If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
One of the things most religions have in common is an acceptance of the possibility of diabolical possession, that is, that evil spirits or demons have the power to control the bodies of their victims. Taking over the body would not necessarily mean taking over the person.
Sledgehammer Christianity says that if somebody is not Christian then do not get the demon out for it will return and find the house empty of God and faith and will re-possess and even bring along its even more evil friends (Matthew 12:45). So non-Christians are accused of providing houses for the demons!
Some religions say the demons actually take over human beings. The Catholic view is that there is at least one other person infesting the body that belongs to somebody else and that person has to be removed and kept out. But the owner of the body is still in there.
Exorcism though you hear little about it is a core Catholic practice for it and only it has the Church directly facing supernatural evil. The Church is all about combatting that evil or so it says. If it cannot handle demons it simply does not connect with God very well if at all. Jesus himself emphasised exorcism as a sign that Satan was being dealt with and that people were being saved from evil. His exorcisms were not just about curing an individual but about putting into practice the core teaching that God's kingdom was going to vanquish the kingdom of Satan and evil people.
Exorcism is a form of prayer to which God responds by putting the demons out. So it is said. But the fact remains that most rites are about nagging the demon to leave and not praying to God. The prayers seem to have no effect but the nagging does.
Exorcism is meant to be expulsion but most "exorcisms" are definitely not like that. The "demon" usually is still there after endless exorcisms. If it leaves it looks like it leaves of its own accord.
Not all religions think possession is curable. Some think that prayer only curtails some of the harm that the demon can do but cannot get rid of it and its leaving is its own decision. If so, exorcism does not cure. Asking a tenant to leave the house is not an eviction if they don't have to listen. In the same way, if a demon leaves during a ceremony it does not necessarily mean he was evicted.
The Catholic Church for about a hundred years has got more careful with performing exorcisms. Nowadays exorcism is only performed under extreme circumstances and if a supernatural agency is seen to be causing a person’s insanity or dangerous behaviour. So we are told but is it true that the Church is that careful? No. The whole process is shrouded in secrecy. There are no professional records such as what a doctor might keep. That alone is a warning bell.
In the past (it still happens but is hidden better) the Church made many schizophrenics and disturbed people far worse by diagnosing demonic possession and exorcising them! Mad people often think they are possessed and it will not help if priests validate their delusion. It will only encourage them. Even today the Church will not perform an exorcism on a person who is insane and whose insanity cannot be traced to anything medical unless that person shows signs of clairvoyance or speaks in languages he or she never learned and can make things float around the room just by thinking about it or whatever. So it needs evidence for the supernatural. Good luck to the Church then for science never found any evidence for the supernatural. And the evidence the Church provides is always hearsay.
It doesn’t trouble the Church that some force inside the so-called possessed that has nothing to do with demons could be causing the allegedly supernatural effects. Demons could be doing them but it still doesn’t show that the person is really possessed. It could be a simulated possession. Suppose you hear a "possessed" person talking in a language they have never learned. A demon could be getting into your mind to make you think the victim is talking in a language he or she never learned. It could be an illusion. If demons exist and possess people you cannot be sure of what is real.
There can be no doubt that Jesus Christ’s exorcisms and example has cost many their lives and caused a lot of suffering especially in centuries gone by. The exorcists say that the demon often gets very violent and abusive towards the victim during an exorcism. The demon reacts angrily towards the exorcism and it supposedly tortures the victim with new ferocity in the hope that the priest will discontinue the exorcism. And it takes many exorcisms to get each one out so the victim could be a bloody mass of pulp before it supposedly succeeds. This is nothing more than religion declaring that it has the right to torment people when it cannot prove that demons exist or possess people if they do. Also, people used to be forced to fast and were beaten up to get the demons out and locked up in towers with monks praying over them for weeks. There can be little doubt that Satan might have performed exorcisms through Jesus so that this would happen. If he cast demons out it was worth it to him for it resulted in superstition and worse evil than possessing.
If the demon is part of the person it is the person who is being tormented by the exorcist.
