Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Yoga and demonic possession

I bet you thought that yoga was a great way to improve flexibility, stretch and tone your muscles, and relax?  Little did you know that by practicing yoga, you're risking your immortal soul.

This from Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, who in a long, rambling directive to his flock, says,
Giving sound teaching on yoga is important because there is increasing adoption of yoga by our culture, with over 15.8 million people practicing yoga and nearly every store you go into selling all kinds of yoga products.  It’s gone mainstream.  As such, Christians are also adopting it as a healthy aspect of exercise and lifestyle—complete with things like “Holy Yoga,” which is an oxymoron.  Saying yoga can be Christian because you do it for Jesus is a bit like going into a mosque, going through the worship practices, and then saying you’re not a Muslim because you’re doing it for Jesus.  They don’t mix.
He said about Christians trying to inject Christian beliefs into yoga that "you cannot redeem such a thing... (it is) unchristian, against scripture, and thus demonic in nature."

So, I wonder where you draw the line?  If you do a "downward dog" pose to stretch before a run, are the demons ready to pounce?  Does the lotus position somehow invite Satan to attack me because my feet are asleep, so I won't be able to run away?  (At least that's what always happens to me when I go into the lotus position.)  Is my wife's yoga mat infused with Demonic Energy?  What will happen if our cat sleeps on the yoga mat?  Will he become possessed by evil spirits?  (Actually, possession by evil spirits might actually be an improvement on this cat's current personality.)

What I find astounding about all of this is not that some wingnut has made a bizarre pronouncement.  That, after all, is what wingnuts do.  What I find amazing is that people still continue to attend his church and believe what he has to say afterwards.  If in my classroom, I started claiming that the Earth's mantle was composed of cherry pie filling, and that lava is red because of the cherry juice, my credibility would be compromised, to put it mildly.  But this guy can babble away about how practicing yoga is inviting demonic possession, and his congregation just kind of sits there nodding and mumbling "Amen, brother," instead of guffawing directly in his face and walking out, which is what I would do.

I guess that's the power of personality.  Driscoll is fairly well known as a charismatic speaker, and his views are labeled in virtually every source I looked at as "controversial."  And, of course, some people are easily led and don't question what they're told by an authority figure.  You put all of those things together, and you have a recipe for belief in crazy stuff, which to me is seriously scary.  Maybe all we have here is a group of worshipers who have been convinced to stop watching Lilias, Yoga, and You, and will have to find some other way to work out -- but in another context, this same human tendency creates a Jim Jones, a Mark Koresh, an Al Qaeda.  The only difference is scale and content.


  1. I think it's an identity thing. If a member of the congregation decided Driscoll was an idiot, they would have to quit all their friends and start thinking for themselves and decide what they are now that they're no longer a member of that church. All this is a big change and a lot of work. What if your spouse didn't want to quit? Plus, they'd have to admit that they've been an idiot themselves for many years. So they have to convince themselves that they really believe that stuff, and the more people try to argue them out of it, and the more ridiculous the assertions get, the more entrenched they become. If they hang in there, they can make it through their whole lives without the humiliation of being completely wrong about everything.
    I wonder whether things would change if people lived for a lot longer, or if they would just continue to get more and more bizarre.

  2. I'm pretty sure you have to sell your soul to do a "dragonfly pose."

  3. He might be a charismatic speaker, but he's also a moron. Dangerous combination when you consider how many sheep there are just looking for the first semi-appealing shepherd.

    Great post!