Exorcism is Harmful and Doctors Should Not Legitimize It

Sacred face crucifix religion

In the United States, we have a controversy raging around gender-affirming health care. Some conservatives would like to charge physicians who provide it with crimes. Many of those who wouldn't go that far still hope to discourage this care.

In other parts of the world, we see a different controversy involving physicians and the care they provide. What role, if any, should doctors have in church-sanctioned exorcisms?

It seems strange that we still have to talk about exorcism in 2023, but we do. It is still happening, even in places we usually regard as civilized. According to the National Secular Society, the Church of England is still doing it. Not only that, they allow the exorcism of children under 16.

The focus of their recent efforts is on the practice of consulting a medical professional as part of the process.

The NSS said telling a child they are possessed by a demon may be "inherently harmful" and doctors should not be involved in deeming a child 'medically fit' to undergo an exorcism. Medical involvement could lend exorcism "undue legitimacy" and may falsely suggest it is based in medical science, the letter added.

It is hard to argue with that. Yes, a doctor might be able to prevent some exorcisms among the most vulnerable. That would have value. Then again, the NSS is right that this could legitimize a harmful practice.

It is appalling to think that exorcism is still happening. How can so many people still believe this nonsense? Or if they don't believe it, why do they continue to look the other way when others get carried away with it?

The grip of religion on the minds of many remains strong. Until we loosen it, we will continue to see religiously motivated atrocities. Hasn't it caused more than enough suffering already?

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