Autism or Demonic Possession?

matthew's picture

Minister charged with abuse in boy's death

A church minister was charged Tuesday with physical abuse of a child in the
death of an 8-year-old autistic boy who died as church leaders tried to
heal him at a storefront church in Milwaukee.

This so-called "minister" sat on a kid for two hours, suffocating him to death, in trying to drive out the "demons" that caused his autism. The mother of the boy helped hold him down as he was murdered in the name of religion. And people wonder why I insist that rationality, not emotion or the supernatural, govern my life.

Far worse tragedies have occurred in the name of a god, but none so recent as of this writing.

My daughter is turning 8 years old in a few months. This boy was 8. It makes me wish some form of divine Justice would intervene to show this minister what a horrible death he gave this boy, to have the life crushed out of you by an overweight sweaty man screaming at the top of his lungs.

Jim Stingl has something to say about this case. Here are some compelling excerpts:

Parents of children with autism will tell you how challenging and
frustrating it can be to deal with the disorder and the behavioral problems
it causes. Terrance's mom, Patricia Cooper, apparently thought she found a
shortcut.

She helped hold her 8-year-old son motionless while church elder Ray
Hemphill, who admits to having no formal theological training, lay on the
child to drive out the evil spirit that wasn't there in the first place.
For two sweaty hours, Hemphill ordered demons to leave Terrance. When he
was finished, the poor boy had suffocated and was soaked with his own urine
from the ordeal...

You can almost imagine God looking down on the twisted scene and saying,
keep me out of this. If you go to this church and you have heart disease or
you need a liver transplant, you might want to keep it to yourself...

Hemphill's brother, Faith Temple Church Pastor David Hemphill, said the
church would not change the way it operates. He sounds insulted that anyone
would question him or his church, even when a boy is dead.

The minister should not be faced with felony child abuse. He should be prosecuted for murder, homicide, or manslaughter. Belief in the supernatural is no excuse for killing another person.

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Timpane's picture

To retort

Okay..
Here I am, the apologetic non mormon christian Matt so often references.

Matt relates that this poor boy was murdered in the name of religion. I agree. Matt also states that this boy was murdered in the name of "A God", and this too is true. Perhaps he was even murdered in the name of the Christian God. Anyone can do anything they want in God's NAME.

But certainly not in God's WILL.

I share Matt's outrage at this event.. but I see it as a possibility to express a phenomenon I have noticed about the horrible actions of sincerely wrong people.

A common mistake one can make is to judge God or a belief in him based on the stupidity of one weirdo in wisconsin. For instance, from time to time, you hear that a doctor will mistakenly kill a patient, or a postal employee will kill a customer, or a businessman will kill his wife...

the problem is not with medicine, the postal service, business, or God. The problem is people do stupid and horrible things sometimes. And as an apologetic for God, I find too often that people will disavow his existence by citing the horrible actions of his followers.

To do something in the name of God is different than doing something in the WILL of God.

JT

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

matthew's picture

The Will of God?

Obiously, I don't entirely agree...

A common mistake one can make is to judge God or a belief in him based on the stupidity of one weirdo in wisconsin ... I find too often that people will disavow his existence by citing the horrible actions of his followers.

While I agree that you cannot accurately assess an entire culture, race, religion, or other group with a broad brush based on the action of an individual of that group (stereotyping), the fundamental irrationality of their actions based on a belief is what appals me. I mean, what did he expect when he sat on a boy for two hours? I bet if I sat on my kids for thirty seconds they'd be unable to breathe, and the few times I held them down to give them medicine they complained to high heaven about the same thing.

That is the heart of the matter for me. The only evidences we possess for the existence of any supreme being or other supernatural creature are subjective or anecdotal. The plural of anecdote is not "data", and data is what we need to come to a truly educated decision.

To paraphrase another man's story:

There was once a wise man in India who believed that if he poured fresh cow urine over his head each day, he would enjoy healthier life and greater wisdom. For many years, he practiced his belief, continually seeking out the freshest and purest cow urine he could find. Then one day, noticing that he appeared no wiser or healthier, he realized that cow piss stinks, and his practice was of dubious benefit.

He began to lay off the urine, and discovered there were benefits to avoiding that behavior, such as a social life and unstained clothing. Yet there were many of his followers who considered him a fallen leader for abandoning this practice. He pleaded with them in vain to lay off the cow urine, because it had obvious unpleasant social and quality of lie implications, but convinced few.

Finally, one day he decided "if they want to pour cow urine over their heads, let them."

Ok, it's a strange story. But the point is that we build up these arbitrary sets of belief that we do not question until forced to do so, and fundamentally those questions which cannot be empirically tested to determine their veracity are worthless. Consider "Does God exist?" It would be exceptionally difficult to sit down world religious leaders in a room and decide this question, because first you must decide what the characteristics of God are, that His existence or not could be quantified. I can ask the question "Does oxygen exist?" and be able to come up with definable characteristics with others on what the evidence of oxygen's existence is, and this evidence is not subject to interpretation because oxygen's properties are well known. The same cannot be said of any supernatural being, because the existence of such is not testable.

