Phillip Garrido Talks to God, Like You Do

Some days I feel like giving faith-based God-believers the benefit of the doubt (no pun intended), that their approach to reality is somehow reasonable. On other days, such as today reading about about how Phillip Garrido hears voices from God, the whole thing makes me sick. Reason will say that the Bible is full of myths. Abandoning reason and relying on personal communication with God puts you on the same shaky ground as Phillip Garrido, ready to believe that it's OK to let your own daughters be raped if you think God wants it so.

Faith-based God-believers somehow manage to live in a world of science and rationalism; lead normal lives; hold jobs that require true intelligence; but believe in an outlandish fairy tale about the origin of the world. Their explanation is personal experience and faith. "I don't care if science says that God didn't create the world 6,000 years ago; that Noah didn't save all the animal species in a world-wide flood; that that all the miraculous events written in the Bible really didn't happen. I believe because I have a personal relationship with God, and you'll never be able to convince me that what I feel inside isn't true." They usually follow this with "Praise the LORD", "Sweet Lamb of God", "Hallelujah", or some other formula, spoken in a way as to send shivers up your spine.

Phillip Garrido sends shivers up my spine. He is accused of kidnapping an 11-year-old girl and fathering two children with her while keeping her locked in a shed for 18 years. Phillip Garrido had a personal experience with God, and in a series of rambling documents he talks about how God's made a wonderous change in his life and has given him special powers. You can't convince Phillip Garrido that God doesn't exist, no sir. You can bring your science and your rationalism and, yes, even your legal system, but you're not going to change Phillip Garrido's mind. Not when God speaks to him personally.

At this point you'll say I'm being unfair. "Phillip Garrido is a kook. He's crazy. No reasonable person would believe that God is giving them special powers to hear voices or to speak with tongues of angels…" Oh, wait, yes, speaking in tongues is pretty much one of the core doctrines of Pentecostals (ask Sarah Palin), and prophets in the Bible heard voices all the time.

The thing is that you can't have it both ways. You can use your brain, which will tell you that it's sillier than a child's fairy tale to believe that God created the world in seven days, and that somehow Satan (whom God created, right?) brought sin into the world, which means that everybody is going to fry in a lake of fire forever, except that God became a man and committed suicide to serve as a sacrifice to cleanse… do I really have to go on? Isn't it absurd enough already?

Either you use your brain and say that this is nonsense, or you rely on some special personal experience, at which point all bets are off. If you're relying on personal mystical experiences, then Phillip Garrido's experiences are just as valid as yours. The minute you start using some bit of rationalism to say that his story is balderdash, that same rationalism will tell you that the God stories you're believing from the Bible are balderdash as well. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

"But Phillip Garrido did all these terrible things to that little girl!" If you derive truth from personal revelation rather than reason, you too would think child abuse is fine if God were to command it. In fact, you probably believe something of the sort already! In the Bible (Genesis 19), God found only one righteous man in Sodom: Abraham's nephew, Lot. (Yes, Sodom is the city extremist Christians use to say that gay people will burn in hell forever and ever.) God sent two angels to warn Lot that God would destroy the city (because of all that sodomy, probably). Lot didn't know they were angels but, being a friendly, righteous man, invited them to stay over. The evil men of the town surrounded the house and wanted to have sex with Lot's guests, but good old Lot refused. "These are my guest; leave them alone!" he cried. "Look, I have two little girls. They are virgins. I'll send them out and you can gang rape them. Just don't harm my guests, please." Praise the LORD, Sweet Lamb of God, Hallelujah.

What do you say about this? If you pause, even for a second, before outright condemning Lot for one of the most vile things that a father could do, you make me sick. Read it whatever way you want to, but the plain reading is that God praised Lot for his righteousness, and Lot's proposal to let his little girls be gang-raped to protect messengers from God was tacitly commended. If you believe this story, you believe that men having sex with men (or even turning back to look at a city being destroyed) is much worse than sending your daughters out to be raped for the glory of God.

Whatever logical games you play to somehow make this seem reasonable; however you partition your life so that in the real world this would seem hideous but in the Bible world somehow it seems holy; and whatever sort of special communication channel you have to God that proves to you that he exists; the fact remains that your belief in these absurd Bible tales are no more rational than Phillip Garrido's voices. I find Lot and Phillip Garrido equally sickening.

If the Santa story told that Santa offered his elves to be sexually abused in order to save Christmas, you wouldn't let your children sing Christmas songs about Santa. But somehow, by turning off your brain and relying on personal mystical experience as valid path to truth, you reject science and embrace the Lot story. I'll be the first in line to condemn both Lot and Phillip Garrido. I'll keep my brain turned on, thank you very much.

This entry was edited on 2009-09-04 for clarification.