Religion Hurts Humanity: Children Accused of Witchcraft

Regular readers have seen Daniel‘s videos before — he usually makes monthly montages documenting the damage caused by religion.

Now, he’s back with a video focusing on children who have been accused of witchcraft:

Ugh… after watching that, I hate the entire world… and yet the only way these harmful actions will change is if we raise the consciousness of the people who believe these lies and show them how ridiculous the accusations really are.

By the way, Daniel will be posting future videos on his new Facebook page.

(via ConversationWithA)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • cipher

    Hemant, I certainly don’t disagree with you about the evils of religion, but this is also a function of the primitive state of a number of the African societies. Whether it is the result of colonialism or in spite of it, I couldn’t say.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m sure that various African peoples had their own concepts of witches before Christians came along. But this is the 21st century. These fundie Christians can’t say that one part of the Bible, what it says about witches, isn’t to be taken literally, while insisting that other parts, the resurrection, are to be taken literally. So they contribute heavily to the problem.

  • cipher


  • Gwenny Todd

    Africa, @cipher? In the early 1970s I had my appendix out. There were two children there . . from Haiti . . .who had been rescued by missionaries. They were terribly disfigured from the torture they had endured at the hands of the people in their village because they were “possessed”. All primitive areas have stuff like this . . and some more advanced ones, like the US.

  • Blacksheep

    Lester, what does taking the Bible literally – including what the Bible says about witchcraft – have to do with abusing these children?

    Also part of “taking the Bible literally” is understanding meaning and context. For example if the OT says to stone people, and Jesus came along and spoke out against that, the conclusion is that we don’t stone people. That’s “literal” understanding.

  • chicago dyke

    wow, did you pick the wrong time to say that/have me read that. always with the “primitive” line with “you people,” isn’t it?

    well, here’s a perfect example of how just because you live in a rich, first world country with public education for all and access to libraries and safety information, religion will STILL harm children:

    let me be perfectly clear: i am NOT saying this child died because he went to Easter service that day or b/c his parents are xtians. but the comments are making me SICK.

    prayer will not bring this child back to life. failing to accept responsibility as an adult will not bring this child back to life. sticking your head in the sand that you FUCKED UP IN A MAJOR WAY AND NOW YOUR KID IS DEAD will not bring him back to life, and it may get other kids you’re around killed as well.

    look at this sickness. and where does it come from, this amazingly un-self referential ability to focus on the ONE thing that doesn’t matter now and won’t help a gawddamn thing, most especially the dead child?

    religion. by the very “primitive” people known as Americans. here in America we have many religions but they all stem from one religious idea: i am not responsible because jeebus says i don’t have to be if i just pray to him. people are then free to worship money, guns, child rape and/or any other number of stand ins for more tradition religious practice. because christianity in particular is a sick faith that is founded on non-responsibility, martyrdom, willful blindness and deliberate obfuscation of the facts at hand. where it’s a ‘good’ thing when people die “for the faith.”

    religion causes willful blindness and ignorance everywhere, among all races, classes, and educational levels of people. and it kills children as a result.

  • chicago dyke

    over at the gai blog i read, the owner is fond of running one or two english language, done by white people, american exorcisms on children and vulnerable teens. it happens ALL THE TIME in america, that oh-so civilized nation that isn’t primitive at all, oh no.

    folks need to get more educated about the attacks on “witchcraft” both here and in other countries. they happen for a lot of reasons, and not all of them stem from primitivism and ignorance on the part of the accused “witches” or their cultures. sometimes there are political and economic reasons- the “primitive” culture just also happens to be sitting on some resources a more powerful group wants, but can’t legally or easily get rid of them to get to that. rile up the believers of the other religion, get them to do it for you!

    sometimes it’s purely social. some hypocrite monotheist making a living off of preaching about “purity” and got turned down by a woman he wanted to fuck, but was of a different faith. “she’s a witch! burn her!” he cries, so she won’t tell anyone of his hypocrisy.

    sometimes it’s staged for the benefit of making money off of compassionate outsiders with no real knowledge of the religions or peoples of the region, but will give money to huckster missionaries who go in and “bring the light of love” to confused people “plagued by witchcraft.”

    sometimes, it’s the local queer person, and some covetous neighbor outed them to the conservatives in the region. “demon homo possession must be tortured out!” we do that one a lot here in the US, btw.

    over the years i’ve read examples of all of those, and more, in these witchcraft horrorshows that lead tortured and murdered innocent people and yes, even children.

  • LesterBallard

    First, where did Jesus say that witches and witchcraft aren’t real?

    But he did say this: Matthew 5: 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Not to mention 5: 19. But the point is witches and witchcraft are not real, no matter what the fucking Bible says.

  • indorri

    Helen Ukpabio.

    Perhaps someone more anthropologically versed than I am could more readily explain and cite evidence to the state of African beliefs in witchcraft prior to Christianisation, but if it’s anything like other parts of the world, belief in witchcraft did not come with the part and parcel that practising witchcraft is evil and criminal.

    Followers of Christianity, conversely, almost universally condemn witchcraft and, prior to stamping out their excess in more modern times, consistently sought to inflict violence on those who practised it.

