Yet Another Reason Religion Is Dangerous

Jr posted a link to this article in a comment on my last post, but it had me so outraged that I think it deserves a post of its own. Here is a quote from the opening paragraphs of this eye-opening article:

EKET, Nigeria—The 9-year-old boy lay on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants, staring blindly at the wall.

His family pastor had accused him of being a witch, and his father then tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. It spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. The emaciated boy barely had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him — Mount Zion Lighthouse.

A month later, he died.

Can you imagine the excruciating pain this poor boy must have suffered over that month? This must be some kind of crazy, whacko religious cult, right? It is in reality Christianity, as brought to Africa by American evangelicals. And as shown by this article, this boy’s case is not an isolated incident.

So why on earth are preachers condemning innocent children to this fate? That’s the most shocking part of all: it’s good for business. The preachers and churches who identify the most “witches” are seen as being the most powerful, and parents actually pay them willingly to exorcise their children.

This is a great example of why atheists like myself can no longer accept religion as a benign belief that gives people comfort. Because when a person’s most cherished belief is something for which there is no physical evidence, they are susceptible to believing anything—including that their own children are witches and must be tortured, or that blowing themselves up to kill “infidels” will give them 72 virgins in the afterlife. Religious moderates and liberals will argue that these people are extremists, but their actions are a logical consequences of their belief systems, and are very often actually directly supported by their own holy books. Yes, these people are often poor and desperate, but certainly not always (most of the September 11 terrorists were actually fairly wealthy and well educated), and only religion could twist their minds so much as to do something like this. Indeed, the more poor and desperate people are, the more powerful the false certainty of religion becomes. This then allows business interests to prey on their desperation, as is so tragically the case here.

I also find it absurd that we condemn new religions as cults, while allowing larger, more established religions to do the same sorts of things, or worse. They are both equally delusional—and dangerous.

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hi Sachiko,

thank you for picking up on this. you are correct, it is so sick, it is hard to find words, especially since, as you point out (and link to), business interests are the real driver.

btw, if you google a little you can find other, equally disturbing reports on the persecution of so-called witches right “on your door-step” in Papua New Guinea too (I understand those are mostly women killed for the land they own).

  
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It really irks the crap out of me, when fanatics and the “lunatic fringe” use the guise of religion to these ends. If some one is getting the message from God that they have to torture or kill children, then I think it’s time for them to wrap more tin foil around their antenna to better reception, because they are obviously missing the message. Better yet if they feel they need to harm children (or anyone for that matter), they should just kill themselves. I think there should be a special place in Hell for people like that.

  
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Actually, you don’t need religion to identify the troublesome, the non-conformists or anyone “strange” as a witch. This has probably going on for as long as there has been human society. Appeals to religion simply provide a convenient place to whip up mass hysteria against “the other” (or “Satan,” in ancient Semetish languages). That’s how the Crusades got started — there were serious medieval financial concerns at stake. Religion was just a popular excuse. Likewise, in the 1950′s in America, thousands of lives and careers were destroyed by the anti-Communist witch-hunts of Sen. Joe McCarthy and Rep. J. Parnell Thomas — only now it was the civil religion, “patriotism,” which provided the convenient backdrop of mass hysteria.
It’s a very human trait to be afraid of anything “strange” we don’t understand. You could ask Galileo, if he were still around. In Massachusetts until the late 1970′s, they had a law known as the “Stubborn Child Act,” which essentially allowed the state to incarcerate children whose parents could not discipline them or make them “behave.” I personally know two victims of this law, both of whom had serious problems with “intimacy,” having a very cynical view of it.
Likewise, I have a friend out in San Francisco who’s a post-op transsexual. She is constantly and cruelly harassed by her teenaged neighbors ever since they discovered that “she” used to be “he.”
I think the real problem here is not so much the hypocrisy of the “religious” as it is human cruelty, which is the dark side of our nature. When a society or group of individuals cannot coerce conformity through the means normally at its disposal, it resorts to cruelty to achieve that result. Just observe the behavior of teenagers in high school.

  
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“Religious moderates and liberals will argue that these people are extremists, but their actions are a logical consequences of their belief systems, and are very often actually directly supported by their own holy books.”

This is the problem I personally have with many religious moderates and liberals…they want to deny that connection. Mostly because this reflects their own ignorance of their holy books.

@Firefly: “It’s a very human trait to be afraid of anything “strange” we don’t understand.”

