Robert Redeker's life is no longer in his hands. It's in the minds and hands of unknown men and women, who will have one thing in common. Their willingness to kill those who dared to blasphemy their god and their religion. Redeker's identity has been revealed to one and all in an Islamic web site, that published his photograph and address, and sentenced him to death. He had no choice but to run from his home in France, with his wife and three children, and hide in a secret location under police protection. What was Redeker's crime? A high school philosophy teacher, he wrote an opinion piece in a local newspaper, criticizing Islam for its intolerance and hatred against other religions, and supporting Pope Benedict XXVI.
Mohammed Halim was forcibly taken away from his home in the middle of the night by gun-toting thugs, ignoring his weeping children and his wife's pleas for mercy. Next day his mutilated body turned up on the street, tied to a motorcycle. Halim's killing was the fourth in a series of killings by the Islamists at Ghazni in Afghanistan. Halim was a school teacher, like the other three who preceded him. What was Halim's and his colleagues' crime? They were willing to, and did, educate Muslim girls.
Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot and killed in his home in Amherst, NY, while chatting with his wife and children in the kitchen. His crime? Providing legal reproductive services, including abortion, to his patients. James Kopp, the convicted murderer of Dr. Slepian, became a hero to the Christian fundamentalists, and the Army of God, which preaches and supports violence against abortion providers. A devout Roman Catholic, James Kopp was associated with Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity, the Lambs of Christ, and Operation Rescue. The last two are well known anti-abortion terrorist outfits.
Yellavva was sold to the goddess Yellamma when she was only eight. Ostensibly a slave of the goddess, she would actually become a concubine for the temple priests, once she attained puberty. Her initiation as a Devadasi was said to include ritual deflowering, or uditambuvadu, as it is sometimes called, whereby the priests would gang rape her at the temple. It's a part of their religious perks. What was Yellavva's price? An expectation that the goddess will grant her parents a son in return. Religiously sanctioned raping of children is practiced under the guise of the Devadasi system even today in several parts of India. Sanctioning of child rape is not unique to Hinduism. There are several documented cases of ritual rapes and other forms of sexual abuse of children, in just about every religion, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Shamanism, and various Pagan and Satanic cults.
What motivated these "people of faith" to murder, and acquiesce in the rape of their own children? There is one common thread that runs through these disparate crimes against life, spread across three continents and four nations. Religion. My branding of religion as the root of evil in this series of posts, drew flak from some of my friends and readers. They argued that irrationality lay at the root of evil, and religion was only an excuse. The Israel-Palestine and the Kashmir conflicts were quoted as examples, pointing to their origins in territorial disputes, rather than religious rivalry. In the stories of murder and rape that I have recounted above, too, it may be contended that uncontrolled desire for sex and power caused these evil acts, and not religious beliefs. I beg to differ.
After parents, religion is the most pervasive and powerful influence in a child's mental development. In the community in which I was born, an elaborate ritual naming of the new born baby takes place on the 11th day. Religious fables were narrated to me, I am told, when I was as young as one or two. Children are initiated into worship and various other rituals around the same age. We are taught to both revere and fear the gods and goddesses, who would become the final arbiters in every dispute and dilemma that we faced. In sum, the child born to Hindu parents is taught to think and behave as a Hindu from day 11! Richard Dawkins calls it mental child abuse, and rightly so:
In a 1995 issue of the Independent, one of London's leading newspapers, there was a photograph of a rather sweet and touching scene. It was Christmas time, and the picture showed three children dressed up as the three wise men for a nativity play. The accompanying story described one child as a Muslim, one as a Hindu, and one as a Christian. The supposedly sweet and touching point of the story was that they were all taking part in this Nativity play.
What is not sweet and touching is that these children were all four years old. How can you possibly describe a child of four as a Muslim or a Christian or a Hindu or a Jew? Would you talk about a four-year-old economic monetarist? Would you talk about a four-year-old neo-isolationist or a four-year-old liberal Republican? There are opinions about the cosmos and the world that children, once grown, will presumably be in a position to evaluate for themselves. Religion is the one field in our culture about which it is absolutely accepted, without question — without even noticing how bizarre it is — that parents have a total and absolute say in what their children are going to be, how their children are going to be raised, what opinions their children are going to have about the cosmos, about life, about existence. Do you see what I mean about mental child abuse?
Do you see where irrationality springs from? We are not born irrational, but we are taught to be irrational. And, religion is the teacher. Why don't we outgrow these teachings? Some of us do, but most cannot. They are condemned to be herd animals. The herd mentality is constantly reinforced by the stick of ostracism in this life, and the fear of banishment to hell in the after-life. There are the carrots, too the sense of belonging, the comfort in numbers, and the benefits of cooperation that the economists call positive network externalities. The individual begets the tribe, the tribe begets the religion, and the religion clouds reason.
The authors of the website that sentenced Robert Redekar to death, the Taliban thugs who disemboweled Mohammed Halim, and the parents of Yellavva who sold her for the false promise of a son, might have done these evils in a fog of irrationality. If asked, however, they would have given an explanation that they thought to be perfectly rational, as James Kopp did in the interview that he gave to the Buffalo News after his arrest. After all, what could be more rational than the omniscient gods' words to them? If irrationality were the root of an act of evil, as one of the commenters on my first post in this series opined, religion is the root of that irrationality.