Once we can begin to evaluate the effectiveness of a certain strategy at, for instance, dealing with mental illess such as autism, we can begin to treat the disease logically. I see a rampant problem in my Latter-Day Saint community, for instance, in dealing with mental illness and depression. My neighbor has been unemployed for over year, and confessed that he's feeling very depressed and sad about this. Rather than seeking professional help, or even many friends to help him deal with his depression, he feels that if he reads his scriptures and prays more, it will be lifted. If it is not lifted, it is evidence that he is not reading and praying hard enough or earnestly enough, or that there is some other blemish in his life preventing him from receiving blessings from the Lord.

This reminds me of the record album of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which a professor of logic expounds,

For example, given the premise, "all fish live underwater" and "all mackerel are fish", my wife will conclude, not that "all mackerel live underwater", but that "if she buys kippers it will not rain", or that "trout live in trees", or even that "I do not love her any more." This she calls "using her intuition". I call it "crap", and it gets me very *irritated* because it is not logical.

. The weird thing is, people actually make these kinds of conclusions: that if someone acts strange, they are possessed by invisible demons; that rain dances cause rain; that thunder is the gods bowling. If we were to all "trust our feelings" in scientific endeavors, we'd be feeling good but not making progress. A great little quote I read the other day, but I don't know who it belongs to:

To do something only because it makes you feel good is as unconscionable as to accept a great sum of money without knowing its origin.

Anyway, I've posted long enough, and I'm certain I'm largely incoherent given the time of night and my lack of sleep. There is a great deal we do not yet understand about our universe, so I only have faith in one thing: that ultimately, everything makes sense. And I almost have faith in one other thing: nobody has all the answers. Which means that while everything may actually make sense, it won't all make sense to me. We're all going to make a ton of mistakes while we figure stuff out, but if there are any 'sacred' or 'secret' questions that should not be asked, or if they have answers that should not be challenged because they come from "authority", then they are probably exactly the type of questions or practices that should be challenged.

--
Matthew P. Barnson

Timpane's picture

Religion vs. God

Your response is Both well written and well thought out, and I would have expected nothing less.

About:
"I agree that you cannot accurately assess an entire culture, race, religion, or other group with a broad brush based on the action of an individual of that group

I do in fact agree with you on this point. However, my thesis, if you will, is not that one person cannot speak for a religion, but that one person cannot speak for God.

About:
"The only evidences we possess for the existence of any supreme being or other supernatural creature are subjective or anecdotal"

This is in itself an interesting point. I would have a hard time proving to you that my wife loves me, or even that I love her, or that I am happy, or that I have any likes, dislikes, or opinions, without citing subjective and anecdotal evidence. Indeed, "I think, therefore I am" remains the most compelling argument for existence, and it can be that way with God. It is not that there is no evidence for the existence of God, and especially the validity of Christ. (See http://www.the-case-for-christ.com/). Many of the scholars responsible for the prevalent theories of evolution have since changed their minds and come to the conclusion that there is no way biology could work the way it does without intelligent design.

The evidence is not the point, though. My "truly educated decision" that my wife loves me comes from mounds and mounds of anecdotal evidence and subjective data.. but to reject that decision would be absurd. If I rely purely on empirical data for this, I will ultimately reject any love that is offered me, and come to the conclusion that since I can only be sure that I love, I must be the only one who does.

Okay, it's hyperbole, but you get my point.

About:
"he feels that if he reads his scriptures and prays more, it will be lifted. If it is not lifted, it is evidence that he is not reading and praying hard enough or earnestly enough, or that there is some other blemish in his life preventing him from receiving blessings from the Lord."

This is an interesting point indeed, because it is where my faith differs from this man's. It certainly is within God's power to lift the depression. It is also certainly within the power of medicine to assist this man. I have never been a fan of "works based blessings" and certainly of the idea that this man's prayer might not be earnest enough. My familiarity with LDS doctrine is really high for a non mormon, but not for a mormon. Most non-mormon faiths would not condemn this man for his shortcomings, but rather focus on the given opportunity to grow.. and would suggest this man get counseling if he needs it.
God is not a cosmic vending machine.. insert earnest obedience, get immediate satisfaction.

Finally About:
"if there are any 'sacred' or 'secret' questions that should not be asked, or if they have answers that should not be challenged because they come from "authority", then they are probably exactly the type of questions or practices that should be challenged"

I was very very close to converting to Mormonism at one point in my life.. and one of the reasons I did not was this simple fact. I believe, and the Bible backs me up here, that there are NO sacred or secret questions that someone has the answer to that should be kept from anyone. if someone is an authority on God's law and his Word, it is not only their right but their responsibility to share it with anyone who wants to know. This is the strongly held belief of most Christian churches.

