22 May, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Suffer A Herbalist To Live

Does US Presidential candidate John McCain believe in witches, I wonder?

I ask because on Tuesday night, local time, a mob rampaged around a district in Kenya with a list of suspected witches burning down their houses. They burnt 30 houses in all, killing 11 women in total, most of them between 70 and 90 years old. And it got me thinking.

It's always shocking to me when people let their fantastic beliefs get so out of hand that they start killing people. It must have been even more shocking when Christians were doing the same thing some years ago in Europe and the US. (The last execution of a witch that I know of in Europe was in 1738 when two German women were executed. However, the last bit of witch-hunting I know of in the West was December 1999, when a student in Oklahoma, USA was suspended from school accused of casting spells. Of course, it still goes on in Africa and the Middle East – but then, what doesn't?)

So back to my question. If John McCain is elected president, can we expect a more vigorous clamp-down on witchcraft in the home of the brave? I ask because John McCain – one of the saner Republican politicians as far as I can tell - is a Baptist.

This means, for instance, that he believes, “The Scriptures, consisting of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, are the infallible Word of God. They were written by holy people of God inspired by the Holy Spirit and have supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.” (This quotation is from the Baptist credo as approved by their 1979 Assembly, amended to gender inclusive language following 2002 and 2003 Assemblies.) And therefore, this means he must follow the injunction in Exodus 22:18, namely, 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.'

I've mentioned some of the more ludicrous passages from the Bible before, so I won't dwell on how screwed up you'd have to be to believe this nonsense. Let me instead use their creation myth as an example. Since McCain believes that Genesis is “the infallible Word of God”, he therefore, I suppose, believes what Creationists believe – that the world was made by a magical being sometime around six thousand years ago. Human beings were made then, along with all the animals, all the plants, our planet, in fact, everything. Fair enough. Lots of loonies believe such things. However, consider this, McCain is also an advocate of reducing carbon emissions to help mitigate human-induced climate change. How does he square this with the fact that most of the evidence for climate change depends very heavily on the assumption that the Earth is rather more than 6,000 years old? I can't imagine. Even the last ice-age – something extremely recent in geological terms – ended 13,000 years ago. For Pete's sake, the original settlement of his own continent happened more than seven thousand years before McCain believes the world was created!

So, if a man like this, steeped in magical fantasies, who regularly talks to invisible beings (I don't know if they talk back to him), who can think ten contradictory things before breakfast, were to become head of state of the United States of America, might he not feel it is his duty to persecute witches? It seems quite plausible that a man with such beliefs might do any crazy thing.

Incidentally, there is an interesting article by Alexei Kondratiev on the Proteus Library site suggesting Exodus 22:18 was mistranslated and that it is 'herbalists' not witches who are the bad guys that God wants us to persecute. Wow, I think if I was an American herbalist, I would definitely vote for the other guy!

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