The Devil Made Me Do It: Personal Responsibility and Satanic Inspiration

By: Jake
September 13, 2012

Kronk.jpg

I always find it remarkable from sacrament how comfortable we are to ascribe diabolic motives and influence to the actions of others. Perhaps this is because there is a cosmic war between the devils and angels being waged in the air around us to which we are oblivious.  If we are being deceived and are under the influence of the devil then can we be held responsible for our actions? If we mistake satanic whisperings for heavenly inspiration then can we be punished for it? If we are simply acting out of obedience to what we perceive as spiritual promptings then can we take any moral credit for it? If God rewards us for our actions then can he reward us if we only do good because he prompts us to do it?

First, let’s discuss Satanic influence and our responsibility. Consider the case of Menocchio, a sixteenth century miller and his confrontation with the inquisition for various heresies. In the book, Cheese and Worms, author Ginzburg explored the reading habits of Menacchio to reconstruct the development of the heretical positions Menocchio advocated. From court recordings, Menacchio was not your typical miller, and the inquisitors were curious as to how a miller with his limited access to books was able to develop the sophisticated critiques of theological positions that he had. As Ginzberg said:

“It seemed impossible to the inquisitors that Menocchio, uninfluenced, should have formulated ideas so different from current ones.”

For instance Menocchio said that he felt that “Baptism is an invention, and priests begin to consume souls even before they are born and continue to devour them even after death.” Ginzberg suggests that Menocchio had deeply internalised the books that he had read and put them through a filter of his own ideas and beliefs. By digesting the books and thinking about the scriptures Menocchio concluded that:

“As for the things in the gospel, I believe that parts of them are true and parts were made up by Evangelists out of their heads, as we see in the passages that one tells in one way and on in another way.” (11)

Menocchio also believed in a cultural relativism recognising that had he been born in a different situation he would have believed differently “since out of many different nations, some believe in one way some in another.” This plurality of beliefs made it difficult for him to know which of the religions were true – if everyone is convinced that they are the one true path to God then how do you judge between them objectively? How can you be sure that your way is the right way when everyone thinks that they are right?

To formulate such contradictory views in provincial France was highly unusual, which was why Menocchio attracted the attention of the inquisition, it was simply remarkable how an unlearned miller develop these ideas. What interested me most, however, was the response that Menocchio gave the inquisition regarding how he obtained these ideas.  The most common response he gave was:

“I uttered those words because I was tempted… It was the evil spirit that made me believe those things.”

devil_tempting.gif

In suggesting that he was the victim of an evil spirit who deceived him, Menocchio was playing an interesting move. How could the Inquisition punish him for things that he had been deceived into holding? Menocchio’s claim was that he was acting in good faith because he was just listening to the spirit; it was only in hindsight that he realised that it was in fact a clever devil that had fooled him with such heretical thoughts.

Except it was not that simple. Menocchio often contradicted himself, for after suggesting devilish temptations had lead him to these heresies he followed it be saying: “My opinions came out of my head.” While he realised that the ideas were the product of his own thinking and reading, he realised that it contradicted mainstream religious thinking, making it the product of a satanic temptation. So how do we personally know when we are under the influence of Satan and when is it our own thinking? If we, in good faith, think an idea is from God can we be punished for being deceived?

Korihor.jpg

The case of Menocchio has many parallels to the story of Korihor, the famous anti-christ from Alma 30. Korihor is an atheist who works hard to tell people that they don’t have very good reasons to believe what they believe (here is a cool cartoon version of it).  He tells them that Christ will not come, because why would you believe someone who says he knows the future? Now many have commented on the fact that Korihor is a caricature of a sceptic used as a straw-man to demonstrate the fact that as members of the LDS church ‘we combat false philosophies with revelation and true doctrine, not academic debate.’ Elder Lund, of the Work and the Glory fame, attempted to use Korihor as an example of how latter-day saints counter the false philosophies of the modern age. As Lund says concerning Korihor:

It teaches a great lesson for our day. No matter how clever, how sophisticated the philosophies of an anti-Christ may seem, they are not true. They are riddled with contradictions, errors, and false assumptions. The gospel, on the other hand, is truth—truth that has stood the test of centuries, truth that can withstand rational examination, truth that is pragmatic and practical, truth that can be confirmed through personal experience.

