What have exorcisms in France got to do with an overturned oil lorry in Pakistan? Not a lot, is the immediate response, but maybe there is a connection. In Pakistan recently, a tanker carrying hundreds of gallons of fuel overturned after blowing a tyre. In excess of one hundred and fifty people died when the truck exploded as a passer-by lit a cigarette. 
Hearing of the tanker leaking fuel, people from all over the locality, and some from further afield, rushed with cooking pots, cans, and anything else capable of holding liquid, to salvage the leaking fuel for themselves. Most of them died when the tanker blew up.
It was a horrendous tragedy. The dead weren’t thieves, they were just poor, desperate people who saw the tanker accident as a gift from Allah. They were Muslims. It wouldn’t have mattered if they’d been Christian, or Hindu, or even Buddhist. They were still dirt poor, and their religious beliefs had done nothing to improve the bitter poverty of their existence.
A recent report in France reveals that more than three times the number of exorcisms are being carried out now, than was the case ten years ago. Most are conducted by the Catholic church. Because French people are less religious now they leave themselves open and vulnerable to diabolic attacks. At least, that’s what one Catholic priest told the newspaper printing the report.
In fact, there hasn’t really been any increase at all. What’s changed has been the numbers of cases identified as possession by the Devil, as opposed to other causes such as psychiatric illnesses. In some cases the church will have a psychiatric assessment done, or more likely, the priest relies on his own experience to diagnose the unfortunate sufferer.
It all smacks somewhat of medieval Europe, or maybe 21st century Pakistan. In both cases the people affected are under the control and dominance of a powerful hierarchical religious organization. And you can bet that the vast majority are poor, struggling, individuals with probably little in the way of education.
There’s no doubt that any original sense of moral purpose, humanity, or plain ‘goodness’, which may have been inherent in any of the major religions at their inception, has been usurped by the greed and quest for power of those charged with the responsibility of guiding and caring for its doctrines down through the ages.
In 21st century France, Pakistan, and throughout the world, religion is now no more than a tool of the marketeers, peddling heavenly immortality to anyone fool enough to be taken in by the glib tongues and promises of godly love in the next life, even if the one being lived today is squalid and purposeless.
The words of Mohammed, Jesus of Nazareth, or any of the other so-called “Divine Prophets” may have held a certain sense of comfort at one time (or, they may not), but today there’s no room for the originals in human society. All that’s spouted in the mosques and churches is twisted rhetoric, honed through the ages into tools of power and control over those who venture into these mausoleums of a bygone era.
Might the poor folk lying dead on the street in Pakistan have expected their prophet to at least provide them with sufficient for their needs so they’d not have to lose their lives filling a cooking pot with petrol? Might the mentally sick Catholics of France expect more of their god (and their church) than a priest informing them they’re possessed by Beelzebub?
Isn’t it time we buried these old superstitions once and for all? It takes only a modicum of intelligence to quickly conclude that the ‘devil’ only exists in celluloid cinema. Any cleric who says otherwise is either lying for his own nefarious purpose, or is, himself, in need of psychiatric medicine.
Of course, there is a modicum of insecurity behind this sudden influx of diabolic insemination in France. It’s a secular nation with a secular government. Separation of church and state is a reality, unlike certain other nations where its mere lip-service. The Catholic church fears its loss of power. “There’s a growing paganism,” said one French priest, “so the Devil is more at home.” Which is best translated, “We’re losing our control over the people, so we use the myth of the Devil to bring them back into the fold.”
Is there a place for religions in modern society, or is it time we recognised them for the myths they are and consigned them to the dustbin of history? It’s hard to argue there was ever any justification for their existence, except as a means to control the poor, disease-ravaged, peasantry of middle-ages England, or the 21st century peasantry of Pakistan. Life was/is so desperately hard for these people that some hope of a better life after death is probably the only belief that keeps them functioning. Let’s not forget that the mullahs, imams, priests, curates, vicars, bishops, archbishops, and pastors, peddling these myths are mostly living very nicely off their wares. The idea of giving all they own to the poor, somehow seems to have got lost in translation.
If, after reading this diatribe, you conclude the writer has a down on religion, you’d be right. He happens to believe the idea of immortality is total and utter bunkum. It works like this: okay, you have a crap life. You live in squalor, you have trouble feeding your family, you have to work at three really terrible low-paid jobs for eighteen hours a day to survive, your baby daughter has a terminal disease that can’t be treated because you can’t pay the hospital fees, your husband is serving ten years in prison for smoking a joint of marijuana while trying to gain a few moments of relief from the hell that is his life, and your house has just been repossessed. Don’t worry, because so long as you believe and come to our church, and leave a little something on the plate as you leave, Jesus/Allah/Hare Krishna/ will make it all up to you once you’re dead. Hang in there and don’t complain.
Doesn’t it truly sound like a load of bollocks? That’s because it is. If there was no religion we would all accept the inevitability of death as a personal ending. Carl Sagan, the great physicist, astronomer, poet, said of the concept of afterlife:
…it can be dangerous to believe things just because you want them to be true. You can get tricked if you don’t question yourself and others, especially people in a position of authority […] anything that’s truly real can stand up to scrutiny.
So let’s scrutinise. There is no evidence for human immortality. Not one shred. It’s a lie perpetrated by clerical conmen who are either themselves deluded, or out to deliberately delude others to their own ends.
Imagine for one moment the idea that we all believe in our own mortality. How might the world be different? Perhaps, we might not be so resigned to our own individual plights. We may be somewhat less agreeable to one person flying around in his private jet, while others had nothing. Just maybe our own lives, and by comparison those of others, may become more important to us. It could mean less wars, more concern for those less well off than ourselves, a more peaceful, understanding world. After all, if we all accepted our life on earth was all we have and death truly was the end, we just might be more accommodating to our neighbour, less tolerant of the inequalities in the world, and far less willing to allow our husbands and sons into a war-zone at the whim of power-crazed politicians.
Had this revelation come about a hundred years ago, it’s even possible 150 Pakistanis might be alive today, their standard of living such they’d no need to risk their one life for a gallon of petrol, and the Catholic clergy of France would have had to go out and find themselves a proper job.
Of course, there are those who will question this premise. To them the writer will say only this: in the two or three thousand years that religion has had a bearing on human life on this planet, name one time when factually i.e. not by myth, or twisted teaching, but using scientific evidence, there has been any great positive happening that can be subscribed solely to the influence, or effect, of religion.
Personally, while this writer can list a multitude of negative occurrences resulting from the effects of religion on human life: myriad religious wars, torture, the Inquisition, evil popery, persecutions, and in more modern times, ISIS, Sunni v. Shia, false lip-service by politicians to various ‘divinities’ to attract votes, etc, etc…balancing these often inhumane and barbaric acts with any positive effects of religion on humanity is frankly beyond him.
Religion and politics go hand in hand as institutions to control and brainwash the people. Of the two, religion is by far the most dangerous. Politics isn’t able to invoke a divine being to persuade the voters (though some politicians might consider themselves at least semi-divine!) but the churches hold over us the power of divine retribution versus an all-encompassing divine love, all dependent on how we behave here. At least, if we’re foolish enough to believe that tripe.
Until we break free from the yoke of religion the peasantry of Pakistan will continue to die in abortive attempts to procure the most basic items of survival in this, their only life. And the poor Catholics of France will carry on suffering diabolic possession, egged on by power-hungry clerics denying them the modern, psychiatric skills that would otherwise be their true salvation.
 “Pakistan fuel tanker inferno kills at least 150” BBC, June 25th 2017