GWOT, religion, religious right, torture, willful blindness to absurd extremes

Churches are torture

Pew reports (here via The Atlantic) that those who regularly attend church services are more likely to support torture, at least in some circumstances: 54% for those attending weekly, 51% monthly, and 42% for those who don’t attend at all.

It’s easy to reflexively say that worshipping a genocidal maniac will do that to you, but of course the answer is not quite as pat as that. The reason lies more likely in the way that politics has entwined itself into religion, especially in the United States where this survey was taken. In the US, Christian churches, particularly evangelical protestant ones (which showed higher support for torture than Roman Catholic or “traditional” protestant), have been courted hard by the Republican right wing for twenty years and have largely become stumps for a hard-line hawkish politic. That there is a greater support for torture in that light is unsurprising.

This reveals one of the troubling aspects about religious belief; the act of belief itself is a passive one in which the believers believe and support what they are told, even when that which they are to believe contradicts reality and even when it contradicts itself. Critical thinking is discouraged on moral issues and those affecting the chuch. Thus, we have a prolonged debate over creationism and young Earth geology despite the evidence for evolution and deep time because reality threatens a literalist interpretation of their holy books. Books which themselves are inconsistent messes on issues that should be hugely important to their adherents, but barely an eye is batted by the congregation. Thus we have religions (in theory) of peace and “turning the other cheek” supporting torture and Jihad. 

That a Christian in North America would today support torture should be of no surprise consdering that they read the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount but are told to equally uphold Old Testament gibberish about homosexuality – they have lost the critical faculties to differentiate not even subtle moral issues. The ability to critically evaluate a situation or an issue is a learned thing – it’s a muscle that atrophies if not used.

Churches are in the business of forcing and maintaining that atrophy – a believer that starts to believe on their own will soon find that they aren’t happy with that particular church and will wander. Wandering is not condoned.

You’ve got a methodist coloring book
And you color really well
But don’t color outside the lines
Or God will send you to Hell
– The Dead Milkmen

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11 thoughts on “Churches are torture

  1. Where are the liberals and progressives protesters when it comes to torture al-quada style? Where are all the protests against the torture that goes on in Cuba, where political prisoner rot in jail, and the average worker gets about $11.00 a month?

    I suppose liberals and progressives would rather die or let others die than to use torture to get information related to violence against innocent people.

    What exactly do you think happens in War? Do people die? Do they die violently? Do they die in tortuous, agonizing pain? Is spanking a child torture to you? Heck, the techniques that were used by the US against THREE main terrorists would be akin to what some workers put up with in their regular jobs!

    But alas, the real terror and terrorist are Satan’s angels torturing those that have rejected the Only way to Heaven. If you go there, then you will certainly know what torture really is. Hell was made for the Devil and his angels to punish them. People end up their because they want to do evil, instead of choosing rightousness by following Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for listening,
    777denny

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  2. I don’t think anyone is condoning torture of *anyone*, but you don’t stop torture by torturing. As for Cuba, well, you write like an American, so I’m going to assume you are aware of the disastrous embargo that your country has maintained on Cuba for the last fifty years. That Cuba has any economy at all owes nothing to you and your country. The average worker makes 11 more per month than your government would prefer.

    Yes, people die in war, and if I had to, I’d fight. I am a past member of the military and while I did not have to go to war, I would have, willingly. That’s why I signed up. Wars sometimes have to be fought and people sometimes have to die. However, I’m not a member of a religion that honours peace above all, or at least purports to. There’s no way that my conscience would have condoned being in the military if I was – I would not have been able to square that circle.

    Besides, war and torture are different beasts. What you do to someone in the battlefield is entirely different than what you do to them when you have them locked up and helpless. If you can’t see the difference, you’re in pretty bad shape morally. Your religion has got to your brain.

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  3. kennyd,

    You are equating pain for the proposition of STOPPING pain and death for innocent people with something that is like unto evil in and of itself. Since when is making pain for someone who is going to kill and make pain for other (innocent) human beings akin to evil? It is meant to STOP evil from happening to the innocent, by making it too painful for the guilty to hide his evil desires to murder and destruction.

    Before pain killing medications, what kind of operations occured? Were they painful? What happened before pain medications for tooth aches, headaches and all sorts of body aches? What happened when someone needed to have an amputation of a body part right away before pain medication were invented?

