Fun with non-sequiturs

Fun with non-sequiturs November 30, 2011

Father Gabriele Amorth, former chief exorcist for the Vatican, has never read any of the Harry Potter books.

We know this to be true because of what he says about them: “In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses.”

He’s not saying that this is how the Devil is portrayed as acting in the Harry Potter stories — wherein Volde-you-know-who certainly does “act in a crafty and covert manner,” at least initially. But what Fr. Amorth is suggesting is that Satan himself is acting nefariously on readers through J.K. Rowling’s books.

Having read those books, I can say with confidence that Fr. Gabriele Amorth is a bit of an ass. If Amorth has read the books, then he’s illiterate. If he hasn’t read them, but thinks he still has some right to condemn them as Satanic, then he’s a dishonest con-man who’s talking out of his cassock.

I’m leaning toward the latter, based on what else we’re told about the guy:

Amorth … claims to have performed 50,000 exorcisms before retiring in 2000. He is both founder and honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists.

There’s also an unmistakable whiff of con-man in this older interview, in which Amorth comes across as an aggrieved, self-important braggart. He says a great deal about the power and menace of Satan in that article — but never, ever apart from the context of his claim that therefore this means that exorcists like himself ought to be respected and honored and treated with deference instead of being denied easy access to the pope. He seems to be the guy who shows up to inform you that you have a deadly serious problem that you didn’t realize you had — but lucky for you he just happens to be selling the remedy.

Amorth, in other words, is a Jesuit Bob Larson. Larson, a pompous American huckster who claims to have “dealt with more demons than anyone on the planet,” has been more creative than Amorth at introducing new revenue streams for the exorcism racket. His latest is the “Demon Test®” — a first step for evaluating your personal spiritual condition. It’s only $4.99 to take online, although:

If you are concerned about your test score, we highly recommend that you schedule personal one-on-one time with Bob Larson. You may choose a one-hour Encounter Session or a full or half-day Intensive Session. These sessions are held during Bob’s on-the-road seminars or at our Center for Spiritual Freedom in Phoenix Arizona. In one hour you can begin living the life you’ve always wanted.

Larson is desperately trying to recapture his glory days from the Satanic panic of the 1980s and ’90s. Fr. Amorth, on the other hand, looks back longingly to what he regards as the Golden Age for his profession — the 17th century.

Anyway, here’s my favorite devilishly dumb comment from Fr. Gabriele Amorth:

Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter.

But that doesn’t make … I mean, reading Harry Potter doesn’t … that’s … what the …?

And now I’m stuck amusing myself by trying to compose similarly confounding statements.

  • … it leads to popularity in school, just like playing Dungeons & Dragons.
  • … it leads to gainful employment, just like earning a degree in philosophy.
  • … it leads to enlightenment, just like listening to Ke$ha.
  • … it leads to greater productivity, just like playing Free Cell.
  • … it leads to greater civility, just like anonymous comments on newspaper articles.
  • … it leads to knowledge, just like watching Fox News.
  • … it leads to a crowded dancefloor, just like cranking up the Enya.
  • … it leads to a stable financial future, just like a career in the newspaper business.
  • … it leads to a thriving, well-adjusted clergy, just like mandatory vows of celibacy.
  • … it leads to economic growth, just like fiscal austerity.

OK, your turn.

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  • ako

    If it was free, I would totally do the demon test as a joke, the same way I did that badly-written online personality disorder test that diagnoses everyone with a high probability of having at least three personality disorders (I got Avoidant, Borderline, and Schizotypal!).  The results would be good for a laugh.

    But yeah, I am definitely not giving him money.

  • Erl

    Because one day a nucleus looked at you funny when you were a child, and you decided to hunt it down and make it pay for that–if it took you twenty years and 5 GeV of accelerator?

  • Anonymous

    Today I was reading an interesting book on comics as propaganda.*  There was a section devoted to Anti-Harry Potter comic books, which are apparently so prominent they deserved their own sub-chapter.  It was the most amusing yet depressing thing I’ve ever read.  I just… Really? Don’t these people have better things to do with their lives?

    * “Comic Art Propaganda” by Fredrick Stromberg. If the subject interests you, I highly recommend it!

  • Tonio

    I read the trilogy recently. I have a soft spot for dystopian fiction. At times Collins seemed to be skewering not just the “reality” TV genre but also the debutante tradition.

    Speaking of Hunger Games: Happy Black Friday! Watch out for the pepper spray:

    These Games may seem barbaric to some, but they’re a modern
    tradition. They get the Shoppers in from all districts of the nation,
    train and groom them, and then release them on the fateful morning
    towards the Cornucopia of electronics-related bargains and plush towels.
    They have been training for this their entire lives…The shopping is quick and brutal…You know what to do. Ignore the shiny displays by the cash registers.
    Run in and find the iPhones, and then look for a source of water. Never
    turn your back on the adversaries. Arm yourself and protect the spoils
    with all your might.

  • There’s a youtube  video of a woman taking Larson’s demon test. 

    You would think that if he was going to charge someone $5 to take it he would put more effort into the thing. I’ve seen better facebook quizzes. 

