Friday, February 19, 2010

Demons? Really?

So I was in Costco waiting for a car tire rotation and check yesterday. Wasting time, I blew three bucks on a slice of pizza and a sundae, and looked around for a place to sit down and pig out. The place was packed, and it was the middle of the day.

So I sat down next to this group of people, and realized that one reason it was busy was that apparently people use the Costco foodcourt as a lunch place. Fair enough. A couple of bucks gets you a long way there.

Sitting there, I can't but help overhear that it's apparently some religious discussion going on. Ok, so it's the local God Squad having their lunch meeting, no biggie. They're apparently talking about Africa, and about life and death decisions etc - at least one of them is a missionary.

And that's when it gets strange. One of them starts to seriously talk about praying demons away, and then after the prayer has driven the demon out of the person, you have to support the person so that the demon doesn't come back. And nobody laughs at him.

Seriously? What year is it again? I'm pretty sure they didn't have Costco foodcourts in the middle ages, but maybe there was some time warping going on.

What the hell is wrong with people?


TK said...

Well, that's modern-day Christian pentacostalism. Weird stuff.

Unknown said...

You should have screamed "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!!!" and flicked some of your soda at them :)

Fresca said...

Watch out---I think these beliefs come from eating regularly at Costco!

The pizza is demon-infested, you see...

Tom said...

"Peak humanity" was around 1990 ..

Platypus said...

A lot of my family is like this. Seriously, the best approach is to ignore it, find another topic, move on. These same people can be entirely reasonable to talk to about other topics, as sophisticated and rational as the rest of us except for this one part of their brain that makes them believe crazy stuff. It's like Tourette's only it's "hallelujah" instead of swear words.

Unknown said...

It's not for nothing that Sagan entitled one of his books "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark".

Marc Carson said...

Why not walk over and tell them you are a skeptic? Be polite, ask them if they're sure these people don't just need medication, etc....then see where it goes.

Going back to your blog with this issue doesn't hurt anybody, but it sure feels like the typical confirmation bias thing that happens in the blogosphere ;-)

I'd recommend giving Michael Crichton's book "Travels" a read and see what you think. I thought the parts on psychics were interesting, and I am NOT into that stuff.

Aaron Von Gauss said...

A slightly philosophical response, but can you have angels without demons? Or a god without a devil? A heaven without some sort of hell?

Unknown said...

Well, what did you expect, really?

Funny site, btw.

Robert said...

"A slightly philosophical response, but can you have angels without demons? Or a god without a devil? A heaven without some sort of hell?"

Nope - that's why none of those things exist.

Brian Dunbar said...

Seriously? What year is it again?

If you accept there is a God, then you get the rest of the stuff as well: heaven, hell, devil, demons.

It's a package deal, man.

Calvin Spealman said...

Welcome to America!

Sean said...

Hey, don't knock demons, Linus. DEMONS ARE EFFING AWESOME!

Aaron Von Gauss said...

"Nope - that's why none of those things exist."

Thats kind of my point, to accept one you have to accept both otherwise you have no way to differentiate. Try to describe "1" in the binary system without describing or referencing "0".

Joe Zack said...

Viva Variety!

...even when it's dumb. I guess.

Unknown said...

@fresco In New Zealand we have a pizza chain called Hell ( They have demons on their menu (animated on the web); pizzas are delivered in black boxes and their free-call number has 666 in it.

Mace said...

I'm pretty sure that outside the small technological circles we live in, the year is 1210, not 2010. I try not to go outside.

Unknown said...

You should have told them not to knock daemons. You of all people would know that modern computing wouldn't be possible without the use of daemons. :)

Thanks for Linux, by the way.

tshirtman said...

I saw a lot of people trusting this kind of things (from {, north} Africa often), even fairly intelligent people, the fact is that when it's in your cultural believes and your whole family is like this, you interpret a lot of things in this way, and even your subconscious can make things up... (possessions, trances…)

So yes I understand a lot of people still trust those kind of things, it's just a way of seeing the world… when people speak to me about this I tend to be slightly skeptic but explain my agnostic point of view, I can's simply convince them anyway.

In France in big towns we often have advertisements in mailbox about mediums with "ancestral powers" and such things, that can get your wife back, remove bad luck, etc… I suppose people are willing to pay for it or they wouldn't have job.

Justice only get them when clients understands they have been robbed and are willing to try them in courts.

Jamaica said...

You should have told them, that we live in the 21st century and that we put those Daemons into Computers know.

One of my favorite daemons is Cron for example. Nice little daemon, that holds my Drupal up-to-date :D

maxolasersquad said...

Wouldn't it be even more silly to believe that a group of Christians wouldn't believe in demons?

Daniel Neuman said...

Spritual beings are part of the african religious culture. Christians are forced to deal with that fact when doing voluntary work over there. And it's as with demons as with bugs in software, you can't prove they don't exist :)

RobbAce said...

There's nothing more stressful than eating at a Costco food court.

I can't go there anymore with out thinking we're all heading towards what the movie "Idiocracy" prophesied.

NoName said...

They were born in the USA. Unlike you & others. & I guess they believe they shall inherit earth & the kingdom of god or mankind or the like. Beware! :-(

Xiong Chiamiov said...

These same people can be entirely reasonable to talk to about other topics, as sophisticated and rational as the rest of us except for this one part of their brain that makes them believe crazy stuff.

Perhaps you should reevaluate whether or not what they believe is as irrational as you think, if they seem to have a good grasp on reality in every other area.

. . . said...

That's easy, just grab the PID of the offending daemon and kill -9 it. Oh, wait...

Unknown said...

Thats the thing I love about the secular humanist religion...they are so sure of themselves. So sure that their 120 year old world view is the only one that has any merit, and everyone else has been "in the dark" forever before they came along and "saved" the world from their backward ways.
Perhaps you should examine cases of possession. If there is no relevant data on demonic possession, then I'm sure it will be very easy for you to disprove the existence of these creatures. Im sure its just a chemical imbalance. Instant transformation of a human mind is clearly impossible and everyone who claims to have seen it is either stupid, or lying to propagate thier views.

John Åkerhielm said...

people scare me too.

Blair said...

Maybe they are praying away the demon that is telling them to buy the new 50'' LED TV.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

It's funny, I was raised in an atheist family and relatively recently came to believe in God, and one of the ideas that was easiest for me to believe in was the devil. Look at Auschwitz, or the Rwandan genocide. The idea that there is objective evil, with a source outside of the chemical reactions in our brains, wasn't that much of a stretch for me.

Despite the gimmicky title, the book Hostage to the Devil has some interesting thoughts on evil and exorcisms. I haven't read it, but it got pretty good reviews from even secular publications like the Washington Post and Newsweek.

Just my $0.02. :)

Anonymous said...

Clearly they were BSD users and were reaching out for Linus' to "support" them :-D

PendragonUK said...

Religious fundamentalist are scary lot. People that put mantra, dogma above the the real world are loony and should be under supervision not let out in the real world spreading their own brand of insanity. If you were to tell a psychiatrist that you hear voices you would medicated. Tell a fundamentalist and you are celebrated.

American politician talk of talking to god and having god talk to them. He in the UK that would be the end of his political carer. Tony Blair kept his religious beliefs a secret until he left power.

Believing in an imaginary friend when your nine is Ok. Still believing in an imaginary friend as an adult is madness!

Chris said...

> What the hell is wrong with people?

Maybe it's Hell that is wrong with people, and they need exorcising!

In any case I'm a little shocked the author of a Unix clone *doesn't* believe in daemons.

etbe said...

Philip Zimbardo who is famous (or infamous) for the Stanford Prison Experiment has a project called The Lucifer Effect which describes how otherwise "good" people can do some very bad things.

It's not demonic possession, it's a combination of psychological factors. Places such as abu Ghraib can be "exorcised" by applying the rule of law with competent supervision.

I think that Philip's work explains all cases of supposed "demonic possession" that can't be explained by mental illness. This is the counter example to use when someone says "if demons don't possess people then how do you explain [insert famous war crime]".

BRANKKO said...

They are still on proprietary :)

Dunkirk said...

At least they're being biblical in their treatment of the issue, which makes them at least internally coherent. Check Luke 11:26. Jesus tells the disciples exactly what these people were talking about.

I can't understand people's modern "fear" of Christians. (We should make up a "phobia" word for it like the homosexuals have.) Tell me, how is society, as a whole, better off for having run away from good, wholesome, typically-Christian values? Crime, STD's, mental diseases, suicide, etc. ALL of it is worse since the 40's and 50's, when most people believed the basic tenets of Christianity.

And, yet, somehow, others look at people who are honestly trying to find guidance from the Bible, and decrying their "depravity" -- as if it were doing anything AT ALL to them -- let alone dragging them kicking and screaming back to the "dark ages."

Curious said...

