It’s Pat!

By Phil Plait | January 3, 2007 5:29 pm

I have been getting a bit of email asking me to say something about Pat Robertson’s predictions for 2007, including his statement that the U.S. will be attacked this year.

I appreciate people sending me this, but I’m not sure what you expect me to say. He says he hears voices in his head, which he attributes to God. If he’s telling the truth, he’s schizophrenic — his predictions in the past based on these voices have either not come true (which sorta negates the idea that it’s God) or are pathetically obvious. As the CNN article linked above notes, he predicted Bush would nominate conservative judges to courts. WOW! He must be in touch with God!

Robertson said Bush would easily win reelection in 2004, when in fact he only got 51% of the vote. He said Bush would get "victory after victory" in his second term… which is pretty far from reality, especially given the November congressional voting results. He said "God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America’s coastline in 2006." Storms in the East?? Duh. But I don’t recall there being a tsunami.

So if he’s not schizophrenic, then he is either lying or terribly, terribly deluded. He makes a vast amount of money from his wacky utterings, so you be the judge. Is he nuts, or just a scoundrel?

Does it matter? Not to me. He is a bigoted, small-minded zealot who will say anything to appeal to his base — and claiming that we’ll be attacked this year certainly falls in that category. To me he represents the most venal, horrible, and hypocritical aspects of religious fundamentalism. I’m not surprised the mass media covers his ravings, given that he is a "spiritual leader" to so many people, but it makes me sad — and angry — on a lot of levels.

Huh. Whaddya know. I guess I did have something to say after all.

Update (January 5, 2007): God has responded. Tip o’ the mitre to Lorne at GeekCounterpoint.

Comments (40)

  1. Bryan D.

    On the plus side his 700 club charities spent over $230,000,000 in humanitarian relief last year according to Give.org, so at least his charity foundation is sound. :)

  2. Jeff

    I hate to say it, but there was a Tsunami…

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/11/16/TSUNAMI.TMP

    Crecent City is in a section of CA which seems particularly susceptable, and the wave in question was only a large surge when compared to Tsunami like the one a couple years back, but…

    To be clear, I don’t buy any of Pat’s BS either, but there was an event classified by scientists as a Tsunami.

  3. Christian Burnham

    I think it does matter whether someone is making predictions based on hokey religious convictions or whether the ramblings are a product of mental illness.

    I think we should show compassion for the mentally ill. But I feel repulsed by Pat Robertson who is almost certainly quite sane- and is scaring gullible people in order to gain more money and power.

    Unfortunately, many of the people who are being bilked out of money by Robertson and his ilk are mentally ill- or at least highly suggestible and easily scared by phony prophecies of doom.

  4. Michelle Rochon

    If that guy can be a spiritual leader, that’s it, I’m starting my own cult. Heck, you obviously don’t need much to be a guru.

  5. Daffy

    I worked in religious broadcasting early in my career (I had no choice at the time). Please believe me when I tell you that these people know exactly what they are doing and why: money and power. No exceptions that I ever met.

  6. M. Myers

    I just watched some of the footage from the 700 club.

    After Pat got through summarizing the revelation God bestowed upon him, he went on to say that he sincerely hopes that this tragedy does not happen. He also said that prayer can hopefully stop this attack from occurring.

    So, if the attack does not occur, Pat can say that it was the prayers of the faithful that swayed God’s favor, thus avoiding the calamity.

    And don’t you know… some of the believers will cite the lack of an attack as an example of the power of prayer. Scary.

  7. Daffy

    And it will be used as justification to send Pat more money. Scary and depressing.

  8. Rodney

    I’ll

    Take “terribly, terribly deluded.” for 400, Phill….(I’m blinking my eyes furiously, and sort of staring straight at “the board”, right now, with both hands down on my station and my elbows locked…)

    It’s “crazy religious nut Jepardy”. It’s just like Jepardy only with Phil instead of Alex.

    Keep swinging the hammer,

    rod

    Heck, make it 800.

  9. Grand Lunar

    I wondered about this guy. I had a guy feeling he was “wishy-washy”.

    Glad I don’t watch “The 700 Club”. I get a bad feeling about it; more so now that I learned about this.

