Promiscuous women are responsible for earthquakes, a senior Iranian cleric has said.
Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told worshippers in Tehran last Friday that they had to stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves.
“Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes,” he said.
Reading this article, I was struck by a sense of deja vu. I had seen this argument, or something similar, recently. But where? Ah yes — much closer to home. Here’s Rush Limbaugh arguing that the Icelandic volcano eruption is God’s retribution for US health care reform.
You know, a couple of days after the health care bill had been signed into law Obama ran around all over the country saying, “Hey, you know, I’m looking around. The earth hadn’t opened up. There’s no Armageddon out there. The birds are still chirping.” I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied. This volcano in Iceland has grounded more airplanes — airspace has more affected — than even after 9/11 because of this plume, because of this ash cloud over Northern and Western Europe. … Earth has opened up. I don’t know whether it’s a rebirth or Armageddon. Hopefully it’s a rebirth, God speaking.
Granted, Limbaugh is somewhat more cautious in making his argument than cleric Sedighi; Limbaugh doesn’t quite come out and say it point-blank, but the intent is clear. These two political commentators are birds of a feather.
The idea that natural disasters are God’s revenge for anything is something straight out of our tribal past, a shamanistic scam that predates both science and Judeo-Christianity. It is the worst kind of predatory exploitation, feeding on the fears of the uneducated and superstitious.
That this sort of thing goes on in Iran isn’t entirely surprising, given the country is run by an unyielding theocratic regime. But to see this kind of “thinking” aired aloud on one of the US’s most popular radio shows is another matter altogether.
This sort of thing is becoming all too common in the American political debate. It is all part and parcel of a trend towards a growing militant ignorance in American culture. Just look at the creeping disrespect for science, as encapsulated in global warming denialism, and more directly in Glenn Beck’s baffling call to abolish the Department of Education.
Of course Beck and Limbaugh want the Department of Education abolished, and it has nothing to do with the claim that the DoE is an oppressive bureacuracy that takes control of education out of the hands of communities and families.
The commercial success of demagogues like Limbaugh and Beck depends on ignorance. They have everything to gain from a populace that can’t discern fact from fiction, irrational fear from calculated concern. For the rest of us, this is reason to worry. The US has always been a nation that is attracted almost magnetically to profit. So consider, for a moment, the impact of an economy and society where spreading ignorance is profitable.