"Which daemon was that? Oh, I created that one, it's harmless" :)

altana said...

when it comes to Computer Science, Physics, Maths etc.. none of you, including you Linus, wouldn't dare to claim that you know everything...

why it is so easy to claim you know everything when it comes to religion ? this kind of 'enlightened' thinking is very limited as a matter of fact (I know everything about religion , I have nothing to explore... I'll better upgrade my ubuntu)

and by the way.. in Buddhism and Hinduism there is also such entity as demon and exorcism

altana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
altana said...

Dunkirk... bravo !!! at least one person not licking Linus ass while writing a comment...

"By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them" - thanks to religion and it's officials, here in Poland, we do not live under communist regime.. google a little about what Gorbatschow has to say about it

religion is always fought, and reluctance to it is spread when totalitarian times are about come

Ted said...

Having spent some time speaking with religious folk, I've reached the conclusion that their names for things are different from my names for things, and that otherwise the fundamental stuff is not all that different. I don't understand how the detail of their moral code ends up being so far off from mine, but the philosophy ends up being more or less congruent, though with different terminology. It's like, um, we're using different language bindings for the same library, or something like that.

So: basically God is just some mysterious force that gives us things like sentience and emotions. I mean sure there's a scientific explanation for it -- the brain is a computer, etc., which would be a complete explanation if we were actually robots -- but how does that work, beyond the level that we actually understand? How the hell does music work? I mean yeah sure, howls in the wilderness and the crackling of primeval campfires, gave us ...Radiohead? It's a mystery. God is the explanation. IE the definition of God is "that which gives us life in ways that we cannot explain."

Similarly, 'demons' are any sort of emotional affliction. Like someone mentioned, if you go to Africa -- which I've done, although not in a missionary capacity -- you will quickly find that trying to inculcate our entire western worldview in someone within the span of time it takes to hold a conversation about their sick sister is eminently impractical.. so you have to kind of go with the flow. They -- not so much where I was, but in other places -- talk about things in terms of demons, spirits, etc. We talk about the "demons of addiction, anger, and apathy"... not generally meaning that they are little mean red dudes with pointy ears, but just in the sense of them being something that afflicts a person with discomfort or misfortune.

So praying to the unknown mystery that gives us life is basically just hanging out with that person and talking about the important shit to help them get out of whatever rut they're in, and providing a transformational moment that they can use to break away from old habits. and then of course you have to stick it out so they don't fall back into the old pattern. It probably ends up being a bit more exciting and mystical than just that, but I think really the culture shock is more in the semantics than the underlying detail. Or maybe it just helps, or is interesting, to think of things in those terms.

Of course there may well be some missionaries who are attempting to pray out demons like cancer or aids that don't respond quite so well to such treatment. I'm not totally up on the news but I don't think religion has found a cure for either of those ailments yet. In which case they're raising false hopes and possibly contributing to the spread of diseases by people who believe that they are cured. In which case.. well i wouldn't condone crucifixion but they should perhaps be made to take a biology class or two. So it depends on the situation... but sometimes it all makes sense.

Jacob Steelsmith said...

I'm surprised that conversation amongst a private group bothered you enough to spend your valuable time posting about it.

Live and let live I suppose. After all, people throughout time have believed, or not believed, in some pretty strange ideas: a round earth, gravity, particle physics, love, the SD scheduler, etc.

James said...

@ Ted, religion doesn't cure diseases, it's God who does that.
For those who would like to know more there is a good book "Mere Christianity" by C.S.Lewis, yes the famous writer. He had a good comprehension of Christianity and expresses it well in his book. Its a good read as well. I would suggest everyone read it before having a pop at Christians, you should know something about what you criticise!

Unknown said...

I hate to say this, but your experience isn't actually very rare in the U.S. Some would like to argue that people like this are a minority, but they're not an insignificant percentage at all, and when you cull down to the percentage of the public that actively votes, they are an exceptionally large segment.

I've personally run into people who have made the argument that the Noah flood happened by showing that the water for the flood could only have come from the heavens as the Bible says. In order to show this, the claim they make is that no other sources of water exist, and this can be demonstrated by refuting that comets are made mostly of water ice. The refutation? Oh, that's a real doozy. Basically, you leave an ice cube out in the sun, and see that it doesn't form a tail, which shows that comets are made of something else entirely. Ergo, extra water could only have come from heaven, which is what the Bible says, therefore it happened.

Yes, that was a real argument. What is far more disturbing, though, is that people like this and people like the ones you saw may be a minority in your local community, but they are actually a majority in several of the regions of the country that have a controlling interest in the content of school textbooks throughout the country (most of which are in Texas) . You're in a country where maybe 1/8 of the population believe the universe is less than 10,000 years old, but about 200 of these people have advisory clout in all 3 branches of the federal gov't.

stevec said...

Welcome to the U.S.A., Linus.

This thing you've run into, it's not nearly as uncommon as you think. You just hang around with smart people, mostly. And it's not remotely harmless. No live and let live. Missionaries to Africa? Discouraging condom use in a place ravaged by AIDS? You betcha.

Chris Handwerker said...

I guess they weren't fans of BSD?

Jonathan said...

Linus, you obviously haven't read Augustine's De civitate dei :-)

Unknown said...

I often feal like that missionary whenever eradicating windows from PC's and installing Linux

PRAISE the penguin

Tim said...

You can explain a sudden, radical and often temporary change in someone's behavior through psychology or religion, I'm not inordinately fond of either.

I wonder what the world would be like if priests could prescribe paxil?

At least the kids weren't with you.

Viktor said...

You'd be amazed how many Christians are waiting for the Apocalypse.

elcuco said...

It was daemons... they say that after you unload a service from your linux box the system is less stable and you need to "support" it... perfectly understandable.

You should re-check your hears

Mark O'Neill said...

I'm just going to say to any of the pro-Christianity people here that I think you're taking the criticism a little too far. We all should know that good things have come from religion and that bad things have come from religion (Spanish Inquisition, anyone?).

What this would demonstrate to me is that we don't need religion as a means of explanation, because even people so completely absorbed in it are still liable to do terrible things. There is no need for some superhuman forces in an explanation for meanness of humans. Evolution has guided us to be selfish, belligerent creatures. Think about what is the "immature" action when you have a decision: this is the instinctive action, and it is never "mature" to leave things go.

The point here is not that these people are harming Linus, but that their viewpoint is very old-fashioned in a society which allows them to be more critical of such nonsense.

Unknown said...

I can't tell you if those people knew what they were talking about or not, but you should not laugh it off too quickly. In western lands more and more people make light of Satan's power, but in some other places they have real problems with demons. If you lived in one of these places you would probably believe in them. Satan and his demons use whatever tactic works best in each part of the world. Satan would like nothing more than to get people to believe he does not exist. In some places he can be more effective by getting people to believe that he has more power than he really does, using that to control people and get them involved in spiritism.

Anyway even if you think that sounds stupid you could have tried doing what someone else suggested and ask them politely how they know this person is possessed. If they really are sincere servants of God, which for those people I cannot say, they would politely try to reason with you on the matter.

Anonymous said...

hahaha, Platypus:
It's like Tourette's only it's "hallelujah" instead of swear words.

Rodrigo Robles said...

"Wasting time, I blew three bucks on a slice of pizza and a sundae..."

If you try a restaurant wich have integral rice you could hear a higher level conversation.

Anonymous said...

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

"One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion."

Quotes from Arthur C. Clarke, who also was a friend of C. S. Lewis.

Jody Fanning said...

Wow, you really got the loonies to come out of the woodwork with that one.

Unknown said...

I bet those people are FreeBSD folks, remember their logo? The Small devil?

Anonymous said...


Exactly my thought :D

Paul Gideon Dann said...

I mean no office Linus: I have great respect for your work and many of your views; however, I do think it's important that you don't dismiss this as ridiculous unless you've actually spent serious time in sub-Saharan Africa. Western culture teaches us that it's ridiculous, but demons are a very real part of life for most there. Try living in rural parts of Benin, for instance, and I'm quite confident you'd not be so sure any more.

For the record, I'm a Christian, but not Pentecostal or Charismatic, and I'm not into big spiritual displays. I am scientifically-minded, and believe that God and Science are perfectly compatible. I see no reason for Science to dismiss demons as ridiculous.

Unknown said...

So I was sitting the food hall the other day enjoying my Pad Thai when I happened to over hear a conversation among some techno-geeks. They were talking about some problems they were having with one of their software systems. I think one of them was referred to as a "kernel" developer, so I knew from the outset that they were "nuts".
As I said they were having problems, but they seemed to be blaming it on some "Bugs". Hello! What century is this? I know moths have caused short circuits between valves back in the dark ages, but with today's VLSI an insect or other creepy crawly couldn't possible have that sort of effect. It was probably just an un-met precondition, or an invariant that was too weak.
And one of them was saying that they would have to put a call in to a "Guru" or "Wizard"! And nobody laughed. Seriously! I expected him to be asking for a witch doctor next. Haven't they heard of static analysis or run-time-tracing!
Then it got really weird. They started reminiscing about past experiences -- apparently one time they reckon a 'bug' disappeared as soon as the 'guru' turned up - he didn't have to do anything. Just the moment he arrived they couldn't reproduce it any more. Probably bad breath scared the 'bug' away!
You gotta wonder what these guys have been smoking!

