Friday, July 25, 2008

Religion can be bad for you

The South African media is reporting that a man by the name of Matthew Naidoo, calling himself the "third son of God” and "God's messenger", convinced Westville brother and sister Hardus and Nicolette Lotter to murder their parents. The father, Johan, was strangled to death with an extension cord and the mother, Magdelena ("Riekie"), was stabbed to death. Apparently, Naidoo was told by "voices in his head" that “God wanted Johan and Riekie [Magdelena Lotter]”. It's unclear whether the three belonged to a cult, but The Times quotes sources claiming the murder was some sort of religious ritual. Thankfully, police arrested Naidoo, Hardus and Nicolette and they are reported to have made a full confession.

This incident reminds me of Voltaire's justly famous quote:
Truly, whoever is able to make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world. (From, "Questions sur les miracles", 1765).

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