Lately the press has offered several startling examples of horrors perpetrated by modern-day religion. The first is from a review in yesterday’s New York Sun of the book American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 by Sally Denton:

In September of 1857, a wagon train passing through Utah was trapped and viciously attacked in one of the most despicable acts of  religious fanaticism ever perpetrated on American soil. The travelers were set upon by white men disguised as Indians, and within a matter of minutes approximately 140 men, women, and children were killed in an open area called Mountain Meadows. Young girls begged for mercy and had their throats slit; men were shot execution-style or, in some cases, bludgeoned to death. Their bodies were then stripped of clothing and valuables and left to rot in the open field. The incident, the subject of contentious debate for more than a hundred years, was most likely officially sanctioned by leaders of the Mormon church.

The second example is from a review in the New York Times of the current film The Magdalene Sisters, which is apparently based on reality:

 “[B]ad girls” exiled from their families and communities, often  after becoming pregnant out of wedlock, were forced to do slave  labor in convent laundries that proliferated in Ireland until  recently. The existence of these religious labor camps run by the  Sisters of the Magdalene Order came to light only in the 1970’s with  the discovery of the unmarked graves of women who lived there. After  the scandal broke, the laundries were closed, the last in 1996. Some 30,000 women are thought to have passed through their gates. Once incarcerated, the women were forced to toil long hours under close guard doing unpaid work that was deemed fitting penance for  their sins….Forbidden to talk while on the job, the prisoners were continually  harangued by the nuns in charge about their sins and the  unlikelihood of salvation. Disobedience was punished with beatings  and the shearing of their hair. Although some of these outcasts were  eventually reclaimed by family members, others were simply abandoned to spend the rest of their lives behind locked institutional doors.

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