Deepesh said...

Deamons do exist, and thats a good thing infact. Although I don't understand how they get attached to a person. Hell they are not even attached to a terminal!!

Linus said...

Guys (and gals) - some of you seem to be on the wrogn track. First off, I'm not anti-religious, but I am anti-stupid and anti-uneducated.

And quite frankly, believing in demons is very solidly in either the "stupid" or "uneducated" camp. The fact that the bible talks about demons is not an excuse: that was what people used to think was the reason behind various diseases (both mental and physical).

But we know better!

And dammit, people who don't know better really should be ridiculed. There's no reason to be polite about people holding stupid ideas.

The other confusion people seem to have is believing that demons are somehow geographically aware, and they exist in Africa but apparently were never able to cross large bodies of salt water.

Get a grip!

(Yes, I do realize that the whole "crossing (running) water" thing is actually considered to be one of the things various spirits can have trouble with. It's like garlic to vampires. But do you seriously believe in vampires, pixies, unicorns, naiads and banshees too? And if you do, let me ridicule you some more!)

The reason people believe in demons in sub-saharan Africa is not because they exist there in greater numbers, but because there is even less education there. The stupid and uneducated are in full control. Look into all the other things people believe in sub-Saharan Africa, and realize that "but in sub-Saharan Africa people believe that" is a really stupid thing to say.

So take this the right way: if you are religious, that's fine by me. But if you believe in demons (or the tooth fairy, for that matter), you're either woefully badly educated, or a gullible moron. Take your pick.

Paul Gideon Dann said...

@Linus => A good argument. I'd like to clarify that I believe that demons are *not* localised to sub-Saharan Africa. In that part of the world, people are best manipulated by the fear of spirits. In the western world, people are best manipulated by the desire for power and wealth. We westerners enjoy thinking we know everything and are in control.

I believe that spirits deliberately keep quiet in western cultures; so long as we don't believe they exist, they're better able to manipulate. I can't prove that to you conclusively, of course; it's just a model that fits, and I wanted to clarify the point.

This isn't just a personal view I've invented, by the way; my views on this subject are constructed from accounts in the Bible, and experiences of western friends who have spent significant time in African cultures.

Unknown said...

Do you not get out much? The peoples is crazy.

Alan said...

The problem of removing Daemons from people is you have to keep port scanning them to make sure they don't come back.

Some people just don't reboot well.

Portland does have its share of religious crazies. The more rural the Costco, the more you will encounter them. You will also run into them downtown in Pioneer Square handing out various rant tracts. ("Believing things in Jack Chick tracts is a sure sign of the inability to understand the difference between fantasy and reality.")

I have also run into people at CostCo who thought that the "Left Behind" novels are based on fact. It proves that we need more publicly funded mental health facilities.

You must come from one of those "sane" countries. You get used to the insanity after a while.


Anonymous said...

Linus, in fact this reminds me of a question I had for you for a while, since both you and your wife are finns, why do you live in USA? Especially Portland that is cold like Finland. I understand at first your moved here for a job but now you could work from anyplace, right? What's the reason now? Thanks, just very curious.

virtuoso said...

they aren't demons they are daemons

Unknown said...

IMO you're trying to apply reason to something which is out of its reach. You can't judge one's belief by how much it seems reasonable to you, because faith is completely unreasonable, otherwise it wouldn't exist at all. Faith, by definition, goes against reason, because it makes you believe things which cannot be proved. Differently from you, I hate religious people(who, by the way, are the majority in my country, Italy), but I hate even more those who constantly try to modernize the various religions to make them more likeable. Do people want to believe in some stupid religion? Fine, but then they have to believe in their god's words(in this case, the bible), no matter how much ridiculous they seem. Instead we constantly see the different religious beliefs changing to keep up with the modern times, so that they can still be acceptable to the modern society. They can't pretend to believe in some god and at the same time they want to change what their god says, because it's not acceptable anymore. It's a binary variable, you get either all or nothing.

Tuomo said...

It's not the year what matters, it's the geographical location.

Paul Gideon Dann said...

I don't agree that faith is unreasonable; every belief requires faith. For instance, it's part of all western justice systems: "proof beyond reasonable doubt". You can't prove anything absolutely; there's always some degree of faith required.

I trust the Bible because I believe it fits the observable facts. If you really trust in science, maybe you should try to keep an open mind when it comes to the possibility of a relationship with God. Dismissing the possibility offhand because of your pre-conceptions: that is bad science.

Stefan Salo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Salo said...

It would be kind of illogical to not belive in evil spirits if one belives in good spirits.
Especially if you consider the fact that the world isn't all that good.

The Biblical way of thinking is that diseases (both physical and psychological) sometimes, but not always, are the works of demons.
I tend to stick with that.

Then again, if you look at the world and see all the insanities going on, is it really that a laughable idea that there are
such things as demons and a devil
at work?

Or could it possibly be that the materialistic-atheistic worldview that has shaped our way of thinking during the latest 100-200 years sometimes makes it hard for us to think logically when it comes to seamingly irrational concepts.

(I find it sort of interresting that it somehow is stupid to talk about angels and demons, but not to talk about ,say, infinite universes, string theories, and sometimes even chi-energy)

Each Seasons said...

Demons are real. Just as Angels are real. The bible clearly states Ephesians 6;11-13 Put on the Whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.

Golfgent said...

It is too bad that you and other's that share your lack of belief feel so insecure that you have to attack and try to ridicule those of us that have a strong Christian belief. There are many things in this world that we don't understand, can't see, and find difficult if not impossible to believe, and yet they do. You are a brilliant man and I admire your contribution to society. But, Christianity created, inspired, and formed the foundation of this great country of the United States of America. No one that I know would require that you believe, but many non-believers try to force and change the foundations which make America great. Without Christians, we probably would be living a life of the year "1210".

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with these people? They want to help. Help people who have a yearly income of $5 or less, when the next doctor is 1'000 miles away, when medicine is so expensive that these people simply can't afford it.

What should they do in such a situation? Just walk away "I don't believe in demons"? Or try to trigger the human self-healing a.k.a placebo effect? When getting the sick people to a real doctor just isn't going to happen?

Yes, it is easy to mock these people who seem to believe that demons exist. But are we the people who aren't helping in any way or them? There are people who don't like the scientific way (which is mostly for the rich because science isn't for people without access to good water, plenty of food and a stable power grid). There are people who don't understand the scientific way. I can't believe in the Bible like other people do. But I still take them seriously because they have a right to live their lives just like I do, in the best way they can.

And if they believe that praying is the best they can do for someone, how can I blame them? How can I blame them when I'm not willing to go down there and help? How can I say "this doesn't work" from the safety of my house? If they pray and the sick person feels better because of that, just because someone cares, how can I blame their motives?

Unknown said...

I think the secular extremists, like you Linus, are just as bad as the religious extremists. And the secular extremists are a bunch of hypocrites. Secular extremists accuse religious folk (of which I am NOT one) of intolerance, but seem to be the intolerant ones themselves, particularly of religious people or anyone who disagrees with them. Secular extremists accuse the religious folk of being close-minded, and yet are as close-minded as it is possible to be themselves - look at your totally ad hominem attack on religious believers. Religious extremists believe there is a deity, demons, etc. without any proof. Secular extremists believe there is no deity, demons, etc. without any proof. You, Linus, are just as boring to me as any Islamo-nutjob.

ilikejam said...

Next time, shout "(defunct)" at them.

Alexander-tron said...

Surely you must step out or your logical world of programming and realize that not all are adept at programming..... so to the same token some are not adept at understanding the spiritual realm of intelligence.(case in mind yourself)

I would bet my bottom dollar that if the average american were to over here you speaking on the subject of kernels and xterminals they would too find it alien and strange.

Humanity has spent its entire existence with the firm belief in the spirit. And until you can prove to me that the spirit does not exist. i will glady remain a "so called fool."

crushmaster said...

Relax... It sounds like the common "lunch time talk" at the german MS headquarter. Can you wear a Beastie shirt next time please? And don't forget to take audio or video snapshots. Can't wait for that!

Unknown said...

AFAIK, demons don't come to human without being contacted before(with such very bad ways).

Otherwise, they only propose human the worse solution for their lives when there is a choice

I really want to be with you to see how they make demons go out of humans :D

Francisco said...

Next time, just sit next to them and open a Richard Dawkins book (e.g., The God Delusion). And pay attention at how they will look at ya.

Francisco said...

I have an easier solution:

cat demons > /dev/null

SG said...

And as soon as such discussions pull in the science part ("You know according to uncertainnity principal, some scientists say there should be demons"), these become quite intolerable even while over hearing.

Ndiku said...

