The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devilʼs Biblical Roots
(Available at Amazon)
by T. J. Wray and Gregory Mobley (Hardcover - Oct 1, 2005)
Some excellent reading, Iʼve been reading a library copy.
And besides the book above, one might add the following info…
Satan: “Satan,” according to Harperʼs Bible Dictionary
(In Job 1-2 and Zechariah 3:1-2) Satan is depicted as a member of Godʼs court whose basic duty it was to “accuse” human beings before God. He is clearly not at this point an enemy of God and the leader of the demonic forces of evil, as he becomes later… It should be noted that ‘the serpent’ of Genesis 3 is never in the O[ld] T[estament] identified as Satan.
It is during the late postexilic period (after ca. 200 B.C.) and in the intertestamental literature that one first finds the development of the idea of Satan that is assumed in the N[ew] T[estament] writings. Probably under the influence of Persian ideology, there developed in Hebrew thought the idea of a dualism rampant in the created order—a dualism of good versus evil. There existed already the idea that God had a heavenly host, a group of messengers to carry out his work and orders. The Persians also believed in a ruler over the powers of evil, who had many servants in this realm known as demons. The Hebrews could easily understand and assimilate such thinking into their already existing ideas, but they had not yet developed any idea of a major being as a leader of the forces of evil…
Satan and his cohorts then came to represent the powers of evil in the universe and were even known in Jesusʼ time as the Kingdom of Satan, against which Jesus had come to fight and to establish the Kingdom of God…
Former Satanists who became Evangelical Christians and the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s
The testimonies of “former Satanists who became evangelical Christians” have raised questions even among fellow Christians. Take Mike Warnke, the “former Satan worshiper” whose “autobiography,” The Satan Seller, became a Christian best seller. Two Christians interviewed numerous people from Warnkeʼs past and soon discovered that he had had a long history of being a “storyteller” and the tales in his book conflicted seriously with what other people said Warnke was doing at that time in his life. I recommend the book those Christians wrote, Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke by Hertenstein and Trott.
Presumably it was those same reporters (working for the Christian magazine, Cornerstone) who investigated Lauren Stratfordʼs claims in her Christian best seller, Satanʼs Underground. “They turned up so many contradictions that it became clear that little if anything in the book could be trusted as the literal truth. In fact not even the authorʼs name was real, it was Laurel Rose Wilson, and she came from a strict Christian family and only began claiming she had been the victim of a satanic cult in 1985, when two sensational cases surfaced in the national news. Though she displays scars on her body, claiming they were inflicted during rituals by satanic-cult members, the reporters state that they found witnesses who had seen her inflict the wounds herself. At one point she claimed to be blind, but it was discovered that she could see. There was no medical evidence that she had ever been pregnant (which was significant because Ms. Wilson claimed that two of her own babies had been sacrificed in snuff films). The publishers withdrew Satanʼs Underground from publication in January 1990.” (Laurence Gonzales, “Satanic Panic”)
Another “Satan seller” is Dr. Rebecca Brown. Her tales of “Satanic cult abuse” (He Came To Set The Captives Free) were published by Jack Chick, who specializes in publishing mini-comic books portraying demons and hellfire. “Dr. Rebecca Brown” was originally “an Indiana physician named Ruth Bailey, who had her license removed by the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana for a number of reasons. Among the boardʼs seventeen findings are: Bailey knowingly misdiagnosed serious illnesses, including brain tumors and leukemia, as ‘caused by demons, devils, and other evil spirits;’ she told her patients that doctors at Ball Memorial Hospital and St. Johnʼs Medical Center were ‘demons, devils, and other evil spirits’ themselves; and she falsified patient charts and hospital records. The boardʼs report states: ‘Dr. Bailey also addicted numerous patients to controlled substances which required them to suffer withdrawal and undergo detoxification, and that she self-medicated herself with non-therapeutic amounts of Demerol which she injected on an hourly basis.’ A psychiatrist appointed by the board to diagnose Bailey described her as ‘suffering from acute personality disorders including demonic delusions and/or paranoid schizophrenia.’ Refusing to appear before the board, Bailey moved to California, changed her name to Rebecca Brown, and began working with Jack Chick.” (David Alexander, “Giving the Devil More Than His Due: For Occult Crime ‘Experts’ and the Media, Anti-Satanist Hysteria Has Become A Growth Industry,” The Humanist, March/April 1990) Jack Chick recently stopped publishing Brownʼs books, “We used to publish her books. Then the Lord told us he didnʼt want us to put ‘em out anymore.” (Jack Chick, speaking to Dwayne Walker in 1997)