It is. Then religion comes along and gives approval to horrible treatment that “strange” thing. You brought up the anti-Communist hysteria of America’s 1950s but neglect (or are you ignorant of this?) the religious context of said anti-Communist hysteria. Communists were labeled as “anti-God heathens” and atheist. Same as now, if you pay attention to the way Communist and atheist are used as paired insults by those who are more likely than not capitalist, conservative Christians (read: Republicans).

(Actually, Socialist has replaced Communist, but it’s still paired with being ‘atheist’ or some other of (Christian) Godless heathen.)

It was during this hysteria that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” to our money and “so help me God” to the oaths of office (ostensibly ‘optional’ but just how quickly would an official lose their position if they DO NOT say that!).

  
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I wholeheartedly agree with firefly. Almost every culture at some time in its duration has singled out members as “witches” for whatever reasons in order to eliminate them from interacting or competing with their contemporaries. In the 20th century these types of dastardly acts were even carried out by nonreligious entities(Gestapo, Secret Police, etc.) In places like Africa, New Guinea, Amazonia, etc. where shamanism still exists, the long history of casting out “evil spirits” is easily blended into whatever new religion may be presently in vogue. There are still evangelical imbeciles in the US who handle venimous snakes as part of their weekly ritual. Some humans refuse to evolve, and in any given population there is always going to be a certain percentage of psycopaths and sociopaths. For most spiritually oriented people, self delusion is as far as they go.

  
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I have to agree with Aspasia here: yes, it is true that this is base human stuff, but religion is what gives it credibility. Without religion to give this stuff widespread acceptance, it would forever remain lunatic fringe, just as it should. Religion brings this lunacy into the mainstream, and as this article points out, it allows those in trusted religious positions to make money out of this insanity as well.

Originally Posted By Aspasia
It was during this hysteria that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” to our money and “so help me God” to the oaths of office (ostensibly ‘optional’ but just how quickly would an official lose their position if they DO NOT say that!).

Thanks for this info Aspasia. Perhaps McCarthyism is what originally got the Christian right started.

  
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Two pertinent quotes from Mark Twain:

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

“The Christian’s Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes.”

  
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Sachiko: I forget what blog I was reading, but there is this shirt comparing Obama to being a Communist and saying that the answer to this is a return to McCarthyism! (I’ll try to find the link.)

**screaming**

As you well know, I have my criticisms of Obama but he is anything BUT a Communist (or a Socialist). Tying into what I said about the former age of McCarthyism (and you’re right, that IS what got the modern right-wing started), Communist=atheist/secular, Obama’s religion has been questioned (stupidly) so it is easy for the teabaggers/birthers/neo-McCarthyists to label him one of those “dirty pinko Commies” or “Socialist”. His Christian status questioned makes him Godless in their minds.

And going back to the human nature argument, the same can be said about our “lower” animal kin. Yes, strange gets pushed to the fringe. But what actually happens is the “stranger” is intimidated away from the group (bared teeth, raised hackles, etc.) but rarely is that stranger approached. It’s a stranger! No idea what this thing may do, so the last thing any animal (including most humans) will do is approach it, even if the intent is to harm it. There is a chance that YOU may be harmed and that’s the last thing any animal wants (survival instinct and all that). Cases where the stranger is harmed (in non-human context) is usually when the stranger makes a threatening move toward the group, especially when offspring are about. Then all bets are off.

Swamp Rat: Good ol’ Mark Twain! I hadn’t heard that second quote before. Heh.

  
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In the 1800s, in apparent search of material for thrilling tales of terror, Edgar Allen Poe had only to look to Christian institutions of then-recent history for sources of inspiration. Some teachers I knew thought that Poe was developing and practicing his unique talent thereby, and that his avoidance of overt didacticism about the inherent hypocrisy of the pervading religiosity of the world of his times was further proof of his genius. But when one collects these various tales together, and catalogues their many images and vignettes, in the context of related images and archetypes of other Romantics of the time, there is most certainly a didactic contract sketched out when one connects the dots. Was the torture described in “The Pit And The Pendulum” (fingering the vanquished Spanish Inquisition) something so remote from future possibilities for then-current public life, that readers that trembled in horror should be considered strictly dilusional? Was laughter the appropriate response? Regardless of opinions about Poe, the future that unfolded from there included things like satanic cults whose atmosphere and conduct differed little from certain kinds of evangelical gatherings (or witch-hunts, inquisitions, etc.). We could similarly speak of atheist quasi-religions like Communism, Nazism, and Mussolini’s Fascism, and throw in the twisted occultism of Charles Manson, the Jonestown suicide congregation, and the rituals of certain street gangs for good measure. An automatic rifle could have a cross engraved on its stock, or a swastika, or most any other symbol, and give just as deadly a performance. And yet, the bottom line is that modern white-collar swindlers would prefer to make themselves out to be Christians, Jews, or Muslims, rather than Nazis.

