Tuesday, July 8, 2008



I love a good exorcism. One reason is my name, Nick, is one of the few proper names in the dictionary. It is one of the names of the devil. The other is to witness the power of the clergy over the strongest of all religious forces, evil.

I have witnessed what my own exorcism was like during the christening of a friend’s baby at an Orthodox Church (I was exorcised and baptized as an infant also in the Orthodox Church) and now two adult exorcisms in Samoa. As I watched the Samoan pastor commanding the devil to leave the man’s body, the man’s agony in front of the congregation, and the congregation’s support during the procedure, my thoughts turned not to the validity of the devil or exorcism, but whether evil, just like any other human religious construct, exists at all.

The concept of evil and Satan does help to label events, which we do not like. But like the sun rising and setting does not explain the relative motion of sun and earth, evil does not explain why all things great and small have terrible things happen to them. Maybe good and evil are figments of our thoughts. Just as the sun was once thought to revolve around the earth, maybe the concept of evil also limits our capacity to imagine a universe beyond good and evil?

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