Saturday, November 03, 2012
In the name of God? Really?
I'm really not what you'd call a religious person. Even so, I don't have a problem with religion in general, and while I'm agnostic on the subject of deity, I tend to lean toward their being some kind of power that we don't yet understand, some kind of organizing force, in the universe. Might just be the laws of physics, might be something more godlike, as many people define that concept. I haven't seen conclusive proof of it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
At any rate, I don't go around dismissing or disrespecting religion in general or, usually, in specific.
I have my moments however, when I question the usefulness of some forms of religious belief, that some believers interpret as giving them the right to hurt, maim, and kill anyone who does not conform to their particular set of beliefs. So, stories like the one I read this morning on Yahoo! news, reported from an ABC News story, make me angry and sad, in turn. But mostly angry.
The story reports yet another incident in Pakistan where parents have been arrested for allegedly killing their daughter by pouring acid over her head and face, and all over her body. Then, then waited overnight to take her to a hospital, where she died in what was described as a "slow and excruciatingly painful" manner.
Her crime, as her parents perceived it? She talked to an "unknown boy".
Yes, I know that rigid and strict interpretations of some forms of Islam regard a woman talking to, or even being seen with, a boy they are not related to by blood as a sin. One thing that has always puzzled me about these "honor killings", though, is that we never hear about the boys being punished for talking to the girl. But that's not the point here.
The point here is that people are going around killing, sometimes killing their own children, for something so trivial as talking to someone of the opposite sex that they aren't related to. That just isn't right. I don't care how ingrained in their culture or religion it is. It. Is. Just. Not. Right.
I'm NOT being anti-Islamic here, believe me. I would be saying the same thing if it were members of any other religion involved in something this stupid and horrible.
To make the point that this sort of thinking is not confined to Islam, let me remind you that there are people, advocates of what is called Christian Reconstructionism, who believe that the laws of the Old Testament should be enacted into secular law in the United States. This would include making such things as blasphemy (that would be cussing, among other things), adultery, children talking back to their parents, lying about one's virginity, apostasy (leaving your church or declaring unbelief in God), witchcraft, homosexuality, or bearing false witness in court, crimes punishable by death. Basically, they believe that anyone who does not conduct their life in accordance with the Reconstructionist interpretation of what God wants deserves to die.
Not that much different from many of the things that the most strict forms of Islam advocate, is it?
This philosophy also considers democracy to be incompatible with Christianity, by the way, and advocates institution of a theocracy in the United States. Just so you know where they're coming from politically.
And lest you think that this is just a small group of religious nut-jobs who have not had any influence on wider Christianity as it is practiced in the United States today, among those who have been influenced by Christian Reconstructionism and the related Dominionist Theology, consider that Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and D. James Kennedy (all of whom are or were very widely known televangelists, with large followings) all spoke admiringly and approvingly of books advocating this religious philosophy. The "father of Christian Reconstructionism", Rousas John Rushdoony, was on Robertson's "700 Club" television show several time.
Additionally, David Barton, a revisionist historian whose most recent book, "The Jefferson Lies", was withdrawn from publication by its Christian publishing house for being largely made up out of whole cloth, is an adherent of Reconstructionism. Barton has had a huge influence on the Christian Right and has been supported publicly by people like former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and broadcaster Glenn Beck. So, it isn't as if the views of Christian Reconstructionism haven't found their way into what has become widely recognized, if not precisely mainstream, religious and political thought in the United States.
The point that I'm trying to make here, although it's taking me a lot more words to do it than I had anticipated, is that while religion and religious believers have made wonderful contributions to the world, religion also manages, sometimes, to bring out the absolute worst, and most vicious, in human nature. And that part of religion, I don't believe, should be immune from criticism just because it is rooted in religious belief.
So, no, it isn't okay, no matter if you believe, as those parents in Pakistan apparently did, to go around killing your kids because they were disobedient in ways that are a normal part of human nature. Girls are going to want to talk to boys, and boys are going to want to talk to girls. What is not natural is thinking that this desire to socialize is a bad thing, to be prevented by whatever means necessary, including homicide.
As a trivial aside, by the way, while I was doing research for this post, I discovered that Rushdoony, the "father of Reconstructionism", grew up not far away from where I live now, in the small Central California town of Kingsburg. For some reason, I find that to be really creepy.