Basic Education in Demonology

Well. Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and I had a rather interesting morning. I was part of the group that drafted a charter on rights and responsibilities for religious conduct at schools, and today we (and other interested parties) gathered to discuss the charter, and to hear the Minister’s thoughts on “harmful religious practices” in schools.

Instead, what we mostly got was lessons in how many demons are out there, hungering for your kids’ brains souls, and how only Jesus can save them.

Just about every speaker greeted us in the name of (some variation of) “our one and only father, Jesus Christ”, and every speaker a) believed in the literal existence of demons; and b) was unable to comprehend the possibility that confused or troubled kids might act in ways that support a diagnosis of demon-possession, without actually being demon-possessed.

My interventions over the course of the task-team’s work has been to point out that we can’t assume that the orthodox religions aren’t capable of harmful practices, and that more crucially, you can’t use their terms and beliefs to define how you perceive anything that deviates from it.

For many years now I’ve been making the point that “Satanic” ritual murders are not “Satanic” in any sense that Satanists would accept, but are rather a product of how Christians define Satanists, and that kids who do things in the name of their “Satanism” are, in fact, created, in part, by the mindless, paranoid, and abusive stigmatisation of troubled kids as being “demon-possessed” and the like.

We need to stop kids harming themselves and each other on the basis of false beliefs. The way to do that is not to teach them falsehoods about those false beliefs, but rather to teach them in an evidence-based, rational way, and to provide psycho-social support where necessary.

Instead, I’m hearing teachers talking about the exorcisms they have performed. I’ve been told that if you cut yourself, you open up a portal for a demon to enter you (at this point, slides of Barbie dolls were on screen, but I didn’t quite understand their role).

I’ve learnt that Satan is directly responsible for Goth and Emo, as well as a bunch of other stuff, from the header slide (see above) put up by Dr Hennie de Jager (Dr of what I don’t know [edit: @dyled on Twitter has reported that it’s a degree from this online theology school]):

Dr de Jager also showed us a video clip of a girl talking to demons, including the exact moment she became possessed (you could tell because her eyes rolled back, just like she might have, I don’t know, be having a seizure?). And she was never heard from again.

Dr de Jager played us a video called “A letter from Hell“, prefacing it with the observation that he plays it to all the kids he can, but that if any of us in the audience don’t know Jesus, we should pay close attention too.

He played another video showing scenes of, or alluding to bullying, while intoning “bullying” as if the use of the word would make everything blindingly obvious. He did the same with “cutting”, and “rape”, and “drugs”, and something called “posesion”.

And, best of all, he showed us a video of “what is happening to kids, today“. I cannot find the clip in question. But it depicted a newborn being taken from its mother, and then to some secret room in a hospital, where a snake was slit open with a knife.

Then, they take some snake blood and smear it on the baby’s lips, which means that the baby now belongs to Satan – and this is happening today in our hospitals.

But something about the professionalism of the clip, the mannered voices of the doctors and nurses, and a vague memory of having seen this before made me suspicious.

And guess what? It’s from End of Days, that 1999 horror movie about the Devil and so forth, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The room was gasping with shock when they saw “what was happening” to our babies, and they will no doubt go and tell many other people about how their kids might, unbeknownst to them, be betrothed to Satan.

But what’s actually going on here – today, as I still sit here listening to nonsense – is people propagating falsehoods, probably without even knowing that they are doing so.

And instead of protecting children, it does the opposite, as ignorance is never healthy.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.