Today’s Horrors and Conclusion

Today’s Horrors and Conclusion April 28, 2019

By James A. Haught

This is the final segment of a nine-part series on religious horrors, cruelties, atrocities and tragedies of all types.

While minor religious scandals flare almost weekly, two major types of holy horror dominate the 21st century: Muslim suicide bombings and priest sex abuses. Let’s start with Islam:

The tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 – when 19 Muslim suicide volunteers killed 3,000 Americans by crashing hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – awoke everyone to Islam’s fringe “cult of death,” which has become the world’s worst cause of bloodshed.

The 9-11 “martyrs” left behind a testament saying God would reward them with “women of paradise” upon their deaths. They believed that God craves mass murder.

Although Christianity faded until it no longer produces wars and executions (except for a few “pro-life” murders at women’s clinics), Islam hasn’t advanced to such a peaceful stage. Muslim nations abound with young zealots eager to kill themselves to massacre defenseless strangers.

Holy suicide was little-known until 1983, when a volunteer truck-bomb driver killed 240 U.S. Marines at a Lebanon barracks, and another killed 60 at the U.S. Embassy there. Since then, it has grown to the monster of the 21st century, claiming tens of thousands of lives.

A total of 800 suicide bombers killed 5,560 people in 28 nations in 2016, according to the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. In 2015, some 735 martyrs killed 4,370. In 2014, the toll was 937 death volunteers and 4,400 victims, scarcely more than four casualties per martyr.

The horrible Easter attack on three Catholic churches and three hotels that killed 250 in Sri Lanka was another glaring example.

Columnist David Brooks calls suicide martyrdom “the crack cocaine of warfare…. It unleashes the deepest and most addictive human passions – the thirst for vengeance, the desire for religious purity, the longing for earthly glory and eternal salvation.” He said volunteers are promised “dark-eyed virgins in paradise” upon death.

It’s utter insanity – yet it’s a religious reality of our times.


A gigantic scandal has wracked the Catholic Church for decades, constantly worsening, spreading internationally. Each new wave of disclosures adds more world outrage.

Starting in the 1950s, a few Catholic insiders began warning privately that some celibate priests were forcing sex onto pubescent altar boys and committing other sexual crimes. The problem stayed hidden for years.

Late in the 20th century, police arrests and lawsuits began revealing the sordid pattern. In 1988, one of my friends, Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote the first book on the growing nightmare: Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children (now out of print, but the whole text is available on the FFRF website). She covered Protestant cases as well as Catholic ones.

In 1994, television documentaries showed ugly offenses in Ireland. In 1995, Cardinal Hans Groer resigned as Archbishop of Vienna for sex abuses. In 2002, the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for disclosing rampant sex crimes and church coverup in New England. In 2004, the Dallas Morning News did likewise for Texas. In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury report identified 300 Keystone State priests who molested more than 1,000 children. In 2019, Australian Cardinal George Pell was convicted. Etc., etc.

Ironically, the spreading scandal blackened the Catholic Church worldwide – yet Protestant clergy, and men generally, commit child molestation at the same rate as Catholic priests. In 2019, two Texas newspapers revealed that 380 Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers had molested more than 700 victims.

Nobody knows how long or how far the sex horror will continue.

“The worst crime in American history” is how columnist George Will describes the Catholic sex nightmare and coverup. But is it worse than the 3,000 murders on 9-11? I can’t decide. To me, the two religious evils seem tied for the “worst crime” title.


In 1452, a bull by Pope Nicholas V authorized Catholic rulers to “invade, search out, capture and subjugate” nonbelievers. In 1897, researcher M.D. Aletheia calculated that Christianity killed 56 million people over the centuries.

Next time someone says religion makes believers kind and humane, try not to laugh out loud. Just remember the unmistakable historic record.

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction,” philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote.

Jonathan Swift, recalling centuries of church carnage, commented: “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Notes on Virginia:

“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.”

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