Gault's Gulch

March 4, 2010

Hamilton James–Run! The Christians Are After You!

Every atheist who has ever debated the subject of religion with a person of faith has, at one time or another, come against the following question:

“Even if you’re right, and there really is no God, what’s the harm in people believing in him?  God teaches people to live a good life and surely there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

Atheists will often come back with a list of many religiously fuelled conflicts which have bloodied the world throughout the ages–the Crusades, The Salem Witch Trials, Northern Ireland, etc.  Sometimes they will cite the tendency of religion to hold back process in areas of science and to stagnate human knowledge about the universe.  The ambitious atheist may even try to convince the person of faith that the only difference between a cult and a religion is the size of its member’s list–and we all know how destructive cults can be (Now’s the time when we throw in the obligatory Jonestown reference).  Recently, however, a more subtle–but I believe telling–example of the harm that religion can do has come to light.  The American Family Organization, a fundamentalist Christian organization, is calling for the stoning (yes, stoning) of Tillikum, the orca whale that recently killed a trainer at Sea World. 

The AFO cites Old Testament law as the basis for their outrage.  Apparently, hiding among the talking snake, the man who lived inside a whale, and the human beings that lived hundreds of years with nary a hitch in their giddy-up, is a law that spells out–quite clearly–what the consequences should be if a person’s animal should kill another person.  Exodus 21:28 states:  “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.”  So, even though we, as human beings, chose to pin a dangerous (they are called KILLER whales, after all)  animal into a confined space and coerce it into performing tricks for gawking tourists, no human being should bear liability for the dead trainer.  Instead, the AFO is calling for Tillikum to be STONED TO DEATH!  That one still gets me…Stoned to death.  Not euthanized.  Not even shot.  Stoned to death.  You gotta love Christianity.  Anyway…The issue doesn’t end there, however.  The problem is that the pesky bible doesn’t just anticipate the one-time offender.  No, this far-seeing work of legal excellence also outlines what we should do if the owner of the offending animal should neglect his duty to stone the murdering whale and it should kill again (remember, this was the third person that Tillikum has killed over the years).  Exodus 21:29 (the very next verse) states that if a man’s ox should kill a second time, ““the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.”  Uh-oh. 

Well, Sea World owns Tillikuk.  You can’t put an amusement park to death…Sea World is, in turn, owned by Sea World Parks and Entertainment.  Well, you can’t really put a corporate entity to death either (the stoning would be very unsatisfying).  Sea World P&E is owned by The Blackstone Group, a publicly traded equity firm.  So, no ONE PERSON owns Blackstone either.  But, surely, when the bible talks about an ox’s “owner” we can assume that it means a person responsible for said ox, can’t we?  After all, technically Tillikum is owned by every person who owns a share of Blackstone stock and that’s a lot of people to put to death, even for a Christian.  So, who’s responsible for The Blackstone Group?  Firm President Hamilton James, that’s who.  Since Tillikum is the whale world’s answer to Son of Sam, the AFO’s logic will allow nothing short of Hamilton James’s death to vindicate the actions of that murdering mammal.  Run, Hamilton James, run for your life!

O.K…That was fun.  But the inevitable response will be, “John, you’re just using a fringe religious movement to represent all the reasonable people of faith in the world.  You’re not being fair.”  Sure I am.  I’m also being kind.  The AFO is only calling for the stoning of a whale–and maybe Hamilton James.  Still, that’s nothing in comparison to the heinous crimes that have been perpetrated against the world in the name of one fictitious God or another.  Even when you take the deaths out of the picture, you still have to face the utter lunacy of the whole thing.  To most “reasonable” Christians, the AFO is a group of extremists.  But what about those who claim the Earth is 6000 years old and that Adam and Eve pranced about with T-Rex in the Garden of Eden?  What about the Creationists?  Aren’t they extremists?  What about a President who goes to war under the credo that “God is on OUR side”.  Isn’t he an extremist?  You swap one flavor of God for another and you get a plane load of terrorists crashing into a skyscraper.  The fact is that the same blind faith, the same aversion to logic and reason, the same willingness to accept the unacceptable, is at the base of all these things–Tillikum the whale is just the most recent–and LEAST crazy example.

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