Even the editors of Christianity Today praised a book in which well-documented research showed that the problem with the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s was that “rumor was prevailing over truth, and people, particularly Christians, are too believing.” The Christian book reviewer cited a case in a megachurch in Chicago where one man was “disfellowshipped” because a female in the congregation “freaked out” whenever she saw him on Sunday mornings, claiming he was a “Satanic cult leader” who had “ritually abused her.” “The man was not allowed to face his accuser, nor would they discuss with the man any specific dates or events of alleged crimes. Though the man denied the allegations, and the elders and pastor of the church saw no evidence of sin in the manʼs life, they felt compelled to protect the accuser.” The review continued, “To date there has been no investigation that has substantiated the claims of alleged Satanic abuse survivors. Recovered ‘memories’ are the only evidence any specialist will offer…Well-meaning but uncritical therapists have validated, if not helped to construct, vile fantasies that foment a terror of Satan rather than confidence in God…In periods of rising concern over actual child abuse and sexual immorality the historical tendency has been to find scapegoats for social ills. A despised segment of society is depicted as the perpetrator of a villainous conspiracy. Romans accused the early Christians of wearing black robes, secretly meeting in caves, and performing animal and baby mutilation. In the Middle Ages, the scapegoat was the Jews. In America of the 1830s and 40s, kidnapping and murder of children were said to be the work of the Catholics. A best-selling book of the time, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, chronicled the atrocities committed by priests and nuns at a particular convent. That account sparked myriad copycat claims by other young women.” (Susan Bergman, “Rumors from Hell,” Christianity Today, Vol. 38, No. 3, March, 1994—a review of Jeffrey S. Victorʼs, Satanic Panic)
The modern “Satanic cult hysteria” only began in 1981 with the publication of the best-seller, Michelle Remembers. “Prior to 1981 there were no reports of ‘satanic-cult torture and murder.’ We have none on record, and I challenge you to find any in the psychiatric or scientific literature.” So says F.B.I. Special Agent Kenneth Lanning (who has a masterʼs degree in behavioral science and whose published work on the sexual victimization of children is well-known in the law-enforcement and psychology fields). There are indeed practicing “Satanists” in America, but the F.B.I. has been studying ritual criminal behavior for many years and has not found evidence of any organized “satanic menace.” According to Lanning, “I started out believing this stuff [about ritual murders by organized satanic-cults]. I mean, I had been dealing with bizarre crimes for many years and I knew from experience that almost anything is possible… But I canʼt find one documented case [of satanic-cult victimization], and Iʼve been looking for seven years or more. I personally have investigated some 300 cases—and there is not a shred of evidence of a crime.” He mentioned how psychiatric patients [and/or people who undergo hypnosis to “recover memories”] are the ones claiming such crimes took place, but when the alleged crime scene is investigated there is never a trace of blood or bone, though the F.B.I. has many means to detect even the faintest traces of splashed blood, and whole lawns and farm fields have been dug up in search of bones and bone fragments though none were found.
Satan-mongers inflate statistics, claiming that “according to the F.B.I., two million children are missing each year.” “Itʼs wrong,” said Lanning. The Justice Department (Juvenile Justice Bulletin, January 1989) reported that between 52 and 58 children were kidnapped and murdered by non-family members in 1988. The “Cult Crime Network” claims that “50,000 human sacrifices” are being performed each year by “satanic cults.” But there are only 20,000 murders, total in the U.S. each year, and that figure accounts for all the gang, drug, domestic, and “regular” murders in the country.
People do commit strange crimes. Some may even be committing human sacrifice in the name of Satan. But there is absolutely no evidence of any widespread, organized satanic movement. At one conference on satanism in America in 1989 the same photo of a boy whose death was “linked to satanism” was dragged out by just about everyone interviewed by a reporter covering the conference, implying that was the one and only corpse in the U.S. that could be traced to satanic-cult activity, and it was the result of an isolated incident that could not be connected in any way with an organized group.