    Also, Mr. Larson, I don’t think incested is a word.

  • Anonymous

    Like this?

  • Thebewilderness

    Here is a peek at the demon test for free.

  • Anonymous

    Harry Potter is garbage, like this blog

  • Hawker40

    Speaking of non-sequiturs…

  • Anonymous

    I was all ready to laugh at the Demon Test, figuring the questions would be wacky, but now I see that it’s just a way to single out the emotionally vulnerable — people with real problems, who might need real help — so that Bob Larson can bleed them dry.  And that is not funny.  At.  All.

  • Albanaeon

    “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation,” the 86-year-old priest said.

    Umm… no.  Taoism doesn’t and that’s a pretty big one.  It’s kinda sad when a person devotes his entire life to fighting something he deliberately knows nothing about.  Particularly when said person seems fairly high up in an organization that should definitely know better.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    To be fair, a lot of those were really low-grade imps, the bottom of the Satanic barrel. Amorth could probably polish off about twenty of those per day, even if he took a bathroom break between incantations. 

    Maybe he’s counting each occurrence of Legion as 1000?

    Your comment reminds me of some crackpot Christian writing about “Demonic Time-Sharing” (I’m not making this up) I read in… some Chick Publication, maybe?  The idea was that with Earth’s burgeoning population and a finite number of demons to do all the sock-puppeting of unbelievers, they had to teleport from human to human in order to keep the Sin Quotient high enough or some such.

    Thank Dobbs and Emperor Norton that I belong to a less-crazy pair of One True Religions!

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    “The best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people he doesn’t exist.”

    “No, the best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people that he does exist, and that they have to go and kill Those People for being his servants.”

  • Albanaeon

    …leads to a better sense of reality, just like Conservapedea.
    …leads to a full productive day, just like surfing TVTropes.
    …leads to a life of self-sacrifice, just like Atlas Shrugged.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    What gets me is how often there’s absolutely no effort put into this “Potter/Pokemon/(Other, please specify) is Satanic” fearmongering.

    That reminds me – has anyone seen any entertaining denounciations of the new My Little Pony series, or has Harry Potter kept all the Satanphobes distracted?

    I want to read screaming headlines about Japanese video games that teach children how Satan can be summoned to crush your enemies by shooting yourself in the head.

    Heh.  I’ve been saying for a while now that the “Persona” series is what Pokemon WOULD look like if the Fundamentalists were right about it.  “I choose YOU, Beelzebub!”  :D

  • Anonymous

    I also wish these people would look beyond the mainstream to find something more interesting than a fantasy novel where magic exists. I want to read screaming headlines about Japanese video games that teach children how Satan can be summoned to crush your enemies by shooting yourself in the head.

    Unfortunately, all the observers exposed to Shin Megami Tensei have mysteriously exploded in under fifteen minutes.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously the book Amorth read was “Harry Potter and the Devil Gurus of the Ganges.” 

  • Anonymous

    One man’s trash is ano… ahhhh, forget it.

  • Dan W

    I too would love to take Larson’s demon test just for fun, but there’s no way i’m giving him any of my money. If only it was available to take for free…

  • The only place that has linked the new MLP:FIM with Satanism, as far as I quickly found, was (the parody site) Landover Baptist:

  • Thebewilderness

    Consumer unit 5012, I think you may be thinking of “Damned Busters” by Matthew Hughes.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Can any of our community pedants help me out?

    It seems to me that the examples given by Fred and various commenters might be something other than true non-sequiturs. They all make comparisons to statements that are pretty much the opposite of reality, whereas in my mind a non-sequitur would include a statement with no connection to the comparison whatsoever (rather than a linked topic that goes in the wrong direction). For example:

    … it leads to popularity in school, just like Tuesday
    … it leads to gainful employment, just like spaghetti

    Is there a more precise term for the sort of thing everyone has been doing? This is important to me because I’m both a pedant and someone who didn’t get much grammar education, so I want things to be exactly correct but don’t know whether they are!

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Consumer unit 5012, I think you may be thinking of “Damned Busters” by Matthew Hughes.

    For the “demonic timesharing” thing?  No, I’m pretty sure wherever I read that one was _completely serious_.  The mind boggles.

  • Anonymous

    I want to read screaming headlines about Japanese video games that
    teach children how Satan can be summoned to crush your enemies by
    shooting yourself in the head.

    Hah, indeed.

    I mean, there’s even titles in the series with “Devil” in the name! And the earlier ones frequently cast God as evil and let you kill it. Not to mention the ones where you gain immense power by doing simple, urban-legend inspired, magic rituals.

    Yet they also have a much better grasp of morality than these people.

    Speaking of, anyone else excited for Devil Survivor 2? I loved the original, and the second one is looking to be even better, which is all kinds of excellent.

  • Jim

    Sgt. Pepper, they are not clean non sequiturs in the literary sense, but are in the logic sense. A non sequitur fallacy is a conclusion that has no relation or contradicts the information used to reach the conclusion, and so these would count for that.

