Mental illness, religion and belief in the devil results in tragic outcome

A 3 year old innocent boy was brutally drowned by his father who sudden heard voices and became convinced the child was possessed.

Syracuse man confesses to murdering 3-year-old son: ‘I wanted to kill the Shatan’ |

Marcell Washington put his 3-year-old son into a cold shower and demanded to know if the young boy worshiped only God.

When Ameen said “no,” Washington forced open the boy’s eyes so water could fill them.

“I did this because I wanted to kill the Shatan that I believed was in my son,” Washington explained later. “I thought by killing a portion of Ameen, it would kill the Shatan in him.”

The exorcism continued. Washington held his son’s face under water for about 10 minutes.

Washington was convicted of murder in February. While it was clear that his family was concerned for his mental well being, the child was not protected and was the innocent victim of mentally troubled man who believed in demons. One of the officers noted, “He stated that he did not feel he did anything wrong. He also said that his child was better off dead than living with a devil inside of him.”

So here we are with another of the countless cases we see of mental illness matched with a religious and culturally enforced belief of the devil and demons in children, no less. Two mental health experts not involved in the case noted that the Washington’s symptoms such as hearing voices sound like schizophrenia, a mental illness that strikes men most commonly between their late teens and late 20s. Washington and Ameen’s mother shared joint custody of the child. He suddenly became aggressively religious. There was no sign of drugs or of violence towards the child. Now many observers are left wondering if there is anything they could have done.

Tip: @whatstheharm

  3 comments for “Mental illness, religion and belief in the devil results in tragic outcome

  1. Dang
    March 13, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    When I hear about these kinds of things, that seem to be caused by mental illness, rather than a primarily religious belief, I try not have a knee-jerk reaction and blame the religion. (I’m contrasting this with the cases of parents killing their kids by not providing health care for religious reasons.)

    I wonder what might have happened if Washington had been raised without any religion. It doesn’t seem necessary, or even more likely, that he would have sought help for his condition. Even without being raised in a religious environment, there is folklore and modern horror and science-fiction films to fall back on. I’m an atheist, but I’ve seen scary movies about demonic possession, and it seems very plausible that if I had a mental illness, I might believe in demonic possession, without believing in a god. (Seriously, these kinds of mental illnesses don’t make sense, so consistency is not necessary.)

    Maybe he would have claimed the child was possessed by aliens from another world/universe.

    I think it is this kind of tragic event which makes people reluctant to admit having a mental illness. Yes, it’s atypical and extreme, but that’s what people remember. Air flight might be the safest form of long-distance transportation, but people remember the atypical and extreme crashes more than the daily hundreds of automobile-related fatalities.

  2. busterggi
    March 14, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    I’d like to know if there are any such incidents involving atheists. We can have mental illnesses too but don’t have the social concensus of a religion to feed into them.

  3. John Nowak
    March 14, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    It’s really tough to say. I’d think that most organized religions, even those that practice exorcism, would tell you not to try this yourself at home. Logically, you’d expect him to talk to a priest. But you know, logic and mental illness…

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