Let’s start with the basics first – There is no evidence that supernatural entities known as demons are real and actually exist. There are of course many stories. The concept is also a powerful religious idea that helps people to explain some things, hence the idea thrives and persists.
Many belief systems claim that unseen hidden supernatural entities are real and explain that they are fallen angels or simply spirits that can manifest or possess humans. There is also going hand-in-hand with this the concept of exorcism, not just as a horror movie theme, but as something that some do practise.
Having once been immersed within a pentecostal group, I ended up witnessing many exorcisms. For those inside, it was all quite real and often involved people writhing around on the floor screaming while the demon was cast out. Picture in your mind the pastor standing over shouting “In the name of Jesus, I command you … “, and you will have grasped the idea.
If indeed demons do not exist, then you do have to wonder what was going on here.
Did the pastor truly believe in it all? In my own experience, the answer to that is yes, he truly and sincerely did believe that he was successfully casting out Demons, he was not faking it.
Did those he was casting demons out of simply pander to this belief or did they also, after they had been exorcised, truly think that they had been released? They also did indeed appear to be quite sure that they had been freed from a demon.
We need not question their sincerity. I can more or less guarantee you that anybody who truly believes this is all real, will post comments along the lines of, “But I know it is real, I have seen it myself“. With tongue in cheek, I’m also speculating that if I should then point out that I have also “seen” such things and assured them that nothing supernatural was going on, and that instead it was all psychological, then I would no doubt be advised that I had a demon of lying within me. That would be my cue to roll my eyes, and with a flourish the believer would point and shout, “Look, see what the demon is doing to him now, there is your proof“. In response many others would face palm, and be greeted in return by the shout of “Oh look, more demons“.
If this all sounds a bit like a Monty Python sketch, then you would indeed perhaps be correct.
What Does the bible say on all this?
Much of what happens within Christianity is socially acceptable within the various strands of belief because Jesus is described within the bible casting out demons and also directs his followers to do the same.
28 When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way.
29 Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
30 Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them.
31 The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.”
32 And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water.
And also …
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
People read and take such verses as a pattern, and so it happens today because the bible says so.
This can only lead you to wonder if people would go around picking up deadly snakes if the bible told them to. Well yes, it does, and so some people do, and they end up getting bitten and die.
Not Just Christianity
It is not just Christianity, there is something akin to the concept of possession and being released from it within most belief systems. That observation might lead some to conclude that there is something to it all, and that it just might be real. This however is really all about humans trying to not only explain, but to also deal with things that are often beyond their understanding.
Mental Illness is real. Human beings do suffer from things that would in the past have been identified as demons. In every case of supposed possession, you will discover that we now do have a better understanding of what is actually happening. Specifically, …
- Tourette syndrome
- conversion disorder
- dissociative identity disorder
Each and every one of the above would have, in the not too distant past, motivated humans to call for a cleric or priest. Those suffering would have found an explanation and some relief. For those witnessing it all, it would have confirmed a belief that they now understood what was happening. It brought comfort and perhaps some resolution, but was not really explaining what was going on in a manner that we would now understand.
To be 100% clear here, Demon Possession is not a recognised condition within DSM-5. No modern psychiatrist (except perhaps a deeply religious one) would seriously diagnose this, not because they refuse to recognise the “truth”, but instead because there are far better explanations.
A few Additional notes
Having been inside the bubble I can add a few additional observations. What follows are simply anecdotal and based upon what I observed, so should perhaps be digested with a pinch of salt, because many do not behave like this.
I did note that the pastor would often declare that Person X had a specific type of demon. For example, “Oh that guy I was just talking to clearly has a drinking demon in him“, or “The issue this chap faces is that he is possessed by a gay demon“, and so on. In other words, whenever faced with somebody who had what he perceived to be issues, he would apply a one size fits all solution, and tag the problem to being a case of possession that caused whatever it might be. It was in some senses attractive to some. No longer did they have to take responsibility for their own actions, it was now the fault of a demon, and so supposedly getting rid of that wiped the slate clean.
Repeat performances were common. Whenever there was a meeting in which emotions ran high, somebody might end up having a demon cast out. Often it turned out to be the same people. It did lead me to wonder why the most devoted and committed appeared to have a life that operated like Clapham railway junction for demons. Actually, I’m being slightly unfair to these folks, it was very much one specific pastor who was into this demon stuff. Others counselling the same individuals encountered no such issues.
A typical exorcism would involved somebody yelling and shouting in response to being prayed over. They would then be held down while the pastor proceeded to do the exorcism. Now dismiss all the movies scenes you might of watched that involved clerics reciting latin and heads spinning, it was rather a lot simpler. The pastor would proceed to yell something along the lines of “In the Name of Jesus, I cast you out“. If that failed and the screaming persisted, which was often the case, he simply kept going with more of the same until whoever was being exorcised stopped the hysterics. That was deemed to be a sign of success.
I recall one “brother”, telling a few of us how he had cast a demon out of some chap at work. As he described what had happened it became blindly clear to me that his victim had simply had an epileptic seizure. He appeared to be totally oblivious to what had actually happened and was quite convinced he had helped by casting out a demon.
The bottom line here is this. There are people out there who do need serious professional help, but unfortunately due to the deployment of this primitive superstitious religious solution, they are not getting it. These exorcisms can sometimes go very badly wrong with tragic results.
- Woman ‘possessed by demons’ dies during ‘exorcism’ in hotel room
- Mother accused of stabbing her two toddlers to death in exorcism was commander of church group called ‘Demon Assassins’
It truly is time to put these superstitious practises away. For anybody who considers this to be real, you should pause and ask yourself why you think that, and why do you dismiss the far more reasonable explanations.