Exorcism: not recommended by your GP

Despite a good non-religious showing in the latest study, New Zealand has its share of religious crazies. Nine of them are on trial at the moment after a makatu, (a Maori exorcism lasting several days) went horribly wrong when 22 year old Janet Moses was drowned to death, and her 14 year old cousin ended up in hospital. The young girl’s eyes were swollen shut and oozing blood, after they had been repeatedly scratched in an effort to remove evil spirits. Both had been subjected to various forms of water torture and forced to vomit repeatedly.

If you think this story can’t get any stupider, you’d be wrong. According to the dipstick beliefs of these would-be demon-fighters, Moses and her cousin were cursed by a stone statue of a lion. (Aslan’s evil twin?) Yeah, no kidding.

One of the saddest parts of this story is in the statement of the 14 year old, who has name suppression. Upon being interviewed by the police, she admitted to being afraid during the ritual but believed that her family had good reason to subject her to it: a perfect example of how passing religious dogma from one generation to the next stunts the ability of the individual to think for themselves. When religiously-inspired torture is seen as justifiable care from those in positions of authority within the family, how can children be expected to seek protection from it?

The exorcisms took place in October last year, while 40 members of the extended family looked on. One wonders why only nine of this deluded bunch are on trial for manslaughter… what about the rest of them? “The thing is mate, I mean your honour, we only watched them drown her and did nothing. It’s not like we actively helped to kill her.”

And while we’re on the subject of responsibility, should the defendents have been charged with manslaughter or murder? On one hand, it’s easy to accept that they didn’t mean for Moses to die – the ceremony was to rid her of evil spirits, not to send her off to join them. But on the other, the intent to wilfully endanger her life was there. Did these morons think that drowning someone was a perfectly safe endeavour? Surely even blind faith doesn’t go that far…

We’ll keep you updated as to the verdict, when it comes in.

Kiwis becoming less religious

A recent study by Massey University has shown a sharp rise in the number of New Zealanders without religious affiliation. 40% of Kiwis choose not to be religious, up from 29% when a similar study was performed 17 years ago.

The study also showed that just over half (53%) of those surveyed said that they believed in God, although half of those had doubts. Just over a third of the respondents claimed to be religious.

“The study shows that God is not dead, but religion may be dying,” says Professor Grendall, who headed the project. With no change in those who believe in a “higher power” rather than a specific god (at 20%), Grendall believes that “…perhaps the apparent decline in religiosity reflects a decline in traditional religious loyalties – rather than a decline in spirituality as such.”

This tracks with the most recent census results, with 29.6% claiming no religion in the 2001 census – a figure that rose to 34.7% just five years later in the 2006 census. This rapid rise in the numbers of non-religious is likely to be age-related. Only 11.8% of those over 65 recorded no religion in 2006, while 43% of children (aged 0-14) claimed the same status.

Massey news item here.

Can your country beat these statistics? Comment below…