The Church has one or two priests in every diocese who perform exorcisms. It claims every priest has the power to cast out demons but only a few are selected and trained for the job. But in the Bible we read that Jesus choose his unstable and selfish disciples as exorcists and even protested when they complained that a man outside their group was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus then does not see any need for being cautious and using science and medicine to make sure the person isn’t just suffering from a mental or physical disorder. How could Catholic exorcists have the power to cast out demons in Jesus’ name when they aren’t even obedient and don’t think much of the way he did things? How can they see their job as good when they know that for most of the Church’s history nobody knew how to differentiate between possession and mental illness? (They never did but it was worse in the past!) And yet exorcism was still practiced, permitted and even commanded by God and Christ and Church! From the way Jesus acted he wanted all mental illnesses seen as possession. Even if he wanted them to be seen as possible possession that is still awful. Teachings like that only make mental patients suffer more and makes their illness worse. To promote Christianity is to promote something that will disturb people who are mentally ill for a common symptom of mental illness is feeling afflicted by a demon or that a demon is present. The Church will flippantly say that even if it didn’t teach about demons and the Bible didn’t mention exorcisms and Jesus didn’t exorcise people would still be reporting such effects. But at least that would be nobody’s fault. To teach mentally ill people that it is possible for people to be possessed and hurt by demons is to hurt them and harm them. It is religious fanaticism. It is vile for there is no coherent evidence for any religion being true for they all manufacture evidence and the evidence for one religion contradicts the evidence for another religion that is against that religion.
Only trained high level conjurers not scientists or priests have the right to determine if the events surrounding an apparent victim of possession are really supernatural and not tricks. But even then they will be only able to go as far as to say that the events are inexplicable for just because something cannot be explained doesn’t mean it is a miracle or supernatural. The Catholic Church says that the Lourdes apparitions of Mary are not part of the faith and that because of that no apparition can ask you to do something dangerous. But still it said officially that Mary appeared there though she had people eating dirty infected plants and drinking water from a spring in a diseased dump. The alleged cures are mentioned but many people got more ill and died after drinking that water but usually the water was not blamed for they were sick anyway but what if the water helped kill them? That no harm seemed to have happened is not the point. The point is the apparition had no right to seek that trust. The Church just isn’t reliable when it comes to judging if something is from God or Satan or miraculous or not. It is the exorcists themselves who are possessed by evil and fanaticism.
The victim during an exorcism is often aware of what is going on. The process must be very distressing or her or him. Not only is there a creepy ceremony going on, but it is often being repeated and it builds up hope that the demon will go and that hope is usually dashed. It reinforces the belief that there really is a demon there. And the "demon" may be rampant and crazed during the exorcisms and start tormenting the victim with new ferocity. The victim is put through all that when there is absolutely no evidence that exorcism really benefits. The demon may go in its own time or start to hide in the victim. Exorcism is abuse. When the victim is a child this is heinous abuse.
Exorcists have no way of being sure that when they throw holy water on a person who screams that it burns if it is the demon or the person who is speaking. And the demon may be speaking but what if the real person is suffering too and cannot speak? The demon could leave temporarily or hide in the person to avoid the pain. A real demon would surely know that sprinkling holy water is part of the routine. It would see the bottle. It would hide. The reaction shows that the demon is faking if there is a demon. The person suffering, if any, is the victim. Holy water on the body of a person who is not the demon cannot effect the demon. The Wicked Witch of the West would not have been melted by a bucket of water had she being wearing waterproofs. The body of the possessed person does not belong to the demon so the demon cannot respond if the body is sprinkled with holy water. The body is like a shell.
The exorcist believes possession and mental illness can co-exist in the one person which makes anything that causes torment irresponsible. And the person may thrash about in agony and injure themselves.
A person may claim to be afflicted by a demon and possessed. More often, it is those who know the person who make this claim about them. That makes the whole circus surrounding exorcism far worse.
The doctrine that a demon cannot really take over your body is a smokescreen for the Church acts as if it does. If it were true that the demon merely affects the body but does not own it it would not react to the holy water. If it does then it is faking which raises the question of why it wants people to think the Catholic Church really has power over evil spirits? The victim if she has any intelligence will realise that and that could be dangerous on the psychological level.
