Posts Tagged “africa”

East African witch doctor Wellcome M0002713I came across this horrific and blood-curdling story. As Religion News Service explains, witch doctors are sacrificing children in Africa (Archive.Is cached article):

In this landlocked country whose diverse landscape includes the snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria, many believe sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and health.

Among those rituals, human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it.

Seven children and two adults were sacrificed last year, said Moses Binoga, a police officer who heads Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force. Seven children and six adults were sacrificed in 2015.

But experts said the number could be much higher.

Something I don’t care for in this story is its attempt at a kind of apologia for this terrible practice:

Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this landlocked nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.

“There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits,” said Joel Mugoya, a traditional healer. “So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem.”

Look, times are tough in a lot of places — including, right now, the US territory of Puerto Rico, demolished by Hurricane Maria a week ago (cached). But we don’t see child sacrifice being carried out in those places. So pardon me for not buying this line of awful tripe.

The article describes what is done to the victims — and it’s bad enough that I won’t relay any of that here. If you want to know, you’ll have to get it from the article.

Let’s hear it for how magnificent metaphysics is and how religious belief is just so helpful — and necessary — for humanity … not! In this case, it is, quite literally, killing people, many of them children. We need to stop making excuses for it (e.g. the above-mentioned “times are tough” whine), stop pretending religion makes people “better,” and put an end to this evil once and for all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ebola Facts - v by SouthernBreeze, on FlickrIt’s old news by now that Ebola virus has been on a tear through three different west African countries. It’s also not news that a man came to Texas from Liberia carrying Ebola and eventually died of it in a Dallas, TX hospital. What’s more, it’s also not news that two nurses who’d cared for him have contracted it (cached). All of that is bad enough. But the reaction to these stories has been … well, the phrase “fucking insane” may not quite do it justice.

First, we have the inevitable political reaction from Republicans using this as another way of tearing into Barack Obama’s hide. Their reactions range from the calm yet still irrational, demand that the CDC’s director resign (cached), which will accomplish nothing whatsoever, as well as demanding travel bans from the affected countries (cached), which also isn’t likely to do much good, to the extreme and ridiculous, such as bundling several crises into one big, neat package of hate, sanctimony, and paranoia by claiming ISIS/ISIL/IS fighters have contracted Ebola and are (cached) trying to get over the country’s southern border to infect Americans en masse (cached) — there is, of course, no evidence of any such conspiracy. And then there’s the garden-variety wingnut Religious Right wackiness of claiming Obama caused (cached) the Ebola crisis as a way of “taking over” or something (cached) — as though that makes any sense at all.

But on top of all this, we have a number of other asinine reactions (cached):

That’s not the limit of the insanity, but it’s enough to illustrate what I’m talking about. It really needs to fucking stop already.

I’m with Shepard Smith of Fox News. Please watch as he decimates the (largely media-driven) insanity:

Smith cites influenza, which annually kills thousands of Americans, as a much greater danger than Ebola, but I can think of another, that being Enterovirus D68, which currently is something of a problem in the US. Although Ebola is more deadly than either of these, Americans are incredibly less likely to contract it. Which means it’s not something they have any reason to be terrified about. The panicking lunacy is enough to make me tag this post “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”

OK, people, I get it. You don’t want Ebola. Really, I understand. I don’t want it either. But this blind panic isn’t going to help you avoid it. I’ll tell you what will: Calm down, grow up, and get over it, fercryinoutloud!

Photo credit: SouthernBreeze, via Flickr.

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Cardinal Tukson 987The Roman Catholic Church’s continual effort to pin blame for the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s dogged it for over a decade now on anyone and everyone but itself, continues apace. This time, one of the leading lights of the Church, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana — who happens to be among the contenders for the papacy — proudly declared that his own continent’s fierce intolerance for homosexuality somehow protected it from that scandal, hence, the his implication that homosexuality itself is somehow responsible for “priestly pedophilia.” He made this announcement during an interview on CNN (WebCite cached article):

When Amanpour asked Turkson about the possibility of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal spreading to Africa, he said it would unlikely be in the same proportion as it has in Europe.

“African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,” he said. “Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society.”

This is, of course, totally false. Sexual orientation and sexual fixation are unrelated:

According to the American Psychological Association, “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”

CNN offers video of Turkson’s appearance on Christiane Amanpour’s show (cached):

So not only is this claim counter-factual on its face, it also fails in another way: It says nothing about the Catholic hierarchs’ ongoing cover-ups of the abuse by its clergy. Does Turkson seriously contend that “gayness” somehow forced the world’s bishops to repeatedly shuffle priests around in order to protect them, and worked to ensure the abusers would never be prosecuted? Maybe the Cardinal and some other Catholics are willing to go with that, but the thinking world knows how utterly asinine such a contention is.

