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Bewitched October 12, 2014

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Religion.
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Some horrifying yet hardly unprecedented news from the year 2014:

Tanzanian police have charged 23 people with murder after seven villagers were burned alive on suspicion of witchcraft…

A Tanzanian human rights group estimates that 500 suspected witches are killed in Tanzania annually…

Witnesses say some of the victims were attacked with machetes and their homes burned…

Belief in witchcraft is prevalent in many parts of Tanzania.

Between 2005 and 2011, reports say around 3,000 people were killed after being accused of being witches.

Several of the victims were old women but witch doctors — village healers who are sometimes involved in the witch hunts — have also targeted young children and albinos, the latter because their body parts are thought to bring prosperity.

Some obvious and uncontroversial observations:

  • There’s no such thing as witchcraft. People who believe in witchcraft are wrong.
  • Belief in witchcraft motivates some people to kill innocents (who they would not otherwise kill).
  • The fact that people believe in witchcraft is bad: our world would be a better place if no one believed in witchcraft. We should actively and unambiguously criticize the belief in witchcraft, in an attempt to eradicate it.
  • The fact that a majority of those who believe in witchcraft are nonviolent and condemn murderous witch hunts doesn’t mean that belief in witchcraft isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be criticized; nor should such criticism be conflated with bigotry or discrimination towards peaceful believers in witchcraft.

In other horrifying yet hardly unprecedented news from the year 2014:

As the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized vast territories in western and northern Iraq, there have been frequent accounts of fighters’ capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shiites are singled out for execution.

ISIS believes that the Shiites are apostates and must die in order to forge a pure form of Islam…

In a chilling video that appeared to have been made more than a year ago in the Anbar Province of Iraq, ISIS fighters stopped three truck drivers in the desert and asked them whether they were Sunnis or Shiites. All three claimed to be Sunni. Then the questions got harder. They were asked how they performed each of the prayers: morning, midday and evening. The truck drivers disagreed on their methods, and all were shot.

I was going to make some observations about Islam, but I wouldn’t want to be a racist imperialist fascist bigot.

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