The danger of collective irrationality

Five women were killed by fellow villagers in India who accused them of practicing witchcraft and held them responsible for poor crops and other misfortunes. Apparently such killings for such reasons are not uncommon in rural parts of India where belief in witchcraft still survives.

In the latest incident villagers with sticks and knives attacked the five women on Friday night in the town of Kanjia, police officials said.

“The women were dragged out of their home while asleep and beaten to death by the villagers suspecting them to be witches … some were even stoned to death,” said Jharkhand police spokesperson SN Pradhan.

Around 50 villagers were arrested, Pradhan said, adding: “The entire village was involved in the crime.”

Police said the arrested villagers did not show any remorse. “What can you expect from the society when even educated youths join the angry mob?” said a local lawmaker, Gangotri Kujur, who visited the spot afterwards.

This shows the great danger that can arise when entire communities share a delusion about the source of a problem. All manner of evils can result because there is no one to pull the brakes on such runaway actions, especially when the victims are powerless women who are paradoxically accused of having supernatural power by virtue of being witches.


  1. busterggi says

    Collective irrationality = superstition = religion, it’s just the actions that are sometimes different.

  2. hyphenman says


    Of late I’ve been pondering the question of delusions.

    If I am delusional, how would I know? I might compare my perception of reality to that of others, but that only indicates that either I or the others (if their reality doesn’t mesh with mine) is/are delusional.

    The argument quickly becomes circular.


  3. Glenn says

    Thomas Drake recently said national security is the secret state religion.

    Question it and you are excommunicated.

  4. bmiller says

    In the libertarian/anarchist dream, the popo will be replaced by this glorious form of communal justice! I feel safer already.

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