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Sat Oct 25 04:52:16 SAST 2014

Moral disgust at Discovery won't be exorcised

Bruce Gorton | 08 May, 2012 08:18
People dressed in costume carrying lit crucifixes. File picture
Image by: LUKE MACGREGOR / REUTERS

Sceptics often face the argument that we should just leave the promotion superstition alone, that it is all just harmless fun.

That is how we tend to see shows about people who hunt ghosts, or seek out UFOs, or believe they can talk to the dead – harmless nonsense.

The belief in exorcism is not harmless.

2010 – A Malaysian girl managed to escape after being tortured for a month in an attempted exorcism.

2011 - A Japanese girl is not so lucky. Her father and a monk strapped her to a chair and doused her face with water until she suffocated to death.

2011 – A priest and five members of his congregation get bail in a case in which they are accused of beating a ten year old child to death in an attempted exorcism.

2012 – A Congolese couple in Britain is found guilty of torturing and drowning a boy for being a witch. They had also tortured and denied food to two of the child’s sisters in a bid to rid them of evil spirits.

Not one of these people doing any of that was actually at heart a bad person – they all simply believed that evil spirits were attacking their loved ones, and they wanted those evil spirits to stop.

And that belief in evil spirits meant they did the horrific.

They honestly believed they were doing the right thing – even as they tortured and murdered their loved ones. We in educated modern pop culture know its nonsense, but not everyone is from educated modern pop culture, and we are reluctant to issue warnings.

On Saturday I was watching the Discovery Channel, in which a programme called The Exorcist Files was repeatedly advertised.

It proclaimed itself to be stories about exorcists’ first hand "experiences of evil" while doing their jobs.

Discovery knows quite well what a belief in evil spirits inhabiting people begets, what that brand of superstition means for all too many people.

We as a country feel perfectly comfortable moralising about porn, and the potential for harm there. We feel perfectly comfortable not allowing porn channels on moral grounds.

That documentary played at the scheduled time, with nary a peep from the so-called moral guardians of our society.

Because it is religion, moral objections are slow in coming.

How can we as a culture, as a world, slam those who fall for this sort of thing complete with tragic results, when we have it being promoted on the Discovery Channel? How can we blame people for falling for it? It is not harmless fun, it is killing children for ratings.

And we are all too reluctant to break the polite silence.

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