Posts Tagged “demonology”

Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973) / via IMDBThe Roman Catholic Church is facing a crisis. No, I’m not referring to the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked the Church for over 15 years, nor the resulting problem of dioceses experiencing financial straits and even bankruptcies. The Church’s problem is a shortage … but not of priests — a problem it’s faced for the last few decades (WebCite cached article).

While those are genuine problems the Church faces, they’re not the dire crisis I’m blogging about just now. That happens to be a different kind of shortage: A shortage of exorcists. Satanism and the occult are spreading like rashes, as the (UK) Telegraph explains, but the Church has too few anti-demonic personnel to fend them off (cached):

Exorcists are in urgent demand as a result of a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism and the occult, experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US said.…

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described as an “emergency” the lack of priests capable of fighting the forces of evil.

“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting,” he told La Stampa newspaper.

“The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising.”…

“It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the devil, but also by a decline in faith and values.”

Cascioli’s complaints about the spread of what his Church considers black magic practices and “a decline in faith and values,” reflects the bellyaching of the main character in my last blog post (a Connecticut police chief who thinks the growth of atheism is making the crime rate go up). This sort of thinking is common in Christianity, what with its persecutorial psychopathology that causes them to delude themselves into believing they’re under siege and about to be wiped out at any moment.

Really, Cascioli has nothing to be worried about. Demonic possession never happens. There are no demons or devils, no Satan leading them, and no such thing as black magic, either. Exorcisms occur only in horror movies. There’s no viable reason for the Roman Catholic Church to divert any resources to creating a demonology school (which Cascioli has demanded). It’s all metaphysical nonsense, which until just a few years ago, the Church had de-emphasized through most of the 20th century. They should resume that policy and ignore Cascioli’s absurd kvetching about Satanism and “black magic.”

Photo credit: Still from The Exorcist (1973), via IMDB.

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Ol' Crazy PatIt’s been a while since I blogged about the inane stupidity that spews from the mouth of televangelist Marion “Pat” Robertson. That’s not to say he hasn’t been saying anything idiotic; it just means the idiocy he has been saying, isn’t something I found very remarkable. I mean … it’s Patty Robertson we’re talking about, after all! But yesterday, he offered up some ridiculous tripe that I find remarkable, not merely because it’s moronic (like everything else that comes out of his mouth) but because it was in response to a problem that fundamentalist Christians face. Right Wing Watch reports on his answer to a question about purchasing clothing in a second-hand store (locally-cached article):

After a viewer, Carrie, asked whether to follow her mom’s recommendation to pray away demonic spirits over her secondhand sweaters, Robertson recounted a story about “a witch who had prayed over a particular ring and asked for a spirit to come into it, and this Philippine girl was so attached to this ring, she had to buy it and all hell broke loose because she finally recognized what it was.”

“Can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects, the answer is yes,” Robertson said.

While Robertson noted that people don’t have to worry that every item they purchase is possessed by demons, he added: “Hey, it ain’t going to hurt anything to rebuke any spirits that happened to have attached themselves to those clothes.”

RWW offers video of this exchange, via Youtube:

Now, it’s easy to laugh at Robertson’s primitive religionism and its irrational concern about demons that may or may not be in second-hand clothing. It is funny that there are people in the 21st century United States who truly think this way. But really, given Christianity’s history, it’s not all that strange.

As a student of early Christianity, I’m aware that concerns of this sort date back nearly to the religion’s founding. Back in the first century CE, a lot of meat consumption (what there was of it, anyway) was associated with religious rites. It wasn’t entirely unlikely that any meat someone managed to buy might have been sacrificed to a pagan deity prior to it being butchered for sale. Because of this, a lot of Christians were very cautious about eating meat.

As it turns out, this anxiety shows up a couple times in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes that, since there’s only one god and idols don’t represent anything real, there’s no harm in eating such meat:

Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. (1 Corinthians 8:4-8)

Since an idol’s deity isn’t real, there’s no harm in eating meat sacrificed to it. The sacrifice itself was meaningless, so the meat is untainted.

Even so, this was such a contentious issue in the early Church, that Paul suggests Christians should avoid eating sacrificed meat, if it’s a problem for someone else (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). Elsewhere, Christians are advised to avoid eating sacrificed meat, likewise in the name of promoting harmony (see Acts 15:28-29).

What I find remarkable is that the position Paul laid out, way back in the 1st century … i.e. that idol-sacrifice is meaningless, therefore meat can’t be profaned … is a more rational and mature position than Patty Robertson’s. He claims that demons are real and they actually can infest objects, and might conceivably be found in second-hand clothing, therefore Christians must de-demonize all second-hand clothing before bringing it into their homes. Patty is actually more backward and primitive in his thinking, than the apostle Paul was.

Whodathunkit?

Photo credit: Random Factor, via Flickr.

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harry potter quoteI have to give Christendom credit for tenacity and consistency. When Christians latch on to a stupid notion, they really latch on … and they don’t let go, no matter how stupid the idea is or what the truth of it may be. Hence, the continued attacks on the Harry Potter franchise, mainly by Christians who’ve demonstrated — by virtue of what they say on the subject — that they cannot possibly have read the books or seen the movies. The latest is by a Catholic priest who claims to be an expert on exorcism, as reported in this Catholic Online story (WebCite cached article):

“Harry Potter and these Twilight vampires glamorize the power of evil,” Father [Thomas J.] Eutenener explained, “and this has lead to many, many cases of possession among young people.” It may begin with a child or teenager simply “playing around” with the occult, but that seemingly harmless act is “opening a window” to possession.

First, children who read books or watch movies are assuredly NOT “‘playing around’ with the occult.” That’s so obvious, I shouldn’t even have to say it … but I do, because boneheaded idiots like Eutenerer keep acting as though it’s not.

Second, while I don’t know about the Twilight franchise since I’ve never read those books or seen any of the movies, I can say that the Harry Potter franchise IN NO WAY “glamorizes the power of evil.” No one can read the books or see the movies, and believe them to be “glorifying” the “evil” characters in them (e.g. the Malfoys, Bellatrix Lestrange, Fenrir Greyback, even the dreaded He Who Must Not Be Named, etc.). There is no way anyone who knows anything about the Harry Potter franchise can even begin to say there’s anything within it which “glamorizes” evil.

The rest of this Catholic Online story is just a whole lot of yammering about how teenagers are beset on every side by teeming hordes of demons, offering insipid explanations for what demons are and why they do what they supposedly do.

My guess is that Christians like Eutenerer are just jealous, because Harry Potter is the most popular media franchise in the world right now, and is quite possibly even more popular than Christ himself (if I may co-opt John Lennon’s famous comment along those lines). It’s time they fucking grew up and stopped lying about things, just so they can feel better about their beliefs and themselves.

Photo credit: Elijah85.

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