Skip to main content

Respecting Faith

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

My latest offering for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ page of a local weekly newspaper was published yesterday. Because it dealt with such an extraordinary incident, I wanted to share it with readers:

‘Perturbation to fascination’ revisited

Sally Gardiner-Smith is to be commended for writing the fascinating article which appeared in the November 29 issue of the News. She is the high school exchange student who wrote “Perturbation to fascination” about her adventure in Thailand.

Gardiner-Smith described a bizarre parade that she and her fellow students witnessed. The chaperone explained that they “were going to see a traditional Thai parade where men were possessed by god.“ As she described, these men had mutilated themselves, making slits through their cheeks through which they placed knives or other objects such as umbrellas, guns, or fruit.

Apparently, the point for the mutilated men was to appear unaffected by the pain. They even allowed bystanders to throw firecrackers at them.

Gardiner-Smith wrote that her “feelings went from perturbation at the beginning of the parade, to respect and fascination by the end.”

While I can appreciate her amazement, I think she took the wrong lesson from this bizarre parade. Her initial reaction was revulsion, and I think this was the proper reaction. Self mutilation is ugly, and our self-preservation instinct kicks in when we see it. It gives us the “willies,” as it should. That’s nature’s way of saying don’t go there.

What did these men prove by mutilating themselves? That they could withstand pain? Yes, fine, but that does not prove that they are “possessed by god.”

A dictionary meaning of “faith” includes the following, “belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion . . . firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Even in our own society, we are used to people admiring others who are said to be “of great faith.” But this merely means that they believe strongly in a particular religious tradition. It doesn’t mean that tradition is necessarily based on any facts; it only means they believe strongly in “something for which there is no proof.”

Why should believing in something that can’t be proven be admired? During the Crusades, warriors of both the Christian and Muslim sides believed strongly that they were doing god’s will, and they risked their lives and frequently killed others in service to their faith. But did any of them prove who was right or wrong? Of course not, they merely proved to what dangerous and damaging extremes men will go in the cause of faith.

She wrote, “These men weren’t attempting to heighten their manhood or impress others. Their goal was to show that they had such belief in their religion that they would relinquish anything to prove it.” But, wait a minute, this was a parade; these men made a public spectacle of their bizarre behavior in order to “show” the strength of their belief. They weren’t doing this in private.

When Gardiner-Smith says she came to “respect” these men, she holds them up as somehow being praiseworthy for their extreme devotion to their faith. But, think about it, wouldn’t that make those “martyrs” who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers praiseworthy as well? How much faith did they have to have in order to sacrifice their lives for their beliefs? Their actions took extreme faith. . . but totally lacked rationality or compassion, things a modern, moral society should value above faith.

She wrote of the men in the parade, “Some were slowly cutting off their tongue with a saw.” What do you suppose was the effect on the Thai youth watching that parade? That this was something to admire and to emulate, maybe? And thus such nonsense, the lionizing of extreme belief in things which can’t be proven, is passed from generation to generation.

Thank you, Sally, for writing that fascinating article, but I hope you will think more on what that very singular experience should mean to you. Personally, I do not believe those men parading their self-mutilation deserve anyone’s respect or praise. Their actions merely serve to propagate damaging nonsense onto another generation.


Popular posts from this blog

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

So Just How Dumb Were Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Part VII.

By Robert Conner ~ T he first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Corinthians 15:4 ), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days. After his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an event Paul never mentions in his lette

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo


By David Andrew Dugle ~   S ettle down now children, here's the story from the Book of David called The Parable of the Bent Cross. In the land Southeast of Eden –  Eden, Minnesota that is – between two rivers called the Big Miami and the Little Miami, in the name of Saint Gertrude there was once built a church. Here next to it was also built a fine parochial school. The congregation thrived and after a multitude of years, a new, bigger church was erected, well made with clean straight lines and a high steeple topped with a tall, thin cross of gold. The faithful felt proud, but now very low was their money. Their Sunday offerings and school fees did not suffice. Anon, they decided to raise money in an unclean way. One fine summer day the faithful erected tents in the chariot lot between the two buildings. In the tents they set up all manner of games – ring toss, bingo, little mechanical racing horses and roulette wheels – then all who lived in the land between the two rivers we

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two

Morality is not a Good Argument for Christianity

By austinrohm ~ I wrote this article as I was deconverting in my own head: I never talked with anyone about it, but it was a letter I wrote as if I was writing to all the Christians in my life who constantly brought up how morality was the best argument for Christianity. No Christian has read this so far, but it is written from the point of view of a frustrated closeted atheist whose only outlet was organizing his thoughts on the keyboard. A common phrase used with non-Christians is: “Well without God, there isn’t a foundation of morality. If God is not real, then you could go around killing and raping.” There are a few things which must be addressed. 1. Show me objective morality. Define it and show me an example. Different Christians have different moral standards depending on how they interpret the Bible. Often times, they will just find what they believe, then go back into scripture and find a way to validate it. Conversely, many feel a particular action is not