Now I am going to ignore some of the problems with this statement. Such as how does Elder Lund account for the fact that the gospel is riddled with contradictions and even Mormonism is full of contradictions? Or the contradiction in his own argument, namely, that gospel truth can withstand rational examination and the fact that truth is the product of revelation rather than academic debate. As Lund says the strength of the lesson from Alma is that:

Alma does not get into philosophical debate with Korihor. He doesn’t allow himself to be pulled onto the ground that Korihor tries to define as the area of debate.

korihor-4-2.jpg

How can the gospel truth withstand rational examination (Lund’s assertion) if it is never pulled into a rational philosophical debate? For a more in depth response to Lund’s talk see here.

Let’s look at how Lund uses Korihor to label modern philosophical movements and ideas as being part of an anti-christ philosophical system and how can we tell if we are deceived by a devil? Lund suggests that modern philosophers are like Korihor in that they are mouth pieces for Satan to spread his lies and the sophisticated philosophies of men. As a philosophy student I spend a lot of time amongst philosophers, who are often sincere and genuine people seeking to find truth and refine our ideas about the world.  Obviously, some of them teach and believe things that go against the teachings of the church, but this is a product of rational thought and reasoning. They do not share the world view taught in LDS churches. This makes me sceptical of the passage in which Korihor admits to being deceived by the devil:

53 But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared  unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.

Was Korihor actually deceived by an angel or was this an attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions by distancing his own personal involvement like Menocchio?  Korihor’s critique of God and religion is a fairly sophisticated argument for the Book of Mormon.  Surely he would have questioned where an angel came from.  If you don’t believe in a God then you are not likely to believe in angels. This inconsistency undermines Korihor’s credibility because he really knows that there is a God, but he is just teaching that there is no God for power and influence. However, this whole passage is out of place in the context of the story.  Can we really imagine Richard Dawkins meeting Thomas S. Monson and then saying at the end of the interview (after President Monson has failed to engage with any of his points but has simply born his testimony) “You are right there is a God and I have been deceived by the devil into thinking that there is no God”? It’s ludicrous to imagine it.

This leads me to question just how accurate the dialogue is between Alma and Korihor as being an authentic narration of events as they actually happened. If it was an attempt by Korihor to limit his punishment then he was not very successful as he was trampled to death by the so-called Christians despite recanting his views. If he really did see a devil disguised as an angel, then how can we be sure that any angelic ministration is from God and not the devil?  Presumably, ancient people in the scriptures didn’t have Joseph Smiths handy handshake test to determine between true and evil spirits.

Whichever way we look at it, the account in Alma is full of inconsistencies. If Korihor believes in God really and is deceived by what he thinks is an angel, then why does he believe the angel when he says that their is no God? Perhaps this is another attack on the sceptics suggesting that they are stupid enough to believe a messenger from God when the messenger says there is no God.

A third option is entirely possible: that Korihor’s deception was later added by writers to explain the genesis of Korihor’s arguments. In Menocchio’s case, the Inquisitors were more prepared to accept that he was tempted by the devil than to accept that he could rationally and reasonably arrive at them through his own cognitive faculties. Were the ecclesiastical leaders in Korihor’s day also inclined to suggest that scepticism is closely entwined with satanic deception? My purpose here is not to highlight the problems of construction of narratives in the Book of Mormon here, and how it bears the imprint of historical revisionism but consider what these examples highlight about attributing devilish temptations to actions.

In Harry Potter there is a spell called the Imperius curse, which allows the wizard who casts the spell to control another person. This was used by the evil wizard Voldemort to get others to do evil acts. This created a problem for the Ministry of Magic – how do you punish people who claim that they did their evil acts under the influence of a powerful evil force? But how do you determine the extent to which they were acting under the influence of another and to what extent are they using it to avoid personal responsibility?

Is my criticism of leaders and certain doctrines the product of my own mental reasoning or am I under the power of unseen demons? Is my liberal attitude a product of being under the power of the devil or a product of my education?

Thoughts

  • How do you feel about the attribution to satanic motives to other peoples actions?
  • Do you believe that we are in a cosmic battle in which demons and angels battle for our souls?
  • How accountable are we for our actions and beliefs if we come under the influence of Satan like Korihor?