  10. Ted H.

    Upon hearing the latest Pat Robertson tirade, God issued a statement saying “This Fruit Loop does not speak for me.”

  11. spacewriter

    Pat is no different from any of these other “psychics” and “spiritual” healer types who claim to predict things, but couch their claims so broadly that if anything that DOES happen that is remotely like what they claimed would happen, then they can claim they foretold it.

    Snake oil. That’s all it is.

    Remember, even a stopped watch is right twice a day.

    However, personally, I do think that ol’ Pat needs to have his head examined. I’ve run into nutcases on the streets muttering to themselves about the end of the world. They’re usually unkempt, unshaven, and generally been drinking or doing drugs or in sore need of a mental hospital. The only other difference between them and Pat Robertson is a few hundred million dollars he’s bilked out of his “followers” with his antics.

  12. schower

    All I need to know about Pat Robertson comes from this gem:

    “I have a relatively good track record,” he said. “Sometimes I miss.”

    So…let me get this straight. You claim God is telling you these things WILL happen, but then later in the same interview you state that it is your own intuition (read: guesses) that these things will happen, and you are more or less correct on the majority of them.

    HOW DO PEOPLE NOT SEE THE HYPOCRISY?

    Also thought I’d comment on this one:

    “Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring’s heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.”

    1) Notice the “prophecy” has been downgraded to a “prediction”
    2) This is like telling investors to dump all of their money into Microsoft because they are coming out with an amazing new technology and the stock will soar, only to have the stock rise a few cents. Do you think those investors will be happy? Answer: No, but people smart enough to invest in the stock market are too smart for any of Pat Robertson’s baloney.

  13. The BA says: “He is a bigoted, small-minded zealot who will say anything to appeal to his base. To me he represents the most venal, horrible, and hypocritical aspects of religious fundamentalism. I’m not surprised the mass media covers his ravings, given that he is a “spiritual leader” to so many people”

    While I happen to agree with this, I also note that it perfectly fits the other end of the scale. e.g. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    – Jack

  14. bswift

    Put him on notice!

  15. Buzz Parsec

    Drat! I thought from the title this was going to be a Julia Sweeney post. :-(

  16. Allan

    I could find nothing on give.org–a service of the BBB (Better Business Bureau) about guidelines for chariatable giving. Going directly to the website of the 700 club still showed no figures as to charity. Same for the Christian Broadcasting Network–on which the 700 club broadcasts their show. Then again, I do not believe religious organizations are required to provide such figures. Perhaps they should be required to provide numbers and be subject to outside audit.

  17. Allan

    I found http://www.charitynavigator.org to be a good source as to how much a charity actually puts into programs (not admin of fundraising expenses). also how much it pays its CEO. In the case of the 700 Club (parent organization is the Christian Broadcasting Network) figures provided by that organization to this website were total fundraising $236 million and total disbursements for program expenses (not fundraising and or admin) were $165 mil. So about 70% of the amt raised actually gets out into their programs. The CEO gets $275,000 yrly. Compared to other groups 70% seems reasonable. It all depends on whether you gree with their objectives. But those objectives are so widely spread out that chances are you will find something they do that you will agree with. Its not all black and white. Final decision is yours. I’ll pass on Roberrtson & Co.,, thank you.

  18. Troy

    In 2006 “Pat” actually predicted hurricanes (not the more generic “storms”) and a tsunami. In hindsight he restates it as “storms” and the media lets him get away with that. There was no killer tsunami and that’s what he meant. At least Pat does admit he isn’t always right. He’s not a total idiot and I give him grudging respect for certain elements of his understanding of business–how could I not he’s a very wealthy man (and then he has the nerve to beg for cash). In addition let me mention that predicting storms and earthquakes and even tsunami are very safe as they >>always

  19. Joe

    What’s sad is that the main stream media actually covers this type of nonsense. I saw a short promo for the Glen Beck show on CNN last night (by Glen Beck – the jerk) talking about Pat’s ‘predictions’ of a terrorist attack combined with mentioning a study that most cities are unprepared (for a major terrorist attack) and of course Glenn seeming real happy about it. Sick.

