I spend a great deal of time in the car, and I pass the time with audio books. I’ve finished hundreds of them over the last few years, and I vary the material to cover a wide variety of biographies, non-fiction, educational, historical and fiction. As a result, I have been exposed to a wide range of human depravity, both real and fictional. Between dictators, serial killers, highly dysfunctional families, fictional criminals, and detailed analysis of the criminally insane mind, I thought I had heard it all when it comes to the depths of human depravity. Then I happened upon a book that made much of that pale in comparison. That book is “Finding Me”, by Michelle Knight.

Michelle was the first of the three young women who were kidnapped by Ariel Castro in Cleveland. She was held captive for eleven years before the women finally escaped in May of 2013. Although all three women endured unspeakable cruelty, her story was something that I simply wasn’t prepared for. I was prepared to hear about her being used as a sex slave, but the mental, sociological and physical abuse she suffered was beyond anything I could have imagined.

To make matters much worse, this poor young woman came from a life of poverty, where she was routinely raped by a family member, and had lived through a period of homelessness, and had her two year old child taken away by child services because of the actions of her mother’s boyfriend. The child couldn’t be in the same house as him for his own safety, and on the day she was snatched, she was trying to get to an appointment with the courts to get him back. There was almost nothing in her upbringing that was positive, except for the extreme love she felt for her son, which was the one thing that allowed her to endure the most disgusting, humiliating, depraved cruelty that I have ever heard of. In the end, she and the other two victims escaped, but by that time her son had been adopted to a good family. It was decided by all involved that the best thing for the child would be to not be made aware of his past, and for mother and child to not be reunited. It makes the movie “Cast Away” look like a trivial concept.

The whole book is jarring to the extreme, but I want to highlight the religious component of it. The last of the three young women to be snatched, Amanda Berry, became pregnant as the result of being routinely raped by Castro. Michelle became pregnant several times over the course of her imprisonment for the same reason, but each time Castro kicked her in the stomach until she miscarried, then would beat her violently after claiming the pregnancy was her fault, then punishing her with more beatings after accusing her of aborting his baby. To add to that sickness, he would constantly remind her how not a single one of her family members was looking for her, which was unfortunately true. But back to the religious part, Castro actually was excited about having a baby by Amanda. Towards the end, he was attending church every Sunday with the six year old child, because he felt that she needed to be taught about God.

Equally confounding, Michelle became more religious throughout the ordeal. At one point, she was so sick from his abuse that she was on death’s door, and claims to have had a near death experience with the whole white light thing and god’s voice telling her it wasn’t her time yet. She credits God with her surviving that moment. As an atheist, I simply cannot understand how anyone could come to that conclusion, given the lifetime of suffering she had endured. Regardless, I would like to take this opportunity to promote this book. Without reading this memoir, I doubt that anyone could possibly comprehend what this woman went through, as well as the two other victims. It is horrific.

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I think most everyone is familiar with the fact that these abductions happened, since it was widely publicized. The book, however, goes into great detail of how Michelle and the other two were treated during this horrific period. To really understand how bad this situation was, you would need to read the book.

I can somewhat understand how someone from a normal walk of life, who experiences a NDE, could be convinced that it is the evidence they need to prove god exists. I don't agree (obviously), but it is a very unique and personal experience, so their conclusion is not so bewildering to me. What is bewildering is how someone whose life has been utterly filled with suffering and despair could suddenly be convinced that there is a god.

Where the hell was this god when her fetuses were being kicked to death? When she was being raped multiple times a day for years on end? Or when Castro was raping the 14 year old that Michelle was chained up to 24/7? When she was denied a stitch of clothing or a shower for months at a time, and came close to freezing to death? Did god not care that she had to cut her hair off before she was finally allowed a shower, because it was so matted with her abductor's semen that it couldn't even be washed? Where was god when she was being forced to dig her own grave in frozen soil? How about when he forced her to eat mustard, which he knew she was highly allegic to, and she almost died from over the course of the following week? These are the kinds of details that I'm talking about.

To think that god stepped in at the last second before all these years of violence took their final toll, and sent her back to the living "because it wasn't her time yet" - it is profoundly absurd to see this as a loving god. With a god that won't step in to end that kind of suffering, who needs a Satan?
To add to this point, what these girls wanted was for Castro to not get the death penalty, but to suffer as a prisoner for the rest of his life. He got life plus 1,000 years for his crimes. He wound up dying only one month into his sentence from autoerotic asphixiation in his cell. Where the hell was god then?! Why not step in and and tell that monster it's not HIS time to go yet?!




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