Monday, September 3, 2012

Possessed by Ignorance

No bus bench ad has ever annoyed me more than the one I saw recently for The Possession, a new flick about some story of a girl and a demon, blah, blah, blah. The tagline reads: "Based on a True Story." Really? On what basis can we even say it's a "true story"? Well, maybe events like those depicted really happened to a girl somewhere; maybe she really acted crazy, and maybe objects really started to move seemingly on their own (I'm just assuming that that kind of stuff occurs in the film).

But "true story" misleads the credulous masses that the "possession" part of it is the "true story." It's really quite irritating. I once read the scare-mongering book Hostage to the Devil by Malachi Martin. It was recommended to me by certain people I knew who actually believed in this demonic possession nonsense. But I approached it with an open mind; I was younger then and very interested in scary stories. Malachi Martin's writing itself convinced me that he was trying to convince himself that the only possible explanation for the five stories of exorcism in the book were, in fact, based on the reality of supernatural malevolence. Yeah, each of these tales was "based on a true story," too.

The Skeptic's Dictionary provides a brief sketch of the real evil, not of possession but of exorcism. Accounts of religiously motivated ministers beating, strangling, and otherwise killing or seriously injuring the supposedly possessed are numerous. And yet the actual evidence of what afflicts these poor souls points to this:

Most, if not all, cases of alleged demonic possession of humans probably involve either people with brain disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome, or people whose brains are more or less healthy but who are unfortunate enough to be sucked into playing a social role with very unpleasant consequences. In any case, the behaviors of the possessed resemble very closely the behaviors of those with electrochemical, neurochemical, or other physical or emotional disorders. [more]

Be sure to watch the video clip on the page, featuring a news story on some reality-television tripe called The Real Exorcist which follows around the antics of Rev. Bob Larson and his stunning dyed-orange beard. The actually great Joe Nickell is the skeptic in the segment. 

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