Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Human Cruelty; Divine Justice. Or Vice-Versa.

I realize this posting will touch on a very sensitive issue and there is a high likelihood of it causing offense. I believe, however, the issues involved are serious enough to warrant serious contemplation and consequently I believe I should say what I'm thinking and await the proverbial excrement to strike the mechanical cooling device.

Nearly any sentient being inside Genesee County Michigan now knows the story of 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun, who was horribly tortured and eventually beaten to death, allegedly by the boyfriend of the boy’s mother. According to details in press reports, Dominick had been severely kicked in the head and groin, had all his teeth knocked out, had burn marks on his feet and had even been dragged unconscious out of bed as the beatings continued.

As human beings who aspire to some semblance of civilized behavior, it is difficult if not impossible to understand how someone could carry out such a deranged, savage and horrific assault on a defenseless child. That Dominick suffered horribly is beyond dispute. Even thinking about the facts of the case objectively is difficult. In an attempt to assuage our own psyches, some of us imagine this somehow has a happy ending. Many people posting on a “Justice for Dominick Calhoun” page on Facebook, for example, attempt to comfort themselves by saying Dominick is now in a “better place” or that he is now “in the arms of the Lord”. The pastor at Dominick’s funeral was quoted as saying that Dominick closed his eyes in this world and opened them to gaze at “the loving face of Jesus”.

My first response was: where the hell was Jesus when little Dominick was being tortured? Was Jesus busy? Did he not care? Was there some perverted “divine plan” that required Dominick to suffer and die in this way?
My second response was: if little Dominick is now in such a wonderful place and his entry into it was said to have been caused by his mother’s boyfriend, shouldn’t we thank the boyfriend for doing this wonderful thing for him? Okay, obviously, I’m being darkly sarcastic there, but if you follow this logic to its conclusion, there IS a kernel of truth to it. I think all this Jesus & Heaven speak is nothing more than celestial sugar-coating which detract from the most horrible aspects of the crime.

My personal thoughts as to Dominick’s ultimate fate are clear: as an atheist, I believe he is dead. Period. There is no loving God to cradle him in his arms, no paradise to welcome a soul that outlives his physical body. If that seems harsh, I maintain that relatively speaking, it isn’t. If you want harsh, let’s look at the other side of religion… the one that’s being conveniently ignored. I know nothing of Dominick’s upbringing so I don’t know whether he had any religious rituals performed on him. But what if he had not been baptized? Or, if he WAS baptized, what if he was baptized by the “wrong” sect of Christianity? Or baptized in the “wrong” way? (Sprinkling with Holy Water on the forehead versus full immersion, say.) Or what if Allah is the One True God? Or Vishnu? What if, to counter the comforting image invoked by the funeral pastor, Dominick closed his eyes in this world only to open them in even greater agony in the eternal fires of hell?

I realize some people reading this will brand me a world-class asshole for even suggesting something so vile. But before condemning me further, I would like to ask one thing: can anyone point out to me a verse in the Bible that explicitly states unbaptized children get a free pass into heaven if they’re brutally murdered? I’ll be waiting.
In fact, there are some Christians who flatly state that an unbaptized child WILL go to hell. Harold Camping, head of Family Radio and a Biblical scholar who has a syndicated radio program called “Open Forum” once fielded a question from an obviously distraught mother whose infant child had recently died. The weeping mother asked whether, since the child had died before being baptized, he would still be able to enter Heaven. Camping, much to my surprise, unflinchingly said that the Bible was very clear on the issue: one MUST be baptized to enter Heaven and that the child was now and forever in Hell.
(Of course, Mr. Camping also predicted the world would end in September, 1994. If it has, I haven’t noticed.)
Upon hearing Camping’s exchange with the mother, my first reaction was shock that he could so blunt to the point of cruelty. But I also have to confess that, in a rather convoluted way, I admired his honesty. After all, in our society faith and honesty are supposed to be virtues. Here was a man who REALLY had faith in his beliefs and is honest about it to the point of misanthropy.

At this point I should state that this is one time where I sincerely wish I am completely wrong in my views. If anyone deserves a cosmic break and a Heavenly vacation, it would be Dominick.

But as Carl Sagan frequently said: “Wishing does not make it so.”

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