Discuss.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

19 Responses to The Devil Made Me Do It: Personal Responsibility and Satanic Inspiration

  1. Heber13 on September 13, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    This is a very, very interesting post.

    I back away from the notion there are actual beings on my right and left shoulder whispering things in my ear, or even more remote beings influencing things from afar. My mind has plenty of good and evil in it to produce my experiences, for which I am accountable.

    In most cases, I think people need a story to frame their reality. So, when something good happens, it is ascribed to God. When something bad happens, it is ascribed to Satan. Korihor needs a story, and says he was deceived. Nephi needs a story and says it was an angel. Eve needs a story and says it was a serpant. Adam needs a story and says it was Eve. I don’t take these literally, I just think they’re trying to express things in words.

    That doesn’t mean God or Satan had anything to do with it, nor is there evidence God or Satan don’t exist and it is all in our mind.

    We each process reality in ways that provide meaning to us, to help us make choices and hold ourselves accountable to our conscience.

    At this time in my journey, I mostly believe we are on our own. For good or bad, we are on our own and I can’t blame anyone but myself. The Devil makes me do nothing. I don’t think he is tempting me. I just have an internal battle of good and evil that I am trying to make sense of. And God is really in heaven, and will judge me.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  2. Heber13 on September 13, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  3. Frank Pellett on September 13, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    I always find it remarkable from sacrament how comfortable we are to ascribe diabolic motives and influence to the actions of others.

    Can you explain this? What does sacrament have to do with it?

    I personally don’t believe anyone can “make” us do anything. No matter what angels, devils, wizardy, exists in this world, none of them have the power to make us do things against our will. That is not to say we cannot be conditioned to react independant of our will (salivating at a bell, acting as grammar police, making your argument by continually decrying your opponents irrationality, etc).

    I think part of the story of Korihor was not that he was deceived, but that after making a string of decisions he knew to be wrong and finally out of rationales, he grasps for a way to blame it on someone else. Different from Menocchio, however, is that Korihor’s blame of the devil did not absolve him of the choices he made for himself.

    I think the second sin in the Garden of Eden, that of trying to shift blame, made the punishment for the first even stronger. (Which was continued through blaming Eve for the fall and all man’s subsequent ills, but that’s a whole other discussion)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  4. Jenn on September 13, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    First, I appreciate the use of the Kronk image. Nice work:)
    Second, the Korihor story has driven me nuts lately, because every person I tell my story to tells me to go read that story and see how applicable it is (I am, apparently, an anti-christ because I like logic and I question things- nevermind the fact that I am far from atheist). Thank you for putting words to the syndrome: STRAWMAN! I hadn’t figured out how express the problem with this, but it is totally a strawman fallacy. This isn’t to say I can’t learn from the Korihor story- not at all- but rather, using him as a caricature of those who doubt or those who debate/apply logic to spirital questions… totally a fallacy.

    As for just how much influence the devil has on us: I don’t believe in an entity that is the devil. Obviously, this wouldn’t jive with a mormon testimony, but that’s one reason I left the standard testimony behind: the idea of an actual entity with influence for evil, just doesn’t make sense in my world view.
    Even if I did believe he exists, I don’t know how much influence I could ascribe to him as an entity. After all, God can’t be in my head or my heart, so he has to send the holy ghost. But satan can be in my head/heart and influence me? How does that mash with free agency?

    I do believe in “satan” in the sense of their being a force, perhaps within our own natures, that keeps us from being Christlike. So in that conteaxt, if someone says “the devil made me do it”, it’s really “the part of me that would keep me from happiness/righteousness made me do it”- well, that I can see. (It doesn’t excuse bad behavior, either, which is an advantage over the idea of a red man with a pitchfork making me do bad things).

    And don’t give me the schpeel about how the best thing the devil can do is convince us he doesn’t exist- because I am actually a more righteous person when I view my choices and the things that influence me as entirely my responsibility and something I control.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  5. Heber13 on September 13, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    Jenn, good comments.