As Lanning sums things up, “The fact is that more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus, and Muhammad than has ever been committed in the name of Satan.” [Kenneth Lanning, “Satanic, Occult, Ritualistic Crime: A Law Enforcement Perspective,” The Police Chief (Fall 1989)]
Some Christians like to pretend that the majority of the United States is comprised of “Satanists.” That way they can excuse the fact that Christianity doesnʼt work.
Fredric Rice (featured at www.holysmoke.org/quotes.html)
Devils Devils Everywhere, So Throw a Pot of Ink!
The Father of Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther, saw “Satan” lurking everywhere and once boasted about throwing an inkpot at old Split-foot himself. (The following quotations, unless otherwise stated, are from Table Talk, a volume in The Collected Works of Martin Luther):
Snakes and monkeys are subjected to the demon more than other animals. Satan lives in them and possesses them. He uses them to deceive men and to injure them.
In my country, upon a mountain called Polterberg, there is a pool. If one throws a stone into it, instantly a storm arises and the whole surrounding countryside is overwhelmed by it. This lake is full of demons; Satan holds them captive there.
Demons are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark pooly places ready to hurt and prejudice people; some are also in thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightning and thunder, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds.
How often have not the demons called “Nix,” drawn women and girls into the water, and there had commerce with them, With fearful consequences.
I myself saw and touched at Dessay, a child that had no human parents, but had proceeded from the Devil. He was twelve years old, and, in outward form, exactly resembled ordinary children.
A large number of deaf, crippled and blind people are afflicted solely through the malice of the demon. And one must in no wise doubt that plagues, fevers and every sort of evil come from him.
Our bodies are always exposed to the attacks of Satan. The maladies I suffer are not natural, but Devilʼs spells.
As for the demented, I hold it certain that all beings deprived of reason are thus afflicted only by the Devil.
Satan produces all the maladies that afflict mankind for he is the prince of death.
(Who needs modern medicine or sanitation practices? What we really need, according to Luther, are more exorcists to heal “all the maladies which afflict mankind.” Yet even the “apple” of “Godʼs eye,” the ancient Hebrews, did not enjoy unparalleled good health judging by the lengthy number of illnesses mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy. And what about Luther and Calvinʼs devilishly recurring stomach and bowel problems? Dare I suggest that the early invention of Ex-lax and Pepto-Bismol might have proven more helpful to mankind than some of Luther and Calvinʼs teachings?—E.T.B.)
I would have no compassion on a witch; I would burn them all. (Luther, Table Talk)
When I was a child there were many witches, and they bewitched both cattle and men, especially children. (Luther, Commentary on Galatians)
The heathen writes that the Comet may arise from natural causes; but God creates not one that does not foretoken a sure calamity. (Luther, Advent Sermon)
[For further quotations like those above, see Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil]
The long list of “doorways,” or entry points for demons, make daily life awkward for some Christians. Members of one North London Church have to avoid, among other things, Care Bears (because they do rituals for healing without invoking the name of Christ), the film E.T., Cabbage Patch Dolls (because they encourage people to treat toys as human), figurines of unicorns (mythological), and frogs (“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, an out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet;” Rev.16:13). One woman owned a china tea set, passed down in the family as an heirloom; she was persuaded to smash it by another church member, who noticed there was a Chinese dragon in the pattern. A woman who looked after the church childcare was found to be teaching the children relaxation exercises; she was thrown out. All these things, the church elders suppose, might bring demonic influence into the congregationʼs lives.
Gareth J. Medway, Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism (New York University Press, 2001)
Some people believe in the Devil. So do I, in a way. He could be nothing more than one of Godʼs staff members, the one who on Judgment Day will take the fall for war, famine, tooth decay, etc. (In fact, “Armageddon” is probably Aramaic for “reshuffling the cabinet.”) He could be just random badness, the absence of goodness: evil doesnʼt have to unionize to be effective. I just do not believe that old Splitfoot has a hot line to everyoneʼs id and makes us go all steamy with evil thoughts when the fancy strikes him.
James Lileks, “The Devil, You Say,” Fresh Lies
Anybody who listens to rock albums backwards deserves to hear a message from Satan.
