For those who think that the Catholic Church is becoming saner and more liberal, have a gander at this article from the Guardian (click on screenshot to read it). I’ve reported before on the frequency of exorcisms in the Church (see here for a number of posts), and on the unofficial Vatican exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, who died two years ago claiming to have exorcised 160,000 demons.
As is clear from the article, the Vatican has neither denied the existence of demons nor distanced itself from exorcism as a way to expel them. The report deals with Father Cesar Truqui of Mexico, and the many exorcisms he’s performed. While he admits that many of them don’t involve actual demons, but still provide some psychological relief for people (I’m willing to accept that), there are some true demonic possessions:
Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, Truqui says full-on demonic possession is very rare. The vast majority of people who see him have normal problems or mental illnesses, and he says he has sent people to seek psychiatric help. But he says 2-3% show signs of demonic “vexation”.
These people, he claims, are capable of feats of superhuman strength. Sometimes their voice changes and they growl or speak in tongues. He claims to have witnessed people with vexations who can suddenly speak in Hebrew or Aramaic even though they have never studied the languages. Some are obsessive and show knowledge of what Truqui calls “secret things”, like what a person who is not present is doing or wearing, and they are sometimes overwhelmed by feelings of discomfort when they are in places of worship.
“Most of the time, the people who see me are victims,” he says.
Truqui also spoke at length about Satan, who he described as a pragmatic foe. “The devil tempts the holy man in his holiness and the sinner in his sin,” he says.
And here are some other instances of the Hornéd One’s appearance as a malefactor:
In his decade working as a Roman Catholic exorcist, expelling demons from individuals who he believes are possessed or vexed by the devil, the Mexican priest says the oddest thing he witnessed was the sudden appearance of a “satanic nail” on a tabletop.
“There had been nothing on the table and then suddenly it was there, a rusted black nail. We all saw it. I wanted to keep it but then I thought, no, it’s like keeping a radioactive thing,” he said.
And these are clearly signs of Satan’s power:
[Truqui’s] subjects, he says, have problems that cannot be explained in normal medical terms. One, who he believes may have been cursed by her mother-in-law, feels an almost constant sensation of daggers entering her legs, knitting needles in her arms, and a clenched hand at her chin. Another was so obsessed by self-gratification that he masturbated 40 times a day. “Normally speaking it is humanly impossible … so that is a satanic thing,” says Truqui.
I’m not going to pronounce on the demonic implications of a high frequency of masturbation, but clearly the Church’s belief in demons and the ability of ritual to expel them is a delusion. Again, I’m willing to admit that a ritual may help people who are anxious or have mental health issues—what better placebo is there than a caring priest and your feeling that he really can cast out demons?—but I suspect that treatment by a health care professional, who doesn’t have to decide which aberrant behavior really does result from demons, is superior.
In the meantime, it’s been reported in several places, including USA Todayand Newsweek, that this month the Vatican is holding a week-long conference in Rome to train priests how to expel demons. This is necessary not only because it takes skill to recognize and get rid of real demons, but also because private practitioners are horning in on the Vatican’s monopoly of de-demonizing. As the New York Post reports (my emphasis):
While many of the reported cases are actually related to psychological or spiritual problems, Palilla conceded, they must still be investigated.
But the church is concerned that many priests either haven’t learned or refuse to learn exorcism techniques.
“We priests, very often, do not know how to deal with the concrete cases presented to us. In the preparation of priesthood, we do not talk about these things,” Palilla said.
In France, the demand for exorcists has also soared, but independent contractors have taken up the jobs — charging $178 an hour — as the Catholic Church neglected training priests in the practice, The Economist reported.
Palilla warned against using an amateur exorcist because they “certainly make errors.”
Exorcism is recognized under the Catholic Church’s canon law and can only be performed with permission from within the church. The Vatican-backed International Association of Exorcists was founded in 1990 and has licensed some 200 members across the world.
Note that the Vatican officially backs the practice of exorcism and supports the International Association of Exorcists. It’s also well known that Pope Francis, like Antonin Scalia, believes that Satan isn’t just a metaphor but a real figure, which he says is “a personal being who assails us.”
#Timesup: David Silverman’s firing is a wake-up call to secular movement
By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
This is a personal statement about the disturbing allegations in yesterday’s BuzzFeed article concerning David Silverman, until yesterday president of American Atheists.
Given ubiquitous and undeserved stereotypes against nonbelievers, it should go without saying that it’s incumbent on those of us who have the privilege and responsibility of leading freethought groups or speaking out on behalf of nonbelief to be irreproachable in our personal conduct.
That’s because we live in a country where nonbelievers, along with Muslims, are the least socially acceptable of the minority groups. And being tied with Muslims for unpopularity is an improvement! Until recently, and only due to Muslims’ faltering public relations, atheists, according to the University of Minnesota sociological studies, were the single most disliked group in America. The university’s sociological studies have shown that an atheist is the person people would least want a family member to marry. Absurd stereotypes abound that atheists are prostitutes and prisoners. Much of this bigotry stems from the bible, which says: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” Psalm 14:1. The most challenging public relations problem for nonbelievers in this nation remains the myth that we reject religion because we want to “go out and be sinful,” that, in a nutshell, if we don’t believe in God we are immoral.
