From the Guardian, a reminder (as if one were needed) that religion will always be with us:
In a country that wakes up every Monday morning to a dismal tally of weekend murders, it is no surprise that people have turned to the saints for help. But the holy men invoked in Venezuela are anything but virtuous. In a nation with one of the highest murder rates in the world – a staggering 14,000 a year on average – where locals often joke that they would be safer if they lived in Baghdad, even the beatified carry guns.
Welcome to the cult of Ismael and the Holy Thugs, a curious blend of spiritualism and hero worship that comes with its own quirky iconography: chiefly garish figurines with baseball caps on back to front, cigarettes dangling from their mouths and guns stuffed into their belts. Ismael and his posse are the latest addition to the María Lionza cult, a religion that believes the dead coexist with the living and can be channelled through medium-like people.
Read the whole thing.