Jaycee Lee Dugard’s Kidnapper Found While Proselytizing August 29, 2009

Jaycee Lee Dugard’s Kidnapper Found While Proselytizing

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!)


Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • mikespeir

    Of course, it’s not right to judge all religious believers by this creep. I think people like him often come to believe and then become over-the-top fanatics because they realize at some level they have a bad, bad problem. They’ve been sold on the idea that religion can solve it for them. But it can’t.

  • they were all someone’s neighbor at some point. he may have been caught proselytizing but you could also say he was caught breathing or caught while having a heartbeat.

    it’s a bit interesting that he claimed to be so religious and was still able to do what he did, but humans are the great cognitive dissonance machines – the great hypocrites – no matter if we’re religious or not.

    religious people shouldn’t have answer for his behavior anymore than people who have to eat to live should have to answer for his behavior. he was very disturbed, you can’t expect religion to perform a miracle and cure that (and you, perhaps better than many religious people should know why, there’s no god to do it).

    he was a deeply disturbed individual who just happened to be religious, not a deeply disturbed individual because he was religious.

  • Having read some passages of his blog, he is apparently a schizophrenic. Even as late as two years ago, he thanked God for doing what no behavioral psychologist could do, and that was to “cure” him. Religion is not to blame here for his condition, mental illness is. However, he was able to use so much of religious teaching to deflect treatment and to keep a girl captive and to “breed” a new church. It’s not completely out of line with other religions, and those are to be “respected.”

  • Renacier

    I don’t think religion can be pointed to as a cause of this and other horrific acts, but it is a deep and comprehensive source of rationalization for such acts. “This thing I’m doing might seem bad to some people, but God approves, so they must be wrong.”

    Of course, all that kinda goes out the window when you have someone (like this guy) who is just plain insane. PZ Meyers has a link to Garido’s blog; as we say Down South: that boy ain’t right.
    The religion may have aimed him at those poor girls, but his insanity pulled the trigger.

  • I don’t think he did bad things because of religion. I don’t think anyone religious has to explain or defend that. However, if someone claims that religion makes people good, this is reasonable counter-evidence to that argument.

  • Al Lun

    Though I generally agree that in this instance we cannot assign cause and effect between religion to the evil act, we might still wonder under today’s code of morality how we would judge if someone today were to do what the biblical Abraham, hearing God’s command, was about to sacrifice his son. In most civilized parts of the word, that someone would be locked up quickly and certainly will not be held up as a standard bearer of world religions.

    There is an inherent danger of purveying and proselytizing any belief systems and putting an obscure layer over the true nature of humanity. Belief systems by their very nature are invented to benefit the few who are in power and want to remain in power.

    The true nature of humanity independent of belief systems about god is inherently evolving toward compassion toward and cooperation with fellow sentient beings.

  • sc0tt

    Here’s a link to the flyer he was passing out:

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_13225045

    Essentially a “second coming’s coming” roundup.

  • Chas

    I agree with PrimeNumbers

    Having religion or belief is just not a guarantor of ethical behavior.

  • Ron in Houston

    I’m fascinated with the connection between religion and the brain. I firmly believe that some folks are prone to be religious because of their genetics and that some people are prone to be atheists because of their genetics.

  • littlejohn

    While religion may not have caused this guy’s criminal behavior, it certainly enabled it. After all, one can commit any atrocity if (1) you believe god’s forgiveness is always available, or (2) you believe you are actually doing god’s will. I wonder just what percentage of criminal insanity is coupled with rigorous religious belief. A great deal, I’m guessing.
    BTW, what are we to make of this guy’s wife, who apparently cooperated in this outrage?

  • pip

    I think it’s fairly well established that people with certain types of mental illness are prone to show extreme religiousity – schizophrenia for example. I knew a woman with this illness who was sometimes on her medication and stable and would sometimes go off her medication. One of the signs she was non-compliant with treatment was her increased religiousity. My own mother, who was always calmly religious through her life, started attending a spiritualist religious church regularly several years ago and believed that she was able to speak to her dead relatives through the spiritualists there. Within a short time she was diagnosed with lewy body dementia. It’s no surprise to me that people who are unable to think rationally and critically are more likely to display extreme religious beliefs, which are a culturally accepted form of irrational thought.

  • I’m just waiting for a fundie to say that his handing out tracts was God’s way of getting him caught, in the same way that God cures diseases by ‘leading’ people to go to medical school and become doctors.

  • It sounds to me like he has some form of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But I think a misconception I have seen on here is that mental illness is linked to religion in that: religion is irrational + mentally ill people are irrational = mentally ill people are religious because they are both irrational.