    Pain in and of itself is NOT evil. To cause pain so that you may PREVENT pain to innocent people from the hand of the wicked is NOT evil.

    What would YOU do to someone if you had a pretty good reason to believe that a LITTLE amount of torture would prevent YOUR daughter and/or YOUR wife from being TORTURED through rape, beatings, burnings and other forms of REAL torture? Be honest please and contemplate the scenerio I have just given to you.

    I believe any rational human being who loved his daughter and wife WOULD DEFINITELY torture ANY individual a LITTLE bit to save these horrible actions from taking place against their loved ones.

    As far as Cuba is concerned, I do not think President Kennedy did the right thing by abandoning the Bay of Pigs and letting those men be tortured and killed. I STRONLY believe that we would have had a free Cuba way back in the early 1960’s if Kennedy would have supported those brave men, and that we wouldn’t have had those people in Cuba suffer horrible REAL torturings, political imprisonments and the other pains associated with socialistic communism that have now gone on for all these many decades.

    As far as our (US) policy towards Cuba over the last 50 years, one could argue that is HAS been a dismal failure in many respects. I think now is the time to try something different, so I support easing travel restriction and basically doing what we do with China, economically speaking.

    Thanks for listening,
    777denny

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  4. Denny,
    Making analogies between what an individual in grief, desparation, and anger would do and what a nation would do is a standard marketing tactic used by the short-sighted to sell to the blind. The reason we hope we elect intelligent people to govern us is so that they can, as a group of informed individuals, through their differences and deliberations, discuss actions before committing to them. We don’t want nations acting like wounded animals or petulant children with advanced weaponry, especially in times of extremis. At least that’s the principle; I’m aware of the shortcomings, as I’m sure you are.

    Torture produces little or no credible evidence against a determined and organized foe and if what I’m reading about the Bush-era torture is true, it gave nothing but in some cases verification of information already attained through regular (?) interrogation and investigation means. Maybe if Cheney, that beacon of love, light, and all things good, gets his way, some secret defense department memo will indicate that somebody coughed up some little tidbit, but I doubt it. At any rate, it could hardly be seen to be worth the cost.

    All this is beside the fact that torture effectively gives the go-ahead to any and all to impose the same on your own nation. I have heard nothing about torture of American soldiers or civilians abroad since the Bush era, however there will be other wars and when it happens, there will be *lots* of blame to spread around, and not all of it will be for your enemies.

    Torture is not productive, and I don’t need a god to tell me that, and the only argument you’ve been able to give me in favour of it is the lizard-brain reflex to defend your loved ones. I’m sure that didn’t come from any pulpit, at least I doubt that it did, so my original premise, that religion weakens the ability to make moral decisions, remains.

    On one thing we agree, pain and death are not evil. How can natural processes be good or evil? However, to somehow compare intentional pain inflicted on another and a toothache is moralization on a grand level. “You’re only helping a natural process along, soldier, do as you’re told!” Think of all the atrocities we could commit to one another if we simply viewed them in that light! Oh, the *fun* we would have!

    Having said all this, you are a citizen of a great democracy – one that is built on the rule of law. After WWII, our collective governments got together and at the Nuremeburg trials refused to accept “I was just following orders” as a defense, the same defense that your new president seems to be ready to allow the past administration to use. In addition, Japenese soldiers that waterboarded Americans in detention were tried and executed for their crimes – for the same crimes that you are advocating now. The rule of law does not work that way in a democracy – it can’t.
    kevvyd

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  5. Denny:

    I am to assume from your absolutist stance that you support Nazi medical experiments on prisoners in Auschwitz and Buchenwald? Pain inflicted that might benefit someone suffering from hypothermia, for example?
    It’s always easier to justify torture if the victim is considered subhuman. Would it be acceptable if Al-Qaieda was torturing American soldiers? What would make that less acceptable as a ‘tactic’? It seems that torture is on the table for everyone, or for no one – “Gott Mit Uns” is insufficient to elevate yourself from the moral quagmire of torture, or wash away the stain of cruel inhumanity to fellow humans.

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  6. kevvyd,

    Please don’t patronize me with platitudes of your percieved world while I am dealing with the real world. The reason we elect people NUMBER 1 is to protect us from harm.

    American solders HAVE been tortured in Iraq. In fact, if it weren’t for American troops, parts of Iraq would probably be home to great places of REAL torture, like the one American troops broke up several years ago where Iraqis were be tortured by al-Quada.

