The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Of dogmas and dealing with the devil

By Satiricus
March 27, 05

What the devil! It's certainly a devil of an idea--this idea of a university course in devil worship. News comes from the Vatican--news that you may believe or not, Mr Ripley--that the Roman Catholic Church is offering its priests a university course in devil worship or ‘Satanism’, which, say Italian police, is becoming more and more popular in the modern society in the homeland of Christianity.

The study course is called ‘Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation’, and a hundred priests were recently put through it at Rome's Church university. According to a ‘Father’ who holds a doctorate in religious law and is a qualified exorcist, the course deals with the definition of exorcism and the rites and rituals designed to get rid of demonic possession. Well, now, Satiricus admits he is not a very religious fellow, and as a Hindu ignoramus he was under the impression that religion is all about God. But then, it seems there are religions and religions, and if Hinduism is all about God, the devil seems to dominate Christian dogma. Why else would a Christian priest require university education on how to deal with the devil and to qualify in the devices to deal with him?

Fortunately for Satiricus, his ignorance is his plus point, and he is allowed to be a Hindu despite being an illiterate journalist. Still, even an illiterate lout like him can be a curious cuss, no? So, even without the benefit of a degree from this seat of Satanic learning in Rome, he tried to educate himself about Satan, devil worship, exorcism and what have you. And what did he learn? He learnt that an exorcist is one who drives out the devil or other evil spirits from a person or a place with chants and other rituals.

But while the three dictionaries he consulted agreed on this explanation, two of them have their tongues in their cheeks. For, in the two meanings in one of them, to exorcise first means to “expel (a supposed evil spirit) by invocation,” and secondly to “free (a person or place) of a supposed evil spirit”. The other dictionary even goes beyond this ‘supposition’ and actually explains an exorcist as “one who exorcises or pretends to expel evil spirits”. Jesus Christ! Does this mean exorcism is not only a mere supposition but actually a pretence, a deception? And if that is what these devilish dictionaries claim it is, are they insidiously insinuating that the practitioners of exorcism are cheats?

The Church included in its definition of witchcraft anyone with knowledge of medicinal herbs, and decreed that “those who used herbs for cures did so only through a pact with the devil”. It was the same with chloroform when it was introduced to help women through labour pains.

Believe it or not, Mr Ripley, but that is actually what the third dictionary says in so many words. For, while explaining the meaning of ‘exorcist’, it reproduces a telling, terrible quotation from a journal to illustrate its use—“The priestly exorcists of the later Christian period were more interested in producing spectacular convulsions and other physical symptoms in their subjects than in putting them into trances.” Good God in heaven! These mean meanings more or less mean that exorcism is deception and an exorcist is a cheat. But how can that be? How can something taught by the holy seer be unholy trickery? More importantly, how can Christianity proscribe devil worship rather than prescribe devil worship in view of the devil's tremendous contribution to the growth of Christianity right from the beginning?

For starters, take the first three-four centuries of the Christian era, when the priests of newly-founded Christianity were desperately currying favour with the Roman emperors. How did they go about it? The Roman emperors in particular and the Romans in general were followers of Mithraism--worship of Mithra, the Vedic sun-god. So Christianity simply borrowed all cardinal Mithraic rituals, like baptism, communion, resurrection and so on. In fact, it borrowed not only tenets and rites but also festivals and even architecture. December 25, the popular festival of sun-god Mithra's birth was taken over and made Jesus's birthday. Mithra's ascension to heaven after a supper with shepherds, around the spring equinox, became the Christian holiday of Easter. That simple supper itself was taken over as the Eucharist. A Mithra temple on the Vatican Hill in Rome was made the seat of Christianity, and finally the Mithraic high priest's title ‘Pater Patrum’ became ‘Papa’ or Pope.

Now with so many remarkable similarities between Mithraism and Christianity, Satiricus would have thought that Christianity was a copy of Mithraism, as Mithraism came first, and Christianity came later. But that is precisely where he is stupidly wrong, for the then father of Christianity learnedly explained that the much older Mithraic legends were in fact an insidious imitation of the later “one true faith” and hence the “work of the devil”. See? But for the help of the devil, would it have been possible for something earlier to imitate something later? Still later, the devil took the help of witches to help Christianity. The Church included in its definition of witchcraft anyone with knowledge of medicinal herbs, and decreed that “those who used herbs for cures did so only through a pact with the devil”. It was the same with chloroform when it was introduced to help women through labour pains. A clergyman wrote, “Chloroform is a decoy of Satan.”

And finally Christianity decreed that God, the Christian God, was a supreme being that was not concerned with the physical world, and so the physical world, Nature, was ‘the realm of the devil’. Naturally this made animals ‘agents of the devil’. So when thousands of so-called witches were burnt alive, their pet cats were also burnt with them.

And finally, thanks to the devil, the saviour and purifier of Christianity, as Lewis Regenstein writes in his book, Replenish the Earth, “In the ten centuries preceding the present one, there are accounts of the trials, torture and execution (often by hanging) of hundreds of animals, mainly by ecclesiastical courts...” So there! Would all this glorious growth of Christianity, the one true faith, have been possible but for the devil's generous helping hand? So why not a Vatican study course in the value of devil worship?


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