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A popular conceit of moral superiority

November 17, 2005

” Heshu Yones, a West London teen, fought off her father for a frantic 15 minutes. She ran from room to room in her family home one Saturday afternoon until he cornered her in a dingy bathroom, held her over the tub and slit her throat.

The father, a onetime Kurdish freedom fighter from Iraq, told authorities that his only daughter had to die. The 16-year-old had sullied the family name, he said, by dating without his permission.”
- Chicago Tribune special report; For family honor, she had to die (free registration may be required)(AP photos shown)

The story goes on to describe how some 5,000 women are killed for honor worldwide in exclusively patriarchal societies.  More examples are given – including one in which a woman was shot by her teenaged brother because “she lacked morals”. In many families, the brother is chosen to carry out the killing. 

It is the cover story in today’s Chicago Tribune because Europe, with its growing immigrant Muslim population, is becoming aware of traditions that had previously been literally foreign to them.  Certainly where there are killings, there are many more beatings, and many more who simply live in fear.  The killings, like the top of an iceberg, reveal the presence of a much larger phenomenon.

And how superior we all feel about it.  How can those foreigners be so cruel towards their women?  How oppressive they are!  How backward!

Then I read how religious objections may keep women from receiving a vaccine that will prevent HPV, a common virus that causes cervical cancer.

“In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. “Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV,” says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.”
New Scientist: Will cancer vaccine get to all women?

I have not generally referred to the James Dobson and Pat Robertson wing of American religion as “Taliban” but it really isn’t that far fetched.  4,600 women a year die in the US from cervical cancer.  It is a lingering, painful, debilitating, agonizing death; and where there are deaths, there are many more whose lives are forever changed by surgery and chemotherapy.  Is it possible that anyone would really risk such a death for their precious child, on the hypothetical chance that being immune might allow looser sexual morals?

When I was a little boy, my mother told me seriously that “they don’t value life over there like we do here”.  She was repeating a common stereotype of third-world societies where religious leaders control every aspect of life.  Like all stereotypes, it contains some truth and a lot of distortion. 

But there is another stereotype, unfortunately not untrue, of Americans; as people who like to flatter ourselves as being morally superior.  No wonder documentarians and commenters who hold up a mirror to our society are scorned… we just don’t want to think about it.  And the high moral dudgeon of today’s Pharisees rings hollow as they accuse “liberals” of immorality.

Categories: News
  1. November 18, 2005 at 13:10 | #1

    A wonderful post. I don’t find it difficult to relate these types of funaMental nuts and those of Christianity. How long would it take for a Biblically run America to fall into these types of acts?

  2. cubic rooms
    November 18, 2005 at 17:15 | #2

    A very wonderful illustration of irrational thinking both far and near.

  3. November 19, 2005 at 12:44 | #3

    I have never had a problem comparing the Pat Robinsons and Falwels of the religious right to the Taliban. The only difference I can see is that the Far Christian right knows that that are some rednecks with guns that will shoot their butts rather than comply to their screwy ideas. The Taliban ruled with guns over some that wouldn’t shoot back or were too terrified to shoot back. I have no use for the religious right wing in my polictics nor my life. I threaten to put the dog on any bible thumper who appears at my door and they know I am serious. I am one of those who understands that freedom of religion implies freedom from religion and I demand that the bible thumpers respect my right to be free from their perverted canabalistic teachings.

  4. November 19, 2005 at 19:00 | #4


    It is odd how the various irrationality of domestic extremists is often dismissed while the irrationalities of “foreigners” are seen as a sign of our cultural superiority.  The way I see it, the sooner we realize that everyone’s being a dumbass the better.

  5. WeeDram
    November 19, 2005 at 21:51 | #5

    My sister-in-law’s daughter goes to a “Christian” college in Missouri, and is about to graduate this year.  Two of her male friends found themselves attracted to each other, but weren’t sure what it meant.  They “knew” homosexuality was a “sin”, so they went to their counselor for help.  They were expelled.  Yeah, that really helps them, and the cause of Christian “purity”.  Hmmm, what would Jesus have done?  I seem to remember Mary Magdalene …

  6. November 22, 2005 at 07:08 | #6

    I have said it before and say it again.  The trend of the religious faction in this country is fast rivaling the rocking, chanting, and blocking out of voices of intelligent, level headed human beings!

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