Hallelujah Hazel & Hallelujah Howell

Since ancient times, the philosophers' secret has always been this: we know that God does not exist, or, at least, if he does, he's utterly indifferent to our individual affairs - but we can't let the rabble know that; it's the fear of God, the threat of divine punishment and the promise of divine reward, that keeps in line those too unsophisticated to work out questions of morality on their own - Robert J Sawyer

The case of Hazel Stewart and Colin Howell convicted recently of the double murder of their marriage partners in 1991 gives rise to questions of how morality relates to religion. There was nothing very moral and a damned lot immoral about the murder of two unsuspecting people by a brace of bible thumpers. The killers were both Baptists and one was a former Sunday School teacher.

The deaths of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell may have been peaceful exits for the victims who were poisoned by carbon monoxide as they lay sleeping in their separate homes, but the killings were executed as mercilessly as they were meticulous. The planning and logistical organisation involved underscore a level of premeditation that would deny any defence based on the crime of passion. But for a confession by one of the killers almost two decades after the act the double murder would have constituted the perfect crime. Not easy to achieve in a technological world. An indolent RUC seemed not to ‘think dirty’ when it came to the obvious – lovers not their partners enter into suicide pacts – and so the killers prowled the streets for a further two decades before being apprehended.

‘Gin and tonic set’ killings involving sex and murder are always likely to stir tabloid interest like little else. Nothing like a bit of White Mischief to set the pulses racing. There is a tendency to home in on the mini-skirt, the low cut blouse, the perfume, the seduction. The imagery is massaged and manipulated to titillate the readers. Throw in a bit of puritan religion and the mix is set to explode from the front page of your average red top accompanied by the promise of saucy, sordid secrets on the inside pages.

We have seen it all before with the religious crowd. If they are not raping children and then threatening their victims with hellfire for eternity if they divulge the rapes to anybody, they can often be found fondling each other at the back of the evangelical bible class. Yet they behave as if they are morally superior to the rest of us and insist that we should somehow be required to live our lives in accordance with the moral diktats of their scripture. Iris Robinson is a case in point.

Regardless of the slant pursued by tabloids, behind the Stewart –Howell murder trial lies a human story of loss more enduring than the vagaries of lust; where children from two families are left without a parent each because the other parent had a sociopathic capacity for ruthlessness. Both murderous bible thumpers in this case seem equally culpable. Hazel Stewart’s callousness is perhaps more amplified because of the contrasting demure characterisation of herself that she postulated as a foil against the demonic persona the prosecution sought to present. Colin Howell threw the hands up and confessed to standing apart from most of humanity by his actions. It makes him look bad but straight whereas Stewart just looks bad and bent.

Religious types often like to tell us that their moral values come from god; a bit like me claiming my own come from the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Our morality has evolved like everything else about us. I see no evidence of a morality in religious believers that is absent from somebody without any religious belief. Quite often I see loathsome standards exercised by those with god and honourable stands taken by those without. Not much wrong with Mencken when he said ‘conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.’ Which means don’t stop because it is wrong, only stop because somebody is watching.

Religion did not cause Stewart and Howell to kill their partners. It simply failed to dissuade them from murder. Religion offers no guarantee of moral behaviour, or at least it provides the religious types with a moral outlook no better than that possessed by the atheists.

In fact it might be argued that the religious fixation with policing sexuality brings into being dangerous liaisons which in turn unleash deadly passions. Religious guilt seems to have figured greatly in the interplay between Stewart and Howell. Yet the guilt was as a result of engaging in extra marital sex. Howell would drug Stewart with her consent prior to sex so that her guilt could be assuaged. She did not require to be drugged in order to commit murder. Maybe she found something in the bible that justified murder but not sex.

Judging this sordid episode there is much to be said for the view of Francis Bacon:

Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all of which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, even if religion vanished; but religious superstition dismounts all these and erects an absolute monarchy in the minds of men.

A moral monarch that whispers in the ear of the devout 'it’s alright to kill both of them.'

19 comments:

  1. BUFFALO, March 9 (Reuters) - The founder of a Muslim TV network who was convicted of beheading his wife was sentenced on Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison, the maximum penalty under the law for the charge against him.

    Muzzammil Hassan, 46, was convicted last month of second-degree murder for the 2009 beheading of his wife Aasiya Zubair.

    Hassan said only a few words prior to his sentencing in Erie County Court.

    "I deeply regret that things came down to what they came down to," he said. "I truly wish there would have been some sort of alternate mechanism."

    Hassan and Zubair founded Bridges TV in 2004 as a national network to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims.

    Prior to her murder, Zubair sought an order of protection from Hassan and filed for divorce, records said.

    According to court records, Hassan tried to lure his wife into their TV studio in Orchard Park, New York, in February 2009. He approached her in a dark hallway from behind and stabbed her more than 40 times with a hunting knife and then cut her head off, the records said.

    Throughout his trial, Hassan tried to paint himself as a victim of abuse at the hands of Zubair.

