A guy called David Mitchell made up a “Declaration of our Faith“, walked with it through his local town as some kind of street preacher, and in 2002 allegedly picked up then 14-year old Elisabeth Smart at knifepoint, took her across state lines and sexually abused her on a daily basis for 9 months.
Smart testified in court that
“He was crude and vulgar, self-serving. He was his number one priority, followed by sex, drugs and alcohol, but he used religion in all those aspects to justify everything”.
It’s the old question, where does religion end and mental illness begin ? The guy also tried to brainwash her:
She described her captor as working ceaselessly to terrorize her and strip away her sense of self. She said he gave her a new name, burned the clothes she was wearing when she was taken and forced her to wear veils and robes to conceal her face and blond hair.
Over and over again, she said, he threatened to kill her and her family if she tried to run away or seek help.
Defense attorneys have said Mitchell faces an escalating mental illness and is in the grip of a religious mania, but Smart said today his religion was purely self-serving.
“Well, nine months of living with him and seeing him proclaim that he was God’s servant and he had been called to do God’s work and everything that he did to me and to my family is something I know God would never tell someone to do,” she said
That’s the problem with any kind of religion in a nutshell.Since there can be no proof for or against the existence of a god, anyone can make up anything, and there are always some who will believe that some kook is indeed the servant/son/descendent/instrument of a god.
Now, according to CNN, Mitchell’s lawyers are using an interesting defense:
The lawyers for Brian David Mitchell do not dispute that he abducted Smart, then 14, and held her captive for nine months. But they say his religious beliefs were delusions, that their client was insane and therefore cannot be held responsible for his actions.
Again, where do the beliefs end and the delusions begin ? I’m looking forward to them going down this line of arguing.Now, it is true that people find the objects and motives for their delusions in the culture they grew up in and which surrounds them, in Mitchell’s case that’s the Mormon state of Utah:
Mitchell grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although he later renounced the mainstream church, turned fanatical and was excommunicated from the LDS Church. But because Mormons believe people can receive revelations from God, it makes sense that Mitchell claimed revelations of his own, Amador said.
While I can hear the no-true-Mormon arguments already, and this guy might indeed just be a criminal and rapist who used religion as a justification for his sexual obsessions and criminal actions, this is the case for way too many crimes and pathological behaviours in our world, to be sheer coincidence.