Thursday, June 14, 2007

The price of religious tyranny is ruined lives

You remember the Warren Jeffs/Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints scandal, don't you? Sure you do.

As you might recall, Jeffs was nabbed after a couple of years on the run. He ruled his little cult like a tyrant, forcing teenage girls into marriages with men upwards of 50 years of age, or even their own cousins of similar age, and telling them they'd lose their chance at "salvation" if they didn't comply. The FLDS lived in these remote, isolated towns straddling the Arizona-Utah border, and were the classic closed community. Lately they had been building a compound in central Texas, scaring many of the locals with the possibility of another Branch Davidian blowout in the offing. When rescued from the life imposed on them by Jeffs, a number of former FLDS teenagers reportedly had to be taught such basics as how to bathe.

Now there's a new tragedy that's emerged as a result of all this fundie polygamist inbreeding. Babies born to FLDS cultists are afflicted with an extremely rare genetic disorder called fumarase deficiency. According to the news article, it's "an enzyme irregularity that causes severe mental retardation brought on by cousin marriage." Among children born with the condition, "brain cells fail to receive enough fuel to grow, multiply and function properly because of a missing enzyme needed to generate energy from food, causing severe mental retardation and muscle control problems." Lovely. Evidently the condition is so rare out in the real world, where normal people live, that the FLDS community in Arizona can claim fully half the world's cases of fumarase deficiency!

In Jeffs' tinpot holy dictatorship, in addition to being forced into multiple marriages, young people went without education. Needless to say, free inquiry was not allowed. Religious tyranny is the only way you can get a group of people blindly to accept engaging in repugnant and potentially deadly behaviors, all in the belief it's what God wants. Unfortunately, the price for rejecting reason in favor of lunacy is often too high to pay.


  1. Oh, that is so gross. I knew there was a reason I was always a little creeped out by cousin marriage. Those poor, poor girls, kept stupid and impregnated with sick babies.

    Religion screwed me, too, but not THAT much


  2. The saddest part is that this isn't new news at all. Fumerase deficiency has been well-studied in the polygamous populations in Hilldale and Centenial. In fact, doctors and researchers go there to study the disease because it's so rare in other parts of the world. :( I'm glad to see that it's finally getting some press.

  3. I saw a program recently discussing a similar problem in Amish communities. Apparently the limited breeding pool and lack of new converts is finally causing disproportionate levels of rare genetic disorders there as well.

    What do people expect?

  4. Well, Tracie, being that they're a bunch of religious fundamentalists who not only lack adequate science education but forcefully reject it, I'm sure what they "expected" was for God to give them bouncy, healthy, godly, cherubic babies. Reality is a cold corrective agent for the delusions of faith.

  5. Atheist tyranny killed or crippled my grandparents, forcing my parents so to go on the run.

    Atheist tyranny killed millions upon millions.

    It has frankly, left me bitter, in effect ruining my life.

    Atheists claim to live a life of reason, all the while having great faith that the existence of the universe, life, and reason itself can be explained by mindless processes.

    But such has not been demonstrated, although they BELIEVE that it will.

    Atheists are pushing the Big Lie.

    Moderate that, swine.

  6. The Amish have always had a slightly higher rate of some disorders. Interestingly, for a while, albinism was pretty prevalent amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch. Hirschsprung Disease is another common is Byler's Disease. The difference between the Amish and FLDS is two-fold:
    1. The Amish sought medical attention and, when told what the problem was, proactively screen most families to prevent pairing of carriers.
    2. The Amish don't marry off 13 year olds. You have to be at least 18 to marry in the Amish tradition.

  7. Such a sad and tragic story. In the past as I was able to pull away from the religious brainwashing of my youth and think for myself, I merely felt pity for those still trapped in the flawed logic and nonsense relgion propagates --- but stories such as this now make me more angry at the morons and idiots that still continue in their religious lunacy.

  8. Atheists are pushing the Big Lie.

    Moderate that, swine.

    Okay. Prove the existence of God. Now.

    Consider yourself moderated, bitch.

