Thought I’d take a break from the Contradictions series to post this. It can also be found at AtheistConnect.
Recently, Pat Robertson (of the 700 Club) received a question about marriage on his “Bring It On” segment, which is an online question and answer program that allows him to dole out wisdom and advice to people with religious questions. This particular question was from a woman who had been told that God only honored marriages performed by pastors or priests, but her marriage had been performed by a Justice of the Peace. She was concerned that perhaps she wasn’t really married in the eyes of God. You can see the question and response here.
Robertson put her at ease and said, “Of course he honors your marriage.” But he also went on to add “God isn’t into rituals.” I found that statement to be pretty interesting. To be fair, he did mention that God was into rituals in the Old Testament, but then Robertson said that God now looks at the heart.
This is a good example of the twists and turns that often come with religion. Robertson was right to acknowledge that God cared about rituals under the Old Testament. The entire book of Leviticus demonstrates that. But the Bible also states that God is changeless (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). So if he cared about rituals at one time, why wouldn’t he care about them now? And as it so happens, the New Testament contains rituals too. It talks about different baptisms (Acts 19:3-5, Matt 3:11, etc), the Communion (Eucharist or Lord’s Supper — 1 Cor 11:17-34), head coverings for women (1 Cor 11:1-16), and the list goes on from there.
So God (according to the Bible) absolutely cares about rituals. Why then would Pat Robertson say otherwise? I think at least part of it is because it sounds better. Most Christians today don’t want to bother with a list of requirements that might hamper their lifestyles. In fact, most Christians today aren’t very familiar with the basic stories and tenets of their religion, not to mention the details of the Bible. In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum, atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons outperformed Christians in Bible knowledge. If Christians can be told that they don’t have to worry too much about rules and regulations, they’ll be much happier — and there will be many more of them. If anything were actually required of Christians, there wouldn’t be many.
The idea that God is just concerned with the heart is very comforting. But if that’s the case, why doesn’t it apply to non-Christians? There are many people throughout the world who are not Christians, but they have good hearts. Why does Pat Robertson believe they’ll still go to Hell? In the same video linked above, Robertson answers the question “How can a loving god allow never ending torment?” Easy. According to Robertson, we all have a choice. So a good non-Christian like Gandhi decided to go to Hell. I mean, he could have gone to Heaven, but I guess Hell seemed like the better choice to him. I shouldn’t have to tell you all the things that are wrong with that philosophy.
The bottom line is this: Christianity remains such a force in the world because charismatic individuals like Pat Robertson say things that people like to hear, and his audience typically knows very little about the book they believe God wrote. It’s as simple as that. But we can hope that as time goes by and the information age continues, more and more people will open their eyes (and their Bibles) and realize that this life is what matters — eternity is now.