Durham, North Carolina – 4 year old Jadon Higganbothan was murdered by his step-father because he thought that Jadon might be gay. It’s a heartbreaking story, Jadon and his mother apparently were part of a cult that was run by the step-father.
Peter Lucas Moses, 27, was apparently the head a small cult involving 4 women and 9 children. Moses was the father of all the children with the exception of Jadon.
In October of last year, Moses apparently became obsessed with the idea that Jadon was gay and demanded that his mother, 25 year old Vania Rae Sisk “get rid of him.” When she didn’t, here’s what happened:
Moses ordered two of the women to set up computers and speakers in the garage, prosecutors said they were told by the witness. They said he started playing music with the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew, took Jadon in the garage and shut the door, and the women then heard a gunshot.
Prosecutors said the witness told them that the women helped clean up the body of Jadon, who had been shot in the head, and put it in a suitcase in Moses’ master suite. He later told them to get the body out because it was beginning to smell, prosecutors said.
The other children, who have been placed in foster homes by Social Services, have told authorities they feared that Moses would do to them “what he did to Jadon,” Cline said. “The children are fearful of Pete Moses Jr.”
I think we have to ask ourselves, was this an aberration or common place? There are millions of Christians in the USA, including North Carolina, where this happened. They don't all kill people because they are gay. They don't all hate, this or that social or ethnic group. In fact, many truly follow what they call a gospel of love, no exceptions. Many gay people find "gay friendly" churches to attend. Not something I want to do. But such places exist, both non-denominational and main denominations, such as liberal congregations of the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ and some Presbyterian.
So I think one of the questions this case represents, is how does someone, such as this father, get such control and how does he become a violent psychopath dressed up as representing any religion or ideology. Obviously not every member of the clergy follows the same pattern.
For starters, there are many writings on cults, including cult leaders with a propensity for violence, and there is the work of Theodore Adornor on authoritarian personalities. Religion does not have a monopoly on this type. How do people become like that? How do they attract and maintain a following? It's not all religion. For starters, somehow the followers are persuaded to suspend normal instinctive moral judgment and critical thinking. And they must surely be a type with a predisposition to submission, regardless of the religion or ideology. We must also examine elements of education as part of a "faith community" and outside of a faith community that buttresses people against this kind of aberrant behavior and unquestioning loyalty.
For example, following the lurid news in the North Carolina press one journalist has written on the subject of cults.
It's not writing that reveals anything new or original, but it illustrates, where I think the light needs to be focused. Why do these destructive people exist? We can't just blame this on religion. In short, how do we educate people for mutual respect and the desire for universal human dignity, what humanist philosophers call "the good life".
Gary writes: "Why do these destructive people exist? We can't just blame this on religion."
Destructive people have always existed and always will, of course. Mental illness is as old as humankind, and much of it is biological in origin, but it takes religion for humans to build a cult around such psychopathy, and to attract otherwise relatively normal people to it, and to lead people into cooperating with this kind of psychopathy.
Why do otherwise rational people suspend their irrationality to take up such obviously irrational and clearly destructive religious beliefs? That is the bigger question, and the one relevant to this event. This is a well-studied problem, and some clear answers are emerging. Richard Cohen, in his excellent book, "The Mind Of The Bible Believer" lists a whole series of "hooks" that religious meme complexes use to get the believer converted and locked into belief. None of them are strong by themselves (and that's by design), but they synergize, and it is that synergy that is so powerfully seductive for so many. And once rationality is suspended, all things become possible, as this event makes clear.
Even worse is the deference often afforded in USAnian culture to the consequences of this irrationality, as if that were somehow justified by the presumed "civilizing" effects of religion - an assertion that is increasingly drawn into question as the long-overdue sociological research is finally being done.