    The devil seems to be doing himself no favors by participating in God’s plan when he obviously can’t win, and would in fact, thwart the plan better by doing nothing. Isn’t that the path of least resistance for him?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  6. Kullervo on September 13, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    There’s sort of an obvious special pleading problem when you go around insisting that other peoples’ revelations are from Satan but yours are from God.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  7. hawkgrrrl on September 13, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    Kullervo, definitely agree. The fallacies abound on this one.

    Jake, I have always smelled a rat in the Korihor story, and it ain’t Korihor. The story is completely incongruous. I think your comparison to Menocchio is brilliant. I have never heard of Menocchio before, but if Korihor faced religious devotion on the scale of the Inquisition, then maybe it’s understandable for him to come back with some cockamamie story about an angel telling him there is no God. Ludicrous! I suppose since he was trampled to death, he was definitely not under the protection of law. You really can’t fault his argument. He just said they couldn’t know what was unknowable. Basically, it’s the same argument as people saying they know when they really just have faith. He wasn’t even anti-faith, just anti-people being forced to conform by believers.

    Previously, I had always assumed the angel story was thrown in later by a BOM writer to undermine Korihor’s obvious credibility, but maybe it was him grasping at straws in the face of his Inquisitors. Great theory!

    As far as “the devil made me do it” arguments go, it’s never really gotten anyone off the hook religiously. From a mental health standpoint, it’s a fine argument, though! But we know that those targeted by the Inquisition were disproportionately women, homosexuals and the mentally ill – people whom society (in their day) already feared and took little responsibility to protect.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  8. allquieton on September 13, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    I think Satan influencing me is similar to another person influencing me. Obviously I am still accountable if a person influences me to do evil against my better judgment. But if I am completely deceived, and despite pure and good intent am tricked into doing evil, it’s not my fault. Same rules of accountability apply whether Satan or a person is doing the influencing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  9. allquieton on September 13, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    Plus I don’t think Korihor is a straw man. He has good, strong arguments that largely go unchallenged. And even when challenged on a few points, he is never declared the “loser” of the argument.

    Wouldn’t a straw man story present a Korihor with weak arguments, which would then be overcome by Alma’s superior reasoning?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  10. Howard on September 13, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    If we believe in an afterlife and answered prayers, then it follows we believe in some form of two-way telepathy! Given some spirits must be better than others we therefore also believe in evil spirits or devils who given enough time to become experienced would be capable of influencing us negatively probably subconsciously via. telepathy. Certainly Mormons believe the Holy Spirit and prophets influence us positively. Thus we must experience the tug o war of good and evil. Mormons believe the answer is to cling to the iron rod, but there is a much better way that binds the devil and his minions; that is to know one’s own thoughts and take control of them which can be accomplished by making our subconscious thoughts conscious through the practice of meditation and by sanctifying ourselves through deep and thorough repentance and seeking enlightenment that allows us to walk in the Spirit.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  11. Zara on September 13, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    I’ve heard a theory that Korihor was the character through which Joseph Smith worked through his own doubts–that he was essentially trying to disprove things that were troubling to him. That makes sense to me because Korihor-as-real-person makes no sense at all, IMO. If he was, the believers completely overreacted to what he actually said, and it doesn’t reflect well on them.

    Loved the Menocchio story, which I also hadn’t heard before. Very cool and apt comparison. If someone was threatening my life because they didn’t like my beliefs, I’d likely tell them what they wanted to hear, then get the heck out of there.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  12. Hedgehog on September 14, 2012 at 2:19 AM

    Ah well. It was Korihor who introduced one of my brothers to the arguments of atheism, quickly supplanted by Richard Dawkins. I like your analogy with the Inquistion. My brother was appalled by the treatment of Korihor. And it isn’t edifying.

    First the chapter states that (v11) ‘there was no law against a man’s belief’, but by v20 the people of Ammon are tying Korihor up and taking him to Ammon and he’s booted over to Gideon. This seems to be regarded as a good thing. By v29 the chief judge as well as the high priest in Gideon is involved in tying him up as well, and he’s sent to Alma and the chief judge in Zarahemla (the governer over all the land) . In what way has Korihor broken the law? Why the interrogation by Alma (who was head of the church)? Is this some kind of ecclesiastical court? Was Korihor a church member? It didn’t seem that he was, given the description in v6.