The Church never says that the person or "victim" has become a demon! Who says that some spirit has to come from elsewhere to possess you? What if you become a demon and possess yourself? Why do people think you have to die and go to Hell before you can become a demon? The demon is not going to be reliable so you cannot believe the information it gives about itself.
If you say a person has a demon, you might say it is possible that they are witches and lying that they are possessed. In that case, rather than have a demon they are the demon! It would be the ultimate in hate speech to suggest somebody is a demon or a servant of Satan the greatest liar and murderer imaginable (according to Jesus Christ). If you believed that about a person you could be regarded as guilty but insane if you killed them. It would be a crime of passion. When priests cannot really know much about the alleged entity, they are as good as saying the entity may be the person herself.
Once you say a person has a demon you by default show that you think they might be faking and might be the demon. You only assume it is likely that they have a demon so part of you has to be agnostic. In that case, exorcism would be no good. Religious people have no right to say, "We are 100% sure that the person is not evil but possessed." It is arrogance for it is impossible to know it 100%. And it is a lie.
Belief in possession by evil spirits of dead people or demons or deluded spirits of dead people who now think they are demons is dangerous. It opens the door to accusing dead people of what they have not done. Consider how an innocent old man who died in his chair was blamed for the Enfield Haunting in London. That case is a hoax though it was better assessed than Catholic accounts of demon possession.
Demonic possession is linked to accusing people of cursing the victim or of the victim inviting the demon in. If a demon enters by itself it will blame somebody to cause trouble. Being cursed and then possessed cannot prove the curse caused the possession. If B follows A that does not mean B was caused by A. It is easy to waste time exorcising demons when you see no effect and when you tell yourself that your Jesus gets it out but somebody is using magic to put it back in.
Psychotic people often report visions and terrors of a religious nature. They may see Satan appearing to them. Or Jesus may be threatening them with eternal torment. For the priest trying to see if the person is possessed, the information about the visions will prove very important. He will suspect that if they are down to the illness they are also caused by demons. Or he will think they are all down to demons. But that leads to the risk of misdiagnosing. And if the visions show signs of being down to mental illness you can assume that Satan is making sure that it looks as if it is the cause. He would. There is no way to diagnose at all. The diagnosis is just a guess and isn't fit to be described even as an opinion.
If demons control the body, they can pretend to be the person. They may commit murders. If demons control the person and not just the body, it follows that many murderers could be innocent. The Devil made them do it. The concept of demonic possession then is extremely important for it has huge implications if it really happens. The trouble is that if demonic possession is real, then different religions have different opinions about it. The door then is opened for people to think that demons are murdering and that murderers are innocent.
Roman Catholicism is a dangerous fanatical religion for encouraging the notion that there is such a thing as demonic possession. What if a new Hitler came and nations listened to the Church and refused to wage war on him because the church starts to say, "He needs a good exorcism. It is wrong to fight him for he is possessed"? The faith is intrinsically fanatical. The responsibility for this is down to Jesus.
The gospels indicate that the demons are so desperate to be in bodies that they would happily inhabit pigs even for a few minutes. Jesus put demons out of a man and they pleaded to be sent into pigs which then went mad and drowned themselves. The Catholic Church claims that it can cast out demons with prayer through priests conducting exorcisms. Demons would act as if the exorcism worked so that they could stay in the person. We have the gospels as our authority for being suspicious. And especially when Catholicism does not really do exorcisms. It only imagines it does. The priests keep praying until the person seems to have recovered and that takes ages - decades at times. That is like praying for a sick person until they feel better and thinking you can cast out sickness. Jesus's exorcisms were allegedly instant. He would say that the Church is counterfeiting the power to cast out demons - and he would see it as a demonic faith and/or a delusional one.
The best person to judge if an exorcism worked or not is not the exorcist or anybody else. It is the victim. And no victim tells us anything. Why do those who want us to believe in exorcism and have high regard for it neglect to provide us with the victim's witness? Why do they not even seek such witness?