Christians say multitudes of people are already in hell for “not having accepted Jesus”or for “falling away” after having tasted salvation (see the Book of Hebrews), or for petty offenses like adopting “unorthodox creeds” such as Unitarianism instead of Trinitarianism, or for being descended from two folks in “Eden” who ate “forbidden fruit,” an offense to which God reacted quickly, not allowing them to eat the fruit of eternal life and staining the souls of their childrenʼs children forever with “original sin.” (“Original sin” is not a Jewish concept by the way, but a Christian one, thanks to St. Augustine who also came up with the concept of “infant damnation” as a corollary.)
Keeping in mind the shortness of Godʼs temper in the Bible, how He punished human beings without waiting very long, compare that with the fact that God continues to give “Satan” a free pass, letting Satan remain “the prince of this world,” a being who has allegedly offended God since before creation, and in more than just petty ways, like attempting a direct overthrow of heaven (or so goes the myth).
How did the Devilʼs name get pushed to the last page of Godʼs “Must Remember to Chain Up in Hell List,” instead of the first? According to Christians, a vast multitude of human beings are already roasting in hell. So why does God show so much long suffering toward the Devil—a being who presumably knew better about good/evil, God and the truth, long before anyone else? Yet this same God has demonstrated far less relative patience with us lowly mortal humans who arenʼt “in the know” concerning nearly as many things as Devil is, and who couldnʼt have offended God nearly as badly as Satan, i.e., how do you compare taking a bite out of a piece of fruit with a full scale attack on heaven?
Also, some verses in the Bible state that God Himself sent lying spirits, plagues, curses, and also set up temptations to humanity, which raises the question, what if God had something to do with Satan being tempted to “fall” in the first place?
And is “evil” really the perfect device for polishing human beings such that God “in his wisdom” had to keep the Devil around to “polish” humanityʼs souls? If so, then why is Satan called “evil” and not “Godʼs Course Scrubbing Pad and Soul Polisher that really Gets the Rust Out?” Heck, why not make Satan a saint since God apparently “needs” Satan to stick around doing “Satanic” things, inspiring and doing enough “evil” for His “Divine Plan” to work correctly?
With Godʼs temper flaring so easily, it does seem that the Devil would have pissed the Lord off supremely by now, and wound up roasting like a chestnut on Godʼs open fire, or chained to the edge of a black hole for eons, and not allowed any further contact with any other parts of Godʼs creation. But instead God “needs” him around? Hmmm. Maybe God Himself needs a scapegoat? Or maybe Judeo-Christian theological God-talk evolved during the time of inter-testamental Judaism (a time when they began elevating “Satan” to the god of this world) and Christian times, and they discovered that a theological scapegoat was needed to keep their Biblical Godʼs hands looking relatively clean.
(Edited by E.T.B.)
The Christian Bible says the most injurious things about Satan, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict.
And who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?
We may not pay him reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents. A person who has for untold centuries maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest order. Not only that, but Satan hasnʼt a single salaried helper, while the Opposition employs a million.
May the Higher Power Win
I cannot find either Satan or Him
In this troubled heart.
Nor have I found a concrete way
To tell the two apart.
Through the myths, I hear the legends.
Through the songs I hear the praise.
Through “Glory God” and “Satan Rules”
>I still hear but one phrase.
Have mercy on my troubled soul,
Whoever bids the lot.
And may the Higher Power win,
If itʼs a soul I got.
Dyslexic Christians Sell Their Souls to “Santa.”
Exorcisms: Demon blasting (shout it out?)
In March 1994, according to news accounts, police responded to Word of Faith World Outreach Center to quell a disturbance caused by a walkout of congregation members. At issue was televangelist Rev. Robert Tiltonʼs relationship with leaders of a North Carolina charismatic sect that practices a form of shouted prayer known as “demon blasting.” (Demon blasting involves sect members forming “prayer circles” around a child believed to be possessed by demons and shouting at the subject for hours at the top of their lungs.) In sermons, Tilton has credited sect leaders Sam and Jane Whaley with saving his life in 1993 by casting out his own demon. Tilton was introduced to the Whaleys by his second wife, Leigh Valentine, whom he secretly married in the Dominican Republic February 10, 1994.