  20. P.J. Hartman

    This entire comment on the blog has nothing whatsoever to do with astronomy, and only very passingly does it have any link to science or anti-science. Phil, can you just leave this stuff alone? I respect your right to an opinion, but these erstwhile diatribes don’t add anything to your blog.

  21. Ciprian

    Remember this crappy movie – Escape from LA ? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116225/
    The President in that movie was a Pat Robertson replica :)

    Seriously now, PR is a nut-case. Nobody cares or institutionalise him for making prophecies, but God forbid (pun intended) something happens to give him justice. If you thought US leadership was anti-science, just wait…

  22. TR

    “God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America’s coastline in 2006.”

    a tsunami”????

    Does it mean that god’s not really giving Robertson the inside story? Then why do so many people give money to him?

    (Or does than mean that god wasn’t sure what was going to happen? Then why do so many people pray to him?)

  23. TR

    Well – that didn’t work!

    I was trying to emphasize the word “possibly” in the second line, but my HTML tags didn’t parse correctly!

    Oh well, if god can screw up his tsunami predictions, I guess we can all make mistakes.

  24. TheBlackCat

    I just finished Randi’s The Faith Healers. Based on that book it seems pretty clear Pat knows exactly what he is doing and exactly what he is going to get: money, and lots of it.

    As for predictions, this is all fairly convenient. You predict something at the very end of the year. You then have 360+ days for it to come true. If it does, you claim victory. If it doesn’t, you can ascribe it to your own efforts or just ignore it since everyone but some die-hard fuddy-duddies (who didn’t believe you anyway) will have forgotten it by that point. Your followers will forget it, purposefully or not, and the media will do everything possible to avoid mentioning it. It is a zero-risk plan.

    I do find it amusing that he predicted lots of hurricanes in what turned out to be one of the mildest hurricane years in quite a while. It was a pretty safe bet on his part, too, considering how many hurricanes there were in the last several years.

  25. Dunc

    On the plus side his 700 club charities spent over $230,000,000 in humanitarian relief last year according to Give.org, so at least his charity foundation is sound.

    Well, except that he has a history of diverting that “hunitaritarian relief” to other, more profitable, ends – like running his diamond mines:

    “In April, 1997 two pilots who worked for Operation Blessing charged that planes linked to Robertson and his ministry flew mostly to haul equipment for ADC’s private diamond operation. Robert Hinkle, the chief pilot told reporter Bill Sizemore that of about 40 flights within Zaire during the half-year period he was there, “Only one or at most two” were related to the humanitarian mission of Operation Blessing. The rest were “mining-related.”

    “We got over there and we had ‘Operation Blessing’ painted on the tails of the airplanes, Hinkle told the Virginian-Pilot, “but we were doing no humanitarian relief at all. We were just supplying the miners and flying the dredges from Kinshasa out to Tdshikapa.” ”

    http://www.skeptictank.org/robem2.htm

  26. Tom

    Phil said, “Is he nuts, or just a scoundrel?”

    He’s probably both.

  27. TR

    P.J. Hartman says:
    This entire comment on the blog has … only very passingly [has] any link to science or anti-science.”

    I could not disagree more. Science is about checking predictions against empirical observations, and (particularly as opposed to anti-science) it’s about striving for a thoughtful, rational understanding of the universe.

    The fact that the media is helping Pat Robertson bilk his followers out of millions of dollars by perpetuating the notion that he has some magical powers despite all evidence to the contrary is very much a matter for discussion in a forum about bad science.

    Moreover, considering the negative impact that this man and his kind are having not only on his followers but on the whole country, this is a much more important issue than whether or not an egg will stand in its end.

    I’m just sorry that Phil is preaching to the choir.

  28. spacewriter

    # P.J. Hartman Says:
    January 4th, 2007 at 6:22 am

    This entire comment on the blog has nothing whatsoever to do with astronomy, and only very passingly does it have any link to science or anti-science. Phil, can you just leave this stuff alone? I respect your right to an opinion, but these erstwhile diatribes don’t add anything to your blog.

