5 of the Worst 'Religious' Organizations
A common response to criticisms of religion is that its adherents can sometimes do good things, even if it’s for irrational reasons. That’s fair enough, but at the same time it’s useful to remember that while some good can be mixed in with the bad, sometimes religions create institutions of pure evil. Here are a few of them:
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
You thought Mormons were sheltered human barnacles desperately clinging to a nostalgic vision of the past which never actually happened? Well, they are, but that’s nothing compared to their even-more-inbred fundamentalist counterparts in the FLDS.
If you’ve ever asked a Mormon about polygamy, you’ve probably heard that the mainstream church discontinued the practice in the early 20th century, following a manifesto by then-Church President and “prophet” Wilford Woodruff. The manifesto is now considered to be prophecy -- the word of God translated by the Dear Leader of the Church himself.
Warren Jeffs was the President / Prophet of the FLDS Church, but since 2007 he’s been busy tending to the matter of his 10 years to life sentence for being an accomplice to rape. Church leaders currently won’t tell who is the President, probably because that would be a pretty strong indication of who’s been filling the role of dungeon master / “marriage” arranger since Warren Jeffs has been in prison.
And most recently, this past week a former FLDS member testified in court that waterboarding infants to get them to stop crying is “quite common” amongst the community. They call it “breaking in,” which I thought was a term usually applied to boots and horses. Look, I hate babies as much as the next guy, but you can’t torture them. You just can’t. No. STOP IT. But that’s their “family values,” you know.
Sri Ram Sene
Sri Ram Sene translates to “Army of the Lord Ram.” They’re a right-wing Hindu nationalist group in India which was founded by a politician named Bal Thackeray. In the late 1960s, Thackeray started a “Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians” campaign against non-Hindus migrating to Mumbai. And in 2002, he infamously called for Hindu suicide squads to fight those darned Muslims. See, America’s not the only place where right-wing whackjobs get off on hating Muslims. Here’s a nice quote from him in the Asia Times:
“Trouble-making Muslims should be wiped out from the country … kick out the four crore [40 million] Bangladeshi Muslims and then the country will be secure,” the Shiv Sena leader said. Urging Hindus to start calling India “Hindu rashtra” (Hindu nation), he maintained that only “our religion [Hinduism] is to be honored here” and then “we will look after other religions.”
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, so far Thackeray has failed to take his own advice and start up his own suicide squad.
In August of 2008, Sri Ram Sene sent some vandals to smash up an art exhibit by controversial artist Maqbool Fida Husain. They didn’t like his artwork because it depicted Bharathmata nekkid and depicted other Hindu gods in a way they considered derogatory. So apparently the only thing they could think to do in response was to smash up his art, leaving notes explaining why they did it on the off chance that somebody missed the point. Even Bill Donahue has the decency to limit his anti-art fuckwittery to press releases.
In October of 2008, Sri Ram Sens activists attacked the offices of the democratic socialist Samajwadi Party. Someone at the SP had insulted a police chief the Sena liked, so they ransacked their central offices, damaging cars, furniture, and “hoardings,” according to the Sena’s own national general secretary Binay Kumar Singh.
This last tidbit about the Sena has a happy ending, but it starts out pretty ugly. Like the Saudi religious police (I’ll get to them later), they have a real problem with Valentine’s Day. Pramod Muthalik, the group’s leader, sent out a memo in January 2009 claiming that they would send their goons on patrol on February 14 to forcibly marry any couple who expresses their love in public:
“Our activists will go around with a priest, a turmeric stub and a ‘mangal sutra’ on February 14. If we come across couples being together in public and expressing their love, we will take them to the nearest temple and conduct their marriage,” he said. If the couples resisted the move, the girl would be forced to tie a ‘rakhi’ to the boy.
But instead of that, what actually happened was that outrage over his comments was so widespread that Muthalik and about 140 of his Sena buddies had to be taken into preventative custody on Valentine’s Day, 2009. And the very best part was the international success of a Facebook campaign to send Sena members pink underwear which Indians call Chaddi. Here in the US we call them ‘granny panties.’
Lord’s Resistance Army
For the past few years, journalist Jeff Sharlett has been covering the notorious C Street Family whose shady dealings have, among other things, included ties to Uganda’s proposed legislation which would punish homosexuality, including capital punishment in some instances.
The Lord’s Resistance Army wasn’t behind that. The “kill the gays” bill is too mild for them. They just want straight-up theocracy in Uganda, with laws based on a mix apocalyptic Christianity focusing on the Ten Commandments and traditional Acholi spiritualism, and they’re doing pretty much everything they can do in order to make that happen.