    The modern day tie with Pentecostalism, which has always had a huge emphasis on “spiritual warfare” and literal belief in demons inflicting misery and acting in the physical world to cause disaster leads me to believe that this murderous impetus is primarily caused by Pentecostalist and/or Evangelical Christianity.

  • Claude


    That article gives no information about how the shooting happened. All it says is that the boy and his parents were visiting family after attending Easter services. These people are no doubt grief stricken over the loss of their little boy, and you’re bashing them because religion angers you? Because some people on the internet are praying for them? Nice. Not sure what religion has to do with this tragedy, anyway. And the connection with tens of thousands of abused and abandoned children in Kinshasa is tenuous.

  • cipher

    Certainly, but it’s more exaggerated there, and in other third world countries. I’m sure Haiti sees a lot of it as well.

  • cipher

    but if it’s anything like other parts of the world, belief in witchcraft
    did not come with the part and parcel that practising witchcraft is
    evil and criminal

    I don’t think that’s the case there. Many, perhaps all indigenous cultures have a history of what we call “witchcraft” (a term I dislike, actually, as it’s inaccurate and slanderous of Wicca) or “black magic”. In this country, Native American societies had it. There have always been people who’ve been believed to engage in such practices.

    In any case, I agree that the imposition of fundamentalist Christianity has made it worse.

  • cipher

    I don’t know whom you think you’re addressing by “you people”, chicago dyke – but you have a history of shooting from the hip, and I’ve noticed that it’s often misdirected.

  • Feminerd

    The people who only believe in the OT (Jews), even the super whacky fundamentalist ones, are not proponents of stoning. Ever. For anything. Even if the Bible says to do it. Because that was then, and we live in a more modern time. Even the Haredi who reject a whole lot of modern stuff and ideas still aren’t down with stoning anyone. It takes fundamentalist Christians (and Muslims) to bring back that ancient atrocity.

  • indorri

    I was under the impression that such “black magic” was categorised not by any class of the magic itself, but by its effects. Newborn dies, witch poisoned it! Cows are sick, witch!

    But favourable weather for crops? Healing injuries? All part of the good stuff.

    Christianity, on the other hand, categorises “black magic” not by its effects, but by which “side” you’re on in their imaginary Great War.

    Don’t get me wrong, the scapegoating of people as malicious magic users is an issue, but Christian persecution of these supposed witches, I believe is the cause for the majority of “witch persecutions” in Africa as of modern times.

  • wmdkitty

    They fucked up by leaving a gun in a place where a 4-y/o child could get at it.

  • Jett Perrobone

    And you can bet the abusers of these children will tell them: “We don’t hate you. Not at all. We just hate the evil spirits inside you and your sinful behaviour. We just want to save you from going to Hell. That’s how much we love you!”

  • Pepe

    That was painful to watch :-/

  • Laurie Corwin Rodriguez

    [cringe] Pulling out my soapbox…
    In anthropology, the word “primitive” is essentially a four-letter word. It is not only ethnocentric, depending completely upon the relative perspective of the speaker, it tells us nothing useful or specific about the culture in question… in fact it tells you more about the speaker and their view of the world than the culture itself. Anthropologists today avoid the term like the plague.
    A key problem with the term: there are thousands of ways to define “primitive”. In this case, “primitive” could be defined as the tendency of a culture to rely upon superstitious religious constructs as a significant part of their social structure and system of behavioral mores. But then that would equally apply to this particular African culture or numerous religion-based American cultures, wouldn’t it?
    Which would take us back to my original point. Saying a culture behaves in a certain way because it is “primitive” is like saying that a blue whale is the largest mammal because it is a whale. ??? It’s just a label that teaches us nothing of value.
    Putting away my soapbox…

  • TheBlackCat13

    You do know a number of people die in the U.S. every year from exorcisms, right?

  • cipher

    In this case, I’m using it to refer to developmental level. I also frequently apply the term to evangelicals.

    I’m not implying that a “pre-industrial” society is somehow inferior.

  • Blacksheep

    You were specifically blaming what the Bible says, that’s why I mention it. It’s two separate conversations. We’ll never agree on what is real, but we can certainly discuss what the Bible says.

    Matthew 5:18, Correct: All was fulfilled in Christ. The law has no more power because of forgiveness. Clarity of understanding only comes from accuracy – not just plucking out a verse her and there.

    5:19? It simply says that people who do not obey the law “will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” – no talk of condemnation.

  • Blacksheep

    I completely agree – but there are many atheists here who point to precisely what the bible says, out of context, (which of course makes in inaccurate) as argument points. One can’t argue based on feelings, so doctrine needs to play a role. Like you said: there are logical, practical reasons why those things are not done. But there are also reasons that come from biblical doctrine.

    The witch hunters in Africa are not fundamental Christians. Fundamentalism is defined as practicing strict interpretation of scripture. In the case of Islam, that might include stoning. A strict interpretation of Christianity would require love, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek. The African witch hunter are insane.

    And spare me the “No true Scotsman” thing – we have a Bible, anyone can read it, anyone can see what the Christian (Jesus/New Testament) message is.

