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Demonic Possession, Oppression & Exorcism


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Beliefs of secularists, skeptics and religious liberals:

Secular, skeptical and religiously liberal groups and individuals have long given up any belief in Satan, his demons, demon possession as a cause of mental and physical illness, and the need for exorcism. Few pay any attention to these topics today. Most regard alleged demonic possession as actually being caused by:

bulletBrain disorders, like epilepsy or Gilles de la Tourette's Syndrome, or
bulletMental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, or
bullet"People whose brains are more or less healthy but who are unfortunate enough to be sucked into playing a social role with very unpleasant consequences." 1

If a person is convinced that they have been possessed by a demon or by Satan, then an exorcism may well release them from the belief. In the same way, a person who believes that they are being harmed by an evil curse can sometimes find relief by going to a practitioner who claims to be able to lift curses.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, many mental health therapists and counselors were using Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT) to attempt to uncover what they believed to be repressed "memories" -- typically of childhood sexual abuse. It was only after many years that most observers determined that these "memories" were of events that never happened. Some RMT therapists went further and diagnosed Multiple Personality Disorder/ Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD/DID) in their patients. The clients were believed to have brains which were occupied by two or more distinct personalities. Some attributed the cause of MPD/DID to indwelling demons. However, most mental health professionals remained unconvinced of the  existence of MPD/DID. They regarded it as an iatrogenic disorder - an artificial problem generated by the physician or therapist. Today, very few therapists still believe in the reality of RMT or MPD/DID. It has largely vanished from the therapeutic scene. With its disappearance, the belief in indwelling demons similarly evaporated.

Hollywood has made a long series of Grade B horror movies on evil spirits, and even a few feature films, such as The Amityville Horror, Carrie, The Devil in Miss Jones (XXX film), The Exorcist, Ghost Busters, Gremlins, Halloween, The Night Child, The Omen, Poltergeist, and Rosemary's Baby. 2 They continue to make movies promoting an imaginary form of Satan worship that was created by the church over 500 years ago.

Kids still enjoy  being scared by evil spirits, "Witches," skeletons, haunted houses, ghosts, etc. at Halloween. But most "believe" in these entities in the same way that they believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny - as an amusing and harmless fable from a pre-scientific age.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Exorcisms," an entry in The Skeptic's Dictionary at: http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/
  2. "The Exorcist made me do it!- Possession films of the 1970's," at: http://users.aol.com/

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Copyright © 1998 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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