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On January 12, a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, causing widespread death and destruction. It's feared that hundreds of thousands of people may have died. Resources were few and far between even before the disaster, but the quake destroyed all the hospitals in the country and caused major damage to many government buildings. Relief efforts are in their earliest stages, but there are fears that it will be difficult to get supplies and aid to people.

Pat Robertson, an extremist cleric from America, immediately claimed the quake was God's vengeance on the people of Haiti because, he said, Haitians had made "a pact with the devil" back in 1791 to free them from French slavery.

Pat Robertson does this a lot. He credited God with visiting Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans because He was mad about all the sinnin'. He credited God with allowing 9/11 because He was mad about all the sinnin'. He likes to threaten that God is going to inflict grave misfortune on people, cities, states, and countries that don't knuckle under to his preferred brand of religious fundamentalism and terrorism.

He likes to do this partly because he's a bully, partly because he knows his pronouncements will get him a lot of attention on the TV, and partly because he's a sadist who likes to hurt people and loves to see people get mad at him. He's an evil, sociopathic motherfucker, and he should pray that us atheists are right. 'Cause if we're wrong, it's very likely that he'll spend eternity dunked in a lake of fire, and cursing God for not sucking up to him.

But ultimately, I'm not here to write about Pat Robertson. I'm here to write about a friend from college. I lost track of him for years, but found him last year on Facebook. He's become a preacher at an unusually left-leaning church in the Southwest. He's big on social justice, feminism, racial equality, and gay rights. Like nearly everyone else, he was outraged about Robertson's remarks and denounced them in a status update on Facebook. Great, says I -- the world would be a better place if more actual Christians would oppose extremists like Robertson.

But a few hours later, my friend backed down. "Better to say nothing publicly than foment further injury against the church and the name of Christ." Because that's what his god would want the most, isn't it? Can't speak ill of a fellow Christian, no matter how evil they are. Gotta knuckle under to any con artist willing to label himself "Christian" or someone will say you're causing unrest. Spineless capitulation in the face of a man who most people believe is either hopelessly insane or actively, gleefully evil -- that's the way to go.

And that is a big reason why I'm an atheist. And why polls show more people are giving up on all organized religion.

I mean, sure -- there's the utter lack of physical evidence that anything in the Bible actually happened, or that there's such a thing as a soul, or an afterlife, or a deity. There's the massive contradiction in believing in an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent god who allows the existence of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, AIDS, the Children's Crusade, the Holocaust, or the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.

But I think one of the big things that drives people away from Christianity -- and from religion in general -- is the vast number of evil motherfuckers associated with Christianity, and the distressingly puny number of genuine Christians willing to stand up and oppose them.

Pat Robertson is one of the evil motherfuckers, along with people like Fred Phelps, Eric Rudolph, and what seems to be the majority of televangelists, Catholic priests, Popes, Protestant book-burners, etc.

And my preacher friend has his own important part to play in giving the bastards their ability to rule. He sees that Pat Robertson is an evil man. But he thinks it's not his place to condemn. He thinks it's wrong to call out Pat Robertson for what he is -- someone might be offended, and we can't have that!

Transport my friend back 2,000 years, and he'd certainly be one of the people enjoying that benevolent hippie's sermons and enthusiastically cheering on his quest to make the world a better, more loving place. But he'd cluck disapprovingly when he threw the moneychangers out of the temple. There's no need for such rowdiness! He might not be shouting "Give us Barabbas!" But he'd raise his hand half-heartedly in assent -- no need to cause discord with everyone!

American Christianity often seems to be completely dominated by diabolists on one side and wimps on the other. Maltheism vs. Ineffectualism. Why choose one or the other, when you can get the hell out of all that poisonous nonsense, enjoy a saner life, and leave the whole schizophrenic mess behind?

You want to believe? Feel free. Most of my family and friends are believers, and it gives 'em comfort through tough times, and I'm all for it. But don't blame those of us who opt out for being unwilling to put up with the bullshit. You never gave us any reason to want to stick around.

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