    The whole point is that the techniques used by the U.S. are NOT torture and HAVED demonstrated they saved lives. We are referring to a total of THREE people who have been given these techniques. There are MILLIONS dying, being tortured, butured, raped in Sudan and other Muslim countries every year. Christians are being persecuted, tortured, imprisoned by the THOUSANDS every year in Muslim countries. And all you liberal and progressive-type people can complain about is a successful campaign which has been PROVEN (Brooklyn Bridge attack thwarted)to prevent terrorists attacks from happening in the first place. You have wasted a ton of ink and precious time worring about image over lives. You were the ones who coddled the Soviet Union and said “NO” to Reagan’s missile ideas in Europe. We would all be speaking German or Russian if your kind were to Jimmy Carter their way to your version of “success.”

    In the real world, people know not to offend Muslim radicals, but don’t know how to win a war against these savages who are the authors of real torture.

    Flash, you are not to assume anything of the sort. But since you think you have a grasp on real torture, how many times have Muslims extremists committed terrists acts that actually DO torture people with their deadly ingredients since the 9/11 attacks? The answer is 13, 316. Are you mad about this? Will you speak out to protest these evil acts of torture and death? WIll you join forces to help to PREVENT more evil acts of terrorism? Am I wasting my time even trying to ask if you will help?

    777denny

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  7. To assume I am in some way more forgiving of torture if applied by someone else is fundamentally wrong. I am against torture committed against anyone, at any time.

    “And all you liberal and progressive-type people can complain about is a successful campaign which has been PROVEN (Brooklyn Bridge attack thwarted)to prevent terrorists attacks from happening in the first place.”

    Prove it. I’ve never heard anything of the sort. Saying it’s proven doesn’t prove anything.

    “You have wasted a ton of ink and precious time worring (sic) about image over lives.”

    And you conservatives and born-agains have spent an awful lot of ink dehumanizing others. Aren’t all human lives worthwhile? I disagree with you, can I decide you’re not worthwhile and come over to your house with my jumper cables? YOU DON”T GET TO DECIDE THAT. Your savior is probably ashamed of you.

    “We are referring to a total of THREE people who have been given these techniques.”

    I’m sorry, what? How can you possibly substantiate that only three people have been tortured? Your definition of the term is obviously rather flexible – to the point of completely lacking any grounding in reality. Let me help you with that, with assistance from the Random House Dictionary:

    tor⋅ture
      /ˈtɔrtʃər/ [tawr-cher] noun, verb, -tured, -tur⋅ing.
    –noun
    1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
    2. a method of inflicting such pain.
    3. Often, tortures. the pain or suffering caused or undergone.
    4. extreme anguish of body or mind; agony.
    5. a cause of severe pain or anguish.

    –verb (used with object)
    6. to subject to torture.
    7. to afflict with severe pain of body or mind: My back is torturing me.
    8. to force or extort by torture: We’ll torture the truth from his lips!
    9. to twist, force, or bring into some unnatural position or form: trees tortured by storms.
    10. to distort or pervert (language, meaning, etc.).

    Now, let me ask you this:
    1) Have American soldiers, or other representatives of the American government, applied techniques involving severe pain or other methods such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, electric shocks, etc., to foreign nationals?
    2) Have any representatives of the American Government condoned, encouraged, or turned a blind eye to such acts?

    “But since you think you have a grasp on real torture, how many times have Muslims extremists committed terrists acts that actually DO torture people with their deadly ingredients since the 9/11 attacks? The answer is 13, 316.”

    Can you substantiate that number, either? Give me a citation for both numbers you have used, from an objective, reliable source (I am a Sociologist, so I know one when I see one), and I will accept the context you have offered.

    You may ask for my help in attempting to prevent acts of terrorism, but I will not ‘join forces’ if torture is your primary method of extracting information. As far back as the Spanish Inquisition it was clear that people undergoing excruciating pain will say anything to get it to stop – ANYTHING. Which includes lying.

    Check out this citation:
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/h4q565424126068h/

    It’s a link to a September, 2004 issue of “Science and Engineering Ethics” that uses a utilitarian argument to show that, according to 3 models, torture interrogation “fails overall as a counterterrorist tactic.”