Yes, this is an extreme and lurid example. No doubt. But what about the myriad instances of bullying of gay schoolkids, inspired by their parents' homophobia, which is inspired in turn by their religious "values?" Or the stifling of embryonic stem cell research in the name of "protecting human life," again inspired by an irrational religious belief, leading untold thousands to suffer and die because of impeded medical research? Or the women forced to bear unwanted children, and the scarred lives of those children growing up unwanted? These are many of hundreds of examples that could be cited of the many subtle but negative consequences that widespread religious belief has on society, almost none of which are properly blamed on religion. Christopher Hitchins is right - religion poisons everything, and this is but an extreme example.
As for blaming this particular event on religion, Gary, YOU BET we can lay the blame for this at the feet of religion. First, the homophobia that inspired the child's murder in the first place would probably not have existed - in my experience in dealing with thousands of homophobes over the years, nearly all homophobia can ultimately be traced to religious bigotry, either for the bigot or the environment in which he was raised (only a half dozen or so of the thousands of hate-emails I have received and read over the years did not show evidence of religious intolerance towards gays). Second, the cult amongst whose members this occurred would not have existed, and had it not existed, the situation in which that child found himself would not have occurred. Third, the women who participated in the murder in the name of following their cult leader would likely not have done so had their thinking not have been warped by religious irrationality. So to suggest that religion did not play a role in this event is quite a bit of a stretch.
Those people are psycho. It's OK to call it out as an example of religious depravity. It doesn't mean all religious people are psycho, and it doesn't mean that there aren't psycho atheists. Im not even sure the step father / cult leader killed the boy out of homophobia - that is yet to be proven in court. He might have just killed him like a lion kills the previous cubs when he becomes head of the pride. Supposedly, he was angry at the boy for 'acting gay' like his biological father - but so far that's heresay.
Even so, it is common place for violence to happen to people who are gay or thought to be gay, or to use "gay" as an excuse for violence. It is also common place for religious people to promote homophobia, and use homophobia as a tactic for political and social gain. Religious intolerance is a big part of the problem, promotes antigay violence and descrimination, and uses the bible and other religious beleifs such as islam to support religious bigotry.
Religious antigay violence is common place, and millions of christians are anti-equality, even if there are millions of christians who do not commit it. I think the trend would be different for secular people. I think that secular countries have less antigay violence, and highly religious countries have more of it, although I don't have the numbers to prove it.
Having recently attended gay pride in Portland, I can vouch for the support of some religious denominations for LGBT people. Even so, criticism of religion as a source of homophobia is valid.
This sickens me to no end. Look at that baby's sweet little face. I honestly don't even have the words to express how repulsive this is. Peter Moses didn't just kill Jadon, he also killed a 28 year old woman (Antoinetta McKoy) because she could not have children and she wanted to leave the cult. It sickens me even further that Jadon's own mother denied his existence when she was questioned about the death of her child by authorities. I will never understand the depravity that dwells inside some human beings.
The leader of a religious cult in Durham, N.C. murdered his 4-year-old step son because he thought the child might be gay, according to prosecutors in a court hearing on Friday.
The man is also accused of killing a 28-year-old woman because she could not have children and wanted to leave the cult.
Three women, including Jadon’s mother, Vania Rae Sisk, 25, — who counted themselves as Moses’ “wives or common-law wives” and called him “Lord” — are also charged in connection with the two slayings.
According to prosecutors, Moses feared that Jadon might be gay because the boy’s father had left his mother.
According to the court records, sometime in October 2010, Moses learned that Jadon had hit another child’s rear-end, which he interpreted to be homosexual tendencies.
Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline told the judge that Moses killed Jadon and McKoy because they didn’t fit into his religious beliefs.
“It did not include a 4-year-old who he accused of and thought was a homosexual, and it did not include a woman who could not have children and who was trying to get away from there and we believe at the time was trying to go to the police,” Cline said.
When questioned, Jadon’s mother denied that he ever had existed and police were only able to confirm it when they found a copy of Jadon’s birth certificate.
Prosecutors have received the judge’s permission to seek the death penalty against Moses.