What’s religion got to do with it?
At a time when South Africans are collectively fighting to maintain the freedom of our press, I objected to the Sunday Tribune using the “witch” label to describe a murderer who does not identify herself as a Witch. Prior to the Sunday Tribune’s article, the murderer was linked with Satanism in the media and was later downgraded to an “occult killer” when, as quoted in the News24 article titled “Occult killer shows no remorse“, a social worker testified that she agreed “that satanism could not have played a role in the murder, but that occult practices *might* have had an influence”. As much of a stretch as it was, perhaps the “occult” label did not have the impact that the media had hoped for (I suspect many readers do not even know what it means), or perhaps the alliterative “Welkom witch” just had a much better ring to it? Why let the truth get in the way of a good story? It’s cool, unless you identify yourself as a Witch or are even suspected of being one, or do not swim in the mainstream for that matter.
Why can a murderer not just be a plain murderer? Is the crime really not bad enough on its own to sell a newspaper without dressing it up as something more interesting?
I believe that the misuse of religious labels to sell newspapers abuses the freedom of the press, feeds prejudice that leads to unfair discrimination and violence in our society, supports religious bias and indoctrination, and violates our constitutional rights to freedom of religion without unfair discrimination.
Some of the objections made in the online petition asked that Witches not all be painted with the same brush, as there are both “good” and “bad” Witches. Why is it even necessary in this day and age to make this point when it comes to one religious group and not others?
I know plenty of decent Christians, and plenty that I don’t want anything to do with. The same goes for self-identified Witches and other Pagans. (I don’t know too many people from other religions, so I will leave it at that.) Wearing a religious label or going to church does not make anyone a decent person. Actions speak volumes. Being kind, considerate, respectful and non-judgemental makes someone a person that I want to be around rather than avoid. Nobody’s perfect, but hopefully we acknowledge when we have behaved badly and do our best to make amends.
In all religions there are bigots and bullies. In all religions there are people who hurt others regularly without any sense of remorse. In all religions there are thieves, murderers and rapists.
People should not expect moral guidance to come from their religious leaders either. A Christian government implemented apartheid in South Africa and religious leaders condoned it. I can even remember the passage in the Bible that was quoted to support it. I also remember the first time my mother acknowledged that apartheid was wrong. We had just returned from the Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban where the late Catholic Archbishop Denis Hurley gave a speech saying as much. I was old enough to remember the occasion so it must have been well into the apartheid era (around 1980). Bless him for that, but why did it take so long for anyone in the Catholic Church in this country to speak up?
Sometimes religion does have something to do with it. Historically there have been many major atrocities committed in the name of religion, such as the persecution of suspected witches that arose out of the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church in the Dark Ages. In that case it is relevant and by all means the media should mention it, but if not they should just keep religion out of it.
“a salesman is an it that stinks to please
but whether to please itself or someone else
makes no more difference than if it sells
hate condoms education snakeoil vac
uumcleaners terror strawberries democ
ra(caveat emptor)cy superfluous hair”
Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962)