In case you missed this disgusting newsbyte, let me fill you in on the details:
Joshua Royce, a 19 year old man from Texas, cooked his infant daughter in a microwave oven for 10-20 seconds on May 10; the girl is recovering in hospital from burns to the left side of her body. “What”, you might ask, “could cause someone to perform such a horrid act against an innocent child?”
Should I let you guess? Perhaps the words of the child’s mother sum it up best:
“Satan saw my husband as a threat…”
There is only one rational response to this: WTF????
It seems that Mr. Royce wanted to be a preacher. Satan, not taking kindly to this, assumed control of Mr. Royce’s faculties, and placed the small child in the microwave. Now, credit should go to Mr. Royce who claimed that “stress” made him do it. While this is certainly no excuse for his actions, it is, at the very least, rational.
On the other hand, the child’s mother, Eva Mauldin, went on to exclaim, with reference to Mr. Royce,
“He would never do anything to hurt her. He loves her.”
No, he cooked her, Ms. Mauldin.
Now, you and I may (rightly) state that this act is barbaric in the extreme; I’d wager that we’d get very little resistance from anyone. But then, this is missing the point somewhat, I think.
There is no question that the morality of those who microwave small babies in the name of “Satan” is the polar opposite of many “church folk”, who go to their respective houses of worship on Sunday (or Saturday, or whatever the supposed ‘holy’ day happens to be for the particular sect of their cult). This is, of course, highly commendable.
Of course, this overlooks one blatently obvious (I would hope) morsel of wisdom: once you state that any particular piece of Iron Age literature is “sacred”, or more than just words on a page, you have to accept that others may not interpret the sacred words in quite the same way as you. Once any sense of rational discourse about a piece of literature is called off, then all interpretations become valid. Kudos to those who don’t kill in the name of their faith; but they should remember that in demanding that we tolerate their beliefs without question, they must accord the same right to those who hold different beliefs.
Even the most staunchly religious amongst us would be, I imagine, forced to admit that religion has gotten up to some fairly terrible things these last few millenia. But it is no excuse to say “…but that’s not MY faith.” Once again, not killing in the name of god (or satan, as the case may be) is a wholly commendable virtue; even better would be actively fighting against such atrocities. But one cannot argue that their particular version of faith is any truer than someone elses version. The acceptance of belief, in the absence of evidence, means that no belief is more valid than any other. When moderate Muslims say “Islam is a religion of peace; the 9/11 hijackers were bastardizing Islam” or moderate Christians say “Jesus is love; the Inquisition was a bastardiztion of Christianity”, the atheist must simply respond “No; you all believe in the absence of evidence. If one accepts a version of faith, then one must accept them all.”
Only when religious views, like political views, views on sport, or views on gastronomy, become open to normal, mainstream, rational discourse and critique, will we be able to move beyond this. No particular version of faith has any more credence than any other. And by limiting this rational discourse, religious moderates simply hasten the development of religious fervour. If you, as a religious moderate, would like your faith to be considered different from that of your fundamentalist brethren, then subject it to the same standards to which we hold all else; be prepared to abandon it if it does not agree with what is demonstrably true.
While I am glad that certain guises of faith do not, as a defining characteristic, require baby-cooking or suicide bombing, let us not be fooled into thinking that the pestilence of a belief is commensurate with its palatability.