    People with these types of mental illnesses seem to magnify current thoughts and trends. The ones you read about in the news usually think they are called by whatever higher being is prevalent in their society for a higher purpose. You hear that in church a lot, and those who are mentally ill run with it much further than any semi-rational person would. As church becomes less and less relevant to society, people latch onto other paranormal things, such as alien abduction, etc, or even scientific things if science becomes more respected (“I am the chosen one who is to provide a cure for cancer” kind of thing). People with mental disorders who hallucinate will see something and assign a religious meaning to it because that is what society has told them inexplicable things mean. It’s not that religion is linked because it is irrational, but because it is so common. You hear it everywhere. As it becomes less common in culture, it will become less common in the mentally ill. That doesn’t mean that the mentally ill will go away. It just means that they will find something else to believe.

    In this case, they weren’t even clear on what religious literature they were handing out. For all we know, it was his own personal religion unaffiliated with any mainstream beliefs. Probably not, but jumping to conclusions isn’t exactly rational either.

  • Religious people do good things.
    Religious people do bad things.
    Atheists do good things.
    Atheists do bad things.

    The common factor among all these is people. People do good and bad things. But some perspectives give people excuses (or reasons) to do them.

  • Wendy

    Ugh, poor Jaycee Lee Dugard… I can’t imagine anything more horrifying… Stories like hers make me feel sick. 🙁

  • Tony

    I think that religion and mental illness are a particularly dangerous combination. I mean somebody holding the delusion that there are aliens hiding in their stereo are labouring against the accepted position that aliens don’t hide in stereos.

    But if, for example, the person is under the delusion that god or the devil are telling them to do things there’s no shortage of hucksters who claim to be in a position of authority and will tell them that having the devil talking to you and god giving you direct instructions is entirely reasonable.

  • Susan

    The man is a registered sex offender. 99 percent is going to make the same mistake because they have a sickness that can’t be cured. He might be a vicktim of some sort in his childhood and may had religious parents. He probably believes that he can be saved after he’s death. One thing is sure, this guy never must come back to society again.

  • medussa

    While I agree that religion can’t be held accountable for this creep’s actions, I can’t help but think about how his religious beliefs would be emphasized and pointed to and discussed in the media if he were muslim or atheist or mormon. There would be no quarter given to damn him and his beliefs.

    And the reality is that religion gave him a free pass for a long time: as has been said above, if he had been ranting about aliens talking to him from a box, he would have been checked out and locked up a lot earlier, and Dugard might’ve been spared a few years of hell.

  • Guy

    There are basically two types of Christians.

    1) Those chosen by God and given faith in His Son’s death, burial and resurrection. These focus on God.

    2) Those who choose a god by inviting him into their hearts. These are the ones who hear voices, speak in tongues of angels, etc. These focus on self and are deluded. Phillip is an extreme case of type 2.

    The sad thing is type 1 Christians would support putting Phillip to death after the first event. Those who let him out of his life sentence plus are as guilty of rape and murder (if found) as Phillip is.

  • Keith (the pastor)

    Wow. What a tragedy, and what hypocrisy.

  • Miko

    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.

    No, most proselytizers non-criminal actions don’t make the police suspicious enough to run a background check. There was definitely something special going on in his case.

    It makes no sense to say he wasn’t truly faithful when all the facts point to him being devoutly religious.

    Mental illness clouds the issues here. Researchers have found, for example, an autistic child who fixated on memorizing the model numbers of thousands of cameras while simultaneously having absolutely no interest in photography. It’s entirely possible that someone could fixate on the god-talk, pass out fliers, go to church, etc., while still not being religious in any meaningful sense of the word.

    The real question here is why it took so long to find out about this. If only our “sex-offender” rolls weren’t overflowing with 18-year-olds that had consensual sex with 17-year-old partners and 17-year-old girls who took naked pictures of themselves (charged with “exploiting a minor,” namely, themselves), perhaps forcible-rapists like Garrido wouldn’t get lost like a needle in the haystack.

  • I wonder what religion this is? Why don’t the explain that?

  • FatherChrismas

    Lunatics confuse their urges with divine law.

  • Karen

    I think it’s fairly well established that people with certain types of mental illness are prone to show extreme religiousity – schizophrenia for example. I knew a woman with this illness who was sometimes on her medication and stable and would sometimes go off her medication. One of the signs she was non-compliant with treatment was her increased religiousity.

    I’ve often noticed this as well and I wonder if it has to do with the fact that schizophrenia involves hearing voices.

    Even people who aren’t brought up with religion are probably tempted to assign supernatural agents to these voices they’re hearing, just as a weird way of “making sense” of them.

    It seems in this case that there were multiple failures. The police were alerted some years ago that children were living in tents in the backyard; neighbors were likely not as alert as they should have been to suspicious behavior; etc.

    Thank goodness for an alert UCB campus police department. My son is a sophomore there, and the police have a LOT of experience dealing with homeless, mentally ill, odd people in and around that campus. I think that officer should be commended for following up when he saw children with this lunatic.