Sean Rowe, Second Coming: A Jet-Settinʼ, Scotch-Sippinʼ Robert Tilton Washes Up In South Florida And He Still Wants Your Money, Dallas Observer
While exorcisms would seem to be, at worst, a harmless fad, on occasion they have had disastrous consequences. On the night of Oct. 5-6, 1974, Michael Taylor, a Yorkshireman who had recently taken up charismatic Christianity, underwent an all-night exorcism at a local church. He then went home and murdered his wife, strangled the family poodle, and was found in the street by a policeman, naked and covered in blood. The exorcists subsequently explained that although they had driven forty evil spirits out of Taylor, a few remained, including the demon of murder.
Fortunately, it is very rare for a possessed person to go crazy like this. Many other exorcisms have gone wrong, however because of an extraordinarily widespread and venerable belief that a demon can be driven out of a body by physical torture. Though few people have expressed concern at the spread of “Christian ritual abuse,” that is just what exorcisms often amount to. The victims, mostly women and children, have been forced to take part in ceremonies where they were savagely beaten, often fatally. Exorcists have gouged a womanʼs eyes out; held a three-year-old girl over a fire, onto which her favorite doll have been thrown, so that she would feel the heat of Hell, and later murdered her; placed a baby in an oven; forced a crucifix up a girlʼs nose so that it entered her brain; and forced two steel crucifixes down a womanʼs throat. Other children have met death by being strangled, being forced to drink a poisonous potion, or being hit repeatedly over the head with a concrete block.
Gareth J. Medway, Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism (New York University Press, 2001)
Unrepentant Pentecostal Pastor Slaughters Woman During Exorcism and Gets Out of Jail
38-year-old Korean pastor Yong Bum Lee (also known as Luke Lee) [a graduate of the Assemblies of God Bible School in west Auckland] was convicted of the manslaughter of Ms. Lee [same name as the pastor but presumably not related] during an aggressive exorcism on December 9, 2000 at his Mt Roskill home.
Sun Kyoungh Park (also known as Lydia Park) one of the main participants in the exorcism, said Ms. Lee had willingly submitted to it. In answer to a question from the judge, Ms. Park said that Ms. Lee said that the physical force used during the ritual was painful. The judge then asked whether Ms. Lee had at any time indicated that she wanted the exorcism to stop. Ms. Park replied that Ms. Lee had said some “strange things” and the way she spoke to the pastor was not respectful. “She said ‘stop, stop’ bluntly—so we thought that was Satanʼs word.” Ms. Park claimed that “about 10 demons” had been inside the 37-year-old Ms. Lee, but towards the end of the exorcism that went on for several hours, “only two Satans were left. They appeared to be very strong.” Ms. Park said that Pastor Lee sat on the womanʼs stomach, bouncing [she had a broken sternum and two cracked ribs per the medical examiner],and holding Ms Leeʼs neck very hard for some minutes [possible strangulation].
As Ms Lee struggled, Lee ordered her arms and legs to be restrained. Afterwards, Ms. Leeʼs face was expressionless, though blood was coming from her mouth. Ms. Park said that they naturally thought Ms. Lee, like other people who had been “delivered,” was resting or sleeping. It was what Pastor Lee had told them. She said that four or five days after the deliverance, as they prayed for her to come back to life, Lee quoted from the Bible and told them to blow into the womanʼs mouth. Photographs and video were taken of those events after the woman died. Ms. Park was shown a photo of her on top of the dead woman, blowing into her mouth. She said that they sang [so loudly and continually that it attracted the neighborʼs attention] and danced, blew in her mouth and Lee shouted at the dead woman to “get up.”
Walter Hemara told of wanting to scream during an excruciating exorcism Lee had performed on him. “I had to hold myself back otherwise I would have taken a swing at him,” he said.
Businessman Edwin Muir, a neighbor of Leeʼs who visited the church, was the person who alerted the police. He said he realised there was something strange going on when he was invited to Pastor Leeʼs house but was asked to change his tee shirt and trousers because there was an emblem on them that Lee said was a Muslim curse. Mr. Muir said he was shown a video in which Ms. Lee appeared with blackened skin, and had clearly passed on. He said that Lee asked him to be their media representative. “[Lee said] she was going to come back to life and it was going to be a world wide affair.”