So, as I wrap up "airing my dirty laundry in public" let me say that there is difference between Religion and God. Ultimately, yes, it comes down to faith.. and I will not be able to give you God's phone number or the chemical equation for faith.

But, just as the argument for God seems to break down when you start from the assumption that God does not exist and is a creation of Religion.. so too does the argument against God break down when you start from the assumption that God is a real, sentient being. Suddenly the arguments about "all faiths" or religions become very moot. If there is a God, he is one way, because he is real. That being said, what is his nature? It goes from there.

Man oh man its late.
JT

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

matthew's picture

Long dissertation on your reply...

By the way, Justin, did you know that you can use bold, italics,
underlines, hyperlinks, lists (both
ordered and unordered) and even more tags on comments?  They are
listed below the comment text entry field -- if there's a tag you'd like
me to allow, let me know and I'll evaluate whether or not it's safe to
include.  It can make formatting much easier :)



Anyway, on to the discussion:

I do in fact agree with you on this point. However, my
thesis, if you will, is not that one person cannot speak for a religion,
but that one person cannot speak for God.

The problem with this thesis is that it contradicts Biblical history.
 The Bible is rife with prophets authoritatively speaking in the
name of God, and to deny this history is to deny the underpinning of
Christianity.  However, just like in our phone conversation
regarding a similar topic (the infallibility of the Bible), I'll let you
have a way out:  maintain that there have been no prophets since
Jesus Christ, since he did away with the old traditions on his coming.



Unfortunately, at that point you're arguing theology, and it sure feels
like a weasely way to get out of the whole prophet tradition.  I
explicitly reject extraordinary claims, such as the existence of an
all-powerful supernatural being or a fat, bearded man that rides a
sleigh to the home of every Christian child on the planet one night a
year.  Such claims require extraordinary proof.



Which segues nicely into the next topic:

I would have a hard time proving to you that my wife loves
me, or even that I love her, or that I am happy, or that I have any
likes, dislikes, or opinions, without citing subjective and anecdotal
evidence ... If I rely purely on
empirical data [that my wife loves me], I will ... come to
the conclusion that since I can only be sure
that I love, I must be the only one who
does.

Unfortunately, your conclusion does not follow, for two reasons:

  •  It would be possible to document what it is your wife does
    for you, using a video camera.  Although I'm certain there are
    expressions of your love best left unvideotaped :)  One could
    monitor your heart rate and breathing when in the presence of your
    beloved, and verify evidence of physical attraction (although, to be
    honest, after many years of marriage that may be undetectable).
     Although it's possible the documented evidence could be faked,
    without good reason to assume so, we can safely assume she is acting in
    a manner consistent with widely-known behavior indicating a loving
    relationship.  Because it's possible
    that she is faking it, it does not follow that she is.  Here's
    where the often-fallible, but still-useful principle of Occam's Razor
    comes in: all else being equal, which is more likely?  That your
    wife loves you, or that she's faking it?  Of course, the question
    of what love is is also difficult, because you begin to plunge into the
    world of faith there too, where humanity has a very hard time describing
    exactly what it is we're talking about.  Love seems to be a
    combination of many behaviors and emotions wrapped in a tight little
    bundle that varies from person to person.
  • You gave me a really good straw man to knock down there saying "I
    must be the only one who does".  Occam's razor comes into play
    again: is it more likely that I am the only human being who experiences
    these emotions and customs, or is my experience likely similar to that
    of other human beings?  Empirical evidence, on its own, is not
    enough.  You must also use logic to determine what follows, and
    either observation or experimentation in controlled conditions to
    determine the result.  This is one of the problems in attempting to
    use science on evolutionary theory: the time scales involved are
    prohibitively long for experimentation and analysis.  We can only
    rely on the fossil record, and that gives us only a minute glimpse into
    history; most creatures don't leave endoskeletal or intact DNA remains.

Next point:

God is not a cosmic vending machine.. insert earnest
obedience, get immediate satisfaction.

That's not an argument I'm really qualified to comment on.  Faith
versus works is a question best left to those for whom it's relevant.
 I have no faith, (in the limited meaning of belief in something
for which there is empirical evidence) therefore, I judge based on
works.  It comes back to that "how do you show you love someone".
 I mean, how do I know you're really my friend?  I don't.
 You might just be acting.  But your actions indicate
friendship, and I am willing to accept that at face value unless you do
something inconsistent with that viewpoint.


I believe, and the Bible backs me up here, that there are
NO sacred or secret questions that someone has the answer to that should
be kept from anyone.



That's an interesting viewpoint versus the LDS "sacred, not secret"
doctrine.   I'd caveat that not every Christian sect goes along
with that interpretation -- particularly those with greater adherence
to certain Old Testament doctrines regarding association with
unbelievers and temple worship (such as the many variants of the Mormon
church., for example).  However, some take the evidence of refusal
to associate with nonbelievers or disclose certain practices as a
primary indicator of "cult", or "brainwashing" behavior.  