That’s why at the Freedom From Religion Foundation we have worked hard for four decades to dispel these baseless and defamatory views about atheists and other nonbelievers. We’ve developed the Freethought of the Day site, amassing and publicizing how many prominent writers, artists, musicians, scientists, and others, reject religion. We’ve published brochures, articles, and integrated this information in social media, our radio show and other campaigns to educate about who nonbelievers are. As John Stuart Mill put it: “The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments—of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue—are complete skeptics in religion.” (The point of the site is to document the nonreligious views of so many influential and well-known individuals who’ve contributed to society, but are not well-known for their nonbelief; many fall into the “ornaments” category. but admittedly all may not be paragons of virtue.) We’ve published articles, chapters of books and brochures on morality without religion, Dan has debated the topic many times, and we’ve tried hard to run FFRF as an exemplar freethought organization. We’ve promoted “out of the closet” and “friendly neighborhood atheist” campaigns for more than a decade using FFRF members, usually our best advertisement for freethought, to dispel myths.
These persistent negative views about nonbelievers are a unique backdrop to the Buzzfeed revelations about David Silverman and his firing by American Atheists. Religionists and the media — already all too ready to condemn the nonreligious just for being nonreligious — have been granted a very good excuse to tarnish the secular movement as a whole.
But Silverman’s highly aggressive brand of atheism does not represent FFRF or many nonbelievers, nor do his alleged actions here. There’s room in the movement for differences. There’s not room for this kind of misconduct.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation was founded nationally 40 years ago this month in part due to dissatisfaction with the leadership and reputation of American Atheists. My mother, Anne Gaylor, was asked to take our regional association national to offer an alternative. There were many concerns about American Atheists’ founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and about her personality and irregularities. Many freethinkers did not like being asked to literally sign a statement that they were an “American atheist” in order to join the group, turning atheism into a litmus test. FFRF consciously started as an umbrella freethought group welcoming all nonbelievers — atheists, agnostics, skeptics of any pedigree.
After FFRF went national, O’Hair “excommunicated” many of her members if they joined FFRF (including Anne Gaylor). Having members in common was fine by us, but O’Hair sporadically continued to direct hostility and malicious claims against FFRF. After the horror of the kidnapping and brutal murder of O’Hair, her granddaughter Robin and son Jon Garth, our general feeling was one of great pity, and we have not wanted to “speak ill of the dead” or rehash old history. But after all these years, our two groups still have very different styles, leadership, accomplishments and goals, and there has been little interaction. In all fairness, Silverman denies the allegations. Our dealings with him have been scant and only at a professional level. That Silverman is accused of saying to a woman fighting him off, “You don’t get to say no to me,” however, unfortunately rings true to me. I felt “bullied” while attempting to work with Silverman on the speakers committee for the second Reason Rally. I say “attempting” because I was summarily booted from the committee he was chairing and denied a voice in the planning (but at least not before I was able to secure Julia Sweeney as a speaker, I’m pleased to say).
* * *
The #metoo movement is rightfully taking down many a predator. Such allegations have, thankfully, been rare so far in the freethought movement. This is the first such allegation against an actual leader of an atheist group. (Physicist Lawrence Krauss, an atheist, the subject of an earlier BuzzFeed expose, was well-known on the freethought circuit, but was not a movement organizer per se. Nevertheless, some of his accusers met him through that movement, which had awarded him with speaking invitations. When the very serious allegations surfaced, FFRF and most secular groups took immediate steps to sever any loose affiliations.)
No excuses can be offered for the repulsive or even criminal misconduct alleged. Likewise, no excuses should be made when such actions are committed by “men of God.” We have seen decades and decades of thousands of allegations of sexual crimes and exploitation in church circles. The Black Collar Crime section of FFRF’s newspaper, which documents such allegations (and convictions and sentencings) against “men of God” and ministers, has filled two (small font-sized) pages a month since 1986. It could fill up to four pages if we had the space. The Catholic Church is well known, as an early church official warned, for “preaching morality while giving sanctuary to perverts.” And the cover-up goes all the way to the top in that denomination. Yet scandal after scandal fails to take down these churches. No one seems to consider that the crimes impugn the entire religion, even while churches have failed abysmally in policing themselves.
The cover-up that we see routinely in churches does not appear to apply here, with the AA board indicating they first learned of allegations within the past week, and taking swift action.
It’s likewise relevant to contrast the obvious difference in attitudes about women by the freethought movement versus religion in general. The bible and the church, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton famously put it, have been the main impediments in the way of women’s emancipation. Nineteenth century feminist and freethinker Susan H. Wixon noted: “Freethought has always been the best friend woman had.”