God is real. So is the devil. Heaven and hell are real too. So are angels and demons. And Christ died so that all those that believe him can have eternal life. Do not believe in the father of lies who makes u believe that there is no God and that all these things are ridiculous because at the end of time judgement awaits. I have encountered powerful demons, and I have heard from God. There is the physical that the flesh can see, feel and hear. And there is the spiritual realm that only your spirit can experience. Giving my life to Christ was the best decision I ever made. And I believe I am as rational as can be! It is actually irrational to dispute reality.

Unknown said...

The thread was amusing/sad/irritating/funny, but this one cracked me up:
"Christianity created, inspired, and formed the foundation of this great country of the United States of America. No one that I know would require that you believe, but many non-believers try to force and change the foundations which make America great."

Ohh it is so "great" it was established on the ruins of a massive genocide of natives who lived there for many 10s of thousands of years just to make a society where all Man are equal except women, indians and blacks:) And later on in the history it all just got better and better. ;)
Don't mistake greatness with leading economical/military powers, former it started loosing anyway.

For now I accept demons must exist, and the form they are presenting themselves is: stupidity :D. As one of my buddies usually says: the amount of intelligence on the planet is constant, but we're growing in numbers.

One problem with religions is that most of them can't accept is someone doesn't believe in them, or believes in an "other one". When I look back in time and try to sum up amount of people died because of some sort of religious wars the number is HUGE. A holocaust or even a WW can't jump in the same ring especially if we weight the number by the current population of those eras. I doubt that humanity matured much since the dark ages.

I guess the main point is that you can't explain a crazy person that he is crazy, because it depends on the viewpoint. And if someone feels the urge to press ideas like demons and gods and angels on others then be prepared to be the subject of ridicule. As some before me said there's no absolute truth, but living by the live and let live basis is a fair middle way.

Linus: someone had a fair question why do you live in the US?
And what makes me wander is that if it was a social hack from you to post this on your blog, just to see how fast the blindly religious people will come out of the woodshop?:) You won they're here.
And one of my favorite comedians:

Ndiku said...

Linus, you amaze me. Saying that people who believe in demons are either stupid or uneducated is being arrogant and ignorant at the same time. I know that demons exist for a fact. I have had encounters with demons. I have seen what demons can do. Burying our heads in the sand will not make them cease to exist!
The reason people believe in demons in sub-saharan Africa is not because they exist there in greater numbers, but because there is even less education there. The stupid and uneducated are in full control. Look into all the other things people believe in sub-Saharan Africa, and realize that "but in sub-Saharan Africa people believe that" is a really stupid thing to say.

I have lived my whole life in Sub-Saharan Africa, and trust me, there might be less "education" here by your standards, but it depends on what "education" you are talking about here. Western style education, yeah, but our ancestors existed long before the inception of this mode of education, and you do not become intelligent just by virtue of receiving this "education". I mean, most Americans think that Africa is one big country and know very little about the going ons outside their state. You say the stupid and uneducated are in full control? C'mon, the average African leader is wiser and more knowledgeable than the former president of the USA, who by the way served two whole terms! Didn't all the clever and educated Americans realize this?? Knowledge and education are very different from wisdom and intelligence. I feel hurt that a person of your stature can really say that. For your information Sub-Saharan Africa was doing better before Europeans undertook slavery and colonialism. Thank you for all the good work on the Linux kernel btw!

coffee snob said...

Linus, I don't know you personally but you're obviously a very intelligent person who has the ability to see potential and opportunity, even in a world that says something will never work or 'it can't be done'. And for that I and so many others are very grateful.

But, when you make comments like...

'quite frankly, believing in demons is very solidly in either the "stupid" or "uneducated" camp.'


'dammit, people who don't know better really should be ridiculed.'

All it shows a level of arrogance that is second only to your ignorance.

On what evidence do you base your so strongly held belief that there are no such things as demons? Have you proven it or is it because you're told that's what everyone else (the 'educated' world) believes?

What if you met someone who says they had first hand experience of a demon? What if you met 1,000 people... 1,000,000 etc. What if it was a close and well respected friend or family member? What if you'd actually seen or experienced it yourself?

It's easy (and acceptable) to go with the tide of public opinion and believe something does or doesn't exist, but it's something else (unacceptable) to riducule, and encourage others to ridicule, anyone who thinks differently to you.

Unknown said...

I don't why people know that they have limited senses, and with that trust only what they see using their senses.

We are 3d creatures, but no one can confirm there is only these dimension in the world.

To understand what I am speaking about watch this video :

renoX said...

tshirtman's comment made me think (again) how weird we French are: it's (1) legal to advertise for various astrology and the like things, yet when someone goes to justice about being abused, they usually win..
*mind bogles*
Well at least religions are not

1: now, it used to be ilegal but this wasn't enforced.

JW said...

What scares me is that those same people vote!! And that they think we should live our lives in accordance with their collective whimsical reactionary feelings....

Linus said...

coffee snob: of course you can't prove a negative, but asking somebody to prove that demons don't exist is as stupid as asking somebody to prove that pixies and leprechauns don't exist.

And yes, it is acceptable to ridicule people for their beliefs. If you meet a grown person who believes in the easter bunny, in santa claus, or in the tooth fairy, they're damn well fair game.

Hey, Norad tracks Santa Claus every year. And I know somebody who has personally seen a flying sleigh with reindeer. When my oldest daughter was something like four years old, we literally convinced her to "see" Santa Claus' sleigh. People are very easily convinced about things that aren't there. Read any literature on psychology.

But despite all that overwhelming evidence for the existence of Santa Claus, I say that ridiculing grown people who believe in him is not only acceptable, it should be done. Having people believe in stupid things is actively dangerous to people around them. They do crazy sh*t due to their beliefs.

And quite frankly, believing in demons fall in the exact same category as believing in the tooth fairy and santa claus.

Unknown said...

Demons exist, but santa klaus not.

read the page in wikipedia to see the roots of the second.

Even if demons exist, they don't enter in contact with humans like some pretend.

And we can't scientifically say that they don't exist. Science has its place.

Can someone answer me what was 10 mn before the big bang ?
Why we accept that the world started from a point, and we don't ask ourselves what was before that, and what's the meaning of the creation of the world from a point and from zero ?

Mark O'Neill said...

To everyone suggesting that a lack of scientific explanation for something is reason to believe something illogical and childish like demons, stop. What you are saying is that because we have not yet found a rational answer to a question, it must have an irrational answer.

Up until relatively recently, we did not know what the far side of the moon looks like. However, only an absolute nutter would suggest that something fanciful like a gremlin lives there, knitting cardigans made from moon cheese. Unanswered questions are not the same as unanswerable questions. There is a lot that our current scientific knowledge can't explain, but this is no indication that "science has its place".

Sticking with boulabiar, (although answering to any of you numbskulls is equally urgent, equally pointless) of course physicists wonder about what came before the big bang, or whether such a question can be asked! It is possible that it is a senseless question; that this is the point of zero time, just as there is a point of zero temperature. Many physicists believe that the experience of time "moving forward" that we have is not felt by particles such as the photon, etc. etc.

I guarantee that any physicist you meet is a very open-minded, thoughtful person. Don't assume without any evidence that they haven't thought about these things.

And please, please go read a science book.

Unknown said...

"Sticking with boulabiar, (although answering to any of you numbskulls is equally urgent, equally pointless)"

"I guarantee that any physicist you meet is a very open-minded,"

Yes ! I see how much you are openminded. Always the same haughty persons feeling they know everything.

Look here please.

Isn't this science ? Or you think I live in prehistoric area ?

coffee snob said...

Linus: If it's impossible to prove a negative then all I can presume is that your belief is based on popular opinion. Or faith? Unless you've either observed it yourself or interviewed a sample of the population who claim to have experienced demonic activity.

I have personally seen someone display physical phenomena that I am certain was attributed to some sort of non-physical force, which I believed to be a spirit or demon.

So feel free to ridicule me if you must. It will not change my belief because you call me a stupid uneducated moron, because it is based on my own observation and experience.

I'm not going to ridicule you for believing what you do, and I'm not going to make it my personal mission to make you believe what I do.

I was just hoping that someone of your intelligence (and public profile) might be a little less extreme in your reaction to something that you yourself have said you are unable to prove or disprove.

For the record - I don't believe in the tooth fairy or santa clause (but don't tell my kids that) :-)

Linus said...

coffee snob: "all I can presume is that your belief is based on popular opinion. Or faith?"


Science isn't about "faith". Religious people try to equate the two, but the thing is, science is very much about the ability to doubt, rather than the ability to believe.

Science is also not about "popular opinion". Not even close. It's about testable ideas that can be shown to be incorrect. Again, that "doubt" thing: the important part isn't the belief that something is true, the important part is the ability to show that something isn't true. Opinions don't come into it.

And no, you don't have to test everything yourself. The only thing you need to know is (a) there have been statements made ("scientific theories") and (b) people have tried, but nobody has so far been able to falsify them.