    (I figured this article speaks not only for itself but for your reflections, AM.)

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  2. FionnchĂș,

    a disgraceful action against this woman by yet another religious thug. And they want to provide morals for us! Bet you before the day is out we will hear some loon preaching that Japan got the earthquake because it was immoral

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  3. We have the churches lecturing us on moral laws, we have had Iris Robinson lecturing on homosexulaty,we have had Ian Paisley stirring up secterian hatred for generations,wouldnt you think its way past time for people to think for themselves and dump those b##tards,how many of us know f##kers who eat the alter rails and are nothing more than two faced greedy lying scum,the bearded one fits the bill here.we have left the dark ages long ago and its way past time we dumped this superstitious nonsense,all it does is corrupts minds and corrupt minds do corrupt things,I,ve a feeling here that John Mc Girr will give us another 200 posts on the bible here,

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  4. I,m only after getting smacked by a crowd of Japanese tourists,they asked me to take their picture.and all I said was gis a big wave!!!!

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  5. Marty,

    I wonder what Intelligent design was behind the Japan quake

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  6. No doubt there is some of a religious persuasion who'd view the catastrophic natural disaster in Japan as an act of their god, punishing us for the sins of the world. If such a god exists I for one want nothing to do with he/she/it.

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  7. That would be the god of love Anthony,how kind of him to call so many to his embrace at one time, how lucky are they?

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  8. Marty,

    our problem is that we don't understand theology. If we did we would understand god's love. And no smart answers about nt understanding fairyology either!! How can anybody look at Japan and even think of intelligent design or a god of love?

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  9. Theology or bolloxology Anthony when we witness the destructive power of nature and hear the words gods will be done,I for one want to throw up,then we hear the words suffer little children, and lots of his followers really do make them suffer,if this is the result of intelligent design,thank fuck the creator wasnt a nasty stupid bastard,

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  10. 'Maybe she found something in the bible that justified murder but not sex'.

    Methodists?? sure they aren't RC? Maybe the absence of wee boys makes the difference.

    Think maybe the dentist fella decided he'd had enuff doing his whack whilst his partner in crime swanned about town living her life claiming her dead hubby's pension.

    I hear english teacher rates gone up to 100 pounds an hour in Japan...but how do you teach phonics through a radiation suite...ill let you all know before too long.

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  11. Marty,

    when he has so many nasty stupid followers who believe a good interventionist god would turn his back on Japan because he loves his creations he has no need to be nasty and stupid himself.

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  12. Spot on bro Anthony praise the lord and pass the plate!

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  13. Finished Alan Simpson,s Duplicity and Deception,I think its well worth reading,however one question I,d put to the bold Alan,are we to believe that it was only SB who engaged in thugish and violent behaviour in interrogation centres like Castlerea,I dont think so Alan a bit of honesty here would have made my opinion of your book a great deal better.

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  14. Mackers,
    this sounds more like a Sinn Fein convention?
    You say something and then they all chant in chorus!

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  15. Nuala,

    on this one I think I am pushing an open door. They are normally never that compliant. Think it is something we all managed to agree on for once

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  16. Praise the lord Iris and piss the plate

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  17. Anthony,

    Do you think that if you took religion out of history, there would be any history left?

    Last I looked the country that seemed to best express your view of religion, (the Soviet Union) wasn't exactly a recipe for love and tolerance, in fact now they are rediscovering religion.

    You blame religion, but it seems that even in its absence things are not all love and kisses.

    The real revolutionary thing would be if it were to be put into practice. But then that's the excuse the socialist use to explain why their systems never work.

    But just imagine if everyone did love their neighbour, and follow all the teachings of Christ. Do you really think society would be worse off?

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  18. John

    ‘Do you think that if you took religion out of history, there would be any history left?’

    Of course. Implicit in your question is that the great amount of bad history must have been associated with religion.

    ‘Last I looked the country that seemed to best express your view of religion, (the Soviet Union) wasn't exactly a recipe for love and tolerance, in fact now they are rediscovering religion.’

    It didn’t express my view of religion anymore than the Taiping uprising expressed your view of religion. Religion is just an opinion and should, like other opinions, not be suppressed.

    You blame religion, but it seems that even in its absence things are not all love and kisses.

    I didn’t blame religion. The point I made in this article is that religion is no foil against seriously bad stuff. There are good atheists and bad believers. There is no facile determination to be made that allows for handy categories of good/religious bad/atheist – although it is clear you don’t make that point.

    ‘The real revolutionary thing would be if it were to be put into practice.’

    The real reactionary thing would be a better choice of phrase.

    ‘But then that's the excuse the socialist use to explain why their systems never work.’

    It is indeed

    ‘But just imagine if everyone did love their neighbour, and follow all the teachings of Christ. Do you really think society would be worse off?’

    But it would not be society as we know it.

    The god I worship John, the Flying Spaghetti Monster – not one person has died in his name.

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