Some people are believed to be possessed by evil spirits or demons. Some people fake their possession to gain attention. Some manifestations mistaken for diabolic possession are actually psychological or physiological conditions. Some possible causes for these pseudo-possessions are: migraines, bipolar disorder, Tourette's syndrome, somatization disorder, multiple personality disorder. If possession is not genuine, then it is the acceptance by the Christians of the myth of possession that produces the suffering of those who think they are possessed.
The Catholic Church claims to have the authority to cast out demons from people who are tormented by them. It has a rite of exorcism for that purpose. We read of how Jesus supposedly cast out demons in the gospels. Unlike the Catholic Church, the gospels say Jesus got instant results and just ordered the demon out instead of needing ceremonies and prayers. The differences are striking and you get the impression that the Devil is only making it look like the Catholic Church can move demons out of a person.
If the demon is gone, it is possible that the Church has made the person think he or she is still possessed!
The exorcism rite of Pope Leo XIII is quite disturbing. It goes "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered and let them that hate him flee from before his face. As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish away: as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God." How vindictive! They could ask that God stops the wicked but now they tell him how he must do it - by exercising fire and fear and terror and by death. The demon is addressed as follows to exit the person or place, "The glorious Mother of God, the Virgin Mary commands you. She who by her humility and from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception crushed your proud head. The blood of the martyrs and the pious intercession of all the saints commands you." Surely its up to God if a demon leaves. And what right has anybody to tell a demon that Mary orders it to go? Its not her place. And the ceremony may be repeated countless times before the demon goes or at least seems to go.
The exorcism includes a prayer to St Michael the Archangel to put Satan back in Hell. That sounds vicious. The Church may say that Satan belongs there and that we would send him back there not because we are bad but because we are so good that we give him what he wants. The Church says that if we go to Hell to suffer forever, it is what we have asked for and God kindly grants it. This is an obviously absurd teaching. It shows the Church is actually grateful to God for putting demons and people in Hell. To reconcile a loving God and Hell you have to make it look like Hell is a favour!
Conspiracy theories wreak havoc today. Belief in a Devil and demons who intervene in world affairs only leads to a nasty new batch of conspiracy theories. Eg, maybe Barack Obama is dead and a clone controlled by demons is now the President of the United States? And there is no hope of answering that. With conspiracy theories, there may be some hope of making the believer see sense but only as long as the believer makes no supernatural assumptions. There should be ways of showing that it is implausible that the Freemasons control all the world's finances. But if they have magical powers you cannot know that it is implausible. See the point? Belief in demons and the devil and exorcisms is essentially evil.
The Chief Exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, Father Gabriele Amorth, claims to have performed in excess of 70,000 exorcisms. Yet he says he surmises that less than 100 of these were cases of real demonic possession. This is a man who misled thousands of people. He treated them as if they had demons when they had not. What would we think of a doctor who let people think they had cancer when they had not?
People might say that as long as the exorcism helps the people it doesn't matter if there were really demons there or not. That is saying that human happiness matters more than truth. Should we start then pretending and saying that nuclear weapons are a myth for that helps people to feel happier. Those people are still getting the wrong treatment. They would be better off with the right treatment no matter what they think or feel. They are still being cheated.
Exorcism may seem to help a few. But most people have to endure it time and time again. Is the torture worth the release? They have to decide. Exorcists claim that it sometimes takes decades to get a demon out of a person. That to me shows the rite of exorcism is not very effective. The victim is tormented for years by false hope and a scary ritual that reinforces their belief in the power of the demons. The exorcists care more about expressing and promoting Catholic doctrine by their practices than the victim.
Amorth is performing exorcisms which can encourage people who are suffering mentally to suffer far more because they have started to think they are possessed because of the wonder tales of nutters like him. The shocking figure of 70,000 + certainly implies that this is what is happening.
Why would there be so many demons possessing people in Christ's day when Amorth only has met 100? Why didn't the demons keep out of Jesus' way? There is something contrived about it all. They either were on the same side as him meaning he was evil or the gospels were lying. He put the demons in them perhaps to get attention by pretending to cast them out when they merely intended to leave anyway. Or the demons only wanted to possess people in order to promote Christ.