But, just as the argument for God seems to break down when
you start from the assumption that God does not exist and is a creation
of Religion.. so too does the argument against God break down when you
start from the assumption that God is a real, sentient being. Suddenly
the arguments about "all faiths" or religions become very moot. If
there is a God, he is one way, because he is real. That being said,
what is his nature? It goes from there.



But that is the assumption at the core of the argument.  I would
maintain it is the religious mindset -- that there can be an absolute authority on
something, including a "god" -- that leads men to abandon reason and
act in incredibly destructive fashion.  To even begin an argument
with the assumption that there is a sentient being who possesses
abilities so far out of the experience of your average human as to be
incomprehensible presupposes a lot.



A great illustration of this came about with the release of John
Krakauer's book, "Under the Banner of Heaven".  The story is
rather intricate, but to sum it up, two brothers were members of a
fundamentalist Mormon sect.  One brother claimed that he had a
prophecy that his former sister-in-law (I think) had to die in order to
fulfill God's purposes.  This type of prophecy has ample Biblical
precedent.  His brother agreed, and headed down to Florida to
accomplish the execution.



The brother who had the prophecy and commanded the execution is now
facing death by firing squad in Utah.  The one who carried out the
murders is in prison for life.  Neither one of them recants or
repents, and both steadfastly maintain the prophecy was true and
necessary, despite the detrimental impact it had on their lives.



In their trial, the most basic question came up: because these two
brothers acted on religious belief that the murder was necessary, were
they insane?  This was hotly discussed in the courtroom, as the
lawyer for the defense went against the wishes of his clients and
pursued the insanity avenue.  Ultimately, the court ruled the
brothers responsible for their actions, regardless of motivation, and
sentenced them without insanity figuring into the proceedings.



The obvious conclusion is that the brother sentenced to death was a
self-serving charlatan, and his sibling serving life in prison his
gullible accomplice.  The same is often said about Joseph Smith
and other modern-day prophets.  But, if we insist that prophets today
are self-serving charlatans, would it not follow that those of old
suffer the same failings?  If we excuse them due to antiquity, we
are suffering under the logical fallacy that because something is old,
it must be correct.  If one assumes God is real, but that there
are charlatans who pretend to speak for him, how can one distinguish
the false from the real?



How do I know you're my friend?  How do I know my wife loves me?



The religious answer is to trust your feelings.



The rationalist answer is you cannot know, but can come to an educated
conclusion based on the facts and logic and possibly be right.



The core of the question is not presupposing the existence of God, but
whether feelings, or "spirit", are an adequate indicator of the truth
of something.



My starting position is that feelings, or "the spirit", is both
inadequate and very often wrong.

The senseless death of the 8-year-old boy who sparked this thread is ample evidence to support such a position.

--
Matthew P. Barnson

Timpane's picture

An interesting discussion..

First, let me begin by saying that I have found this discussion to be gratifying and interesting.

Second, let me state that my HTML is terrible, so I won't risk putting everything in pink letters by trying it.

Third, let me insert no comment on the videotape section... =)

Fourth, for compelling arguments and evidence about the existence of God, may I suggest http://www.is-god--real.com/ and http://www.the-case-for-christ.com/Does-God-Exist.htm

Fifth, a lot of your argument centers around the idea of modern day prophets. The way out you have given me is indeed the one I will take, since I can not think of a single individual after the Twelve that I would consider to be prophets. Certainly scripture teaches we can commune with the spirit, but it does not hold that there are Prophets, so to speak, alive today. This is another widely helf LDS belief (shared by many in my Catholic family) but mainstream protestant christianity holds this to be true.

So, it is not really using theology to weasel out of an argument. It is a simple fact; I do not believe that there are any modern day prophets who can claim to speak for God. I haven't since I left the Catholic faith fifteen years ago.

I'm glad you responded as you did to my "Love" argument. The fact is, I can point to a number of things God has Done for me. I can document the physical reactions I have to praying.. but we're talking about subjective experience in both Love and God. I can be "acting in a manner consistent with widely-known behavior indicating" communion with God, but that neither proves nor disproves anything.

So, since Love and God fall into the same categories, why does one exist and the other does not? "Occam's Razor" can be used to ask the question is it more likely that varying people through varying cultures, over thousands of years, can point to common experiences in communin with Christ, or that we all imagine this experience. It is a weak argument, but no weaker than using the "razor" to argue the opposite.

Yes I did give you a straw man. I knew it when i did.. but it does take the argument to the Nth degree. The argument of "God does not exist because I cannot give you scientific evidence that he does" is to give far too much power to our limited minds. I believe that others Love and I believe that God exists.

Old Testament doctrines regarding association with unbelievers and temple worship (such as the many variants of the Mormon church., for example). However, some take the evidence of refusal to associate with nonbelievers or disclose certain practices as a primary indicator of "cult", or "brainwashing" behavior.