  
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Sachiko: Here is the link I told you about: http://site.pfaw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=mccarthyism_have_they_no_decency_memo . The People for the American Way (a pro-civil liberties, pro-liberal group), I’m on their mailing list, sent an email talking about the rise of McCarthyism and had a picture of the shirt as proof.

  
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Thanks Aspasia! I think I can feel a post coming on. :-)

  
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Speaking of witches, I ran across this quote today and thought I’d share it:

“Most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches. I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.”

– Dr. Kimberly Daniels, in an essay posted on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network

Egads!

  
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I read the article that Swamp Rat quoted and I can’t believe that there are people who believe this crap. I mean most of understand the history of Halloween, but witches praying over most the candy sold? I think it’s past time for us to allow children to have fun. Maybe just to make sure, when my son brings home candy, I’ll pick up a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and say “Belial I cast thee Out”.

  
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@Aspasia – Actually, yes I am. I was in Catholic school and the time and got a full dose of the “religious” roots of anti-Communism in my youth, which, fortunately, I was able to criticize by the time I got to high school.
The anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950′s is a really complex phenomenon, which was not entirely without some rational justification. Don’t forget Stalin was still alive at the time and the Red Army did occupy most of eastern Europe. Nevertheless, it was Christian priests and ministers, constantly drumming home the dangers of “godless Communism” which gave it its moral justification to most of their congregants. The Catholic Church was especially blind to the greater hypocrisies here. Don’t forget that Jack and Bobby Kennedy got their political start working for McCarthy’s sub-committee.
The point is: “Don’t follow leaders…” as Bob Dylan pointed out. They will lead you astray.

  
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Yeah and it seems the new Religion is the Global Warming crowd or is it Climate Change, because that lie was uncovered.

Left means never having to say you are sorry or wrong, ask the present leader, I think that would be Obama.

There are very powerful people in the world like Rothschields,Soros,Rockefellers that have background controlling interests in business and governments.The last one to control is the US. If you want to be a slave then you subscibe to their controlling dictates, like Healthcare where there will be 115 new government agencies created. What does the government do well, NOTHING.

Listen to Celente to see where the world is headed.

http://geraldcelentechannel.blogspot.com/

  
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You are a dictatorial fraud.

  
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Thanks for letting me know that Bill! Or is it Mike? So I guess you aren’t a fraud, even though you use two different names? A word of advice: you might want to try changing your email address too. :-)

Originally Posted By mike
Yeah and it seems the new Religion is the Global Warming crowd or is it Climate Change, because that lie was uncovered.

To see why simple logic dictates we should take action on climate change – even if it we can’t be sure it’s actually happening – read my Let’s Give the Planet the Benefit Of the Doubt post. The fact that you’re so certain it isn’t happening despite all the uncertainties shows how hypocritical you are.

Left means never having to say you are sorry or wrong, ask the present leader, I think that would be Obama.

I am constantly astounded by conservatives’ ability to completely reverse reality. So the fact that Bush did the most serious and terrible thing a President can do – taking your country to war – on the basis of a blatant lie doesn’t require an apology for all the innocent people he has killed and injured?

There are very powerful people in the world like Rothschields,Soros,Rockefellers that have background controlling interests in business and governments.The last one to control is the US. If you want to be a slave then you subscibe to their controlling dictates, like Healthcare where there will be 115 new government agencies created. What does the government do well, NOTHING.

Oh right: so you think these guys support the health reform agenda, even though it is against their business interests? And you think the people who are anti health reform are the honest ones, even though they are blatantly acting to selfishly protect their own profits at the expense of the health of millions of poorer Americans? For goodness sake – any idiot should be able to figure this stuff out!

It is also very clear that Obama does not come from a privileged background, yet you support the people and the party who actually do come from a privileged background (the Bushes/Republicans).

Listen to Celente to see where the world is headed.

http://geraldcelentechannel.blogspot.com/

All this guy is is a doomsayer. When you always predict disaster, it’ll eventually happen, and naïve people will say you’re a genius. But that conveniently ignores all the (very many) times he’s wrong.

  
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When will people realize that “global warming” has been going for millenia and started accelerating with The Industrial Revolution. increased industry = increased greenhouse gases. Common sense. We are never actually going to stop it, but at least we should slow it down. As far as health care reform, I’ll use my mother as an example. She had to spend nearly 50% of her retirement income for health insurance and that was for basic health care, not including co-pays and things the insurance wouldn’t cover.

  
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