See? You don't have to ask for peoples opinions, and you don't have to take anything on faith. And you can test some of it yourself, if you want to.

In fact, if you went to highschool science class in any reputable school, you will have tested some things there. But even if you didn't, you are "testing" various scientific issues every single day, if you just know what to look for.

Every time you work with your computer, you are essentially testing modern physics. Don't believe in Quantum Mechanics? Tough. Reality doesn't care whether you "believe" in it or not. That computer in front of you not only indirectly depends on it, but modern electronics have been designed with QM effects being visible.

Don't believe in general relativity? Again, it's not a matter of "belief". The effects of non-newtonian gravity is something you test every day whether you know about it or not, because your GPS unit takes it into account. Again, it's not a "popularity contest": it's a hard fact.

See? No "faith" required. What is required is enough knowledge about modern science that you can see how things hang together. Once you know enough about science, you'll actually see how it affects everything around you.

You may never see an atom or a photon, but that doesn't mean that you can't see that the sky is blue. And you know what? It's not painted that way. It's actually interactions between photons and the air molecules, and we can explain it.

Once more: it's not about faith. It's about education. If you know enough about how the world works, it really does explain perfectly everyday things.

And the thing is: there is absolutely no reason to believe in demons. Once you know how the world works, the existence of a deamon is exactly as likely as the existence of a small invisible fairy living inside my computer, and making that humming noise.

Maybe there really is a small invisible fairy living inside my computer. But you know what? If you really believe that, I'm going to say that you're an uneducated moron.

And why would I (or anybody) believe in demons any more than I should believe in any other fairy tales? There are lots of stories of supernatural beings. Werewolves, pixies, trolls under bridges.

The simple answer is: there's absolutely no reason to believe in them, and there are lots of reasons to think that they aren't true. Namely that they don't match any of the experiences that we do know are true.

Read Mark O'Neill's post. There could still be invisible gremlins knitting cardigans on the back-side of the moon. Sure. But if you believe that, you're just incredibly stupid.

Mark O'Neill said...

"although answering to any of you numbskulls is equally urgent, equally pointless"

Heh, yeah, I was going to leave that line out, but I just always get the feeling that I'm wasting time by writing these replies. It's not like it's going to change anyone's mind. I think a face-to-face discussion is necessary for matters as great as this.

"Always the same haughty persons feeling they know everything."

On the contrary, I know that there is so much that I don't know. I crave understanding of the world we live in, but I always feel so ignorant. It's just the way it is. The Universe is a big, complex place.

However, and this is my point above, just because I don't know everything doesn't mean I can't dismiss ideas as being untrue. If what understanding I do have tells me that the idea is so unrealistic as to have a negligible chance of being true, then I will most certainly dismiss it as false.

For example, say you have never been to Santa Claus' grotto in Lapland. Let's say that you don't know where it is or what it looks like. Clearly, you then don't know everything. But if someone was to use this as evidence that he is real, and has elves that make toys which he delivers on a sleigh, well, you'd be a fool to believe it. You don't know everything, but through what you do know, you can say that it is almost definitely impossible.

I have watched that video before. It's great, isn't it? It's more mathematics, really, than science (because it's based on abstract ideas rather than empirical evidence). But I'm a mathematics student and I find the idea of extra spacial dimensions fascinating.

And by the way, I am open-minded, it's just that I reject things which are not based on evidence or logic.

Wes said...

its easy for you all to discredit someone just because you think logically it cant exist (with your tiny and limited mind). do you all really know all that much about anything other than your tiny life to judge that demons do not exist ?
have you seen actual cases ??

i say look and search before you are quick in dismissing other people's beliefs

Linus said...

Wes: "logically it cant exist.."

That's not what we're saying at all.

Anything might exist. It's not that Santa Claus might not exist, and rely on some special powers that are not known to science to fill peoples stockings all over the world in one night.

It's just stupid and silly to believe he does. There's no reason to believe that Santa Claus exists, when there are much better explanations for what happens Christmas night.

And the same is true of demons. For all the same reasons.

This is not about "open mindedness". If you think that being open-minded is to believe in anything equally, then you should believe in not just demons, but in everything else too. Unicorns. Gremlins. Pixie-dust and fairies. Vampires, and talking snakes. The list literally goes on forever - because you can make anything up.

What makes reality real is that it doesn't care what you believe, and doesn't care what you make up.

The reason I claim that people are stupid if they believe in demons are exactly the same reasons why you'd think people are uneducated or stupid because they believe in elves. Or Thor, the God of Thunder.

We know what thunder is. It's not Thor. Believing there is a God of Lightning is pretty damn silly in this day and age. Now, replace "Thor" with "demons".

Unknown said...

To be clear, you shouldn't put all religions in the same case.

I only defend my religion and I don't matter what other think about and belief (some belief in cows as gods..).
Because there is something called liberty, they can do whatever they like unless they don't mess with me or others.

As an example, I am a muslim, and I don't see any contradiction with what my religion and science.
Note : The religion of islam means ONLY what the representing prophet has said and made. I am not responsible for others "branches" that try to change rules or eliminate all things they don't like in the original religion and text.

Believe it or not, but most of scientific discoveries and sciences are made when the islam rules the world.
An example from the computer science is the word Algorithm, don't you know that it is the name of a muslim scientific called Al-Khawarizmi ?ūsā_al-Khwārizmī
Algebra, from his arabic book : "iilm Al-Jabr wal Hissab"

Give me the scientific branches you want and I'll give you names of the muslim scientist who created it and a link to wikipedia pages. (but OK, I should say most of scientific branches not all)

Look here :

I can't put everything here, but at least with my religion (the one from the source not the branches) there is no contradiction between it and science. It is even proved by todays science discoveries.

The problem is in the majority of todays muslims who don't know even the basics of it and belief in anything (monsters, trolls,...) and even get used by terrorists to do what they want in the name of the religion.
(and this is because they even don't read one book to understand !)

If someone wants examples, he can mail me directly to my mail.
We can't put everything here.

Mark O'Neill said...

"Believe it or not, but most of scientific discoveries and sciences are made when the islam rules the world. [...] algorithm [...] algebra"

These things are not news to me. I don't deny that people have gained immense knowledge in a religious culture. But who's to say that they would not have made even more progress in the absence of that religion. Maybe it is more accurate to say that they made these discoveries despite their religion.

Maybe not. I don't know. But I do know that your point signifies nothing. There is no causal link between these men's discoveries and their religion. Even if they said they were completely inspired by that religion, it is no indication that their religion was necessary or even helpful in the discovery.

Unknown said...

Ok Mark, let's go as far as you want.

To be even more accurate, can you define me what is a religion ? And what is the absense of a religion ?

If you define a religion as a set of rules and a model of life, then if you don't belief in any religion, you define one for yourself because you just replaced the model by the one you created.

"But who's to say that they would not have made even more progress in the absence of that religion."
Really ? It seems you don't know what arabs were before islam. Conflicting tribes divided between Romans and Persians (like now :D) Just a hint for you : When they go to Persia, the king use "it" (object) neither than "he" (person) to speak about an arabic.
After just 100 years (732) they established a state from China to Poitiers (France), and even changed the way other people think.

The people changed the way they think and the way they live just with religion. In the opposite site, others haven't be able to progress unless they thrown all wrong things from their religion.

If you speak about models, like science is trying to deal with the world using models in physics etc.. Then that model is well defined and well demonstrated in history.
Because discoveries and science is made by men, and men should have stable environment for that.
I don't think you will make discoveries if you don't feel well and have what to eat, feel in security etc...

Also, there is no contradiction in their belief.
Or the obligation to people to belief in things which are not logic.
Or can you explain me how god was tortured then killed then resurrected ? Who rules the world when he was died ?
At least in the mine, there is only one God, and who defines rules in the life, and gives people all the liberty to do whatever they want according to these rules. Then, he judge everyone according to whatever has done. If he modifies rules in the middle of life or intercept, the judgement can't be fair.
Never forget that the only religion that have a-book-as-miracle and that still the same letter by letter is the islam. A book which contains a now scientifically approved model.

Also to return to the main subject of this post, demons exist, but don't control people the manner people think. They only tell people to do something, and people will chose to do it or not. Not entering in them then forcing them to do whatever. That's all crap.

Religion has a model, and it is presented as created by the creator of the world. Other models of manner of life (religion ?) exists, they can be good at some point, but they can't be perfect.

In the end, anyone can belief in whatever he wants, he just don't came and bother others. The humanity never have the same opinion in any subject. So then because of the law of liberty, no one can be forced to belief in anything, and each one should try to accept others even if they think much different from him.
(God himself accepted that Devil "who didn't his order" has the chance to create his religious/political party ;) until the judgement day . So why we don't accept others difference ?)

and sorry for the long answer !!

Marcus said...

So the common assumption in this post and its responses is that a person must be unintelligent or mentally "whacked" to believe in a spiritual realm.