This is not an argument here. I reject all churches who keep secrets from people who want to know about God. A theological point: when Christ died, according to scripture, the curtain in the temple that was used to siphon off the most holy place from those who were too "unclean" to enter was ripped from top to bottom. Those old practices were destroyed at that moment.. that is the Doctrinal point of Grace. So on this point I fully agree.

I would maintain it is the religious mindset -- that there can be an absolute authority on something, including a "god" -- that leads men to abandon reason and act in incredibly destructive fashion.

My Straw Man has a friend. This same "God" or as you might call it "Religious mindset", has led men to create societies, give to the poor, stop drinking, forgive enemies, maintain marriages, and do countless good things. I certainly have never "abandoned reason and acted in an incredibly destructive fashion."

And here's an interesting crux to leave you with.

If you assume, as most Christians do that the vast majority of those who "speak for God" are at best just quoting the scripture provided in the bible, worse, confused and missing the point, and quite often Charlatans, so NOBODY can really claim that they "speak for God". There are most likely NO "prophets today"..

And you assume, as most Christians do, that the "spirit" has no single identifiable physical sensation, and that "trusting your feelings" as a sole basis for decisions is unwise in the extreme.

Then the argument that God cannot be real because of the horrible things done in his name is inadequate.

I agree that the stories you have pointed out and the illustrations you have given are moving, but they are anecdotal. I believe that horrible things are done in the name of religion. I am not a fan of organized religion.

But it is unfair to judge God based on the few horrible but well publicized events committed by those who try to speak in the name of God and fail through their inability to adhere to the second of the greatest commandments, "Love your neighbor as yourself".

I agree that this poor boy should not have had to die. I would hope this "Minister" sits on his knees every day for the rest of his life and weeps as he begs forgiveness for disobeying God's will and doing so in God's name.

[EDIT by matthew: Corrected some spelling, punctuation, and capitalization (for consistency). You put too much effort into this post to have trivial stuff detract from it. Hope you don't mind.]

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

matthew's picture

Logical Fallacies, and a call for individual responsibility

Ahh, responses responses... emphasis in your arguments are mine. Please note that when I refer to agnostics or atheists, I am not referring to those who insist there are no such things as gods ("strong atheism"). I think such a position is indefensible, in the same way that belief in God is ultimately indefensible in non-subjective reality.

a lot of your argument centers around the idea of modern day prophets

Now that I realize that you place no stock in that idea (hey, cut me some slack for my Mormon upbringing), I'll discard it. However, your flavor of Christianity still places emphasis on personal communication with deity, so my points regarding modern-day prophecy may still valid in the context of individuals receiving inspiration from God, no? Perhaps this is not prophecy in the context of "a man that speaks for God", but it still is prophecy in the sense that "God gave me this knowledge" -- or, from my point of view, a subjective religious experience.

The argument of "God does not exist because I cannot give you scientific evidence that he does."

I have not ever said that. This is argumentum ad ignorantiam, meaning "argument from ignorance." The fallacy occurs when it's argued that something must be true, simply because it hasn't been proved false. Or, conversely, when it is argued that something must be false because it hasn't been proved true. Either position is equally unsupportable.

In addition, you are here attempting to shift the burden of proof. I make no assertion regarding the existence of a God, except that I do not know, although I consider such a thing probably unknowable and, at the least, highly unlikely. When one person (you, in this case) makes an assertion that such a thing is so, it falls upon the person making the assertion to provide the evidence, not the other way around :)

So, since Love and God fall into the same categories, why does one exist and the other does not?

I have not asserted that love exists any more than I have asserted that God exists. I have asserted that we can identify behaviors commonly associated with "love". I'm fairly confident in assuming, as well, that love is very different to different people. I love my wife, and by that statement I imply a commitment, desire to raise children, physical attraction, trust, acceptance of flaws, feeling of connection, common interests, and more. Bundling it into one word seems cheap, yet enumerating the components doesn't do justice to the whole. We throw this term around a lot, just like "God", yet if you ask 50 people what it means, you'll get 50 different answers.

Love, too, appears to have no objective reality outside the minds of those people who are experiencing it. You can no more experience my feelings of love firsthand than I can come to know your God-experiences firsthand.

I choose to live in a manner consistent with belief in love, as I find it has practical benefits, in the same way that I live in a manner consistent with the belief that, ultimately, every natural phenomenon has an explanation understandable by humanity, or my belief that humanity is fundamentally good. Love is, unfortunately, a word heavily hung with meaning and yet, like God, devoid of absolute definition. I am devoted to my wife and family, have continuing physical and mental attraction toward my spouse, and regard my marital commitments as the most serious contract I have made in my life. I consider that "love". Your mileage may vary.

This same "God" or as you might call it "Religious mindset", has led men to create societies, give to the poor, stop drinking, forgive enemies, maintain marriages, and do countless good things.

