Sunday, September 6, 2009

Religion provides cover for more serious insanity

In this post, I want to give some examples of the way that the religious beliefs of the general population provide a sort of "cover" for some pretty dangerous beliefs held by others, including the recent case of the kidnapped girl who was found in California after nearly 2 decades.

Let me start with a comical example. Have you ever heard of a cargo cult? Cargo cults are formed by natives of certain isolated areas, after contact is initiated with people from the developed world. This is my loose understanding of what they are. The natives see the equipment, or cargo, that the foreigners have, and they want some too. Cargo can include anything from radios to bottles of Coca-Cola. So they create a religion of rituals and whatever in an attempt to bring planes full of cargo to them. One of the better-known examples is the John Frum cult on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu (I've been to that island, but did not visit the cult). The island was a base for American troops during WWII, and there were a lot of planes full of equipment landing. Even today, the villagers build and maintain airstrips and have fake radios ready to guide the planes in. I remember reading a story, I can't remember where, in which one of the leaders of one of these cults was asked just how long they were going to wait for their cargo. The implication was that they should give up after 60 years, it's not coming. The leader replied (paraphrased), "If you can wait 2,000 years for Jesus to return, we can wait a little longer for our cargo." This is what I mean when I say that the public's acceptance of religion provides cover for other 'crazier' beliefs. A Christian can't lecture these people on sanity, because they're just as bad, if not worse! When is Jesus coming back, by the way?

So now we get into some more harmful, destructive beliefs. On my recent vacation this summer, I visited Uganda. I had a chance to read their newspapers once or twice, and found articles about their problems with kidnapping of young children. It seems that although the country is largely Christian and Muslim, they still have some people who practice the old tribal beliefs, witchdoctors, etc. And these people have been kidnapping young children on their way to school, and then sacrificing them to their spirits. I was just appalled at this, and wanted to find these people, beat them over the head with a fricking baseball bat, while I 'gently explain' to them that there is no such thing as spirits, and they need to use their fucking brains and leave the poor children alone! They're absolute monsters! But they really do believe in spirits, and how can we convince them that their spirits don't exist, when a good portion of the population of the rest of the world believes in all kinds of spirits, gods, angels, devils, ghosts, witches, and all those other ridiculously irrational things? Our culture's widely-held religious beliefs have provided a perfect cover for these people to continue to believe the most fucked-up bullshit! When we stop believing in spirits, maybe we can drag these people into the 19th century with us!

So now we've got this guy in California who kidnapped a little girl, repeatedly raped her, and held her in a prison in his backyard for 18 years. From the news reports I've read, I learned some more about him. First, I learned that he had a history of kidnapping and rape, and had been let out on parole decades before his sentence was completed. The other thing I learned is that he believed that he spoke to his god (Christian god, I assume), and wrote about it on his blog. Now, I've posted before on this topic. The only difference between a person who is in a mental institution because he believes he talks to an imaginary friend, and a guy like this, is that this guy believed his friend created the Universe. Once you believe your imaginary friend created the Universe, it becomes a religion, and you are then somewhat protected legally and socially from being officially declared insane. The question I have is, why was this dangerous offender, who publicly states he talks to some spirit, allowed to remain in society at all? The reason is that the milder level of insanity among the general public provided cover for his belief in this bullshit. The public is accepting of people who believe they talk to their particular god.

You know what my dream is? For a society in which any person who believes they talk to spirits is given an automatic psychiatric evaluation, and that the people who have committed dangerous crimes AND believe they talk to spirits are never let back into society.

And just to close, I want to remind everybody of the case of Tony48219. Another lunatic who would have raised far more red flags in a more rational society.

1 comment:

tina FCD said...

That's really fucked up.