A sad reality

The Country Vicar wants me to be apocalyptic. Here’s apocalyptic for you: not only is the vice presidential cadidate prayed over by a Kenyan exorcists who boasts of driving “witchcraft” out of towns there, but his boast is defended by the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donahue. Of course, Donahue is a notorious bigot. but he has influence; and this influence is deployed to suggest that real witches are really killing people in Africa today:

<blockquote>“Witchcraft is a sad reality in many parts of Africa, resulting in scores of deaths in Kenya over the past two decades. Bishop Muthee’s blessing, then, was simply a reflection of his cultural understanding of evil. While others are not obliged to accept his interpretation, all can be expected to respect it.</blockquote>Balls, I say. If you wanted to sum up the Enlightenment in one simple advance for humanity, it is that no civilised person now is expected to believe in witchcraft or to respect those who do.

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6 Responses to A sad reality

  1. Mrs Tilton says:

    Donahue, to give his bloated bile-filled carcass its due, is correct that witchcraft has caused scores (and more) of deaths in Africa. Witchcraft isn’t real, of course. But superstitious people think it is, and brutally kill people (including children) they believe to be witches.

    I couldn’t say what, if anything, Donahue believes about witches specifically; but it is understandable that he would bloviate in solidarity with fellow superstitious people (even if his brand of witch-doctory differs from theirs in some details) and in the interest of his paymasters, who may or may not be superstitious themselves but find it useful that other people be.

  2. Simple Country Vicar says:

    Interesting. Given that the US Constitution is a marriage of English Puritanism and Scottinsh Enlightenment rationalism, Mrs Palin has brought American civics full circle.

  3. It’s dangerous belief in facts that has to be eliminated if America is to maintain its greatness. That and grammar (if what I see from my students is to be believed).

  4. Louise says:

    Witchcraft prosecutions declined pre-Enlightenment, the first sceptics tended to be doctors, then lawyers alarmed by malpractice in obtaining witch confessions and the impossibility of getting a fair trial since normal standards of evidence couldn’t work in the ‘invisible world’. It wasn’t a change in religious belief but hands-on experience of dubious confession evidence which really began to move things.

    It’s not the case that most Enlightenment men didn’t believe in the possibility of witchcraft (with the odd exception like Hume they did indeed believe that it could theoretically exist) it was that they no longer believed that the European demonological model of ‘detecting’ and prosecuting it in (mostly) old (mostly) fairly powerless (mostly) women could lead to anything but injustice. Once you get into the 19th century it’s not long before you have a significant number of scientists and intellectuals buying into spiritualism as a scientific phenomenon to be investigated, just as 16th century empiricists like Bodin thought that a science of demonology was possible (as they were working from what they believed to be first-hand evidence of such phenomena). Enlightenment or no, belief in all sorts of woo is never far away, that’s why it’s crucial never to let these people get into power and never to accept the legitimacy of an ‘invisible world’ in evidence again.

  5. acb says:

    I stand corrected, Louise.

    And I suppose you could argue that it was only a rather Calvinist examination of conscience that would lead us to take seriously the possibility of false evidence and extorted confessions when these were what we so very much wanted to believe. Wesley, I know, was a great believer in witchcraft.

  6. Roger says:

    “Witchcraft isn’t real, of course. But superstitious people think it is, and brutally kill people (including children) they believe to be witches.”
    It’s a bit more complicated, I think. Witchcraft doesn’t work, but other superstitious people think witchcraft is real and works and brutally kill people to try to practise witchcraft. The solution is not to denounce them as witches but to denounce them for the actual verifiable crimes they commit.

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