The LRA is led by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed “spokesperson of God” and “spirit medium.” That means he hears voices in his head and thinks that it’s a deity talking to him. Under his leadership, the LRA has abducted some 30,000 children to use as soldiers, kept women as sex slaves, attacked and raped civilian populations, all of which has caught the attention of INTERPOL and the International Criminal Court. In the meantime, children find a new place to sleep every night in order to avoid getting mutilated, forced into sexual slavery or into Kony’s Christian militia.
Army of God
It’s so typical of the American anti-abortion terrorists on the list to be the ones with the least creative name. The Army of God is a group which even the worst doctor murderers will not normally associate with. Usually what happens is that one of them will flip out and shoot or blow up a bunch of people, and the AoG will step in and claim the perpetrator as one of their own.
When Eric Rudolph blew up an abobo clinic and a gay nightclub in 1997, it was the AoG who sent handwritten letters voluntarily claiming responsibility. When Paul Hill murdered the abortion provider John Britton and 2 of his co-workers, the AoG wrote up a statement calling that mass killing “morally justified.”
And some of the anti-abortion terrorists reach out to the AoG on their own. Shelley Shannon who had tried to murder George Tiller in 1993 is one example. She is now serving a sentence for attempted murder and is projected to be released in November 2018. And in 2001, Clayton Waagner sent abortion providers over 500 letters containing white powder in the wake of the Anthrax scare that year. He had previously escaped from jail and robbed a bunch of banks, so he won’t be getting out until around 2046.
Michael Bray is unfortunately not currently in prison, but he also associates himself with the AoG. If you haven’t seen this interview of him, it will sum up what he’s all about.
Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice
The CFPVPV is also known as the Mutaween, also known as Ù‡ÙŠØ¦Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø£Ù…Ø± Ø¨Ø§Ù„Ù…Ø¹Ø±ÙˆÙ ÙˆØ§Ù„Ù†Ù‡ÙŠ Ø¹Ù† Ø§Ù„Ù…Ù†ÙƒØ±, also known as the Saudi Religious Police. According to author Lawrence Wright, an imam named Turki bin Faisal Al Saud began secretly monitoring CFPVPV members after one of them insulted his sister. He found that most were criminals who were given light sentences because they had memorized the Quran.
The CFPVPV is tasked with the duties of enforcing Sharia law in Saudi Arabia. That means making sure everyone prays at the proper time, keeping men and women separate so Allah doesn’t get cooties, arresting the gays, preventing the corrupt Western practice of selling cats and dogs, and that sort of totally normal thing. And that’s just they’re supposed to be doing. So you might imagine how bad they can get when they go above and beyond the call of duty. If you did, knock it off because I’m going to get to that next.
In May of 2007, a 28 year old man in Riyadh named Ali Al-Huraisi had a run-in with the CFPVPV. Because they believed that he possessed alcohol, they broke into his house, arrested his entire family, handcuffed him, and then beat him to death. Ta-da!
In August of 2008, a member killed his own daughter for converting to Christianity. He burned her to death. Apostasy does have a death penalty associated with it in Saudi Arabia, but as in the case of Ali Al-Huraisi the role of the organization according to Saudi law is to apprehend suspects of religious “crimes” and hand them over to the courts. Besides confiscating things which are banned and detaining people, they aren’t supposed to have the power to actually carry out much punishment on their own.
And the worst of the worst of this organization’s crimes has to be how they responded to a 2002 fire at a girl’s school in Mecca. I’m going to have to quote news sources here because every time I try to start to write about it in my own words I worry that I’ll just end up bashing my head through the keyboard and into my desk in a futile effort to dull the rage and disgust that builds up in the form of a terrible headache and violent twitches. So here’s the BBC:
Saudi Arabia’s religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress, according to Saudi newspapers…
One witness said he saw three policemen “beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya“…
The school was locked at the time of the fire -- a usual practice to ensure full segregation of the sexes.
I have a question: What’s more evil than that? Seriously, even in all of fiction it’s difficult to find a close contender. I was against the US wars in the Middle East before they even began, but even a pinko peacenik like me would have no problem with sending some Special Ops guys over there just to specifically target these people. When you’re an adult ex-con fighting girls and forcing them into a burning building because you’re offended by what they’re wearing, you have to lose any possibility of sympathy from anyone with an ounce of sense in them.