    Lots of other people apparently saw these young girls with this insane guy and didn’t do a thing.

  • “Was this man mentally unstable? No clue. He clearly had issues.”

    You really arent sure if this man was deranged? Let me tell you this, this man was sick, and many religious people believe doing evil in the name of their or A god is the worst of sins.

    “I know we all can point to examples of religious people doing evil things (e.g. The Crusades, Hitler, etc.)”

    Typical for the non religious to refer to the Crusades and Hitler as examples of insane injustices in the name of religion. But re-read what the Crusades really were and you may rephrase using them as an example, and Hitler was no more “Christian” than Al Gore is spiritual due to his environmental beliefs.

  • “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.”

    The sad truth is it often does, not religion in the context of this crazy evil man, but in the generic sense of values enumerated by god, not to mention the fact that the “Religious” are more prone to being happy and compassionate, giving more money and time than their non-religious counterparts to charities and the less priveleged.

  • medussa

    Trolls are so exhausting.

  • MacGregor

    Funny how you people dont ever want to engage. Maybe its becuz you never have a leg to stand on and your arguments only fly amongst your small group of like minded friends. But good try.

  • Heidi

    Yeah, how could anybody think that Nazis were Christian? The Catholic church supported their cause, and have never ex-communicated any Nazis, but that doesn’t mean anything. And they went to war with Gott Mitt Und on their belt buckles, but that doesn’t mean anything, either. And as far as what Hitler actually said…

    “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

    ( Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Ralph Mannheim, ed., New York: Mariner Books, 1999, p. 65. )

    “I may not be a light of the church, a pulpiteer, but deep down I am a pious man, and believe that whoever fights bravely in defense of the natural laws framed by God and never capitulates will never be deserted by the Lawgiver, but will, in the end, receive the blessings of Providence.”

    ( Adolf Hitler, in a speech delivered on July 5, 1944; from Charles Bracelen Flood, Hitler: The Path to Power, Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989, p. 208. )

    “We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”

    ( Adolf Hitler, in a speech delivered in Berlin, October 24, 1933. )

    “Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.”

    ( Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Ralph Mannheim, ed., New York: Mariner Books, 1999, p. 383. )

    …Oh, wait. Never mind.

    Nice try, though. We’ve all played this game before.

  • @MacGregor – you believe in (i am making an assumption that you are christian) an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent god for which there is no known proof and can then feel comfortable stating a non-believer has no leg to stand on?

    and then wonder why nearly nobody will engage in conversation with you?

  • @Susan

    The man is a registered sex offender. 99 percent is going to make the same mistake because they have a sickness that can’t be cured. He might be a vicktim of some sort in his childhood and may had religious parents. He probably believes that he can be saved after he’s death. One thing is sure, this guy never must come back to society again.

    99% is the typical scare number. The real number for registered sex offenders is closer to 4%. Granted, this is higher than the 2% for other crimes. (At least, these are the numbers for getting caught within a couple years. It’s impossible to know exactly how many commit crimes.)

    But for people like this? Yeah, I’d agree there’s no helping him. My problem is more that the “sex offender” label applies equally to him as to someone who once urinated behind a dumpster. That’s getting a bit off-topic though. I just wanted to address a couple of the problems with this particular label and the 99% recidivism assumption.

    @Hemant

    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?

    That’s easy:

    -He was practicing a perverted faith.
    -He misinterpreted the Bible.
    -He was worshiping Satan, not God.

    He wasn’t a true Scotsman, to sum it up.

  • Christine

    Is he crazy? Legally sane like most pervs, sleazoids and sadists, says this atheist. Not psychotic, schizophrenic etc. How real this guy´s belief was? No idea.

  • Not sure if this has been posted in the comments yet (as I haven’t read them all yet) but this guy also kept a blog online and wrote in it as recently as August 15th.

    http://voicesrevealed.blogspot.com/

    Just thought I’d pass the link through if anyone was interested in seeing into the mind of this freak a bit more.

  • @macgregor -“Let me tell you this, this man was sick, and many religious people believe doing evil in the name of their or A god is the worst of sins.”

    But how do you tell? How do you tell if someone is doing good or evil in the name of their god? How do you tell the false prophet from the true one, the true religion from the false? How to tell the false god from the true god? Or the metaphorical from the literal in the Bible?

  • Rebecca

    MacGregor wrote:

    not to mention the fact that the “Religious” are more prone to being happy and compassionate, giving more money and time than their non-religious counterparts to charities and the less priveleged.

    Will you please cite your source(s) for these claims?

  • astor

    Let’s see if I’m following your reasoning here:
    1. Garrido is highly religious.
    2. Garrido thinks it’s “ok” to kidnap, hold captive, and repeatedly rape young women.
    Therefore,
    3. All religious people thinks it’s “ok” to kidnap, hold captive, and repeatedly rape young women.
    Look up the term “inductive fallacy” and see what comes up.