If seriously investigated, one will find a complete lack of honesty and/or intelligence (or a complete wealth of mental whacked-ness) in the evolutionary theories (read: not scientifically proven facts) or the studies of the origin of man (apart from a creator).

Mark O'Neill said...


"If seriously investigated, one will find a complete lack of honesty and/or intelligence (or a complete wealth of mental whacked-ness) in the evolutionary theories"

Are you going to back that up with an example? Don't say something from Origin of Species, now. That's 200 years old.

Jody Fanning said...


Yes, they are all whacked. And if you believe the second point you are hopelessly brainwashed and have no idea what you are talking about.

Marcus said...

Mark O'Neill said: "Are you going to back that up with an example? Don't say something from Origin of Species, now. That's 200 years old.

I didn't originate the "Demons? Really?" post. It's not my position to defend. You're asking me to provide some proof of my assertion yet there isn't a single proof of the opposite assertion in any of the previous responses. If you believe you can prove your assertion there is no spiritual realm or no God, then I'd be glad to engage in a real discussion of the topic.

To make the assumption that you are right and I'm wrong, just because you say so, is ridiculous.

Mark O'Neill said...

I asked for an example of how the evolutionary theories are not backed by scientific evidence. And I want a modern example that's not from a crackpot.

Have you heard of Russel's Teapot? It's very relevant to your last comment. Of course there is no proof of the non-existence of the "spiritual realm". It is logically impossible to disprove something like that.

"To make the assumption that you are right and I'm wrong, just because you say so, is ridiculous."
I do no such thing. You ask me to back up the things that I say and I will. I have made no unsubstantiated claims, but obviously I'm not going to write an essay to fully expand my points for people who refuse to listen to reason anyway.

coffee snob said...

So if I understand correctly...

1) Science and logic can (or will?) provide an explanation for every entity/event in the observable physical universe.


2) Anything science and logic cannot explain as part of the observable physical universe, by reason of #1, must not exist.

Mark O'Neill said...


You do not understand correctly at all. Science is not a substitute for religion. Scientists do not naively claim to have all the answers. The scientific method is a means of gaining new information which we can be confident about due to rigorous and logical testing.

Your attempt to make a straw man out of science in general is pathetic.

coffee snob said...

Why is it that people feel the need to use words like pathetic, moron, stupid etc? Can't we have a discussion without resorting to attacking people personally?

Sorry if I have misunderstoond, but it seemed to me Linus was saying that science provides a way to logically explain everything. Which somehow proves that demons don't/can't exist??

OK so if, as Linus says, it's enough that...

(a) there have been statements made ("scientific theories") and (b) people have tried, but nobody has so far been able to falsify them.

I present the scientific theory that demons exist.

Paul Gideon Dann said...

I'd like to suggest that the issue here is that it's very difficult (probably impossible) to scientifically prove either the existence or non-existence of spirits. If I were not a Christian, I would probably be more sceptical. The reason I take it so seriously is because the Bible, which has always proved reliable in my experience, says they *do* exist.

To look at it in a very factual way, I trust the Bible because its predictions fit the facts I observe. (The history, God's character, what a relationship with Him is like...) Because of that, I trust the statements it makes about things I can't test myself.

neo67 said...

Earth is a disk and the sun is flying around the earth! Yes! So god will, we will believe it! ;-)

Angelos Karageorgiou said...

to paraphrase Philip K. Dick's "The empire never ended" , I can just say "The middle ages never ended". The enlightenment was just a blimp.

Linus said...

coffee snob: "I present the scientific theory that demons exist."

I would suggest that in order to look slightly less stupid/uneducated than you do, you read up on what "scientific theory" actually means.

But you really don't have a clue what you are talking about, do you?

Marcus said...


"I'm not going to write an essay to fully expand my points for people who refuse to listen to reason anyway."

If you are implying I'm not listening to reason, I disagree. The general theme in the anti-God posts here are "I don't believe in God and those who do are idiots".

I am just waiting for reason to be presented.

And I could surely recommend a number of books or essays to explain my point (as you did with your two posts). If that is considered presenting "reason" (saying - "go read this"), then I'll be glad to oblige with a list of recommended reading as well.

coffee snob said...

Linus: yes I have greatly over simplified the whole scientific thing, but no more than you have over simplified religion.

I agree with what Mark O'Neill said about science not being a substitute for religion. I think the two can co-exist. And at the risk over simplifying things too much (again), I think science is concerned with the 'how' of life and religion is more about the 'why'.

As for not having a clue what I'm talking about...

On the contrary, it's you who doesn't know what you are talking about on the topic of demons. I have seen and observed and this has formed my understanding, but you believe only what you have heard. And yet you throw out sweeping generalised put downs directed at anyone who might think differently.

Test everything, hold on to that which is good.

Grace and Peace

Unknown said...

Some of you are referring to "observing" demons or demonic possession. Can any of you give a detailed description about it? That way the ones who don't believe in them could see why are you so sure about their existence.
Or maybe we get to discuss what the down to earth thinkers say about it.

Unknown said...

I haven't seen them, but some people including a minister in the USA have ritual and maybe see them.
see here :

and maybe here :

To have contact with them, you should give many things, and I don't want to.
Go ask people who have contact, and I wonder if they answer you...

PS: they are the same rituals from old ages, ...

Mark O'Neill said...

Tamisoft: I think that's a good idea. I am sorry if I've insulted anyone. It's just that it really annoys me when people ask me to disprove something which cries out for evidence of its truth.

I'm assuming nobody went to the Wikipedia link for Russel's Teapot, so I'll explain it briefly here. Bertrand Russel was a nice writer, so you can hear it put more pithily on the page, where it quotes him at length. His version was a specific attack on religious dogma, but here it is in a more general form:

Suppose that I say that there is a teapot which orbits the Sun between Earth and Mars.
Suppose that I also tell you that it is so small that it cannot be seen with any telescope.

I now would point out that it would be completely irrational of you to not believe me, since you cannot disprove what I have said.

But I would be wrong.

In such a case where our experience of everything is the same, whether the teapot is there or not, I must prove that the teapot is there.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, they me insane call me whatever but they do exist...most people dont accept it because they dont care, or are scared of it.

Unknown said...

Mark O'Neil: totally agreed. Nicely chosen quote.

Boulabiar, I didn't get the links. The videos point to a "Cremation of care" ceremony, which according to wikipedia is a play connected to a cult. And that you refer to politicians taking part is sadsadsad, but hey they are human beings, and leadership is like the people, because citizens elect them from their communities, and like many systems: garbage in -> garbage out.

**sorry I read back it got a little long, feel free to skip it. this post might open up another can of worms**

My approach to things I can't see is more like it's not there until proven otherwise, like Mark said.

So far what I've seen about demons all were easily explained by the usage of psychotropic drugs and/or psychosis (
And weird when people are trying to explain to someone like me that there are demons because many others (even politicians, which is a scary thing) believe in them. It is not a fair argument. This way I could go around the globe and find people and tell them that when they are asked state that Earth is the center of the universe and they will. you know why I will go to places where the mind is corrupt/uninitialized/bent. I mean imagine an African tribe living in the desert where they live or die depending on the weather. Let's say long time no rain. half of the village died of hunger. What do you say what will happen if I showed up there and told them that you will have rain if you start praying to my god? I bet ya that out of sheer desperation they would try, and I who did see the forecast from the satellite pictures could give them someone to believe in and hang on in hard times. they get what they prayed for and if it happens a couple of more times they will keep doing it on their own. This is how uneducated men can be *exploited*! Because soon after this I'll need something they can give me, then I'll refine the god idea to implement more and more ways of controlling them. I hope it sounds familiar to all of you bigots:)

A far fetched thought from the not very far future: The human brain has a neural network, it should be COMMON KNOWLEDGE by now. That network operates with electric pulses of the neurons a few million billion a second (which interestingly still only grants us about 2 sentient decisions a second;)). ( Now theoretically in some point in time we will be able to record the current state of a brain and record it/even copy it to an empty one. What will happen to your demons then? No one wants to copy garbage files, it takes up time/space. So probably the copy will be demon free:)

I guess everyone can find his/her own balance inside, but one should really distinguish what to share with the world, especially when it's nonsense. The spiritual realm should've been banned from the inter-human communication long time ago. It would serve the purpose of the many if everyone with spiritual thoughts would be like a dos box on the internet. Lonely on its own:) and here is the catch why demons exist, because some people are so bored they have time to create imaginary characters on their own and actually share it with the rest like a good storyteller passing the time filling the gaps. :)
And c'mon give me a break with this religious stuff that there is an invisible undetectable being who woke up one morning rusty before coffee and kickstarted our universe:D If someone thinks any of the religions that is based upon a higher power being is true should find other books interesting like Cinderella, Snow White or Little Red Riding hood:)

to be continued... :D

Unknown said...

