Man beats his 3-year-old son to rid him of demons from eating meat.

I have stated many times my opinion that religious belief is a form of delusion that, for most people, is relatively harmless. Some folks get so wrapped up in their delusions, however, that it leads them to committing acts that are reprehensible at best and downright deadly at worst. Often when I write entries such as this the people I’m talking about are Christian, but it would be wrong to suggest that they have a lock on the deeply delusional marketplace of ideas.

Take for example this news item from the Houston Chronicle:

A southwest Harris County man who is accused of beating his 3-year old son said the child had been invaded by demons after he ate meat, a prosecutor said today.

[…] During a court hearing Monday morning before state District Judge Debbie Mantooth Stricklin, prosecutors said that Tran, a vegetarian, thought some meat his son ate caused demons to enter the boy.

“The defendant said eating meat will cause demons in the child,” said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Angela Weltin said during the hearing.

The twist here is that the father is a Buddhist which makes this case particularly odd. Those who know him say he just snapped. Apparently he’s been acting oddly for awhile now and had only just decided to become a vegetarian:

“Jacky thinks he’s an angel right now: that he’s sent by God to help everybody,” said Thuba To, Tran’s cousin-in-law.

Tran’s relatives and neighbors say the devout Buddhist had never shown any tendencies toward violence. The family has no record with CPS, and Tran appears to have no criminal record. Those closest to him believe something within him just snapped.

“He’s a very nice person, a very responsible husband, a good person,” To said. “I think he’s run into a problem with psychology.”

[…] Within the last week, however, neighbors noticed that Tran been acting strangely. On Wednesday, Badat said he spotted Tran carrying a Buddhist statue into his house and the next day he saw the man throwing almost all his furniture into his front and back yards.

The front and back yards of the family’s house were still strewn with broken furniture Sunday.

“He threw everything out, even valuable things, because he says they’re evil,” To said.

By Friday morning, Badat decided to check on Tran, who told him that the statue he brought home earlier in the week was possessed by a demon and that he had buried it in a cemetery. He also told Badat that the furniture in the home had also been tainted.

“He thought the demon came onto everything,” Badat said.

He decided during the week to become a vegetarian, eating only fruits and vegetables for days, his cousin-in-law said.

“He’s been Buddhist for many years, but not like this,” she said.

Buddhists typically eschew worldly goods and embrace pacifism and moderation. But Tran seemed suddenly to be taking his faith to extremes, neighbors said.

His toddler son was flown to the hospital where he was being treated for multiple skull fractures. When police arrived the unresponsive boy was being cradled by his mother in the bathtub. His face a maroon color and his eyes nearly swollen shut. His father denies hitting the child at all saying he had merely “knocked the demons out of him.”

If you accept the idea of demons and Gods and spirits and possession then everything the man did up to, and possibly including, beating his son should make perfect sense. If he truly believed his household furnishings had been invaded by a demon then throwing them out is perfectly logical. If he truly believed the Buddhist statue he brought home was possessed then burying it somewhere else would also be perfectly logical. As for beating his child to rid him of demons, I’ll admit that I’m not up on Buddhist exorcism practices, but it’s not like he’s the first person to try that approach. The point being that if you buy into the same or similar ideas, that supernatural forces are at work in the world and some of them mean to do us harm, then it’s hard to see how you can criticize the approach this man took or claim that he’s crazy in anyway. These “harmless” beliefs led directly to a purportedly good man—according to those who know him—committing a terrible act against his own child with nothing but good intentions on his part.

How can you call that anything but delusional?

Sent in by an SEB reader who didn’t provide a name for me to use in the email.

7 thoughts on “Man beats his 3-year-old son to rid him of demons from eating meat.

  1. I am not sure what kind of Buddhist this guy is.  I am a Buddhist…but in general we don’t believe in angels and demons and gods or anything like that.  Buddhists tend to be vegs because they don’t believe in taking the life of an animal.  Granted, like Christianity, there are different forms of Buddhism so I am not really sure what kind he studied.

    It sounds like he had a break through with schizophrenia.  I am not a dr, but I have read up on the condition when my ex was diagnosed…even if you aren’t religious schizophrenia can bring to the front all those ideas anyway since your brain isn’t working properly.  The only odd thing is it usually comes out in your 20s instead of 30s but who knows.

    Poor little boy…makes me just want to hug him.

  2. Buddhist exorcisms that I’ve read about involved burning incense, meditation, singing, and trying to bathe the suffering spirit in compassion so that it is free to move on.  That is, the invading spirit is also a sentient being and needs compassion.

    I am not Buddhist but I do respect that so far as I know, Buddhism doesn’t have a lot of violence built into it.  There’s very little you can find in Buddha’s teaching that would support a violent act.  Of course “very little” is not “zero”.

  3. Well, there’s certainly one person in this story who was behaving as if he were possessed by an evil force, but it’s not the kid.

    Anybody know a way of exorcising a meme?

  4. Gen. 22: 1-2, 7-10, 15-18. Abraham was greatly blessed because he was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. According to the Muslims, it was his son, Ismael, by Hagar. Whatever! There seems to be a long history of abuse that some “gods” have approved, even initiated. And these lads were not even “possessed!” I’m so glad we have morals because “god” gave them to us. Imagine what we would be like without these moral guidelines.  tongue wink By the way, most of Vietnamese are Theravada Buddhists, which tend to deify Buddha, contrary to Buddha’s wishes. Oh, well.

  5. Buddhism, as a religion, has so many varieties that it makes Christianity look positively homogeneous. 

    That all said, the question is—had the guy who suffered a clear psychological break been, say, a humanist, an atheist, someone without a religion to channel his delusions into, what would he have done.  Would he have lit upon some other ideology?  (“My son is a socialist!  I must cure him of this un-American delusion!”)  Or would it have come out in some other fashion?

  6. Reading the comments at the Houston Chronicle site is scary! But, then, that is the Babble Belt.

  7. Sounds to me like his friends would agree with you Les, he was delusional and had some kind of psychotic break. I’d have to agree with Sandy’s assessment.

    I guess the question is:
    Did the religious background lead to the expression of violence in the wake of the psychotic break?

    Or was religion simply used to justify the violence?

    “The Devil Made me do it” seems to me to be an excuse to avoid facing their own personal responsibility for their actions. This avoidance mechanism may be a survival instinct which helps prevent them from taking their own lives when they realized what they did.

    Just a arm-chair psychologist theory I pulled out of thin air. Enjoy. :o)

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