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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gotta love them family values.

As an atheist I frequently get to hear about how religion, and religious communities, provide the best family values. Indeed, it often seems that for many people the phrase "family values" is effectively synonymous with "religious values." Needless to say I find this a little iffy, even based on existing doctrine, but if that's what people want to believe, then so be it. Granted, I find it a little odd when some of those family values seem to involve ramming your views down the throats of others and, to be blunt, hating the fuck out of some people* but I guess I just don't have enough of that good old holy spirit.

Still, at it's very worst, most religions are still quite a bit better than this:

A toddler whose remains were found inside a suitcase in Philadelphia this spring was starved to death by members of a religious cult, including his mother, in part because he refused to say "amen" after meals, police said.

Ria Ramkissoon, the mother of Javon Thompson, was charged Sunday with first-degree murder in the boy's death, and Baltimore police said Monday that three other members of a group called 1 Mind Ministries have also been charged with first-degree murder. Police and Ramkissoon's family say the group is a cult.

Members did not seek medical care for Javon when he stopped breathing, and the boy died in his mother's arms, according to court documents that described police interviews with a confidential informant and two children. He would have been about 19 months old when police say adults stopped feeding him in December 2006.

And if that isn't horrid enough for you:

The documents show police interviewed two school-age children who had been part of the group but were taken away from members by Philadelphia police. The children told investigators that members stopped feeding Javon in December 2006, in part because the boy refused to say "amen" after dinner. Members also viewed Javon as "a demon."

Another unnamed informant told police that after Javon died, Antoinette [a religious leader] left the boy's body in a room for more than a week, claiming "God was going to raise Javon from the dead," the documents show.

Afterward, Antoinette burned the boy's clothing and a mattress and placed his body in a green suitcase, which she would periodically open and spray with disinfectant to mask the odor, police claim in the court documents.

Yeah. After the boy failed to rise from the dead the minister cult leader put the corpse in a suitcase and essentially used Lysol to hide the smell. There's horrible, there's really horrible, and then there's that. And this isn't even the only time this has happened. There seem to be an awful lot of children dying in recent years as a direct result of religious intervention.

So is this my segue into a generic rant against religion? Nah. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Instead, I just want to make an additional observation about the tragic case of Javon. In addition to what I've already quoted, there's this interesting tidbit:

Ramkissoon's family said she should not be held responsible for her son's death.

"She had no control over that situation at all," her stepfather, Craig Newton, said Monday.

Ramkissoon's mother, Seeta Khadan-Newton, told The (Baltimore) Sun on Sunday that it wasn't her daughter's decision not to feed the boy.

"My daughter was a victim, just like my grandson," Khadan-Newton said. "Somebody made that decision to not feed that child, and my daughter had to follow instructions." [emphasis added]

The thing is: no, she didn't. Look, I get it that disobedience to god comes with some pretty f-ing dire consequences, but must we make obedience to religious authorities such a bloody virtue? Just because your priest tells you to slowly murder your child, that does not mean that you have to slowly murder your child. And no, it isn't just the cults who make this point, it's right there in Genesis 22:

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram [a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring [b] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

The only difference is in the Bible god stops short of actually killing the child. It's enough to just make Abraham think he has to go through with it. What can I say? The old testament god seems to be suffering from just a touch of borderline personality disorder.

Unfortunately for a number of children, however, the sort of restraint shown to Isaac by the old testament god doesn't appear to extend to modern faith healing. If you do stupid things to your kids in the name of god, they can in fact die as a result.

It's long past time we stopped teaching children to be mindlessly obedient. Our tendency to obey is enough to drive us to shock our fellows to death:

And it's enough to drive us to sexually abuse fellow employees. So can we maybe- just maybe- stop lionizing mindless, stupid obedience in the supposed service of god?


* Okay, to be fair, that should have read: "Hating the fuck out of just about everyone."

** And, as it turns out, lethal.

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Blogger Monsoon said...

This is repulsive!

Your link to Genesis is a great example of how individuals are socialized to sacrifice everything in the name of God and be obedient. And, the name of this group pretty much says it all doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 1:42:00 PM  

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