Former Sergeant Robert McPhee said that when he went to Leeʼs house, Lee said that “someone” had been sick but was better and was “still alive.” When the officer entered the room where Ms Lee was, he saw she was badly decomposed. Detective Sergeant Kevin Hooper told the jury that Lee told him that Ms. Lee was going to come back to life—her skin was regenerating and her finger was seen to move on the video. But the officer said that Ms. Leeʼs blackened skin was simply peeling off, exposing a pink layer beneath [common for corpses dead a number of days, check the web for photos], and it was clear from the video that someone was moving her finger.
Pathologist Dr Simon Staples confirmed that Ms Lee was dead but he was unable to determine the cause due to decomposition.
On his conviction for manslaughter Pastor Lee again claimed that she would rise from the dead, at midnight on the evening of Sunday 9 December 2001. The date passed without incident.
Update: Pastor Lee was convicted and sentenced to 6 years for manslaughter but in April 2006 successfully appealed, and the Court of Appeal overturned Pastor Leeʼs conviction based largely on the womanʼs consent to the exorcism, an activity in which there was apparently a known risk of harm. The decision stated Ms. Leeʼs consent was “a possible defence which the jury should have been allowed to consider.”
Maybe Pastor Lee will sell his “exorcize” videos? “Feel the burn… of Satan in your throat. Let Reverend Lee show you how to go full throttle, or rather, throttle you fully, until youʼre TEN demons lighter!”
Unrepentant Orthodox Monk Slaughters Woman During Exorcism
Tanacu, Romania, June 24, 2005—(AP) The whispers started in April in the mind of the 23-year-old nun. In the heart of an Orthodox convent in Romaniaʼs impoverished northeast, doctors say, Maricica Irina Cornici believed she heard the devil talking to her, telling her she was sinful. She was treated for schizophrenia, but when she relapsed, a monk and four nuns tried a different method: exorcism. Last week, Cornici was bound to a cross, gagged with a towel and left in a dank room at the convent for three days without food where she died of suffocation and dehydration. Daniel Petru Corogeanu, a 29-year-old red-bearded monk who served as the conventʼs priest and allegedly led the exorcism, told the media he was trying to take devils out of the nun. He said she had to be restrained because she was violent and that she refused to drink holy water.
“God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil,” said Father Daniel, 29, the superior of the Holy Trinity monastery in north-eastern Romania, before celebrating a short mass “for the soul of the deceased,” in the presence of 13 nuns who showed no visible emotion. He insisted that from the religious point of view, the crucifixion of Maricica Irina Cornici, 23, was “entirely justified.”
One of the nuns, Sister Martha, added, “She canʼt be laid in the church because she was possessed.”
Vitalie Danciu, the superior of a nearby monastery at Golia, called the crucifixion “inexcusable,” but a spokesperson for the Orthodox patriarchate in Bucharest refused to condemn it.
Sources: Alison Mutler ©MMV, Associated Press
Walter Zepeda, 19, died of dehydration after a 7-day “exorcism” in his basement apartment in London, Ontario, at the hands of his father and a fellow church member. Walter was tied to chairs in the apartment, bruising his wrists and ankles. A pastor and ten other church members periodically prayed over him. Walterʼs mouth was duct-taped when he screamed. Diego Zepeda-Cordera, and Missionary Church of Christ member Alex Osegueda, both pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The mother, Ana Mejia-Lopez, received one day in jail, following 500 days of incarceration.
Gloria Galloway, Exorcising Demons of Devotion: Father Jailed After ‘Possessed’ Son Died,” Toronto Globe & Mail, May 23, 2003
An autistic eight-year-old boy has died during a prayer service held to supposedly cure him of the evil spirits blamed for causing his condition. Torrance Cantrell was wrapped in sheets and held by his hands and feet while members of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith in the city of Milwaukee prayed over him. This procedure had been taking place three times a week. However, on Friday those involved in the ceremony—including his mother—noticed the boy had stopped breathing. Paramedics were called to the scene but were unable to revive him. The brother of the churchʼs pastor, Ray Hemphill, who was also present at the ceremony, was arrested shortly after the incident on suspicion of physically abusing a child, local police said. “[We] didnʼt do nothing wrong,” the pastor, David Hemphill, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. “We did what the Book of Matthew said… all we did is ask God to deliver him.” Autism causes children to have severe problems relating to, and communicating with, people around them. In interviews with local newspapers, neighbours of the Cantrell family alleged that Torrance hated being touched and said that having people restrain him would likely have caused him a great deal of stress. However, David Hemphill said that the boy had been wrapped in sheets and had his shoes removed in order to prevent him from being hurt. “We were asking God to take this spirit that was tormenting this little boy to death,” Mr Hemphill said. “We were praying that hard, but not to kill.” David Hemphill started the independent church in 1997. It has a small congregation of six families.
