Religion in Society

The Battle Between Christianity and Voodoo in Haiti

| by John W Loftus
Associated Press writer Paisley Dodds tells us that Christianity is making some inroads among the Haitian people because of Pat Robertson's comments and Christian charity. Here's the story:

The catastrophe has driven a wedge between Haiti’s religions as Christian groups make inroads among shaken Voodoo followers — some drawn by the steady flow of aid through evangelical missions and others frightened by a disaster they saw as a warning from God.

“People see rice being distributed in front of churches and those homeless now needing papers are being offered baptism certificates that can act as identity documents,” Voodoo priest Max Beauvoir told the Associated Press before speaking at Friday’s service. “The horrible thing though is that by rejecting Voodoo these people are rejecting their ancestors and history. Voodoo is the soul of the Haitian people. Without it, the people are lost.”

After the quake, evangelical U.S. broadcaster Pat Robertson said Haiti had been cursed after its slave founders made a “pact with the devil.” The White House called the remark “stupid” but some Haitians wonder if God may be angry for their close ties to the spirit world.

“The earthquake scared me,” said Veronique Malot, a 24-year-old who joined an evangelical church two weeks ago when she found herself living in one of the city’s many outdoor camps. “Voodoo has been in my family but the government isn’t helping us. The only people giving aid are the Christian churches.”

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I decided to look into Haitian voodoo and what I found is that it is a mixture of African tribal religion and Catholicism, the very forces that shaped the Haitian culture. So it looks to me like religion is just a product of the forces that shape a particular people, that's all. What we see going on over in Haiti right now is more of the same. It's little more than one superstition replacing another one. Bob Corbett, a professor from Webster University who is now retired, articulates this very clearly:

First and foremost Voodoo is a religion. It is the dominant religion of Haiti. Many of the practices and descriptions of Voodoo belief may sound to us like rank superstition, but then, imagine the beliefs of Christianity to people who know nothing about it. Tell them about the trinity or the resurrection, or the presence of Jesus in the eucharist. Any of these practices which very intelligent Christians believe in the fullest would seem no less superstitious to someone unfamiliar with Christianity.

Thus I urge you to recognize that Voodoo is Haiti's religion, it is taken very seriously not merely by unlettered peasants, but many intelligent and learned members of the Haitian society believe as sincerely in Voodoo as do German theology professors in their Christianity. In no way do I expect you to believe in Voodoo; no more than I would expect you to convert to Islam if I taught a course on that religion. But, please do recognize that it is every bit as real a religion as the major religions of the world.

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