December 11, 2009

Not even the cemetery is safe

From the New York Times comes this disturbing article by Simon Romero about robbers looting graves for human bones. Why are they doing such a gruesome thing?
Accompanying Venezuela’s soaring levels of murders and kidnappings, its cemeteries are the setting for a new kind of crime wave. Grave robbers are looting them for human bones, answering demand from some practitioners of a fast-growing transplanted Cuban religion called Palo that uses the bones in its ceremonies.
Palo, according to wikipedia, on two main pillars: 1. The veneration of the spirits of the ancestors. 2. The belief in natural ("earth") powers.

Apparently, Cubans have been going to Venezuela shortly after Hugo Chavez took office in 1999, according to the Christian Science Monitor. (Or the first wave of Cubans were fleeing the revolution in the early 1960s, according to the New York Times article.) They "provide invaluable aid in areas where Cuba's socialist revolution has made internationally recognized strides, such as health and education." But the influx of Cubans also have led to unintended consequences.

Practitioners here of Palo contend their religion is misunderstood and demonized because of the reports of chaos at the Cementerio del Sur.

They acknowledged the importance in their religion of human bones, which they place in a cauldron called a nganga, along with earth and sticks, and dedicate to a spirit, or mpungu. But paleros, as the religion’s adherents are known, shield many of their practices from outsiders.

“We must take care since it is easy to blame paleros for all the ills of Venezuela,” said Samuel Zambrano, 34, a palero leader.

Every day, it seems, brings further proof of the mayhem that religion brings.

Believers know, just know, that their religion is the best one, and all who don't believe in their religion are doomed. Their holy book, whichever it may be, is the only right one.

There is not one shred of evidence to back up their beliefs, but "you have to have faith." On the other hand, when it comes to something that is backed up by tons of evidence (like evolution), they cast the evidence aside because it's not in their holy book. And for those who believe in creationism (or "intelligent design"), check out this presentation by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, at the 2006 Beyond Belief conference.

Neil deGrasse Tyson on examples of "Stupid Design"

It does not bother them that their holy book is full of examples that the people who wrote their holy book apparently knew less about science than the average fourth-grader today.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

I don't care if people believed weird things so long as they don't force us to believe them as well or obey their religion's teachings. But when they seek to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us, I feel I have to object. And you should, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gee – that’s funny – One could also see all of his arguments as PROOF of intelligent design. Whether it took six days or six billion years – it is still a miracle that life appears to only be on this one rock in the entire universe. And that there are beings here that can have discussions (arguments) about that very fact is even a greater miracle.