This is a classic example of First Cause Fallacy. You presuppose that people would not do these in the absence of religion. This particular form of the first cause fallacy is called "cum hoc, ergo propter hoc", or the assertion that because two events occur together, they must be causally related -- that because a person does something good for someone else, and believes in gods, that therefore that person did so because of said belief in gods. The "good things" you refer to appear to be common human social behaviors, regardless of religious persuasion or ethnicity.

This may also be considered "non causa pro causa" -- that you've identified something as the cause of a behavior, yet failed to prove why it is the cause and not an unrelated phenomenon.

I certainly have never "abandoned reason and acted in an incredibly destructive fashion."

Unfortunately, another logical fallacy. This is an example of observational selection, or "counting the hits and ignoring the misses". Because you believe in a god, and have not abandoned reason, is not sufficient evidence to conclude that all (or even most) who believe in a god do likewise. Once again, the story sparking this thread provides evidence that at least two people abandoned reason and acted in an incredibly destructive fashion. History, and the Bible, are rife with further examples of conquest, genocide, hatred, deity-approved incest and torture, and other reprehensible behaviors. The divinely-inspired slaughter of the inhabitants of the Palestine area by the Hebrews migrating from Egypt at the time of the Exodus is but one example.

I do not wish to be guilty of the same fallacy in reverse, of "counting the misses and ignoring the hits". Great good, and evil, have both been done in the name of the Hebrew god. This itself is neither an accusation of deity nor a justification for agnosticism -- merely examples showing that my statement is true. The ostensible "will of God" has been the nominal excuse for monstrous behavior in the past, present, and probably will in the future. Assuming there is a God, however, I agree with the original article commentator: I would picture such a God saying "Dude, keep me out of this, I had nothing to do with it."

Ultimately, I think the problem boils down to a failure of individuals to take responsibility for their actions. I suffer from a similar failure from time to time, and I'm sure most others do as well. Religion is simply the most obvious example, the "low-hanging fruit" to pick on for numerous and gratuitous examples of extreme behavior in this regard. On the other hand, in my admittedly limited experience, agnosticism/atheism generally appears to stem from an overwhelming sense of self-responsiblity, a desire to be completely accountable in all one's actions, and a need for logical justification and self-exploration in not abdicating responsibility for any portion of one's life to anyone -- including a mythical god.

But it is unfair to judge God based on the few horrible but well publicized events committed by those who try to speak in the name of God and fail through their inability to adhere to the second of the greatest commandments, "Love your neighbor as yourself".

Here we seem to agree. I do not judge God -- how can I judge something which I do not know exists? If we chose to judge "John Doe God" in absentia, how could we possibly pin these crimes on him? People claim he said one thing, but that kind of evidence is inadmissible in court because it is hearsay. He is not available to present evidence on his own behalf, nor could the prosecution build a demonstrable case against this John Doe, because he does not appear to do anything on his own power. Many Agnostics and Atheists would rise to the defense of this John.

"We, the atheist 10-14% of the world, propose the case be dismissed as the evidence is both inadmissible in court, and the identity of the accused cannot be correlated closely enough with the various claims of his appearance, behavior, and manner of speech to verify identity," states the amicus brief to the court.

And the judge throws the case out, since the evidence is circumstantial and based on hearsay, and the identity of the suspect cannot be established.

I'm not trying to peg this incident on God. Why should I, when I think that would be like playing "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" in an empty parking lot? I am pegging these horrible incidents on human fallibility, a great portion of which is due to a problem called "false authority". Someone claims to be an authority, and we accept his/her statements as fact without critical thinking, laying our conscience on the table for him or her to subvert as we do so. This frequently leads to tragedy, as the above incident attests. This behavior concentrates power in the hands of the few, and grants it to the ecclesiastical leaders, persuasive orators, or wily politicians of our time.

If one does not take the reins of one's own conscience, then who is holding them?

Since the subject has moved to human fallibility and false authority syndrome, and I fear that if we continue along this line we'll shortly end up repeating ourselves like millions of other amateur philosophers and religious apologists past and present, I recommend we commence the discussion on my more recent blog entry. Bill Whittle's excellent article addresses this subversion of individual will to group mentality, and makes a profound case for individual responsibility in our actions.

--
Matthew P. Barnson

Timpane's picture

Ultimately good

Once upon a time, on a ride across Montgomery County Maryland, as I was a freshman in high school, my one 12th grade friend said to me that it is through the discussion of the truth that we might get closer to it.

I feel this way as well.. I could, of course, argue the point further and go on ad infinitum, as could you. All in all, the exercise of the mind has been fun, and now.. back to blogs on audio production and bandwidth.

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

You either believe or your dont...

If you are a Christian, you must one day come to a place where you must either choose to believe that the bible is true or that it isn't. If you believe it to be true, if you believe that these words are inspired by God, and you truely believe in Him, then you have quite a delemma...either everything in the bible is true, or the whole of it is false. And demonic possession (and the presence of an supreme evil both spiritually and corporally) is a reality in the bible.