    I’m trying to imagine the showdown between President Monson, and Richard Dawkins that you posit. To follow the same path it’d have to be more than President Monson bearing his testimony. He’d also have to out and out accuse Richard Dawkins of lying about his position (v42).

    So Korihor asks outright for a sign. Would Richard Dawkins do that? I would doubt it – I think he’d pretty much believe he could probably find some other reason to explain any miracle. But Korihor does. Why? Is he just so exasperated by Alma’s failure to engage with the argument? Does he want Alma to fail so he has more ammunition for his own case? Does he believe Alma won’t be able to deliver, and will then have to let him go? Does he think this a just a quick way to finish things? We don’t know, but I should think he’s pretty tired of being taken prisoner and moved from pillar to post and now he’s reached the top man. Alma tells him he has had signs, giving a whole list that would fail to convince many an atheist today. Finally Alma threatens him (v47) with being struck dumb. And in v48 Korihor is backtracking a little, taking a more agnostic position. Was it that he wasn’t expecting that any sign would be directed against his person, or that Alma so obviously believes what he is saying that is making him nervous?

    It is only once the sign comes to pass that he comes up the preposterous-sounding tale about being deceived by an angel. So he doesn’t (or didn’t) believe in God or angels, but he has to come up with something that will get the sympathy of Alma to get his speech back. He’d be shocked for sure.

    He becomes a beggar, meeting an ignominious end under foot of the Zoramites, with their own elite religion and who hated the poor (as we see in the next chapter). How did he end up with the Zoramites? Hardly the best choice. Was it that the church members in Zarahemla and Gideon all turned their backs, and refused to support him in his begging, on account of him being that evil atheist?

    The whole story raises so many questions, but one of the lessons I take is that, in spite of the laws supporting freedom of belief, in some of those Nephite cities, and at the top in Zarahemla, there was no effective separation between church and state.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  13. hawkgrrrl on September 14, 2012 at 2:25 AM

    Hedgehog – “there was no effective separation of church and state.” Exactly! And yet we’re all supposed to yearn for a theocracy as the ideal form of government?? I have yet to see an example of theocratic rule that didn’t result in these kinds of abuses.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  14. Hedgehog on September 14, 2012 at 2:45 AM

    And to answer the questions in the post.
    1. I think there are a few who may have those motives, but I think a lot of people either aren’t bothered one way or the other. Some are in genuine error, and many more are just dealing the best they can with all too human failings.
    2. Maybe.
    3. That perhaps depends upon the nature of the influence and how we got there. I don’t think mistakes by those who are doing their best to do right will be judged too harshly, though I do think we are accountable. Isn’t that what the atonement is for?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  15. Jake on September 14, 2012 at 6:00 AM

    Heber13,

    I am inclined to agree with you. That the invocation of Satan and God are more stories and mythic frameworks that we use to make sense of our world. To use them is to have a interpretive strategy that helps us to make sense of the world using archetypal figures.

    As you said this doesn’t mean that they don’t exist – it simply means that we use them for our own purposes to shape our perception of the world. If making sense of the internal struggle we have between good and evil is through a devil and angel on your shoulders and if this helps you to make conscious choices about your actions then I don’t think it matters if it is literally true. Personally, I would rather take full responsibility for my actions ifI do something wrong then it was my fault because of my flawed way of thinking not because of some devil whispering in my ear.

    Hawk,

    I think the Book of Mormon has a far greater richness when we consider the fact that editors and recorders very likely altered and mythologised the stories they included in it. I think Korihor is a great example of this complexity.

    The mental illness and minorities thing is really interesting though. As that adds a further level of fuzziness to this all. It seems as if a lot of what was labelled as demonic possession was in fact simply mental illness. Further you only have to look at the anti-homosexual rhetoric in the past to see the blurriness – gay people were at the same time both suffering from a mental health problem and under the influence of satan.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  16. Jake on September 14, 2012 at 6:28 AM

    Frank,

    That was my mistake I just always call Church sacrament. Where it says sacrament read it as church meetings.

    You are right on one hand in saying that no one can ‘make’ us do anything. And at first it seems compelling and that this is the case, but then I think of exceptions such as if someone messes with my mental state, through alcohol, drugs, or psychological manipulation then whilst I am not being forced to do something I am not entirely choosing to do something. We may not will something but we do it because our mental processing is compromised. This blurs the free will force boundary. So it is possible for someone to interfere, such as a devil or angel, to do something similar with our own thought processes.

