Sad news, I am afraid. As some of my readers know, I live in Japan. My city is called Kumamoto. Yesterday, a religious man took his mentally ill daughter to a monk to have an exorcism performed. The exorcism is part of a water cleansing ritual where a person is dowsed with water. The water is usually from a natural waterfall, but a makeshift waterfall device, sort of like a manual pump rigged to flood gate showering device, is available for ritualistic purposes. The process entails having water poured down onto you from about three meters.
I’ve seen this practice done in real life at a beautiful scenic outdoor location with a beautiful waterfall. During the occasion I witnessed this ritual, the gathering only consisted of monks cleansing themselves. They would jump under the water, let it pelt them, and then scream chants. The idea is that the weight of the water, along with the cleansing properties (i.e., washing oneself clean), will wash evil spirits out of the body.
Now, if you’ve ever stood under a real waterfall you know the kind of pressure we are talking about. Even a strong shower head can be pretty painful. It’s hard to believe anyone would throw their child into a waterfall. But that’s exactly what this Japanese father did to his young 13 year old daughter, along with the help of a monk and his wife. The father and monk strapped the girl down, using restraints, and proceeded to pump water onto her for over a 100 consecutive times.
TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting Station) is reporting that the parents took the mentally and physically ill girl to the monk after doctors had failed to resolve her issues.
Of course the monk stated that he believe the girl was possessed by an evil spirit.
According to the news, the father held the girl’s head, so she couldn’t turn away to take a breath and breathe. Gasping for air, she died of suffocation, similar to how water-board torture victims die from water induced suffocation.
The mother of the 13 year old daughter sat by and watched her child take her last breath, and then called the ambulance. What kind of mother does that? This is child abuse in the extreme–as it involved water torture, bondage, suffocation, and ultimately ended in death. I hope these parents get a full life sentence for their deadly parenting techniques.
The Australian is reporting on it here if you want to read an English edition of this news.
[UPDATE]More reports are coming through. They can be read by clicking the following links:
My wife (who is Japanese) said this is what happens when uneducated people put their faith in nonsense instead of using their common sense. I couldn’t agree more. Moreover, my wife says this is why all religion is dangerous–because you don’t know how or when it will impair your judgment–because it doesn’t always–until it does. And that’s when something terrible like this happens. My wife then said that people would be better off without such superstitious religious thinking.
I couldn’t agree more.
International coverage of disturbing events like this can often paint Japan in the wrong light. Apparently this water cleansing ritual is only practiced by a very small minority of religious monks. Japan is by and large a secular country, and even the Japanese feel this superstitious practice is bizarre.
Many of my work colleagues commented how deranged this was. They seem to acknowledge that “evil spirits” aren’t real–and that no amount of “dunking” will cleanse someone of something which is not even there.
This, however, all goes to show that people will do strange things if they believe. Indeed, belief in the supernatural, and the superstitious customs which come with religion, often show us how dangerous religious modes of thinking can truly be.
If the parents of the 13 year old girl weren’t religious, would they have tortured their daughter in this despicable way thinking it would cure her? Not a likely. The same might be said for circumcision, baptism, or other strange religious rituals which affect the child physically and mentally but, sadly, they so often times don’t have the liberty of being given their own choice in the matter. Their religious customs are often times forced upon them by their parents. This form of religious abuse was taken to the extreme in this case.
Religious thinking like this, that doing some form of religious related ritual for superstitious reasons often causes the believer’s rationality to go out the window. In this case, dumping water on the girl repeatedly didn’t work. She died. In fact, I guarantee that this type of cleansing ritual has never worked, and this is the proof. Will people stop doing it? Not unless a higher authority, such as the government, steps in and says that this form of religion is harmful to society. Most people will blithely keep practicing the ritual–as ridiculous and dangerous as it is. Why? Because they believe it works. Their reasoning is bankrupt. They think if they keep at it–eventually their prayers will be heard. But this form of religious belief is no different from believing that if you rub two ice cubes together enough you will be able to make fire. No matter how many times you rub them together it won’t create fire. Just because the religion says it can make fire by doing it doesn’t mean it will, but people put their faith in the religious promise before reality, and so needlessly go through the motions, hoping to get fire–hoping to get their one miracle. I think they will be badly disappointed. In fact, I know they will.
On the other hand, a better educated person would, hopefully, reject the ridiculous and absurd claims of religion based on a better understanding of the world. We know, for example, how to get fire, and rubbing ice cubes together is not it. The same can be said of curing mental and physical illness, we know how to deal with it, and going to a religious person and having them pray, chant, or do all kinds of useless rituals is not going to help cure that illness in the slightest. The only reason religious people think it will is because they believe it will. And well, if believing were enough, it would come to be. The fact that their beliefs fail them, time and again, should tip them off that something about their reasoning is seriously flawed.
I felt I should report on this since I know I tend to focus my religious criticism on Christianity and the Abrahamic religions, but this just goes to show, religion everywhere is deeply flawed.