“EXORCIST” DOCTOR RICHARD GALLAGHER’S DEMONS OF MENTAL HEALTH ABUSE
The fake exorcists are at it again, and now they have Dr. Richard Gallagher riding shotgun.
Last week, CNN profiled this screwball doctor turned exorcist helper. Who is he? “An Ivy League-educated, board-certified psychiatrist who teaches at Columbia University,” according to the write-up. A man with no excuses, in other words.
“Today, Gallagher has become the go-to guy for exorcists in the United States,” the profile continues. ” He says demonic possession is real.”
It’s not, of course. Consequently, neither is exorcism. None of Gallagher’s priestly compatriots have ever exorcised anybody, because that’s impossible. It’s like trying to amputate a person’s fourth head; no amount of training will suffice.
Gallagher does sell CNN on all sorts of hokum: levitating objects, women with superhuman strength etc. The Bay Area’s local phony exorcist, Father Gary Thomas, says Gallagher is “‘not like most therapists.‘” I sure hope not.
“‘I spend more time convincing people that they’re not possessed,'” Gallagher claims. But truly responsible doctors tell patients they’re not possessed every time. This guy’s behind the curb.
So how does a man with such an Ivy-covered ass go from quack to hack? This is good: He met a witch, he says. Who said a demon possessed her. How did he know she was right? The usual:
“Objects would fly off shelves around her. [And] she somehow knew his mother had died of ovarian cancer.”
Spiritualists used to make things fly off of shelves too. They used wires, not demons. Cheaper that way.
As for Mom’s ovarian cancer, it seems all those years at Columbia didn’t include lessons on cold reading. Shouldn’t a self-described “man of science” know that’s more likely than Satan?
Gallagher even resorts to my favorite piece of non-evidence: “possessed” people who speak “perfect Latin” but supposedly don’t know the language.
I’ve got news for ya, doc: If a patient starts speaking perfect Latin, it means they know Latin.
A man of science should have empirical evidence for “demons,” not anecdotes. But we can forgive Richard Gallagher if that’s too tall an order; it’s hard to make a material case for things that don’t exist.
Last year, Satanic San Francisco conducted a Reverse Exorcism, inviting any local demons to possess our volunteer. You know what happened? Nothing. That was the point. He’s still fine today.
Exorcisms are just a way to smear the mentally ill. It’s a very old con. In a 2015 paper, recent Stanford grad Natty Jumreornvong spells out what Gallagher won’t:
“The illusion that exorcism works [is a] placebo effect. Scientifically, demonic possession is not a valid diagnosis. […] However, there are 370,000 reported cases of people killed during exorcism and another 310,000 reported injuries.”
Writing in the peer-reviewed journal Sociological Review, Italian and Australian researchers point out that more chickens beget more eggs when it comes to fake exorcism:
“The more over-policing of the devil is practiced, the more people are likely to believe in the presence of the devil.”
CNN’s editors ought to keep that in mind.
If priests tried to cure heart disease or cancer by tying people down and yelling at them, we’d call it assault. But “possessed” people deal with mental illness, and society has never liked the mentally ill. So we don’t mind as much when they’re beaten up on.
“Negative attitudes to people with mental illness start at playschool and endure into early adulthood,” Peter Byrne wrote in the journal Psychiatric Treatment in 2000.
People who shun the mentally ill show “intolerance of ambiguity, rigid authoritarian beliefs, and a hostility towards other groups,” he adds.
Society may even prefer demons to mentally ill people. Demons are unpleasant in a way that flatters our egos. People with real problems, on the other hand, just make us uncomfortable.
So hey, it’s all right if priests and frauds convince “crazy” people that they’re actually Satan. They’re all just freaks anyway, right?
Not good enough.