I read the earlier posts. I wonder why no one asked the question why it took so many people to hold down an 8 year old disabled child...perhaps at that moment, was the child so strengthened by a demonic entitity that it required enough people to smother the child just to hold him down? I am not apologizing for what was obviously a poorly prepared team of Christians who believed they were facing an ulitmate evil. That the excorism was administered with such sophomoric skill by ill prepared but well meaning lay people is a tragedy. The evil certainly won in this case...distroying not only the child victim but an entire congregation...but it is a dangerous path to follow to deny God, deny His truth revealed, and deny the existance of evil or God's power the deliver us from it. Remember the oft used clich'e: the best trick the Devil ever played was in making us believe he doesn't exist...

Timpane's picture

Back down now.

Do you know for sure, for very, very certain that this was not autism, that it was a demon posession? Do you know for absolute certain that this un-ordained minister was correct in his assumption that demons had possessed this child?

If you are not, then in the name of the great commission (and I DO believe you know what THAT is) back down and recant now.

You are taking a side that is unwinnable, unpopular, easily misinterpreted and probably wrong.

I don't deny God's truth, the existence of evil, or God's power to deliver us. I know you must be (I pray) trying to use this as the opportunity to extol the position that God is Real.. and I agree with you on that point.. but unless you have a supernatural smoking gun, do NOT speak in the name of Christians and DARE to embrace an act that will turn non-christians away from us.

You post as a sniper, a drive-by evangelist, and it shows lack of responsibility and maturity to associate God's Truth with this incident. What did Saul (later called Paul) do in the name of what he thought was righteousness? You weild the power to turn people away just by making snap judgments and preaching demonism before love and exorcism before grace.

I can't prove that this was not a demonic posession, but whatever it was, it was not a demon that killed this boy. It was overzealous so-called Christians whose radical actions are in the minority. While the rest of us are trying to fight against the reputation of being judgmental, bible-thumping zealots. 90% of us are not.

PLEASE, I beg you, do not, do not, do not take radical positions that seem very very wrong and preach them publicly to an unbelieving public. Show love, please.

I'm sorry if its harsh, but please try to see how it might look from the outside. I DON'T think this was a demonic posession. I can only see one place where evil was done. And it was not on the part of the boy. I don't want to be in the same boat with these people.

Nothing personal. I know you are trying to do good. I understand that. I praise your intentions. Just temper the methods... there's a lot of love to be shared first.

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

Killing a child in the name of God

Killing a child in the name of God is murder. Remember all you "good christians" out there the Big G gave man 10 commandments, one of them reads "Don't kill" the commandment does not give exceptions or give extenduating circumstances".

I don't know which is worse the "Born Again Christians" or the Moslems, fanatical is fanatical. A madness born of ignorance and intolerance.......................cmh

Timpane's picture

Well.. there's the problem, huh?

I will use this belligerent, axe to grind, prejudiced, hateful, and personally insulting post to make a point.

Born Again Christians are not, by and large, ignorant or intolerant.. THEREFORE, to claim that they are is IGNORANT of the truth about their nature. To then label them as mad and fanatical and take a chance to slam the muslims as well is INTOLERANT.

Now, what is that word when you accuse someone of doing the very thing you do? What was it again?

Edit by matthew: Fixed a couple tpyos.

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

Tpyos?

Tpyos?

ran into that sort of thing,

ran into that sort of thing, my sister was told by her "minister" that she was demon posessed. she suffers bipolar disorder and was not taking her medicine correctly, hence the depression. sounds to me like he is one of the demons himself and is a false prophet.

You people are wierd.

Don't you have anything better to do?

matthew's picture

Guilty as charged

Yep, I'm definitely slightly weird. It takes a "special personality" to be interested in yakking about stuff in online forums.

And no, I don't have anything better to do. Some guys play basketball on Saturday night; I set up and participate in weblogs.

--
Matthew P. Barnson

--
Matthew P. Barnson

Timpane's picture

You're absolutely right

Why do we spend our time ruminating on the finer points of life, God, the past, the future, politics, and fond memories, when we could shut the #@$! up and watch "America's Next Top Model".

Good point.. by the way, why are you reading and posting?

Don't you have anything better to do?

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

Ok. You people AREN'T wierd.

I am reading because I'm researching demon possession, and this subject which began with the boy being killed by a priest, buzzes way off topic and it becomes irritating.

Matthew. Data is what's missing in this case. We have no evidence that this child was possessed or not. He probably was Autistic, as that is a common illness the doctors can diagnose. But possessed?

I think this is a case of manslaughter. The priest was possessed by ignorance and killed a small, vulnerable boy without using common sense. It may have been unintentional at the same time, it was murder.

Now, if we are to begin on all this God theory and possession theory and add etc, I think we all should start a new post and call it, "Possession"

After all, I am doing a research on it and this place wants to talk about it, and the news story doesn't say much to really know what went on. Would anyone here have any interesting personal or otherwise known stories of real life possession? Or dealings with the invisible spirit world?

