So I realize it’s not actually Hallowe’en, but I don’t care.
I’ve explained before why it’s important to fight against belief in superstition – in order to co-operate with each other we need to use transparent and reality-based mechanisms. If we instead rely on dewy-eyed “respect” for each other’s ridiculous beliefs, we can end up doing damage to each other and ourselves. When the stakes are low, it’s entirely practical to ignore the more weird things that those around us think are true. Case in point: a close friend of mine believes in ghosts – while I think it’s weird to think that dead people have “spirits” that stick around and appear to random people, but cannot be detected except by the flawed human eye/brain, it’s really not worth it to try and change his mind. After all our friendship is not based on ghosts, and it’s only come up once in the hundreds of conversations we’ve had.
However, sometimes people believe in ridiculous shit and it absolutely does matter:
Eighty mainly elderly people recently jailed in Malawi for up to six years for practising witchcraft should be freed, campaigners say. George Thindwa from the Association of Secular Humanism told the BBC the convictions were illegal as there was no law against witchcraft. He said the problem was that many officials were “witchcraft believers”. The justice minister disputed the allegations, saying the justice system was “reputable”.
Regular long-time readers will remember Malawi from previous posts about religious vs. secular values, the stupidity of sodomy laws, and of course their ass-backwards stance on women’s rights and polygamy. Basically, I’m not a fan. Well now they’ve been caught putting people in jail for being witches.
And then of course, there’s the absolutely ridiculous claim from the justice minister that the system is “reputable”. Yes, it has a consistent reputation for being full of shit. That’s not the same as being reputable.
Justice Minister George Chaponda told the BBC that a person could only be found guilty of practising witchcraft if they confessed to being a witch. But our reporter says the records showed all the suspects had pleaded not guilty. “We are intervening in this matter because we are concerned we still have prisons in Malawi [with] people being accused of being witches,” Mr Thindwa told the BBC’s Network Africa programme. “The courts were wrong 100%, [and] the police, to actually accommodate cases.” Most of those recently sentenced were women usually accused by children of teaching them witchcraft.
I don’t think the people of Malawi are inherently evil, or inherently stupid. They are however held captive to inherently stupid and evil ideologies, by which measles vaccinations are tools of the devil, polygamy is the right of every woman to be protected by a man, and the accusation of a child carries the same weight (in fact more weight) as any sort of evidence. This is why I am completely unashamed to call out bullshit in as loud a voice as possible – to do otherwise would be to grant assent and respectability to all kinds of crazy half-cocked hypotheses, like the existence of witchcraft.
But luckily we live in the enlightened West, where we’ve outgrown such idiocy, right?
A self-described witch in Moose Jaw, Sask., says she’s outraged that religious groups have pressured a local museum to cancel a Halloween seance. The Western Development Museum had been planning to hold a fundraiser on Oct. 29 called Ghosts of the Past, at which, for a $30 entry fee, adult participants could learn about ouija boards and “attempt to make contact with the spirits.” The event was cancelled, however, following complaints from religious leaders and residents, some of whom expressed fears the seance would conjure up evil spirits.
Good grief. If you want to see some medieval stupidity writ large in public, look no further than your religious communities. Of course, these are the good, moderate Christians who are all about tolerance and acceptance. Not those crazy fundamentalists who believe in weirdo nonsense. It’s a good thing there aren’t any of those types of crazies around.
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