Humanity could be so far more advanced if there were no religions at the get go to kill off half the intelligent population (mainly those who had different/better idea about the whys and hows of the Universe). We would all be working for the common good: the survival of the human race. not posting on the internet about nonsense ideas;) Please people DO SOME GOOD THINGS WITH YOUR LIVES. Help medical, astronomical, physical, mathematical discoveries. Those are the things that can prolong the lifespan of the human body, describe the surroundings, feed the hungry and open the way to unimaginable places.

I don't know if Linus reads this very long post at all, but I would like to die with at least that much given to the populus like he did. ;) His idea/code opened some doors previously guarded heavily and made it possible for many people to access resources previously inaccessible. Keep up the good work!

archa: scared of what? I don't know it, so how could I be scared? there are not many things we are genetically coded to be afraid of. See a small kid:) He'll climb to places touch things even if it is dangerous. We learned to teach them not to climb up to high places because there is a chance they can fall. but guess what! probably the way we know it today is that some kids actually did fall. Now how come we are not taught to be afraid of demons? :D

Still waiting for someone here to go ahead and give a detailed description about demons. Where do they exist how they operate, how do they interact with humans, if they are capable to move into other living creatures:D But if no one here can give that to us, let's extend the range: angels:) same details are welcome.

Paul Gideon Dann said...

Listen, would everyone please stop assuming that all non-westerners are dumb and uneducated? We have experimental science, we understand more about how the human body works, more about the universe. This does *not* make us more intelligent; it makes us more western.

Place an average European in a desert, and I don't think he / she would last very long. In *most* of the world, there are more important things to learn than science. Leave the west, and most people would consider us the uneducated ones. The world is a big place; we're in the *minority*.

Don't say someone's uneducated until you've tried living their life. Illiterate maybe, uneducated no.

coffee snob said...

Tamisoft/Mark et al:

I'm recalling this from at least 10-15 yrs ago, so it's less detail and more highlights. My experiences with what could be considered to be demons can be summarised as follows.

A person who is of a normal state of mind and body (and without any previous occurrence of similar behaviour) can in an instant display unusual, abnormal, and EXTREME behaviour including (but not limited to) facial contortion, lashing out physically, shouting/screaming, verbally threatening, vocal tone/pitch change, increased strength and physical exertion.

I emphasised the word EXTREME because that is the over-riding observation with all of these 'manifestations'. eg the facial contortions are unlike anything you've seen before or could even imagine anyone being capable of doing (yes even Jim Carey!). Same for the vocal change, and physical strength. It all seems to be beyond normal human capability.

I have also seen a 3rd person have a conversation with someone in this state, not with the person so much as what appears to be a separate intelligent entity who is using the persons body to interact. eg this entity has their own name and personality, will answer when addressed, will hold a conversation etc - and all while the extreme manifestations above are continuing.

Now here's the interesting part... The 3rd person is able to direct the entity and command them to do or not do things. I must admit that this seeming authority to command is not always total or evident in 100% of cases, the entity will resist and may even become more extreme (sometimes even dramatically changing behaviour instantly eg to behave like a child - again a dramatic change in vocal, facial, physical behaviour). Some in this state have even seemed to be asleep or drousy, or as if the entity is ignoring the 3rd person. Their eyes can be wide open but there is no response to visual stimuli around them.

The entity does seem to prefer to remain unnoticed and unchallenged.

Ultimately if the 3rd person has the ability to command the entity they can tell it to stop and leave, and then it can all stop just as quickly as it started.

I haven't ever officially interviewed a person who has been subject to this sort of event (it's seems the most inappropriate thing at the time) but via an uncomfortable 'are you ok' etc after the event, it seems that they are mostly unaware of all that just happened and they are often physically exhausted.

They may never experience anything like this ever again.

I think that's about it for my personal experience. As I said, it was a while ago so there may be some gaps, but due to the extreme nature of it there are some images and events that I will never forget.

Jody Fanning said...

@coffee snob

And why do you think that requires demons? They used to think epilepsy was demonic possession as well until it was explained by science.

In fact many of the things you describe sound exactly like symptoms of one of the many forms of epilepsy.

coffee snob said...


I get the whole terrible dark ages epilepsy/demonic confusion thing, and I really don't know why people bring up long ago misunderstandings and errors in the name of medicine/science/religion etc to try and debate the here and now. We obviously have the benefit of hindsight and we continually build upon the knowledge/discoveries of those who have gone before.

Now, despite being diagnosed with epilepsy as a child myself I would never profess to be an expert on the subject.

But, I'm not aware of anyone in the medical profession who would prescribe that you command a person to stop having a seizure?

Or that the same could be said of the interaction between someone else and the epileptic person during the seizure, as what I described.

Again from my personal experience there are some common manifestations, but it's the ability to have an intelligent conversation with the person while they are manifesting (having a seizure) that I think may distinguish the 2.

Perhaps the very fact that they have so many physical/behavioural similarities makes it easier to understand why there was such confusion as to what epilepsy was way back then?

If you had no idea that epilepsy was a condition but you'd previously seen someone stop another person from manifesting similar behaviour and 'cure' the person, wouldn't it stand to reason that you'd try the same thing again in a seemingly similar situation?

Unknown said...

Maybe those guys were weirdos. Probably. Ok, lets assume that. Here's my problem. How can you be sure, *so very sure,* that spiritual entities of good and evil don't exist? Just wondering.

Unknown said...

Ridiculing people for their beliefs rarely (I might even say never) accomplishes anything but making the ridiculer feel superior. It certainly does nothing towards educating people out of false beliefs.

If one really cares about making a difference (rather than celebrating one's intellectual superiority amongst others of like mind), then a more charitable approach is called for, in the sense of the word as defined by G.K. Chesterton:

"Charity is a reverent agnosticism towards the complexity of the soul."

FWIW, I'm sure I don't believe in demons in the same way the people you describe do, but the allied concept of "the powers," as developed in the Christian Testament, can be a useful metaphor for what Neal Stephenson describes as "power disorders," taking off on a theme (domination systems) developed by the theologian Walter Wink.

Actually, I like even better Stephenson's phrase for Wink's work: empirical shaftology.

Unknown said...

What I know about demons in the life is that don't have authority on people, and this is the translation from Arabic :

{"And Shaitân (Satan) will say when the matter has been decided: "Verily, Allâh promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, so you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I deny your former act in associating me (Satan) as a partner with Allâh (by obeying me in the life of the world). Verily, there is a painful torment for the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers)."}

Have you seen it ? :
"I had no authority over you except that I called you, so you responded to me."

Demons exist, but they aren't responsible for what humans do.

Jody Fanning said...

“I contend that we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you’ll understand why I dismiss yours”. - Stephen F. Roberts

Anonymous said...

I have never seen any "Demon Sightings" or "Demon Attacks" in the news. I wonder why?

Jon Masters said...

My personal opinion is that Religion is "what's wrong with people". I joined American Atheists to help encourage an alternative perspective.

Of course everyone in this country is allegedly free to believe or not believe, but that turns out to be largely BS in many circles. I don't want "God" shoved down my throat.


coffee snob said...

@mike: 'I have never seen any "Demon Sightings" or "Demon Attacks" in the news. I wonder why?

Great question. Though given Linus response to the discussion he overheard in Costco, which was the basis of this discussion, and responses from the majority of people replying. It's pretty clear that popular 'wisdom' or belief is that demons do not exist.

Main stream media is about popularity and ratings. Showing what I've seen on the news would be very counter cultural/popular and not only raise serious doubts about western understanding of demons, but the whole spiritual thing in general, which ultimately leads to the question of whether there is a god or not. And that is a can of worms that most people really don't want to be opened

@jcm: Definition of Religion is: A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.

So you joined a religion because you think religion is 'what's wrong with people'... interesting.

Jody Fanning said...

@coffee snob.

Obviously your views cloud your understanding.

Atheism is defined as the absence of belief that any deities exist.

So it most definitely does not count as a religion since religion is the belief in something without proof.

Funny how religious people always make that mistake.

Paul Gideon Dann said...

@jodyfanning Where did you find your definition of Religion? Here's what wiktionary says:

It seems to me that the more avid the atheist, the more "religious" he is, in the strictest sense, because of his devotion to a belief that can he can't prove.

Atheism isn't the opposite of religion; that would be agnosticism. True agnosticism is relatively rare though. It's an inherently unstable philosophy: very difficult to maintain.

Jody Fanning said...

@Paul Gideon Dann

Huh?! Surely that is exactly the definition of religion. Belief in something without any proof.

Atheism is the exact opposite of that it is the lack of belief. Atheists don't have anything to prove, literally. Except maybe for the fact that anything else is illogical.

Bob said...

You should have suggested daemontools. :-)

Rudy said...

Christians should not be superstitious this way. I think the Church Father Tertullian said, "Christianity frees us from the fear of 10,000 things". Superstition is a moral wrong. God made the real world, and loves it; God isn't in the business of making ghosts, good luck, bad luck, all the nonsense that people make up (usually to manipulate other people). God made us material because he/she/they/it loves to make stuff!

