Brainwashing and Alleged Abuse – the Lord’s Work?
A headline in Bradford newspaper the Telegraph & Argus reported on Wednesday that a “‘Preacher’ Tortured His Sons” http://archive.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/2007/11/14/205073.html. The trial is ongoing, so any mention of torture in this post is referring to alleged torture. Quotes are verbatim, the opinions are my own and refer to what I think of the alleged crimes.
The paper reported that a court heard evidence that “a fervent Christian tortured his two sons by slicing their mouths with scapel blades and putting safety pins through their tongues” and, apparently, “his wife, 38, sitting with him in the dock in a smart jacket and matching hat, was said to have done nothing to help her two children when her husband inflicted pain on them.” The jury also heard testimony that “the Nigerian man, aged 47, told the boys he inflicted the injuries because God had had his tongue cut off in the Bible“. Now, I couldn’t find reference to this event in The Bible Reader’s Encyclopaedia & Concordance – but even if the Bible did have a passage referring to God having his tongue cut off, I fail to see how anyone could think that this would justify the mutilation of children. If the allegations are true, then I can hardly think of anything sicker.
Sadly, there was also a recent case of the death of a young mother who had given birth only hours previously. The Guardian reports on the story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,2205581,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront. “Emma Gough’s family, including her Jehovah’s Witness husband, Anthony, 24, refused to overrule her wishes and she died after losing blood”. The Guardian also reported that “Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the bible explicitly bans its followers from receiving blood, even in an emergency” and quoted a friend of the family as saying: “We can’t believe she died in childbirth in this day and age, with all the technology there is. What makes it even more sad is Emma had time to hold and start to bond with her twins before complications set in.” Am I alone in seeing the irony of the friend’s quote in light of the deceased’s beliefs regarding medical intervention? Probably not, although perhaps not many people are insensitive enough to point it out. I’m not even sure where the belief comes from. There are certainly references in The Bible Reader’s Encyclopaedia & Concordance to the eating of blood being forbidden, but funnily enough I couldn’t see anything about medical procedures that involved giving or receiving blood being forbidden.
These are just two examples of the dangers of religion. Richard Dawkins refers to other incidents in the God Delusion, such as the burning(s) of Ridley, Cranmer and Latimer. These men allowed themselves to be burned because they felt unable to forsake Protestantism for Catholicism. They couldn’t even fake it – ‘say it without meaning it’ – because their consciences and religious beliefs wouldn’t allow them to do that. Dawkins also wrote about the “stubborn conviction of the religious mind” in relation to the case of a boy named Mortara who was baptised a Catholic without either his or his family’s consent. The boy was removed from his family and brought up a Catholic. The family could have had the boy returned, but they refused to undergo a Catholic baptism. Again – they could have faked it (I think Dawkins suggested that perhaps crossing their fingers while speaking the oath would have been an appropriate dodge), but chose not to. Or felt unable to. What madness that a boy should be taken from his (presumably loving) family and indoctrinated into the Catholic faith simply because the sprinkling of water and the recitation of a few words had ‘made him Catholic’. How can someone ‘belong’ to a religion they haven’t chosen to join?
In fact, this applies to all children who are said to be ‘Jewish’, ‘Christian’, ‘Muslim’ or whatever. I don’t see how all these children can have decided on the available evidence that there is a God and decided to join the religion that (oh, what a coincidence) their parents already belong to. These children have, essentially, been brainwashed into the religion of their parents’ choice. If these children were being indoctrinated into Mormonism or the Moonie cult, then mainstream Jews/ Christians/Muslims would surely be horrified and proclaim the children to have been brainwashed. It would be greeted hysterically. Yet the only real difference is in the specific rites and rituals of the cult the children join as opposed to the cult their parents have joined. To misquote Pink Floyd – “Hey, preacher, leave those kids alone!”.
UPDATE 25/1/08: Tyrant Dad May Never Be Freed.
EDIT: More on JWs and transfusions – http://lolquacks.blogspot.com/2007/11/in-his-infinite-compassion-jesus-said.html has an excellent depiction of teh Jesus Lord. They also link to this version of the Jehova’s Witness story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/shropshire/7078455.stm and this very detailed and excellent blog post on it: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/11/religion_and_healthcare_would_you_die_fo.php. More on Mortara on wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Mortara.
And finally… on a totally unconnected note, I’ve added my del.icio.us page to the blogroll. The best thing on there at the moment is titled A Kind of Magic. It’s here: http://www.badscience.net/2007/11/a-kind-of-magic/, as well as being on the main Guardian site here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/nov/16/sciencenews.g2. In the words of David Colquhoun, “If you read nothing else on the topic, read Ben Goldacre’s best ever piece [and it is Ben’s best piece, IMHO], A Kind of Magic? (Guardian, 16 Nov 2007).” (Link http://dcscience.net/?p=200). Ben’s also in The Lancet here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673607617061/fulltext.
Re this comment: “People are inclined to use religion as an excuse for their bad behavior. This does not necessarily even mean the religion endorses it.”
That’s a fair point, mudandsun. Thank you for making it. I think that any religion should be condemned where it causes harm (or enables or promotes harm), but of course a religion should not be held responsible for all acts committed in its name.