    Jenn,

    I agree with a lot of what you said. Although do you not think if you let go of a literal devil and dilute it to a general force that stops us from being christlike it renders the idea of the devil far less powerful?

    That said, I agree that it is much more meaningful when we take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions. Most temptations are not from the devil but from ourselves. I mean if I am an alcoholic and I go into a pub/bar then its not the devil tempting me to drink its just myself and my choices that are creating the temptation. To attribute it to a devil tempting me is simply avoiding taking responsibility for my own actions and thoughts.

    Hedgehog,

    Thats a really interesting analysis of the events in Alma 30. I had not thought of the devil disguised as an angel as an attempt to try and win back the sympathy of Alma in order to get his speech back. It certainly also makes sense given the context of the speech.

    Regarding the Monson/Dawkins encounter I think that Dawkins would say that he wanted to see a sign. As he is keen to give the impression of being open-minded, but he is likely to have ready-made explanations. Like the time when someone told him he had seen Jesus – Dawkins response was ‘I never fail to be amazed by the human minds ability to deceive itself’ and when pushed simply said that whilst he believes the man was sincere in his beliefs, he thinks it was a delusion. So even a sign would not be enough for Dawkins – although I would love to see him struck dumb.

    Thinking about the sign that Korihor asked for and was given – What I want to know is whatever happened to God striking people blind, deaf and dumb as punishment for apostasy and leading the church astray? It would be nice if the Brethren could at least pull one of them off once a decade – like it would have been so much more impressive if Micheal Quinn was struck dumb or had a three day coma Alma the younger style instead of the messy excommunication that happened instead. Not that I wish it had happened, but it just seems God is not so zealous about punishing apostates today as he was back then.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  17. ji on September 14, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    We’re free to choose, right? There can be both personal responsibility and satanic inspiration at the same time.

    Alma does not get into philosophical debate with Korihor. He doesn’t allow himself to be pulled onto the ground that Korihor tries to define as the area of debate.

    “Don’t argue with the devil” is excellent advice — we can’t win an argument (or discussion) using rationality or anything else, because the devil will always win with his lies and sophistries. Resist the devil? Yes. Argue with the devil? No.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  18. Richard_K on September 14, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Contradiction compromises credibility, for certain. This post is an excellent autopsy on the structure of contradiction as evident in the Korihor narrative, but I find myself unwilling to dismiss the validity of the story on that basis alone, despite the novelty to my mind of many of the more salient points raised by this post.

    To me, it comes down to the bias of rational thought in favor of naturalistic arguments over that of mystic ones. Anecdotal narratives abound of those intoxicated on alcohol or other psychoactive substances who relate a sense of self-disassociation, almost as if saying, “I saw myself do it, and yet it wasn’t really me doing it.” Those who suffer acute episodes of non-differentiated type schizophrenia may echo similar self-reports. My point is not to suggest that Korihor was in fact drunk, or simply mentally incapacitated, as opposed to merely possessed by the Devil; my point is to admit that to my rational mind these and other naturalistic explanations for the contradictions in Korihor’s self-report are more credible than the mystic explanation offered by Mormon because of the bias I referred to earlier. In other words, why should possession by an evil spirit be any less believable that being under the influence of a distilled spirit? It seems to me that a self-report of someone trying to sort through events while suffering a hangover or other neurotransmitter imbalance would have at least as many holes and inconsistencies as one offered by someone who had been possessed by the Devil. It seems to me that Korihor’s testimonial contradictions should not be the basis disbelief of the Book of Mormon, but rather a philosophical rejection of demonic possession itself would be not only sufficient, but also more congruous with Occam’s Razor.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  19. Nick Literski on September 15, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    First, why does that man in the artist’s drawing have a giant carrot growing out of the top of his head?

    Second, my experience in LDS culture suggests that while your actions or beliefs may be prompted by an “evil spirit,” the only reason you’d be subject to such influence is SIN—Ergo, it’s all your fault anyway, because you SINNED enough to make yourself open to “evil spirits” whispering in your ears.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting

Archives

%d bloggers like this: