Ugandan Atrocity: Perversion of Religion or the Real Deal?

Last week, the Seattle Times featured an editorial, finally, about the horrendous anti-gay movement that has been spawned in Uganda by American Evangelicals. Unable to make sufficient homophobic headway at home, evangelists have been heading to Africa, with their literally perfect Bibles as proof that God hates gays. Ugandan leaders found God – the god of the evangelists — and submitted a law condemning gays to death. Those who refuse to out them to the authorities get prison time. (In the face of international outrage, the proposed legislation now only mandates life in prison rather than hanging.)

The Seattle Times editorial was titled, “Uganda and Gays: A Malicious Blasphemy.” The newspaper waxes eloquently about all of the good being done by loving, good-works-doing selfless evangelicals in the rest of the world and claims that the message brought to Uganda is, as the title says, malicious blasphemy.

So, the Bible contains malicious blasphemy? I suppose the newly converted Christians in Nigeria who are exorcising demons out of children with acid, beatings, and hot coals, / are engaged in blasphemy too? I suppose the newly converted Christians in India who burned Hindu teens as witches also were engaged in blasphemy?

I find it ironic that anything evil done in the name of religion is a “perversion” or blasphemy — and anything good, that’s the real deal. It’s an argument I hear over and over in response to my articles on the Daily Kos and Huffington Post.

The falsehood is patently obvious. It’s like saying that selfishness and greed are a perversion of our humanity, and altruism is what humans really are all about. Get real. Ask any biologist whether dogs are affectionate or predatory and they will laugh at you: Do bees make honey or do they have stingers?

My selfishness is every bit as real as my generosity. My tenderness and bitchiness, compassion and aggression all are ME. Religion’s track record of power-brokering and atrocity is every bit as integral as its history of giving voice to our moral instincts and sense of wonder.

It is not the perversion of religion that is playing itself out in Islamic jihad or Evangelical homophobia. It is religion, period — once face of religion to be sure, but the real deal. It is the timeless face of god-worship that is tribal and intolerant and willing to kill — as religion always has been under the right circumstances of time and place.

Can we please stop pretending and making nice? People are being tortured to death, starved to death, and executed in the service of the religious enterprise! Do we ever get to run the numbers? Do we ever get to ask whether all of the fuzzy feel good stuff and the sense of meaning and purpose, and the wonderful creative moral communities that religion produces are worth the price?

Because the price is what we are seeing in Somalia, and Nigeria, Uganda and elsewhere: people starving, children burned with acid (I dare you to look at the pictures), gays slated for execution, doctors murdered, politicians and mullahs who commit us to holy war.

Both good and bad consequences of “faith” are the direct products of the agreement we make with each other that it’s okay to believe things on paltry evidence, the kind that would never stand up in court, the kind that would never guide the surgeon’s knife. When, in the embrace of belief, we entrust ourselves to authority, sacred texts and our own intuitions, we are freed from the dull left-brain constraints of everyday life. But we also become unaccountable to reason and evidence, unaccountable to universal ethics like the Golden Rule. Faith gives us mysticism and murder.

When will we be ready to move beyond belief to whatever the next stage of our spiritual evolution may be?


Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of  Her articles can be found at


About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt; Deas and Other Imaginings.
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