  9. I find that when people talk about atheistic tyranny or something similar, it's never actually an atheist movement they're referencing. It inevitably turns out to be some political power-grab where the people/person in charge is threatened by split loyalties--and so outlaws anything that could potentially compete with his/their political movement. In such cases, if "atheism" were a coordinated movement with an ideology of its own that competed with the political power structure, it would be outlawed as well (ironically). Secular Humanism would be a good example. If Humanism had existed in some political system in the past, it is extremely likely it would have been just as banned as any other religion. It wasn't that atheists were banning religion; it was that a political power structure was banning any other ideology--be it political, religious, cultural, or otherwise.

    In fact “atheism” isn’t about any group of people. It’s a word that describes a person personal lack of belief in gods. It applies to individual belief, not group behaviors.

    Meanwhile, Christians will tend toward comparing this in discussions to things like The Crusades--where Christians, wearing crosses, carrying holy religious relics, went to fight the heathen Mulsims over who would own Jerusalem--because it is a holy religious city according to their holy religious book. Christianity very much defines both individual and group behaviors as well as beliefs. It’s not just about a personal belief system in the way that atheism is. Atheism doesn’t dictate that anyone do anything.

    Somehow a thing like Communism becomes "atheism" in the dialogue of the (I’ll go out on a limb here and say “intellectually dishonest”) Christian; but atheism isn’t a “movement” to oppress any religion or religious idea. It's about an individual not believing in gods. It isn't a statement about what someone else does or thinks. It doesn’t dictate that anyone be converted to atheism. It doesn’t dictate that any atheist or group of atheists must stop competing memes. It's only a statement about what I, personally, think; it doesn't define any individual's or group’s actions or behaviors.

    Stamping out religious behavior—or any other ideology—because it competes with a political system is not atheism. Atheism isn’t even a byproduct. Even if I outlawed all religious worship and destroyed every church, synagogue, temple and mosque, and burned every religious book, I still couldn’t control what people _believe_. Stopping people from engaging in religious behavior doesn’t promote atheism—since controlling behavior can’t control thought. Theism—belief in god—can still very much exist in an environment where religion is not tolerated in the least. Atheism is the same way. Just because people are forced to pay homage to a god doesn’t mean that they can’t be atheists. They just can’t openly express their atheism.

  10. Tracie: Fundies grasp at straws, and this is why they constantly throw guys like Stalin and (inaccurately as regards his alleged atheism -- he was in fact Catholic and had a number of allies at the Vatican) Hitler in your face when atheists condemn brutal theocracies.

    It ought to be obvious that just because some movement is irreligious in nature (or just in part) does not always mean it will be motivated by rationalism and humanism. It is quite likely to find people oppressing religion in a reactionary way. This is why I note the difference between the development of athiest thought in the West, with its roots in the Enlightenment, and in the East, where it has mostly been attached to communist and totalitarian governments. Lacking a firm intellectual grounding in secular, rationalist philosophies, atheism can easily become a purely oppositional act, resulting in political situations where people are oppressed simply for holding a disapproved-of belief, in a manner no different than the way such oppression occurs in theocracies against beliefs that challenge the mandated, majoritarian religion.

    I personally think it would be just as wrong and misguided for America to be transformed into an "atheist state" in the same way that neocons and Dominionists want it to be a "Christian nation". The ideal situation would be the one we have, a secular nation in which freedom of conscience and inquiry are (ostensibly) welcomed, and the government keeps its dirty mitts off the whole matter of belief/disbelief entirely. That we currently have a state of imbalance in our own "free" society -- with the members of the majority faith (Christianity) doing everything they can to shout down and shut up and otherwise make life miserable for anyone who doesn't fit their accepted blueprint for living -- is the price one pays for living in such a society. But the fact remains that we're still living in a world where atheists can speak their minds, voice their dissent, encourage free thought, and publish #1 New York Times bestselling books. Stalin didn't want that for his society, but with their black-and-white habits of thinking, most fundies don't seem to get that we're not all little Stalins.

  11. > a manner no different than the way such oppression occurs in theocracies against beliefs that challenge the mandated, majoritarian religion

    I would say this is a very important point. Offhand I can think of far more religious regimes that have (and do) oppress opposing religions than I can non-religious regimes that oppress religion. America was colonized by people running from one religious state to establish another. And as soon as the colonists set up shop, they began to oppress anyone in their own camp who disagreed with their religious stance and didn't attend the town church regularly.

    I agree that it's best to let people do and believe what they like (offering education--but letting people decide for themselves after that), so long as they don't hurt others or impose on the individual freedoms of others.


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