I find that a lot of people have personal experiences with that side of life, yet once it happens they deny it and pretend it never happened at all. It would be nice to get a brainstorm of words on the personal experiences of others. Even if you saw a ghost, for example, your passed away grandmother who visited you at your bedside before she left planet earth. Or voices in your head...and what do they say? What is their strategy? How do they make you think it is you so that you keep it secret? How do they work to knock down your sense of self-esteem?

Now THAT, Matthew, is the secret question that should be asked. Too many people these days think that they have schizophrenia. And yet the fallen angels who live on earth are cunning and they will hide in many various ways, even working with the doctors and their medicines to stay hidden in order to get as far as they can. The possessing fallen angels HATE to be revealed, because in the light of truth they have no power. So those who have 'illnesses' like schizophrenia, it is no wonder the illness most certainly almost always progresses into worse...beginning with the seeing of beautiful and lovely things, or hearing miraculous secrets that appear at first to make sense.

Maybe the boy was possessed. Yet, it was the most stupid way to deal with the situation, knowing that Autistic people usually do not respond to external influences and force would be one of the most ignorant ways to go about healing that type of ill. It certainly is an embarrassment for the priest! How the demoniacs (de maniacs) are laughing!

Timpane's picture

Hey, anonymous..

You should create a profile so we can contact you with private messages too. You might get more responses.

As for the site, I am the resident Christian, Matthew is the resident non-theist (nonbeliever, but not militant Atheist), and there are Agnostics, Jews, Mormons, Christians, and others in our small community here. Matt will discuss some finer points, but don't take it personally if he backs off publicly.. he'd be more likely to answer you privately. (Matt, if I'm wrong, please edit that out)

As for me.. yeah, I'll answer publicly all you want. I do believe in Demons in point of fact, and I have been in places where there is real spiritual warfare going on. That being said, I fear the tendency to overspiritualize - that is, to see demons (and angels, for that matter) behind things where they quite simply are not involved.

The fact is, brain activity is about chemical annd electrical reactions, and when you interfere with those, you have problems. I have seen people on Oxygen who are perfectly normal, taken of, their blood desaturates and suddenly you would think they were posessed. I have seen people suffering from problems like schizophrenia, or ADD, or OCD, and the like, and I have seen the power of medication to equalize the chemical imbalances that cause problems like this.

On the other side, I do believe that there are forces at work that we should be aware of - BUT - I think it a rare case that there is a demonic influence at work.. I would argue to look first for the simplest diagnosis of the problem, it will usually be right.

That being said, prayer is good in either case, and holding a boy down until he dies is bad in either case (find me the verse where Jesus holds someone down until they die).

I think it is far more likely that demons and angels are trying to affect our judgement with nudges this way or that, and that we ultimately make the decisions - so, if there was demon involved at any point, it was probably influencing the actions of the priest, and if its goal was to make more people hate the Christian church, it probably got a raise and a nice thank you card from the boss.

That being said, its is as likely that there was no supernatural being there at all. Either way, we need to protect ourselves from over-zealous ideology, and use God's gift of reason and logic to make better decisions.

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com

matthew's picture

Inclination...

Obviously, I'm inclined to label the whole demon/angel thing as "supernatural hogwash", mutter a few imprecations, and then proceed on a diatribe about those who did not understand the nature of mental illness in centuries past labelling it as demonic possession.

I'm with Justin on this one, though. I really don't care if someone believes in demons, angels, or the Easter Bunny. This is not a big deal to me, because that is their prerogative, and also their prerogative to raise their children believing in similar things..

Where it does get stuck in my craw is when those who hold such beliefs attempt to use them to diagnose and treat illness. There they've stepped over the line from a harmless personal belief into quackery. Additionally, where I begin to chafe against the shoulders of religion is on the explanation of other scientific phenomena. Basically, if it doesn't interfere with the progress of science, supernatural beliefs are harmless. Where we begin impeding ethical science through mistaken notions of cause and effect, that begins to bother me. Of course, ethics, and where one gets them, is a totally different topic (see [Ethics vs. Morals]).

--
Matthew P. Barnson

--
Matthew P. Barnson

Timpane's picture

Additionally

I believe, that God, in His wisdom, set up the universe to work according to a set of scientific rules. It is a chief reason I believe in him, because I find biological organisms (in my current Medical studies)to be so well designed, it seems unlikely to me that some of the bizarre but utterly convenient and unlikely ways our body works (see passive venous blood return using skeletal muscle contraction) would be evolutionary.

That being said, I do know that demons and angels are not in the habit of supernaturally disrupting scientific processes.. and in that regard I agree with Matt. I'm not saying Mental illness could not be demonic, but the examples of it in the Bible are few, and when it did exist, the demons pretty readily identified themselves. They did not make people autistic.

Therefore, to make the leap that this was one of those cases is scientifically irresponsible, theologically unlikely, and personally and socially tragic.

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
THE OFFICIAL JUSTIN TIMPANE WEBSITE - www.timpane.com