  • Blacksheep

    (Sorry for the typos…)

  • Blacksheep

    Cipher said “Primitive State”…not “primitive people”. Have you been to a small village in Africa? That’s an accurate description.

  • Claude

    Nothing has been reported about whether the child’s parents were aware of a loaded gun within reach.

  • Blacksheep

    What does Christianity have to do with someone shooting their child???

  • Claude

    Blacksheep: the child reportedly accidentally shot himself.

    But yes, Christianity appears to have had nothing to do with it.

  • trj

    I doubt it. We’re not exactly talking advanced theology here. My impression is that most of the abusers don’t even see them as children but as witches or demons incarnate who must be tortured or killed. They don’t do it to save the kids; they just want to kill the demon. And neither do they base their stupid beliefs on the Christian idea of Hell or salvation.

    Either way, fuck those evil bastards. Child abuse is always painful to see. But for someone to actively seek the death or mutilation of a child, and for such an idiotic reason… It’s just unbearable.

  • cipher

    Thank you, but don’t help me. We are not on the same side.

  • Blacksheep

    Nothing personal!

  • Feminerd

    There’s lots of verses that go both ways. Some are very nice. Some are atrocious. They’re all in the NT. There is not “one true strict interpretation of scripture”, and the people being evil in the name of Jesus aren’t reading it wrong any more or less than you are. That’s the whole point. It isn’t clear what the book says. If that’s “God’s word”, he’s a piss-poor writer.

  • Laurie Corwin Rodriguez

    Yes, I have been to a small village in Africa. Several. And my criticism applies regardless of it being “state” or “people”.

  • Laurie Corwin Rodriguez

    Thanks for the clarification and the response. It is the implication of “inferior” that makes me twitch. :-)

  • Blacksheep

    I never said that there was “one strict interpretation…” I was using some of those words to define what “Fundamentalist” means.

    Show me a NT verse that says that we as humans are to carry out sentence against others. I think you’re projecting what you think the book says and not reading it.

    The people doing evil in Jesus’ name are reading the Bible 100% wrong, end of story. Is there a verse that condones the torture of children at the hands of man?

    It’s as clear as any other body of work that requires study and contemplation. One doesn’t trot out one isolated scientific idea and say, “See? This is what science teaches!”

  • Feminerd

    Timothy is the most famous example- telling women to sit down and shut up. Paul teaches not to get married unless you’re just so horny you can’t stand it. The NT says Jesus is coming back in the lifetime of the hearers- that was 2,000 years ago, so it seems unlikely any of them are still living. Revelations is gobbledygook and gibberish but seems to celebrate mass murder and genocide. There’s teachings about abandoning your family to go follow Jesus as well. The NT has explicit condemnations of witchcraft and false prophecy as well, which while they don’t explicitly say to stone those people, they strongly suggest it by obliquely referring back to the OT verses. Remember, most of their audience would already know about stoning witches. If you say “don’t tolerate witchcraft”, they know what you mean even if you never say “stone the witch!”.

    I don’t remember the exact verses at this very moment. I’ll come back after doing research on the Interwebs to find them. Nonetheless, those are not happy funtime teachings and some of them are downright harmful. Furthermore, you can’t say that you can just ignore the OT stuff. There’s a ton of verses saying to follow the old rules, probably more of them than saying not to.

  • Blacksheep

    Again: It says that God will punish certain behavior, not that we are supposed to. It says people who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The message is clear throughout: God is just, and he alone will take care of injustice. It;s our job not to judge, in fact we’re severely warned against it “lest we be judged.”

    Looking at OT in NT context is necessary for understanding.

  • Feminerd

    Um, if those that don’t do what they’re supposed “won’t inherit the kingdom of God”, isn’t it loving and kind and right and ethical to force them to behave? Especially if, like most Christians, you believe the alternative is an eternity of torture? That’s not judging, that’s just forcing people to live the right way, and they’ll thank you for it once they’re dead, right?

    That’s just basic logic. If A leads to Good Stuff, and not-A leads to Bad Stuff, it doesn’t require any sort of judging to conclude that forcing people to do A instead of not-A is a good thing. I completely disagree with that, of course, but it is a perfectly valid reading of the NT. And actually, the OT even in context of the NT prescribes punishments for crimes and religious infractions. That strongly suggests we’re supposed to take care of it, not wait for God.

    As for God taking care of injustice: 1) he does a piss-poor job of it, and 2) whaaa? We’re just supposed to let bad shit happen and not try to fix it, cuz God’s got our back? WTF? While I’m quite sure you didn’t mean it that way, that is a truly disgusting attitude. It says that sexism, racism, homophobia, poverty, and other bad things are “meh” because God’ll deal with it, so we don’t have to. That attitude is a huge barrier to actually, you know, trying to fix those problems.

    All of this gets off the main point. The Christian Bible is very clear about what to do with witches, and exporting that brand of hatred and violence is awful. However, they aren’t “doing Christianity wrong”, because what does doing it right mean? They’re working off a vague book full of contradictory allegories, myths, and gibberish. So are you. The fact that you’ve managed to pull entirely different lessons from the same book says a lot about both the book and about who you are as people.