    Read what TR says. Phil’s blog here is not just about astronomy, but about skepticism and a search for scientific facts, not the fictions promulgated about and “from” magical sky daddies by their ultra-religious shills. I can’t think of anything MORE appropriate than dissecting the mystical claims of a TV religion charlatan, particularly when his predictions come with the oily sheen of pseudo-scientific/religio-mystic mumbo-jumbo. His words are just snake-oil sales pitch, writ for a 21st-century audience he has no respect for.

  29. Irishman

    I don’t think I can stress enough just how amazed I am that people take Pat Robertson and his like seriously. They listen to him, they give him money, and they agree with him. I find it very depressing.

  30. Gary Ansorge

    So, who remembers L. Ron Hubbards statement in 1947 that the only way for a SciFi writer to get rich was to start a new religion?

    Hey, there are pleanty of sheep out there, just waiting to get sheared. The only question is, who is so lacking in ethics they would take such advantage? Obviously, only someone who is sociopathic, like Pat Robertson,,,

    Maybe I should make a few predictions for 2007?
    !) somewhere . there will be a war.
    2) somewhere, there will be an earthquake.
    3) somewhere there will be a big storm.
    4) somewhere, some people will die,,,of something,,,

    There, I guess that about covers it,,,please send all money intended for god to me,,,I’ll take GOOD care of it for,,,him?,her?,It??? Whatever,,,

    Dang, why did Mom have to raise me with an ethical sense? Without one, I coulda been rich,,,

    Gary 7

  31. Tom

    Gary 7,

    Rats!! You beat me to the predictions for 2007. Here are a couple more:

    1. Some religious leader or celebrity type(such as Katie Couric) will say or
    write something that will cause Phil to “blow a gasket” and to become
    as hot as a supernova(just being sarcastic Phil).
    2. Billy “Divine Wind” Dembski and the rest of the IDiot crowd will continue
    whining about the Dover decision.

  32. saintfighteraqua

    I like the facts and answers Bad astronomy offers, but it saddens me at how closed minded and down right mean spirited most of the readers seem to be.

    I do not condone any bad PR does, but he isn’t the reason I’m annoyed.

    many of you mock Christians and other religious people, then turn around and complain like pampered brats when someone doesn’t agree with your current theories.
    i am mostly neutral in beliefs regarding science, but I do believe this fact: that this universe was created.
    If you disagree, that’s your opinion, (and my belief, that that is your God given right.)

    People should stop judging entire faiths by one fanatic/non fanatic.

    Science will never be true science until it views things from outside the box, meaning creationism and evolution, instead of peering out of the box through a narrow telescope.

    Thanks to the Bad astronomy website, by the way, for so much information, my head is full of new thoughts and ideas to ponder tonight because of your articles.excellent

    For very interesting reading, i suggest you try Lee Strobel’s books.
    maybe if you looked at things from both sides of the “fence”, instead of your own opinions, you would be able to post more scientific posts than

  33. saintfighteraqua

    sorry, it got sent too soon…
    I was going to say, -you would be able to post more scientific posts than what many of the readers seem to enjoy posting out of sheer disrespect towards others theories and beliefs.

  34. Bob "O"

    Holloween is satan’s high holiday (day to glorify the devil). Most of you are not worthy of wearing Pat Robinson’s or Kimberly Daniels underwear. – They are truly persons of God and if all of you practice and live by Jesus teachings as written in the 4 Gospels of the new testament as they do then this world would truly be a paradise. I sincerly feel sorry for and will continue to pray for all non-believers who are so ignorant of the meaning of Holloween and who encourage little children to sin against God. It would be better to have not been born then to be born and die without Jesus Christ – all of us will have to stand and bow before Him one day.

  35. Pat

    “I sincerly feel sorry for and will continue to pray for all non-believers who are so ignorant of the meaning of Holloween . . .”

    Like, say, people who don’t even know how to SPELL it?

    It’s Halloween, with an A. Short for All Hallows Eve, because it’s the day before All Hallows (or All Saints) Day, a festival celebrated by the Catholic Church for over a millennium.

    The name has nothing to do with the word “hollow”, and if you spell or pronounce it that way, then YOU are ignorant.

