However, the believers can resist anything except temptation. Where would they be if such important and frightening things had natural and rational explanations? They want the gods to be blamed. After the titanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, the Muslims of Indonesia launched a hugely successful campaign to recruit terrified local people to Islamic repentance. Following the more recent Asian tsunami of 2004, religious figures jostled to provide every possible “explanation” of tectonic events in terms of mere human conduct. (It was widely asserted in earlier times that earthquakes were caused by sodomy, yet San Francisco still stands, and when it was last hit in 1906, it was rather more heterosexual than it is now. Hurricane Katrina inundated much of New Orleans but saw fit to spare the immoral French Quarter.)…

This would have been quite a useful pact with the devil, but voodoo or santería and their related religious fusions are not Satanistic. They are, rather, a localized and Africanized form of Catholic superstition, based on much the same calendar and communion of saints that was being celebrated in Lisbon on that day in 1755. And if any single thing explains the abject misery of Haiti in the years between independence and today, it is the prevalence of religious cultism in its various aspects. Voodoo keeps people afraid and makes them cowed into apathy by the nearness of the spirit world. It was exploited by the horrible Tonton Macoute regime of “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his gruesome son, who for decades kept the country as their own rack-rented fief. But please do not forget that Mother Teresa came to Port-au-Prince in 1981 to receive the Haitian Légion d’honneur from “Baby Doc,” as well as to accept stolen money from him, and that the Vatican protected the foul system for as long as it was able. In September 1992, exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide denounced the Vatican from the podium of the United Nations, correctly pointing out that it maintained the only embassy that still recognized the continuing post-Duvalier dictatorship. Unfortunately, Aristide’s own brand of religious populism was a failure. Still, one cannot believe that the Almighty has recently slaughtered so many Haitians because of the unbelievable squalidness of their competing priesthoods.