Religious Dispatches had an article about the Cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) in Mexico. Most attribute it to the drug cartels and violence pertaining to gang rivalries and such. I think the explanation is deeper and is embedded in Mexican history and the interplay between indigenous peoples and the the Spanish Church. The Catholic Church is primarily responsible for this nonsense in that its hold on the common people of Mexico since the phony apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531 has been iron-fisted. (Has anyone noticed that most "miracles" are denounced as fraudulent by the Church except in such instances as the Vatican can find a use for them?)
If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, it may be said that where a religion has such enormous influence, the Enemy (always a bugaboo designed to reinforce the fear of death) must be all the more dreadful. A nation only gets the kind of Devil it deserves. Death is what the Church is really selling. Note that all the monotheisms are dualistic, itself a kind of contradiction in terms. If the Good God is winning at the moment, I'll side with the Bad One. I will also check myself into an institution for the mentally handicapped.
Meanwhile, there might be speculation that as the cartels take over more and more territory and the blood is spilled voluminously, the cult takes its sustenance from the gloom and doom. There is even the possibility that Santa Muerte is a kind of antinomian Gnostic faith exalting bloodshed as a kind of reverse baptism, or else, perhaps, they believe much as do present-day (and presently persecuted) Iraqi Yezidis. These folks actually believe that it is the Devil who has and always will rule the world, and it is for this reason that they worship Satan. One thinks of certain sects in the south of France who believed the Judeo-Christian "God" to be the Devil. Thus, to the Cainites, all Biblical "villains" (Cain, Korah, &c.) were actually heroes, while such devout Jewish "heroes" as Mosheh, Yeshua, &c.) were excoriated as evil. You can imagine what they thought of Judas of Kerioth.
Given what we see around us daily, I might be inclined to agree with them were I not convinced all such thinking is a complete load of cobbers.
I read about this cult some time ago in National Geographic Here's a link to the story.
There isn't much for us atheists in the story as it mostly comes off as saying the only problem with the cults is that they aren't worshiping the correct saints. Not a whole lot is said about the whole fraudulent system of religious belief...but then again I'm sure Nat-Geo accepts lots of money from religious organizations and therefore won't print much along those lines. It is a pretty informative article nonetheless.
Thanks for that lead to the website with the kind of information I was wanting to look at. Yes, all publications in America are, at least indirectly, supported by religion; after all, about 50% of their readers are religious. If looking for atheists when in Mexico City, the best place to go is El Chopo. This is the alternative cultures market or tianguis that occurs each Saturday for about a half a day. Lots of rockers, metal freaks, Mohawk fade cuts, wild T-shirts, big graffiti on neighboring factory walls, music, Lp collections, &c. &c. &c. The most fascinating event in Mexico City if you ask me. These young people go their own way. Some are bound to be out and out atheists, but I did not ask. I am 69 and the average age at El Chopo is probably 24 or younger. The Lp vendor did express interest in my collection of 33.3 rpm albums mostly of British rock and roll from the late 60s and early 70s. About 300 long players. (My son Zack already walked off with many of the collectors' items, such as John and Yoko's Wedding Album with all of the inserts.)
Aha, in the N-G story, I find this: "It's not only the crisis but also the types of problems people face these days that have fueled the expansion of the cults." This was precisely my point, that it is jut as Obama said, when trouble arrives, some people, probably a lot of them, "reach for their guns or their bibles."
I watched a film, (sorry I forgot the name) about child workers in the tin mines of Bolivia. The Indian miners must give lip service to the catholic church, but they maintain their ancient beliefs by building alters with statues of the god of death, deep down in mines. They call him saint or uncle death. They give him offerings of alcohol and food so he will spare their lives in the mine. Sadly, neither god, St. Death, nor the mine owners will protect them from the criminally dangerous conditions in these foreign owned mines.
That is consistent with the apparent Mexican cult, but it would be difficult to imagine a more depressing "saint." It is like a monotheism on steroids, at least if you subscribe as I do to the theory that fear of death is the Number One driving force behind belief. The promise of a perfectly blissful afterlife is a tough delusion to shake. Once other deluded "souls" join to form a congregation of delusional people, the camaraderie is infectious and those who catch the virus not only want every other sucker to sign up or else marginalize him, almost as if some of us freethinkers are being treated like Jesus. Yet, unlike the Roman Church, we do not scream about violation of our "religious rights." Ahem!
school? education? drug war? what's that? oh who cares just pray.. f u b a r
shame on those higher-up's n their lame for-profit policies
Just in case you want to gripe about disparities between the Have-Nots and "Have-Mores" (as Ed Schultz calls the super rich) consider that Carlos Slim Helu, the World's Richest Billionaire, was born and lives in Mexico City, while millions there are in dire poverty...Somebody, always, has it worse off than we do. Ra ra, the glass is half full and all that.
Because of the connection to Cults of the Dead, I think you would enjoy my book:
From the Bodies of the Gods: Psychoactive Plants and the Cults of the Dead
It examines the origins of Christianity and other ancient Cults of the Dead
Have you read John Alegro? Actually, the cult is well-described at some length in David Lira's marvelous book, First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, The Capital of the 21st Century. The Church knows it is popular but cannot convince Catholics that it is apostasy and thus the cult spreads. The Tepito market, famous for its thieves, hosts its annual celebration and Lira says you can't get within blocks of the site of the worship. He makes a comparison to St. Jude Thaddeus and how more mainstream Catholics look to him for saving lost causes. Fascinating study.
Yes, I've read Allegro, Wasson and others. The efforts by the Catholic Church to quash this cult is not much different than their other attacks on "heresy" going back many centuries
Oh, boy, do I agree with that. In fact, my studies of apostacy really began my withdrawal from dogma for the light of reason. I was fascinated (in all senses of the word) with the Gnostics. You might enjoy a Luis Bunuel film called "La Voie Lactee" (The Milky Way) in which the filmmaker recreates a Medieval gnostic sect, Christian symbolism and all, as an illustration of a point made by one of the characters. (In another scene, the surrealist Bunuel has a scene in which Mary approves of Jesus shaving his beard, "you look so much better without it!") Actually, though, the Catholic intolerance of apostacy of any kind began with Constantine's ordering the murder of dozens of bishops who refused to abjure belief in Arius's notion of a non-material Savior. Then, there were the witches (purveyors of birth control devices and abortifacients). And, of course, when they have established themselves as the theocracy in any nation, the Church has terrorized the voices of reason: think of poor Galileo, for example. Don't you think Carl Sagan was on their Vatican Shit List?
Although I agree that Santa Muerte wasn't initiated for the sole purpose of the drug cartels, as a law enforcement officer involved in interdiction operations, I have seen a prevalence of this. The cartels will not only look to the Santa Muerte for help, but others whom they have made up. St. Romo, St Jude, and even things like tweety bird have been used in superstitious efforts to protect shipments. I have a whole documentary video called, "Patron Saints of the Mexican Drug Underworld," if anybody is interested. It's an enticing film if you share interest in a completely different sect of Catholicism that these drug runners have invented. I would be more than happy to make a copy or try to post the complete video on youtube.