  • Anonymous

    Have these belated internets… i don’t need them anymore because i have died laughing…

  • Anonymous

    Nothing would brighten my day more than “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” being sufficiently mainstream that some fundamentalist group deems it worth denouncing.  That’d be real street cred, you know?  Like the show’s finally arrived.  Sadly, I haven’t seen any such criticisms — now that I think of it, I can’t recall religious groups going after any incarnation of MLP, even though the franchise has been around for almost 30 years.

    It shouldn’t be too hard to dredge up some objections to MLP:FiM.  For one thing, there’s “magic” right in the title.  For another … um … well … I think Sweetie Belle said “Jeez Louise” once, so blasphemy?  Hmm, this is harder than I thought.  It’s too bad the CAPalert people only do movies.  They’d know what to do.

  • Anonymous

    Good one Rikalous! And I for one always thought that the White Witch was rather classy.

  • To be fair, who *hasn’t* thought yoga was evil when they were trying to twist themselves into a ridiculous pose while the cats try to help by crawling all over you?

    Of course, most of us realize it’s not *actually* true…

  • Anonymous

    Clearly he’s there, though.

    I mean, don’t you remember the passage where Bigwig is facing down General Woundwort and quips “Yippie kay, mother f**cker”*?

    *That actually takes on a whole new level of meaning when we’re talking about rabbits doesn’t it?

  • I lived in Texas when the first set of Star Wars movies came out, and one local non-sequiterist made minor news by claiming it was satanic because of Yoda – because that’s one character off Yoga, which is obviously satanic.

  • Anonymous

    If you exorcised a legion, you could take a nice sabbatical. 

  • Here’s my effort:

    Paying taxes is Socialist, it leads to Communism just like joining a union!The second half was taken from a conversation I had last night. (the logic was definitely the same)

  • Anonymous

    Well, he probably used prayer macros.  “Beat it, you —hole!”

    “Run aloooong!!!”

  • Anonymous

    A little late to the party.  Alas, I’ve been caught up in Skyrim.  Assuming that most who post here are still Evangelical:

    Isn’t being born again developed from the same epistemic view as possession by evil spirits?  What’s the fundamental difference between gods and bogeymen?  Why is dismissal of one form of possession popular but not the other?

  • Ursula L

    With so many fantasy books targeted as being satanic, I’m surprised I’ve never found anyone ranting about Bujold’s Five God’s series.  

    It gives you a half-demon god that’s benevolent, the Father god who is generally weak and reliant on the interventions of  the other gods, a heroine who is saved by moving away from worship of her “proper” god, the Mother, and devoting herself to the demon Bastard god, and even a minor character who is actually possessed by a demon and uses this possession for good. The religion that worships the demon god is shown as correct, while the one that rejects the demon god is written as a sinful heresy.  

  • Lori

    I’m sure people would complain about Bujold if they knew about it. I don’t think she gets a lot of play in the circles that tend to spawn these freak outs and she’s not a pop culture phenomenon so they just have no clue about her. 

  • The way is clear:

    Does anyone have a mailing address for this guy? We should send him copies of My Little Pony so that he can denounce it.

  • Mook

    These guys denounce things because they’re famous and it brings them attention. If you rant about Harry Potter, there isn’t a single person in the US who wouldn’t have some idea of what you’re talking about, even if they haven’t read the books or seen the movies. If you rant about Bujold, how many people who don’t read fantasy/science fiction will even know what it is?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I lived in Texas when the first set of Star Wars movies came out, and
    one local non-sequiterist made minor news by claiming it was satanic
    because of Yoda – because that’s one character off Yoga, which is
    obviously satanic.

    A corollary: dairy products are divine, because in a certain strong Australian accent, cheeses sounds just like Jesus.

  • vsm

    It shouldn’t be too hard to dredge up some objections to MLP:FiM

    We talked about it in a previous thread. The first five minutes of the first episode establish the setting as a pagan matriarchal theocracy ruled by a Sun Goddess. That’s easily enough for a small-scale moral panic, but if you’re serious about pearl-clutching, you could remark on how the main ponies are all seriously pursuing their professions/studies, some of which are downright *unfeminine*. Three of the six leads also work for the state, which suggests a bloated public sector. Indeed, rather than allowing the Invisible Hoof to do its thing, almost every aspect of life in Equestria is strictly controlled, including the weather and coming of spring! When an advocate of a more laissez-faire style of management appeared at the beginning of season two, he was swiftly encased in stone and put on display. This is nothing less than Socialism.

    One could write a similar paragraph on the show’s outright hatred of heterosexuality and championing of barely-coded homosexual relationships, but trying made me uncomfortable.

  • Have you read the one about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim?  Granted, it is a known poe, but still… :D

  • vsm

    I hadn’t, thanks. It’s always a delight to read something like that, even if my experience with the Elder Scrolls games is limited to ten minutes of Daggerfall over a decade ago.

  • P J Evans

    Why, again, am I doing experimental nuclear physics?

    Because it’s really fun? Or at least more fun than, say, working at a fast-food place?

  • Then again, I point out that if I had no sense of shame for myself, I could be raking in a lot more money.