    Denny, I sincerely believe that you are convinced that the methods of inflicting pain and near-death by American soldiers is not torture. However, if the information received is useless, and you know it is useless, then inflicting pain needlessly becomes sadism and revenge, nothing more. Your conviction that your cause is right and just will not be shaken by anything I have to offer, simply because you refuse to acknowledge facts that are uncomfortable to you – you seek out ideas and numbers that shore up the walls of the moral fortress you have constructed for yourself. That is referred to as a confirmation bias.

    I deplore torture, I am against terrorism, and, as has become abundantly clear, aberrant religious beliefs that lead to the construction of a twisted set of norms and mores are largely responsible for the pain and injustice that is being inflicted worldwide. Let me leave you with this, in terms you can identify with:

    Do you seriously think that jesus would approve of the act of inflicting physical pain on other people? No matter what the purpose? I’m not religious, but if jesus has become an advocate for the inflicting of suffering rather than the removal, then he’s now rooming with satan in an appropriately nasty circle of hell.

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  8. Flash,

    You are a waste of my precious time. I deplore people like you who are smugly in spiritual blindness, and arrogantly clueless as to what life is for and all about. You are very self-rightious, though.

    BTW, Have you ever had an encounter with a Demon? Do you believe in spiritual things of any kind? Have you never heard of unexplained phenomineum? Have you never looked into the history of the bible and early church? Best to find out Who God is BEFORE one dies and finds out for sure.

    777denny

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  9. That’s the least of your worries…

    Calling me self-righteous (note spelling) because I ask you to provide evidence of what you say is the act of a coward. In fact, you have confirmed all of my assertions about your unwillingness to entertain ideas other than the dogma you spout. I was, whether you believe me or not (completely irrelevant, I shall sleep well tonight regardless), willing to discuss your ideas further should you provide me with some validation of your assertions. Thus far, you have refused to do so, and have invariably resorted to ad hominem attacks and insults, as if that were a blunt instrument you could wield effectively, but that is a method guaranteed to earn you absolutely no respect here. If anyone is self-righteous, if anyone is expecting unquestioning acceptance of their ideas, I’d look at the person in the mirror. I’m not a Sociologist/Social Psychologist for nothin’.

    I do not consider myself a waste of anyone’s time, no matter how ‘precious’. I have good, loyal friends and a family that loves me unconditionally – in fact, I earn this love by being who I am: thoughtful, considerate and occasionally entertaining. You disagree with me, so in your mind I become someone not worthy of your time – again, you attempt to dehumanize me in order to rationalize your refusal to adhere to the christian value of loving thy neighbor merely to alleviate your own discomfort with the truth. I have, by being honest with you, earned my place in your mind as the ‘enemy’, which I never set out to be – the smug, judgemental nature of the born-again puzzles me, as my understanding of jesus was as a man possessed of a love that was bestowed generously even on those who did not believe in him. He wanted to help, you want to twist me and my beliefs to fit your narrow view. Good luck with that.

    As for your question: no, I have not encountered demons, nor do I believe in spiritual things as you understand them. I believe in the kindness of my fellow humans, in the pure joy of a baby’s smile, in the breathtaking beauty of the Rocky Mountains, in the pleasure of the affection and companionship of my friends and family. My life is filled with wonder that requires no ghosts or supernatural reasons to explain. I have heard of unexplained phenomena. Now, can you be more specific? Do you refer to UFO’s? Sasquatch? Homeopathy? I know little about the history of the early church, but what I do know is that whatever actually happened has little or no connection to the fiction that is the bible, which was written hundreds of years after the fact.

    Deplore me as you wish, but I feel nothing but pity for you and people like you – you deny yourself so much, refuse to acknowledge fulfilling, enlightening and beautiful things because you feel constrained to hate others due to a tribal religion that last had relevance 2000 years ago among downtrodden goatherds and the poor. I know who god is, he’s a boogeyman made up by self-interested priests, and therefore nothing but a fiction, a legend.

    Believe it or not, I don’t hate you, I merely feel sorry for you and would relish the opportunity to help you. You, on the other hand, hate and ‘deplore’ me, and have obviously concluded that I am worthy of eternal punishment and agony because I disagree with you. Let me ask you this:

    Which one of us would jesus want to have a beer with? For me, I’m thinking he’d buy.

    You are too much of a coward to discuss anything you’ve asserted in any rational way, and you are too much of a pathetic wretch to live up to any of the positive aspects of your own religious beliefs.

    I dare you to stick around and prove me wrong.

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