The cost of abandoning reason is measured in lives

From the news today:

A group of up to 300 young men killed 11 people who were accused of being witches and wizards in western Kenya, in some cases slitting their throats or clubbing them to death before burning their bodies, officials said….

“The villagers are complaining that the (suspected) wizards and witches are making the bright children in the community dumb … These (suspected) witches are not doing good things to us,” Makori told The Associated Press.

Deputy police spokesman Charles Owino said that the gang hunted down the eight women and three men in the western Kenya villages of Kekoro and Matembe. Most of the victims were over the age of 70, Owino said.

Islam is evil, Part ∞

Note I didn’t say Muslims, I said Islam. Don’t lecture me about all the nice Muslims. I used to live in Dubai and met more of them than you ever will. But any religion whose extremism is capable of the following has no place in a modern, civilized world, full stop.

The suspect, who is unshaven and appears to be in his 20s or 30s, was arrested by Iraq security forces after they retook most of Basra in April.

CNN was shown what authorities say was his first confession. On it are the names of 15 girls whom he admitted kidnapping, raping and killing. The youngest girl on the list was just 9 years old….

Women bore the brunt of the [Shiite] militias’ extremist ideologies. The militants spray-painted threats on walls across Basra, warning women to wear headscarves and not to wear make-up. Women were sometimes executed for the vague charge of doing something “un-Islamic.”

In the wasteland on the outskirts of Basra, dotted with rundown homes, the stench of death mixes with the sewage. Local residents told the Iraqi Army that executions often take place in the area, particularly for women, sometimes killed for something as seemingly inocuous as wearing jeans.

Shalini just e-mailed

It’s bad like a very bad thing.

No details are allowable right now, other than I can assure anyone worried she may have come to physical harm that this is not so. Until such time as she is ready to make her own announcement, we’ll let it lie.

Oh no, not again

Today in the news:

A mother who is suspected of killing her four children, whose decomposing bodies were found in her home, appeared in court Thursday.

Banita Jacks, 33…told police that her daughters were possessed by demons and that each died in her sleep during a seven- to 10-day period, court documents said. Aja died first, she told police, then N’kiah, Tatianna and Brittany.

Okay, I know it’s simplistic simply to blame religion in situations like this. You can make the same post hoc fallacy people make when they blame violent video games for school shootings, or porno magazines for rape. In the case of the wacko who killed and cooked his girlfriend a few days ago, and then told the cops God ordered him to do it, it’s obvious he was trying to appear as crazy as possible so as to cop a sanity plea when his case goes to trial. There are cases of clearly religiously inspired violence, such as 9/11, gay-bashing incidents, the killing of abortion providers, excessive corporal punishment of children bordering on child abuse, the ongoing Arab/Israeli conflict, tribal violence in Kenya and the Sudan, Catholic/Protestant violence in Northern Ireland, and more.

Then there are cases where a lunatic does something loony, and, surprise, is found to have kooky religious beliefs as well. Kooky religious beliefs and kooks do go together well.

A case like this leans toward the latter, but still, I don’t think religion can get off the hook entirely. Religion is the only thing out there that encourages people to believe in absurdities like demonic possession. It’s bad enough that literally millions of people have their critical thinking faculties short circuited by the teachings of religion, and thus fail to know how to protect themselves from religious hucksters selling their snake oil. But add religion into an environment where mental illness is latent, and it’s a recipe for unmitigated catastrophe. While the mental illness is ultimately the cause of this woman’s actions, religion only enhanced its severity, rather than helping her to overcome it.

Science, on the other hand, has made great strides in treating mental illness. There’s nothing in the article to indicate Banita Jacks was on any medication for any psychological disorder. But clearly she should have been. Had she been, this might not have happened. But by putting her faith in her religion, what happened? She believed her babies were possessed by demons, and butchered them. Religion can’t always be blamed for the bad things people do. But I see precious few examples of its actually doing anything to help or prevent such tragedies either.