Over the past couple days, you may have heard the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the woman who was abducted at the age of 11 and kept in captivity for 18 years. During that time, she was raped and gave birth to two children (one child was born when Dugard was only 14).
The kidnapper is Phillip Garrido, a 58-year-old and registered sex offender.
While so much of the story is disturbing, what’s particularly relevant to me is how Garrido was caught after all this time:
The case broke after Garrido was spotted Tuesday with two children as he tried to enter the University of California, Berkeley, campus to hand out religious literature. Officers said he was acting suspiciously toward the children. They questioned him and did a background check, determined that he was a parolee and informed his parole officer.
People who knew Garrido said he became increasingly fanatic about his religious beliefs in recent years, sometimes breaking out into song and claiming that God spoke to him through a box.
In April 2008, Garrido registered a corporation called Gods Desire at his home address, according to the California Secretary of State. During recent visits to the showroom, Garrido would talk about quitting the printing business to preach full time and gave the impression he was setting up a church, Allen said.
As reader Stacey writes:
I don’t know what religion has to do with this, if anything, but the fact that this man was proselytizing while keeping a human caged up in his backyard says something bad.
Was this man mentally unstable? No clue. He clearly had issues.
But his non-criminal actions are no different than so many other people — people who want to set up a church, who believe God speaks to them, who proselytize… if you want to call him delusional or crazy because of these things, then you’d be saying that about most religious people, too.
How is someone that deeply religious capable of doing something so awful? Shouldn’t there be some sort of cognitive dissonance going on? I know we all can point to examples of religious people doing evil things (e.g. The Crusades, Hitler, etc.) but this guy is different. He’s someone’s neighbor.
What do religious people say when they hear about this story? It makes no sense to say he wasn’t truly faithful when all the facts point to him being devoutly religious. How do they distance themselves from Garrido’s criminal behavior while believing many of the same things he does?
One thing is clear from this story: Having religious belief does not make you a better, more moral, kinder person than those us without religion.
(Thanks to Jaysen for the link!)