The Point of Exorcism

Via Jason comes a story of a young woman dying during a Buddhist exorcism.

“They allegedly strapped the victim to a chair with belts and doused her face with water,” he said.

She was confirmed dead early the next day when her mother called an ambulance after the girl fell unconscious.

“The cause of death is suffocation,” the police official said.

News reports said the two men poured water over her as an “exorcism” with the father holding the girl down while the monk chanted sutras.

Reports said the girl’s parents had turned to the monk after the youngster had suffered several years of mental and physical ill health that doctors had not been able to resolve.

It’s ugly. It’s tragic. It is also, essentially, the point of exorcism.

Exorcism is a cop-out. It’s a way of saying the people performing the exorcism just aren’t up to the task of humanely dealing with someone. Only it isn’t those people’s fault, of course. It isn’t a question of impatience or lack of skills needed to deal with someone unusual. It’s a demon, and it must be banished.

If the choice were banishing, or outright killing, the person receiving the exorcism instead of torturing them in the name of religion until they break or die, I think the calculus would be different. It is a much harder thing to admit that you can’t handle a person the way they are than to vent your frustrations in the name of “helping them.” The gloss of good and evil and powers beyond what a human can control is a polite, inhumane lie.

So let’s just admit the truth out loud, now and whenever one of these cases comes up. You don’t perform an exorcism if you ever want to see the person in front of you–the person they are now–again. You don’t commit an exorcism unless your intent is to kill.

The Point of Exorcism

5 thoughts on “The Point of Exorcism

  1. 1

    Here’s the part about exorcism that I find amusing. Theists often insist that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    So how can they ascertain that an exorcised subject is free of the evil spirits or whatever demons(?) that had taken it over?

    They cannot (well, they do because they are dishonest hypocrites), and since they cannot, they can never stop the exorcism.

  2. 2

    Strange that the cure always involves pain and suffering for the victim. Theists never decide that group hugs or a holiday in the mountains might get rid of the demons, they always go with sadism.

  3. 4

    Oh wow … exorcism by waterboarding.

    According to the Cultural Affairs Agency, Nakayama-shingo-shoshu was recognised as a religious corporation in 1952. It had about 350 temples and churches nationwide with 305,555 believers as of the end of December 2008.

    Rumor on the web is that it’s one of the many splintered bits of Shingon Buddhism. It has secret doctrines, transmitted orally to initiates by the school’s masters. This is a definite incubator for wackery if any of the initiates has tendencies towards it, because the basic sanity test for “does this agree with what the Buddha taught” can’t be publicly done.

    its doctrines have always been closely guarded secrets, passed down orally through an initiatic chain and never written down. Throughout the centuries, except for the initiated, most of the Japanese common folk knew little about its secretive doctrines and the monks of this “Mantra School” except that besides performing the usual priestly duties of prayers, blessings and funeral rites for the public, they practiced only MikkyŨ, literally “secret ways” in stark contrast to all other Buddhist schools and were called upon to perform mystical rituals that could summon rain, improve harvests, exorcise demons, avert natural disasters, heal the sick and protect the state. The most powerful ones could even render entire armies useless.

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