This Is What Superstition Looks Like

Last night I came downstairs to find my wife in floods of tears. This was because she had read this story, about a two-year-old boy who had been abandoned and left to die because his parents thought he was a witch. The photo that won’t leave either of our heads is below.

If you own the copyright of this image and want it credited or removed please email me.

I went to bed severely depressed and cried for the first time in a long while.

When I woke up, I couldn’t work out what about the story I had found so profoundly disturbing: as horrific as the images are, I have seen worse (famine, war). Then it hit me: the really terrifying thing about the story is that this child was left to die for no rational reason. People die in famines because there simply isn’t any available food, and in wars because they are caught up in a battle which (at least to its protagonists) has a purpose. Here was a young child, abandoned with literally nothing — no clothes, no food, no water, no love — and for what?

A lot of the comments below the various imprints of the story invoke God, but I found that insulting (people saying “thank God!”, when they should be thanking the woman who actually saved this boy) and cruelly ironic. If superstition is to be defeated, to stop tragedies like this, then everything supernatural should be equally shunned.

How can one person’s irrational beliefs be dismissed if another’s are not?

How can we say there is no such thing as a witch, but there is such a thing as God when both witches and God are supported by the same level of evidence: i.e. none.

Of course a lot of religious people do a lot of good: that is not the target of this article. The point is, we need to be able to say: “this child is not a witch because there is no evidence that witches exist” and for that point to be intellectually consistent we must also shun any other concept which is not evidentially supported.

This particular story has a happy ending, but a lot of other children are abandoned, maimed or killed for “being witches”. Anya’s (the woman in the photograph above) charity is trying to save these children and give them love and a life. A worthier and more humanitarian cause is difficult to imagine.

If you want to donate to the charity that saved this boy the link is below.

A video of the incident is here in Danish and English:

http://www.dr.dk/nyheder/udland/video-danske-anja-redder-hekseboern-nu-har-jeg-raabt-verden-op#!/