Once again, I can’t help but ask when this fucking bullshit is going to stop? When, exactly, are the supposedly-godly men who run the Catholic Church going to “man up” and take responsibility for their own behavior? I don’t see it ever happening, until lay Catholics decide they’ve had enough, and take control of the situation. They could easily do so if they wished, using the power of the collection plate: Starving the Church for donations would coerce its hierarchs into changing their behavior. That the world’s Catholics haven’t done this, shows they support the hierarchs’ behavior and approve of the Church’s criminality.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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Atrocities are, unfortunately, not new to Africa. The Sudanese province of Darfur is currently the best-known part of that continent where atrocities are an everyday occurrence. Some 15 years ago it was Rwanda. One would think that Christians in Africa — being members of what is claimed to be “the religion of love” — would be alleviating that violence rather than adding to it. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong, because the truth is, they’re perpetuating violence of their own there. The AP reports via MSNBC on the phenomenon of Christians torturing and even killing people they claim are “witches” (WebCite cached article):

The nine-year-old boy lay on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants, staring blindly at the wall.

His family pastor had accused him of being a witch, and his father then tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. It spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. The emaciated boy barely had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him — Mount Zion Lighthouse.

A month later, he died.

Nwanaokwo Edet was one of an increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.

The funny thing about this is that it’s entirely scriptural! If you put together Mosaic-Law admonitions against witchcraft, e.g.:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer (Dt 18:10)

with Jesus’ own demand that one turn on one’s own family, e.g.:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Mt 10:37)

then you are bound to have people turn even on family members who are condemned as “witches.” It’s simply a natural consequence of those words, and is unavoidable so long as those words are revered.

Worse than that, though, is that there is actually a perverse incentive in place for Christian pastors in Africa to find people to denounce as “witches”:

“Even churches who didn’t use to ‘find’ child witches are being forced into it by the competition,” said Itauma. “They are seen as spiritually powerful because they can detect witchcraft and the parents may even pay them money for an exorcism.”

These pastors are using “witchcraft” accusations, then, as a source of self-aggrandizement, and as a form of extortion. How nice of them to do that, given that they’re representatives of “the religion of love.”

The question is, are occidental Christians — who are generally willing to condemn the (Muslim) Janjaweed of the Sudan for their massacres of non-Muslims in Darfur — also willing to condemn what their co-religionists are doing in other parts of Africa? I’m only hearing an eerie silence.

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… get out of the papal palace! Yes folks, Pope Benedict XVI is not happy. The source of his unhappiness? The backlash against him after he presumed to know more about epidemiology than actual credentialed epidemiologists. As I blogged previously, the Vatican is famously thin-skinned, so there’s no surprise. Here’s the AP report, via the Hartford Courant:

The Vatican says some negative reactions to the pope’s comments about condoms and AIDS during a trip to Africa were an “unprecedented” attempt to intimidate him.

Pope Benedict XVI said last month that condoms weren’t the answer to Africa’s AIDS epidemic and could make the problem worse. …

The Vatican said the pope’s comments were taken out of context and had unleashed an “unprecedented media campaign.” It says they were “used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the Pope from expressing himself.”

Actually I agree that — on matters that are not his to decide — the Pope should, in fact, not “express himself.” As an important, globally-known public figure, the Pope has a responsibility to measure his words and not just shoot off his mouth whenever he feels like it, on topics in which he has zero expertise. As Stan Lee has famously said (reflecting the words of FDR), “With great power comes great responsibility.” For better or worse, the Pope’s words carry great power. It is not wrong to expect of him — especially since he presumes to be the standard-bearer for morality in the occidental world — that he take care in how he exercises that power.

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Pope Benedict XVI recently weighed in on the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and made an astonishing claim, as the AP reported:

Pope Benedict XVI said condoms are not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and can make the problem worse, setting off criticism Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent where some 22 million people are living with HIV. …

In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his position is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence — not condoms — was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The pope said a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease, as he answered questions submitted in advance by reporters traveling on the plane. His response was presumably also prepared in advance.

In the most technical sense only, the Pope has a point. Having less sex means less AIDS transmission. However, his position — that the only way to solve the AIDS epidemic in Africa, is for the entire continent to collectively stop having sex — is unrealistic to the point of being asinine.

It’s just not going to happen!

Not only that, the Pope is not an epidemiologist and has no expertise to rely on, in making this claim. He is looking at it in a purely idealistic or philosophical fashion. Few problems have ever been solved by idealistic means, however.

The Pope has, naturally, taken some heat over his claim, but continues to defend his indefensible claim, as Reuters reports:

The Vatican on Wednesday defended Pope Benedict’s opposition to the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS as activists, doctors and politicians criticised it as unrealistic, unscientific and dangerous. …

Asked about the criticism, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope was “maintaining the position of his predecessors”.

The Vatican also says condoms can also lead to risky behaviour but many contest that view.

Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV/AIDS department, said there is no scientific evidence showing that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks.

The Vatican’s claim that widely-available condoms increase irresponsible behavior, is akin to slippery-slope thinking, and for that reason, is fallacious. It might intuitively appear to be the case, but intuitive suppositions are not facts. The Reuters article quotes someone who actually is an expert in the field, who summarizes how stupid the Vatican is being on this matter:

“The pope saying they are not good is like someone saying travelling by air is not 100 percent safe, so we should not fly,” said Pat Matemilola, national co-ordinator for the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), a medical doctor who has been living with HIV/AIDS for more than a decade.

The moral of this story: Being a religious or spiritual figure — even one as revered as the Pope — does not make one an expert in fields one has never studied. Credentials matter; idealism, or worse, religionism, doesn’t.

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