The freethought movement, as I document in my anthology of women freethinkers, Women Without Superstition, has often been led by spirited women and feminists. FFRF itself was founded by two of them (my late mother and myself, back in 1976), and would not have come into existence were it not for the religious war against women, particularly against reproductive rights. Women can never be free unless the government is free from religion, and FFRF’s commitment to equality has been unwavering. The freethought movement remains male-dominated (more men than women are nonreligious). But our male-dominated membership is also stalwart in supporting women’s rights and abortion rights, as our membership surveys have always revealed. Many groups and certainly FFRF have been eager to showcase and recognize the contributions of women freethinkers, and to support women’s causes.
Contrast this with the bible, a handbook for rape and women’s subjection, and with 4,000 years of sexism culminating in the infamous witch purges. The reforms shaking up many denominations came from outside, not within, and are largely the result of the women’s movement moving society forward in general, rather than a result of religious teachings. Intellectually and historically, the choice is clear: If you value women, you must make known your dissent from organized religion.
At FFRF, all staff and volunteers must sign an anti-harassment policy, which also instructs on how to report any such harassment. This has been in place for decades.
In 40 years, there have been only two reported or known occasions of sexual harassment. One involved a friend, then in her early 20s, who was accosted by one of our Board members, a middle-aged man, in an elevator as she left an FFRF convention in the late 1970s. He restrained her in a bear hug and forcibly kissed her as the elevator went down several flights. She was a rape survivor, and this repugnant encounter unfortunately summoned back that trauma for her. She told me what happened, I immediately informed my mother, the president of FFRF, who immediately confronted the Board member and demanded (and got) his resignation.
About 12 years ago, I learned that a young staffer, another woman in her 20s, was accosted at our office by a new volunteer, an elderly man. As she walked past him, he slapped her behind with a post-it note containing a weird message. As soon as I learned of this, I immediately contacted and confronted him, and he too was “fired.”
A commitment to women and equality means nothing unless the freethought movement makes clear it will not tolerate sexual misconduct or sleazy behavior by leading nonbelievers. (And I’ve seen more than my share of sleazy behavior. Maybe some of it is minor in an era of general vulgarity. But it contributes to a “boys club” mentality. Every I see the gratuitous “WTF” acronyms, etc., in presentations and tweets, I cringe. Folks, what you say reflects on our movement. Be role models.) The Silverman debacle will doubtless scare off young women who may have already been leery of the secular movement. There has been harm, as alleged, to the several unfortunate women involved, but the harm unfortunately will be to the entire movement.
Let’s make sure women are assured that sexual harassment (much less assault) — and the misuse of authority, or the power of “celebrity” — is not tolerated within our movement. We’re better than that. #Timesup.
Judge orders Maine to use ranked choice voting for the June Primaries.
This is our annual request to keep our members and supporters list up to date so we can keep them up to date too.
The saying “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have” applies here. The chapter is doing what it can in Maine with the members it has. Maine is a big state and some supporters live too far away or don’t have the time to attend events. Reading positive comments about what the chapter has done lets us know you value the chapter’s efforts to support your values. Please keep that in mind as you review what the chapter has done.
We brought Katherine Stewart, author of “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” to Maine to speak about the dangers of the Good News Club, participated in two panel discussions on “Can Religions Coexist?”, supported the LGBT community at the Portland Pride Parade, supported women’s healthcare at a Portland rally for Planned Parenthood, promoted humanist values at the Common Ground Fair, write a monthly column, “In Reason We Trust” for the Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel, hold a monthly discussion group in Brunswick, and gave an invocation to the Maine House. The Maine Senate refused to let us give an invocation last year but the chapter didn’t accept “NO” for an answer. After a year of letters from our lawyers, multiple state wide newspaper articles, and support from Rep. Kent Ackley and Sen. Shenna Bellows, we gave an invocation to the Maine Senate this year!
We will be speaking to a local men’s group, a local high school and sponsoring “Brunswick Cleanup Day” with free T-shirts and gift certificates for volunteers, be in the Portland Pride Parade and promote humanist values at the Common Ground Fair.
You can help support the chapter in several ways:
1 – Foundation membership. Go to https://secure.ffrf.org/np/clients/ffrf/membershipJoin.jsp to become or renew your Foundation membership.
2 – Chapter membership. Go to https://ffrfmaine.org/ , click on Donate or send a check to our treasurer.
3 – Supporter. Send your contribution through the link above, send a check to our treasurer or use the chapters no cost Amazon Smile at https://smile.amazon.com/ and select FFRF Maine.
Please include your full name, mailing address, phone number and email address with your membership / supporter contribution. This will be kept in strict confidence by the Foundation and the Chapter.
If you don’t want to get emails from the chapter, let us know. Do you not support what the chapter does or think the chapter is not effective in supporting your values? If the latter, let us know what you would like the chapter to do and how you can help that happen.
Chapter dues of $10 are encouraged. Please use the chapter website link or send a check payable to “FFRF Maine” to our treasurer:
189 Middle Road
Falmouth, Maine 04105-1227
President, FFRF Maine