They Should Have Done Better

It’s as though Jephtha, Abraham, and god’s faithful from the old testament have crawled into the 21st century.

Two men have been arrested in central India for allegedly killing a 7-year-old girl and cutting out her liver in a sacrifice to ensure a better harvest, police said on Monday.

This is horrible.  Yes, those men are to blame.  They should have done better.  Their failure was that their gullibility.  They should have realized death does not produce a better harvest.  They should have realized that if god exists, he answers prayer no more reliably than chance.  The evidence is all around them.  They should have done better.

Challenge to Christians (or to anybody squealing “That’s not faith!”): explain to me how this idea survives if not through faith.  Also, explain how faith could ever render it false.  Explain why your faith is not a failure on your part to do better.

You want to do this girl’s memory justice?  Help foster a world where people are ashamed to say faith is grand, and where no self-respecting person would use it as a foundation for belief.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • umlud

    I wonder how many people will self-justify their religious stance by saying, “but this wasn’t done by my religion,” or, “my religion has long since condemned the practice of human sacrifice,” or something like that.

    I think that posting this with a connection to a Christian god instead of gods in general – whether Abrahamic, Hindu, or something else – muddles the point that JT is making, though. Such sacrifices are justified by religious faith, even if it happens to be someone else’s religious faith. After all, the quirky faith-based actions of a Catholic (such as arbitrarily foregoing an additional item each week for four weeks in early spring) are arguably fueled by the same psychological motivation as this human sacrifice, and a Sikh, a Jain, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Taoist, etc. looking at its practice will likely think, “what a strange thing that faith does to a person to get them to do what I’m seeing. Isn’t it great that this isn’t done in my religion?”

    • papango

      I think you’re making a really good point. But I’m not sure how much it applies to this particular incident.

      What we have here is two men who said they murdered a girl to appease their gods. Do we know what gods they are talking about? Or if anybody was involved in the thinking behind this? If this is something they came up with themselves, I’d be reluctant to attribute it to religion as such. Chhattisgarh is pretty ‘tribal’ (that’s a terrible word, I know, but it’s the term used in India, so I’m using it) and animist, with each each local shaman setting out how things are. If this comes from an established tradition, then faith is the culprit, but if not it looks a lot like another crazy person who ‘heard god’ (I’ve spent some time as a non-cooperative patient in pysch hospitals, and there are plenty of people there are plenty of people who think god/s are telling them to kill/rape/whatever).

      • Martin

        Does it freakin’ matter what god/gods they were trying to appease? Irrational belief is irrational belief. no matter how it is sliced. What matters is that a child has been murdered and a village is short 2 farmers…all for a delusion that a set of invisible beings wants a steaming liver.

        It’s only been a few hundred years since witches, heretics and scientists were sacrificed to the Christian god…and, given half a chance, the wannabe theocrats would be sacrificing gays, atheists and other assorted “criminals” to their god/s.

        • papango

          Irrational belief is irrational belief.

          Yes it is. But if this belief is self-initiated then it needs to be addressed in the context of severe mental health issues, rather than religion. If this came from the outside, religious tradition, shaman told the to, whatever, then the faith and tradition aspects need to be addressed at the wider level than these two guys.

          It’s not enough for me to say ‘Their failure was that their gullibility.’ and I’m not gullible and I don’t believe in god so this will never happen to me. It’s too easy to blame ‘faith’ and use this to beat other religious people. I want to know the details before I do this. Was this faith, or was it madness? I suffer from psychosis, I’ve been in the grip of delusions and I want to know if these men are me, or if my atheism protects me.

          If they had killed the girl because they thought she was a shape-shifting alien (this actually happened in my town about a decade ago to a baby, and it was horrible) would you take it to the David Icke people and challenge them to explain how an idea like that survives without faith?

      • umlud

        I agree with your point, however, if you look at the language that JT used, it was based around Christianity (using starting with the allusion to Abraham and the old testament, continuing after the quote with the mention of “god” (singular and definite; not “a god” or “gods” or “the gods”), and then finishing with a discussion about Christians).

        It was a bit of a mental leap, therefore (for me at least), to start from Christianity, jump to central India and then jump to Christians. Of course, the act in itself is more than merely disturbing, but I felt that, without a solid bridge connecting the actions of these “tribal” members to Christian Americans (most likely most who read this blog are Americans), too many would easily shug it off with similar statements to the one I started with.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    We can only hope, for the sake of other little girls in the Chhattisgarh region, that the next harvest there is horrible.