Many religious people are quite rational, and they interpret their religious beliefs through the lens of worldly common sense. However, sometimes religion becomes crazy. I mean, brutally torturing people to death over slight doctrinal differences? Hanging “witches” because of absurd accusations and inconsequential physical marks? Fathers murdering their own daughters because they are dating, and grandmothers holding down their granddaughters so that butchers can tear the clitorises out of the little girls? Religion certainly has its dark faces.
Yesterday I came across two examples of religion gone mad. At least they do not involve the sort of violence against others mentioned above. But they do indicate that religious beliefs can turn crazy.
The first example involves a man who is probably clinically insane, so perhaps religious beliefs were not the main problem here; perhaps otherwise his insanity would have manifest itself differently. Here’s the story:
Idaho man sees ‘mark of the beast,’ cuts off and microwaves hand
Updated 02:18 p.m., January 9, 2008
HAYDEN, Idaho — A man who believed he bore the “mark of the beast” used a circular saw to cut off one hand, then he cooked it in the microwave and called 911, authorities said.
The man, in his mid-20s, was calm when Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies arrived Saturday in this northern Idaho town. He was in protective custody in the mental health unit of Kootenai Medical Center. …
The article speculates that the man may have been inspired by the New Testament books of Revelation or Matthew. I don’t want to make too much of this example, because, again, the guy is probably quite insane for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. However, I would point out that plenty of other people have done quite crazy things (such as kill themselves) based on religious beliefs involving the Apocalypse. At a certain point, it becomes difficult to distinguish between clinical insanity and self-induced religious insanity.
At any rate, the second example definitely involves only religious beliefs, not any sort of physiologically induced break with reality. World Net Daily has published an article that advertises “WND’s elite monthly Whistleblower magazine.”
Whistleblower’s lead article, we are told, is “Witchcraft in America:”
What is witchcraft? Is it the same as Wicca? Is it a form of Satan worship, as critics allege? Or can witches be good? Can they really cast spells that somehow call forth the spirits beyond the world of nature to help them accomplish their will – whether good or evil? Is magic real? Why do witches often perform their ceremonies naked? And most of all, why do so many people today aspire to be witches?
Okay — does anyone in modern America, in which we are learning about the article via an expansive network of computers and power generation, actually need to read an article to learn whether witches “somehow call forth the spirits beyond the world of nature?” I mean, is this now somehow open to debate? (I keep thinking that the whole thing must be a practical joke, and I’d be relieved to discover that it is, but unfortunately it seems to be sincere.)
“Witchcraft, sorcery, magic and idol worship have been around since the earliest days of man,” said WND Editor Joseph Farah. “They do, indeed, pre-date Christianity as we know it today – just as their practitioners like to point out with pride. But they do not pre-date the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the one who created the universe. They are, in fact, part of a rebellion against Him and His laws.”
It’s difficult to pick the most ridiculous line from the article, but here’s my selection:
“Top exorcist condemns ‘Harry Potter'” – on the Vatican’s top experts who says there’s “no doubt the signature of the Prince of Darkness is in these books”
This is where I’d again usually be thinking, “Joke, right?” I mean, somebody’s trying to screw with me, surely. And yet I recorded the following line from the documentary Jesus Camp, quoting a woman “teaching” young children:
“And while I’m on the subject, let me say something about Harry Potter. [Dramatic pause…] Warlocks are enemies of God. And I don’t care what kind of hero the are, they’re an enemy of God. And had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death.” [In the background, somebody says, “Amen,” as the audience bursts into applause.] “You don’t make heroes out of warlocks.”
So apparently, real people, people who have grown up in America, the most technologically advanced nation in world history, actually believe that J.K. Rowling, a writer of children’s stories, is in league with a supernatural force of evil. That is insane.