Monday, January 18, 2010

Video: Human sacrifice in Uganda

Human sacrifice is an ancient and culturally widespread practice that - preposterously, mind-bogglingly, burning indignation-invokingly - survives to the present day. BBC reporter Tim Whewell recently traveled to Uganda and produced a deeply disturbing film for Newsnight about a seeming rise in child sacrifice in that country. Watch it and be shocked.

Uganda, it is important to note, is a scarred country: the religiously-inspired Lord's Resistance Army (led by the batshit crazy Joseph Kony) has engaged in armed rebellion since the late 1980s. And the LRA is seriously bad news: they've committed a panoply of human rights violations, including a systematic campaign of torture, rape and mutilation. Obviously, also, Uganda has a complex history, and, like many other African countries, was an artificial creation of colonialism. Pinning Uganda's current problems on any one cause, then, is folly. I can't help but notice, though, that superstition, religion, magical thinking and other vices are unmistakably implicated in the evils that are so widespread in the country. Whatever other social, economic, cultural, and psychological causes we identify, it is obvious that people having idiotic premodern beliefs will be part of the explanation, and perhaps even a necessary condition for the occurrence of such horrors as ritual child sacrifice. (Having dumb beliefs is certainly not sufficient though).

I found it interesting, also, that even those who campaign against child sacrifice - former witch doctors, government ministers and so on - buy into the superstitious belief system that underlies the sacrifices. This reminds me of a great quote from the famed anthropologist E. E. Evans-Prichard. In Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande, Prichard wrote:
The Azande see as well as we that the failure of their oracle to prophesy truly calls for explanation, but so entangled are they in mystical notions that they must make use of them to account for the failure. The contradiction between experience and one mystical notion is explained by reference to other mystical notions (p. 388).
So entangled in religious bollocks is a former witch doctor who now campaigns against child sacrifice (and admits to ~70 killings), that he explains his previous behavior, not by rejecting the underlying stupid belief system, by but invoking yet more bollocks: he claims to have been possessed by a demon while he committed his atrocities.

(See also: Jourdemayne's piece on the killings at The Lay Scientist).


  1. On an unrelated note, I though you might find this as hilarious as I did:

  2. Thanks... And... Oh. My. The lack of basic logic and understanding is... utterly staggering.

  3. its true child sacrifice is on the rise in uganda but yo article quiet absurd havent you tried to look at the causes