Learning about the way the real world works (science) is a form of prayer.

NuclearPeon said...

This is hardly a Christian exclusive belief. There is a lot of shamanism in Africa, among other strange and demonic beliefs and superstitions.

I do find it a little strange, but I know not the context nor the evidence for or against. Quite possibly that kind of belief is wrong or misunderstood by man.

Proving them wrong is about as easy as proving them right. There's not much you can do about it. But I wouldn't pass it off as the beliefs of a nutjob or ignorance. Take it with a grain of salt I guess.

relop7 said...

My grandma in the Caribbean was kind of an Exorcist and one time she was performing an exorcism and I saw the possesed person talking in other language and was behaving like a wolf. There were other people assisting my grandma by giving her protection. I got caught in the middle of it and I was told not to close my eyes because the demon could take control of my body. Well, my grandma won the battle and we had to pray for another 30 minutes just in case the demon decided to come back. I do not remember all the details after the exorcism was done but maybe it is still real in certain places. My $.02 cents. I was only 12 years old.

cjohnson318 said...

No way! I thought only my Dad talked about that!

Douglas Naaden said...

Why do educated people not believe in demons? I know plenty of educated people who do. There is no demonstrable proof to say they don't exist, but there is to say that they do. Just because you haven't come across the proof for it (I'm talking more than just "Biblical proof") doesn't mean they don't exist. It is certainly not illogical to believe in demons.

Anonymous said...

"And dammit, people who don't know better really should be ridiculed. There's no reason to be polite about people holding stupid ideas." - Linus

Well that's charitable.

Ed Southall said...

Linus -

First the obligatory but heartfelt: Thanks for all you did/are doing/will do re: Linux.

As a practicing Catholic and devout Linux enthusiast perhaps I am particularly aware of where you are coming from. The last line of your post is the very question that Faith seeks to answer. The reality of evil in the world is pretty well undisputed. At least give those folks credit for asking the right question even if you think the answer they've come up with is wrong. Overly simplistic is how I would view it. The Catholic understanding of the union of Faith & Reason is certainly more edifying, if nothing else.
Pax et Bonum - Ed

Anonymous said...


mugg said...

Haha, you bunch of lunatics :D

From Wikipedia: Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge").

Douglas said...

What is wrong with people who believe in demons?

Nothing, based on that fact alone. They just have different experiences and frames of reference than you. There are countless engineers and scientists who believe in spiritual entities that can't be proven scientifically to exist. I think it would be easier for a person like you to understand if you had some exposure to such phenomenon. However, your lack of experience or broadmindedness doesn't negate the intelligence of people who believe in demons.

Gabe A. said...

This may be late, but what IS a demon?

The definition proposed by Oxford's is hardly more than a shadow of what demon-believers hold demons to be. Probably. And why are Muslims and Christians teaming up here? What are you defending, exactly?

Not to tell people about their religions, but in Islam the only thing approaching the meaning of "demon" is "jinn," a being which neither interacts with nor affects humans in any way (and thus simply constitutes a test of belief).

This is far removed from the things Linus overheard were somehow supposed to be "entering" or "possessing" people and required "exorcism" by prayer to prevent reinvasion.

Though I don't think it's right to laugh or belittle others for their foolishness (however that may be construed), Linus' feelings are understandable given the peculiar nature of the conversation: demons were not merely treated as symbols or beliefs, but were instead regarded as very real and dangerous entities capable of inflicting harm upon individuals and who could be physically extricated by prayer.

And, like he pointed out, by modern scientific standards, such an outlook being stomached in earnest in any context should be expected to meet the bill for absurdity.

But it wasn't. And so he wrote about it as a point of shock and interest.

For a bunch of computer scientists, it seems you guys (and gals) are perhaps getting a bit carried away in a squabble over beliefs.

Unknown said...

"Not to tell people about their religions, but in Islam the only thing approaching the meaning of "demon" is "jinn," a being which neither interacts with nor affects humans in any way (and thus simply constitutes a test of belief)."

it isn't an approaching. Demons are part of the Jinn like unbelievers are part of Humans.

The proof from the Quran itself :
'''Behold! We said to the angels "Bow down to Adam": they bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the Command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you! Evil would be the exchange for the wrongdoers!''' (Al-Kahf, 50)
(Iblis=Satan=Devil, Translation of the meaning of the Quran eliminates many aspects, so it is better referring to original Arabic version...)

Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in this same thing, the term Jinn is to include those who respect God orders and those who don't.
Another thing is that one man (a prophet) ruled the two Ins (humans) and Jinn, have the power on animals and every other thing on earth and was from the descent of Israel. Jews know this very well.


I have just referred to text to say that Islam is intended to be a religion that corrects mistakes that some men included in the original texts of Judaism and Christianity, MEANING THAT you will find many similarities in the belief of these religions.
(I remember that 200.000+ prophets were sent by God but I forget where I heard this. I only remember the first and the last of them)

And as you have said, good elements from Jinn don't interact with humans but only demons do.

Happy discoveries ! It's good to know what other people believe in.

Peter said...

Linus, give these people a break.
First, there always be people with STRANGE views (another good example: communism),
and second, people you met are not the worst people on the planet, by a long shot: they might believe in demons, but they don't believe that taking the whole population hostage and sending millions to Gulag is a right thing to do.

Parag said...

For those who believe in demons/fairies/supernatural-experiences, i strongly recommend that you watch the videos here:
and this one by Oliver Sacks

Note: This is not a proof of existence/absence of demons but it shows how neuroscience studies explain why some people 'see' or 'feel' things

vikram said...

I don't understand why Linus makes a special case for those who believe in "God" as against those who believe in "Devil". In my opinion both positions are equally indefensible. If people who believe in a resurrected Christ or divine cows or enlightened prophet for no scientific reason don't deserve ridicule, why ridicule those who believe in ghosts and spirits ? Russell's teapot argument is after all valid for both cases. I guess Linus is too afraid to go after the religious nuts and thereby hurt his religious fans ;)

Anonymous said...

You should really keep out of religion on here.

Unknown said...

yeah... talking about the user space: is ruled by daemons.

Nailson Martins said...

Oh yeah... sometimes i've to face it.

Anonymous said...

So what about life and death in Africa, It wouldn't stop me in putting up an investment in Africa. I think people should trust the resources more.

Anonymous said...

Secular humanism is a religious belief.

You aren't better than them, you hold a belief of your own. Atheists are so narcissistic at times its scary.

This is rooted in the fact you are offended by those who might otherwise be moral law abiding tax paying good people who hold a different belief than you.

Proof of a God or proof of no-God is not happening nor is either provable, so engaging in this jihad against those of faith while you have your own non-faith faith is rather dare I say it - retarded.

I'm guessing based on your pedigree this is a form of idiot savantism.

While clearly you are no idiot, you have an idiotic reaction to a bunch of religious types doing their thing while you engage in your own online proselytizing of non-faith.

Amusing to watch. You of all people should know a logical fallacy when you see one.

Ajith said...

You are one of the guys who made daemons. You should have told them!

Shenbaga Murugan P said...

I think they are talking about "bad software" which, you are not so familiar with.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SkepticVA said...

mickrussom says that atheists are narcissistic, and that secular humanism is a religious belief.

He's wrong on both counts. Atheists by definition are immune to the most narcissistic belief on Earth, the one that says "my lot" -- Jews, Christians, Muslims, or even humans -- are the Reason that God made the Universe.

Secular humanism is a practical approach to ethical behavior, depending upon the manifest failure of man-made "religions" and belief systems to have achieved the behavioral goodness they claim to seek for humanity.

For a parallel, consider the rise of democracy and republics, some more successful than others, in replacing the authority of kings, priests, and emperors with an agreed-upon system of laws to enable vast populations to live in reasonable harmony.

Check the preamble to the US Constitution, and its Bill of Rights.

I confess that I do not see how a nation, conceived under the proposition that all men are created equal, should arrogate to its government the power to deny entry to any person without showing that such person intends harm to the nation.

SkepticVA said...

Parashar K
has been told that God sent the Flood water from Heaven. Actually, if you read it carefully enough, some of it came from "the waters under the earth".

We certainly know that the entire atmosphere weighs less than a uniform layer of world-girdling water 40 feet high! We've known that since Torricelli's experiment, in the 17th century!

I don't know when the notion that water undergirded the world's entire landmass was abandoned.
But in any case, the Flood story is immoral. For the sins of MEN, God punished the animals more severely.

SkepticVA said...

Jennifer thinks that Auschwitz was the work of the devil. Maybe, but Hitler was raised as a Catholic, and never excommunicated. The Pope made a concordat with the Nazis.

A good deal of African slaughter is associated with religious warfare, too.

Mind you, the Presbyterian David Livingstone spent some of his efforts fighting the Arab (probably Muslim) slave traders. His backers, however, thought he should be paying more attention to spreading the Gospel.