Friday, March 29, 2013

Harm religion causes - does this count?

I know a lot of Westerners don't pay a lot of attention to the Eastern world, after all, they aren't white, are they?  But this is a story which should be seen around the world, especially here, where religious fervor can reach a fevered pitch sometimes.

In India, recently, a family of eight gathered together and performed a religious ritual.  Not unusual, not so far.

But this ritual had been repeated some 5100 times in the last five years, in an attempt to draw the presence of the god Shiva.  Not a ghost, not an image, but the real, physical god, and this ritual involved offerings of blood.  Real, human blood.  Drawn by syringe, fortunately, not sacrifice (hmm, maybe that's why it didn't work?) but still, one cannot fault the faith, here.

This time, the father had gathered the family, convinced that his constant rituals over the last five years would finally cause his god to appear before his family in person, to prove his faith and power, I'd suppose.  The problem is, it still didn't work.  No god.  Not even a wavering image, much less the real physical Shiva.

So, Pop went into the other room, brought out some candy, stuffed some unidentifiable substance into that candy, and fed it to his family.  In minutes, all but three of them were dead, including at least two children.

No, he didn't murder them out of some spite, they all apparently knew it was going to happen.  The whole thing was videotaped.  They all spoke and gladly spoke of meeting again in heaven, where two of them were to be united in marriage there.

Imagine!  Marriage in heaven, in front of your god!  What a wonderful attraction!

I think most of us would agree, this was a terrible tragedy.  So does the Times of India.  Probably so do most of the population of that country.  But some don't, some see these people as true believers, and maybe even envy them their good fortune.

Which is kinda the point.  99.99999999999% of the human race agree that this kind of faith is misplaced, tragic and simply wrong.  And also, most of us have different faith backgrounds, different beliefs and different ideas about how these this might work.

Kind of like Pascal's wager, isn't it?  Just writ large, taking into account ALL of the different religious versions out there, and that wager rapidly gets out of hand and looks like a poor bet.

THIS is why religion is dangerous.  It leads people to do what almost all of us would agree is something stupid.  Something hurtful, something tragic.  Yes, most people don't do this.

But the ONLY reason why these people do is because of religion.  There is no other reason, and there certainly are not any secular reasons why this would make sense.  Just because there are few actual numbers of people who go this far does not give the religious doctrines that cause it to happen a pass. If people today truly gave a damn and cared, they would, alter their religious doctrines and scriptures to prevent this from happening.

But nobody ever does, and that is why those of us on the outside blame the religion.

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