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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession.

From the rebuttal you linked:

    I am sometimes questioned by well-meaning but confused scientists who do not understand the role that scientific skepticism plays in society. Isn’t science itself enough? Aren’t all scientists skeptical, or at least they should be?

The author is not acting as a scientist when he consults on demonic possession. He's acting as a healer. Primum non nocere on this one is "are there any psychiatric treatments that will help the patient?" There may not be. If the patient is Catholic, living in a Catholic environment, a Catholic treatment may be the most effective course of action.

Further, the author is putting forth his anecdotes as anecdotes and his beliefs as beliefs. He has not convinced me in the reality of demonic possession. He has, however, convinced me of his belief in demonic possession, which is of greater pragmatic value in the solution-space of "devout Catholics whose loved ones think they're possessed".

    I have always thought that, if requested to help a tortured person, a physician should not arbitrarily refuse to get involved. Those who dismiss these cases unwittingly prevent patients from receiving the help they desperately require, either by failing to recommend them for psychiatric treatment (which most clearly need) or by not informing their spiritual ministers that something beyond a mental or other illness seems to be the issue. For any person of science or faith, it should be impossible to turn one’s back on a tormented soul.

A quote of yours, if I may:

    Saying 'I don't know, gotta be the devil tho' is essentially an evil act because it is thought terminating.

I think that's unnecessarily dismissive. He's not saying "I don't know, gotta be the devil tho." He's saying "I've ruled out everything but the devil." A secular psychiatrist would probably not make that statement. She would probably blitz right through Beelzebub and move on to whatever else looked promising. But the thing is, clinical trials and useful effects in the field don't overlap all that great, particularly when it comes to psychoactives.

Here's the question: is there potential harm from a religious ritual? I'm trusting that a clinically-trained psychiatrist does not condone exorcism rituals that have the potential to make things psychiatrically worse but that's trust, not knowledge. If my trust is well-placed, is there any harm from shaking a bible at a crazy person?

OftenBen  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·  

As someone who spent a good two and a half years of their life studying medical anthropology believe me when I say that I definitely understand the value of having non biomedical practitioners give input on psychological illness. Believe me when I say that I firmly believe on treating a whole person including any and all spiritual beliefs they may hold.


    is there potential harm from a religious ritual?

YES. Resoundingly YES. And that is ignoring any possibility that a given individual of loose sanity might respond poorly to a figure of a religious authority declaring them possessed.

When psychological treatment is not pursued or withheld as a direct result of the intervention of a professional such as the one who wrote this article, harm has been done.

Have a chaplain in the hospital. Have a chaplain at the inpatient psych ward. let them practice whatever festive rituals make the patients of the relevant spiritual beliefs feel better.

Do not abandon psychological treatment in favor of exorcism.

One psychologists claims of gnosis does not a demon filled world make. Demons don't suddenly exist because one Catholic with a degree says they do.

kleinbl00  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Your point is well-taken.