not a particularly advanced and secular country either. In Kabul perhaps, it was a tad bit enlightened in terms of women’s rights and such. But outside of the major cities, it was really no different than places like Waziristan today.

      Ironically though, one of the things that helped set the current state of affairs in motion was when the communist government of Afghanistan in the mid-seventies tried to implement reforms what angered a lot of tribal conservatives who rebelled against the government. This led to the Soviet intervention. The rest, as we know, is history.

  2. […] They Just Can’t Help Themselves, Can They? (Blog Billy vom 14. Jan. 2010, engl.) […]

    • “..but we weren’t the only ones.” What in the world does this mean? We are most certainly the only ones that matter. We are the global power. Man up. As an historical point by the way, yes, I know the story of Haiti, but this is the worst sort of didacticism, which is only conducted so that it will go on forever–and it actually IGNORES the reality of the present, as if the historical facts being quoted–the Soviets were also involved, there was much interference in the region, blah blah–somehow continues to play a role in the present in the same way. Bullshit. The Soviet Union is dead, the players are all gone. We are it: that is history in the present, and those are always the only facts that really matter in any situtation. This is not some game about accuracy or some schoolboy argument for your fellow students. This is not a matter of mere ruthless fact; such rationalism is violently reductive and politically abhorrent–it is exactly the same kind of reasoning the architects of “Papa Doc”‘s regime engaged in: let’s stick to the facts, ma’am. This is what makes me quake about the New Rationalism, it is grossly in error in its methodology. It is a bad pop version of the real thing. If you weren’t otherwise thoughtful, I would say you were educated beyond your own intelligence by a bunch of sociopathic pussies.

      • It means that the history of Haiti, from the pre-revolution slavery/plantation economy, to the French financial extortion following the revolution, to the revolving debt, to the refinancing by the United States, various occupations and dictatorsips, is more complicated than saying that it is all America’s responsibility. As far as ignoring reality? BULLSHIT!!!! I have long been in favour of, have campaigned for, have lobbied for, much higher levels of American aid to impoverished countries. To imply that a knowledge of the complexities of history means that I am playing games? BULLSHIT!!!! I’m not sure your goal here. But if pissing off an internationalist progressive who is very much in favour of more aid for infrastructure and education, you’ve done it.

        In every situation, knowing how the problem developed is essential to finding the solution. Simplistic accusations don’t work (see neo-conservatism for a perfect example).

  3. Theothergardener: Thanks for stopping by. The US definately bears some of the blame, but we weren’t the only ones.

    All: Yes, I screwed up (late night brain fart). In the last paragraph, I will change Dominica to Hispaniola when I get home. Not sure why I screwed up the island name. Sorry.

  4. Smedly Butler had a pretty good idea of who really hated Haiti.

  5. In truth, it is hard not to describe the earthquake as a disaster of biblical proportions.

    Isn’t that an acknowledgement of how his god is such a colossal prick that his antics are the measuring stick for disasters? And whatever happened to this so-called freewill, no divine intervention thing?

  6. This stuff is beyond sickening. And religious freaks wonder why nonbelievers are completely uninterested in forging personal relationships with their abusive deities.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Global Atheist and Wahoonie, nickpol. nickpol said: RT @GlobalAtheist: They Just Can’t Help Themselves, Can They? – http://galink.us/x9a3p/ #atheism […]

  8. […] And he was right, as I just found out from My boy, Pat Robertson.  You did some kind of under-the-table deal with Be’elzebub, an employee of Gawd, Inc., to get rid of some cheese-eating surrender monkeys… oh, Me.  […]

  9. Pat Robertson is an asshole.

  10. the United States has helped the Hatians get out from under the poverty and mismanagment the French left there. and it hasn’t been the government. the ones helping to rebuild havter centureis of bad French rule are churches. but one of the problems is that most of the people there are still obeiing cult leaders either voodoo or the pope. Either way until they embrace the Love of God. the Honoroble Reverend Pat Robertson has it right. until they reject the devil and embrace God, they will dontinue to suffer both money wise and naturally.

  11. Matthew, why does the map of “Tornado Alley” cover most of the American “Bible Belt”, if “natural” disasters happen to devil-worshippers? Does your “loving God” need a better GPS for his targeting mechanism? And, please, if you’re going to capitalize (but still misspell) “Honoroble Reverend Pat Robertson”, capitalize Pope.

  12. Sarge: It always amazes me that he made it as far as he did with his rather unusual views on international policy. I haven’t read him in like 25 years (since high school). I need to go back to him with my more mature mind.

    Philly: To a True Believer, EVERYTHING is of biblical proportions. What surprises me is that Mohler thinks that a disaster involving mostly Catholics, Santerias, and followers of Vodun actually qualifies.

    Chappie: But if we were all believers, things like this would never happen.

    Lifey: Agreed.

    Matthew: I’m really glad you only post. I would hate to have you as a neighbor.

    Mutzali: It’s just a test for the faithful.

  13. The truth is that they did make a pact with the devil.

    Now the significance you put on that pact I guess has to do with whether you believe the devil is real or not.

    But it is one of Haiti’s founding myths.


    According to Haitian national history, the revolutionary war was launched on the eve of a religious ceremony at a place in the north called Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman, in French). At that ceremony on August 14, 1791, an African slave named Boukman sacrificed a pig, and both Kongo and Creole spirits descended to possess the bodies of the participants, encouraging them and fortifying them for the upcoming revolutionary war. Despite deep ambivalence on the part of intellectuals, Catholics, and the moneyed classes, Vodou has always been linked with militarism and the war of independence and, through it, the pride of national sovereignty.

    So, yeah if there is a devil, Haiti made a pact with it. Might explain why even though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, the Dominican Republic has been far more successful.

    • First off Steve, there is no “devil”. Second, there are no “Kongo and Creole spirits.”

      As most Haitians know, but which few Americans seem to realize, is that Haiti’s successful revolt caused Napoleon to sell the Louisiana Purchase to the United States for a bargain basement price. Thanks to the Haitians, Napoleon’s ambition to restore a French empire in North America was stifled.

      You really should be ashamed of your ignorance.

  14. “Might explain why even though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, the Dominican Republic has been far more successful.”

    Or, you know, perhaps to pay massive reparations to the French, a huge debt to the USA and the dictatorship of a paranoid sociopath for much of the 20th century might have something to do with it?

  15. *perhaps the need to pay massive reparations* This is what comes of typing with a (very wiggly!) baby on your lap

  16. Ah, but WHY did they have reparations, debt and a sociopath? The Devil. 😉

    Honestly, like links are going to help someone who would cite voodoo and the Devil.

  17. Steve: Why is it that every single religion assumes that all the others are worshipping the devil?

    Tommy: So Vitter is the fault of the Haitians, too?

    Yunshui: Well, so far we have a pact with the devil or it’s all America’s fault. Both ignore history, so why start studying now?

    Philly: One never knows, do one?

  18. this was a great cut thanks a lot for the help.

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