The past week or two has witnessed a number of revolting episodes which belie the various religions’ credentials as loving humane institutions. Instead they erode confidence in religion’s ethics and cast further doubt on the role of religion as a moral ethical institution. What lamentable actions have again brought religions in disrepute?
The incident that first raised my ire occurred in Dubai last week when the father of a 20-year-old daughter watched as she drowned to death at a beach in Dubai.
What he did was to prevent the rescuers from doing their job to save his daughter’s life. When they attempted to go against his wishes, he became violent and restrained them physically. His actions kept them from getting to the young woman in time.
Main picture: (1). Rescue boats retrieving the body of drown 20 year old female in Dubai after father prevented rescuers from saving her. (2) Ahmed Burqibah, the Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department
In no uncertain terms the father let authorities know he would rather see his daughter die than have her touched by strange men. His actions in preventing his daughter from drowning stemmed from his strong religious beliefs. In return, his daughter’s life was lost.
How can a religion endorse the view that a strange man is not permitted to touch his daughter in an emergency where the end result would be in all likelihood death?
I recall a case some 50 years ago when my father was erecting an apple packing shed in the Langkloof. As a consequence of an accident, one of the workmen required a blood transfusion. For religious reasons he was not permitted to have one which resulted in his death.
The latest incident related to the actions of ISIS in Iraq. In terms of their understanding of the Koraan, their members are entitled to rape and enslave infidels – non-Muslims. Friday’s edition of the NY Times reported on an incident where a 12 year old Christian Yazidi girl escaped from the clutches of ISIS but not before she had been raped repeatedly over a period of 6 months.
The whole episode is graphically recounted and recalled by this youngster. Apparently a Muslim fighter first prayed, thanking Allah for allowing him to rape this girl. Then the unspeakable act occurred. The girl screamed in pain and begged him to desist. Unemotionally he stated his right to rape her as she was an infidel. He then pulled up his pants and again prayed to Allah stating that he had done his duty.
How can any religion tolerate rape especially that of a 12 year old.
It is a despicable act which no religion should countenance.
Another incident which occurred many years ago closer to home relates to a life-long friend of Janine. Janine first became friends with Esme at the age of 10 whilst at school with her. At High School Esme met Trevor and they ultimately got married. They relocated down to the Bluff in Durban after Trevor joined the Navy.
Both were very religious people, Esme more so than Trevor. Both led very pious lives. This was evidenced by the fact that most conversations would include a religious comment or two. From a personal perspective, many of these comments bordered on the hypocritical as they imply superiority of the speaker due to their religious proclivities. So it was with Esme.
Due to the low pay, Trevor resigned from the navy and became an investment advisor with a well-known institution. His target market was the congregation at their local church. With his polished performance and smooth tongue and being a fellow congregant, many entrusted their life savings with Trevor.
Then the bubble burst. Apparently he had not been investing this money frugally and wisely as he alleged but rather he had invested it in various dubious schemes which promised high returns but which were probably Ponzi schemes. In short, all the investors had lost all their money.
The cops were called and charges laid. The minister interceded. In return for an admission of guilt and a promise to repay the parishioners, all charges would be withdrawn. This was duly done.
Trevor returned to his “investment” activities but instead of playing the stock market, he became a day trader. Essentially this is a person who bets on the intra-day currency movements and takes a punt on them.
Unbeknown to Esme or his friends, Trevor had suffered a number of serious losses from which he was unable to recover.
Meanwhile his outward demeanour still portrayed that of a contented pious person. Esme would often allude to the fact that Trevor had become more fastidious in his religious devotions and would even attend weekend evangelical sessions of Angus Buchan. She even enthusiastically announced that Trevor had virtually repaid all the money due and their house almost paid off.
Instead of confessing to his misdemeanours, Trevor was planned an act most vile. On the morning on which their house was going to be repossessed, of which Esme was blissfully unaware, he shot and killed his wife and then committed suicide himself.
Is this not merely a murder committed by a delinquent Christian? Yes it can be viewed in that light. What makes it more vile and unforgiveable is that his children, also devote Christians, justified the killing of their mother by their father as they would have had to live a life of penury but instead would now both be together with Jesus!
It was blatant murder, pure and simple.
The final example relates to a pastor in Shoshungve who requested that his flock eat snakes. Finally he claimed that the dreadlocks of a congregant were food waiting to be eaten.
I could recite a litany of similar episodes to buttress my claim that religions can never be the arbiter of morality. Acts such as the massacre at the People’s Temple Agricultural Project – colloquially referred to as the Jonestown massacre – illustrate the fact that fanaticism of whatever sort whether political, social or religious permits normally sane people to perform and justify despicable acts.
Yet again this week I was appalled at the inhumane acts that are perpetuated in the name of religion. This comment applies across all religions. If you think that the recent actions by ISIS or by the father preventing his daughter from being saved are indicative of one religion being solely responsible for such unreligious acts, think again.
Imagine attending a funeral of one’s son or father in the USA where members of the Westboro Baptist Church would display signs such as “I AM GLAD THAT YOUR SON WAS KILLED!”
Why you may well ask? Is this an anti-war statement? Even if it were, it is in extremely poor taste but it is not. This Christian Church is protesting against the Great Satan, the American Government for allowing gays in the military!
Surely this lack of compassion for the grieving family displays a fundamental lack of compassion and human feeling for one’s fellow man and hence is the very antithesis of the Christian messaged?
What dynamic is at play here? What greater force than the “holy word” is driving this behaviour? These actions are perpetrated when the adherents of that sect/religion/cult are under the mistaken belief that the non-adherence to the norms/viewpoints/beliefs of that sect/religion/cult entitle them to take whatever action is necessary including murder.
Why were Hitler, Stalin and Mao able to kill at least a 100 million of their own people in the name of their faith – Fascism or Communism? The same imperatives that drive religious fundamentalists.
What is most distressing is that these egregious actions taken in the name of God or one’s religion are not universally condemned by the non-fundamentalists of those religions.
In their efforts not to appear to be anti-religious, political leaders tread wearily in dealing this these issues instead of sharply rebuking the perpetrators of such vile acts and demanding justice. As such, these acts are invariably condoned by inaction and taciturnity.
By doing so, they are not protecting the Gods or the religion of the perpetrators but the perpetrators themselves.