    As for your ridiculous claim that it’s “satan’s high holiday” . . . show us some evidence, or shut up and go away.

  36. Bob "O"

    It’s Holloween for hollow minded atheist non-believers like you – who only have this time in life to accept Jesus Christ – if you should die without accepting Him as your LORD and Savior you will be condemned to hell forever – now is the only chance you’ll have before you pass on to the dark side, please save yourself. I shall continue to pray for you and all non-believers. Jesus is the only way to God – John 14:6

    Holloween began over 2000 yrs ago with people known as the Celtics. They lived in what is today England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This was also the beginning of the Celtic new year, a time to give thanks to the sun god for the harvest. It was a pagan belief that on one night of the year the souls of the dead return to their original homes, there to be entertained with food. If food and shelter were not provided, these evil spirits would cast spells and cause havoc toward those failing to fulfill their requests. Sacrifices were offered on this night to the dead spirits because it was thought they visited their earthly dwellings and former friends.

    In modern day Satanism and Witchcraft covens, this is the day when Satan himself comes to “fellowship” with his followers. Many changes have occurred over the centuries, but one thing has stayed the same, the practice of giving an “offering”, consequently ingnorant adults encourging children to sin “Trick or Treat”.

    It is Satan’s objective to get all to worship him. God tells us to not have any thing to do with this.

    Peter I 5:8 – Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.

    1Thessalonians 5:22 – Abstain from all appearance of evil.

    1Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.

    Observed as a holy day of obligation by Roman Catholics, priests in white vestments will lead the faithful in reciting prayers in honor of the saints, including those not listed in the Catholic Church calendar. The Catholic Church believe “All Saints’ Day enriches the faith of all who observe it. When they honor the saints, that they actually give glory to God.

    Originally known as the Feast of All Martyrs in memory of the martyrs of the early Church who died for their faith in Christ, All Saints’ Day has evolved into a solemn observance during which the Church remembers all who have died in the faith.

    You have no reason to be part of this holy day of Satan. Don’t use the old cop out “well every body does it”. No everybody is not doing it. God will hold you responsible for what you do on Halloween.

  37. Petrolonfire

    Bit late to this party but happy Halloween Bob “o.” Here’s hoping you get another nice big fruitcake to go with, ah, yourself! ;-) :-P

  38. Griffo

    I wonder if Bob has ever actually read a bible?
    isiah 45:7 in the kjv proves how evil “god” is.
    ergo: “satan’s high holiday” is actually “god’s high holiday”

    :))

    btw Bob, I think it’s great that you believe what you do.
    are you interested in making lots of money for Pat?

    I have a great deal for you- 1 frequently used bridge in excellent condition.
    no cheques please, cash only & in small bills…

  39. Bob "O"

    Pat, Petrolonfire, Griffo – If you should die tomorrow where do you think you’ll go????????????? — When God created us he gave each of the ability make our own individual choices in life. The real meaning of Isaiah 45:7 – is that God takes no pleasure in evil so the evil he is talking about here is physical adversity, not moral evil. God is ruler over light and darkness, over prosperity and adversity. Our lives are sprinkled with both types of experiences and both are needed for us to grow spirtually.

    Read His commandments, Exodus 20:1-26. – I know that somewhere along the road of life each of you lost or abandoned any prior relationships with almighty GOD. Yes, I am a fruitcake for Jesus, will be until the day I die and I’m ready to share the recipe with each of you.

  40. whb03

    “Most of you are not worthy of wearing Pat Robinson’s or Kimberly Daniels underwear.”

    You somehow think this is an insult? OMFG. Well, whatever. Obviously, you ARE so worthy. Uggg.

    Ahhh, the Xtian “fundamentalist”. The self-proclaimed fruitcake. If you are right about your [alleged] beliefs, somehow, I don’t see you showing up at the pearly gate in Pat-R’s undies with frutcake recipe in hand and actually getting through. Something about lacking in the love-thy-neighbor department and acting like a true Christian. But have it your way.

    Ah well. Just don’t get Pat’s panties in a bungie. And I guess I’ll see you in – well, you I think can figure it out from here…

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