BBC News, Published: 2003.08.25 ©MMIII
A 32-year-old Catholic woman was beaten to death after she refused to enter an Evangelical church in northeastern Brazil. She was passing by the Church of the Kingdom of God when two pastors ordered their followers to bring her inside to attend a ceremony. When she refused, the group held her ten-year-old daughter while the pastors dragged her by the hair and beat her in order to “exorcise the devil from her.”
J. D. Bell, “Nuts in the News,” The American Rationalist, Nov./Dec. 1994
On July 4, 1996, in Los Angeles, a 53 year old Korean woman (formerly a missionary to China) died from “blunt force trauma,” the result of an exorcism. Her husband (a minister) and two other males, one a Deacon at Glendale Korean Methodist Church, beat her with their fists and feet for several hours, trying to drive “the devil” out of her. She had consented to the exorcism. As usual, the news media neglected to connect a terrible event such as this with Christianity or churches. The above details were learned from a radio interview with the husbandʼs attorneys.
Anneliese Michel (September 21, 1952 - June 30, 1976) was a German college student who died during an exorcism. Her parents and the two Bavarian priests who carried out the exorcism were later convicted.
Born in 1952, Michel was raised in a strict Catholic family. While other teenagers were experimenting with sex and rebelling against authority, she tried to atone for the sins of wayward priests by sleeping on a bare floor in the middle of winter. In 1969, according to court findings, Michel experienced her first epileptic fit; by 1973 she was suffering from depression and considering suicide. As her feelings of torment grew stronger, she reported seeing faces of demons on the people and things around her and hearing voices informing her that she was damned. [Auditory hallucinations and firm religious beliefs can combine to form a deadly mix, as proven by several cases in which devout Christian men or women have slaughtered their own children because they were certain that “God” told them to do so, or to “make sure they went to heaven,” or while trying to drive “the devil” out of them, or even out of fear that “the devil” inside their child would possess the father or mother as well. At least thatʼs how such people defended their actions in court afterwards. See the section, SUFFER THE CHILDREN.—E.T.B.]
Michelʼs behaviour became increasingly erratic and violent. She ripped at her clothes, barked like a dog for hours, attacked other family members, broke religious icons; she ate spiders and coal, claiming that is all the demons would allow, licked her own urine from the floor, and performed hundreds of genuflections each day, damaging her knees to the point where she was unable to stand. The girlʼs distraught parents looked for a priest to perform an exorcism. At first their desperate requests were denied. Then, in September 1975, the Bishop of Wurzburg, Josef Stangl, gave Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Ernst Alt permission to perform the rite based on the 1614 Rituale Romanum. Michel endured two rites a week, some lasting as long as four hours. She briefly recovered enough to take her final exams at the Pedagogic Academy in Wurzburg, but then her condition once again began to deteriorate dramatically. During her last exorcisms, Michel talked about wanting to die in order to save the souls of others. She stopped eating, rejected all medical help, and relied solely upon the priests to deliver her from the demons she believed were attacking her. Although horribly emaciated, she displayed “incredible” strength. [Adrenaline can be an amazing hormone, allowing even a small woman to lift a car to save the life of her child trapped beneath it.—E.T.B.] “Unearthly” voices claiming to be those of the demons possessing her—Judas Iscariot, Nero, Hitler, a disgraced priest and Lucifer himself—”emanated” from her withered frame. [Emanated? The word suggests something more spooky than her speaking in the names of those characters, so it is the right word or a later embellishment?—E.T.B.] By the time she died, Michel was so undernourished that she had to be held up during exorcisms. She weighed only 68 pounds. [That last fact appears to be incontrovertibly attested.—E.T.B.]
The investigation into the death of Anneliese Michel became a clash of faith and science. Ultimately, it was the coronerʼs conclusion that Michel had needlessly died of starvation that swayed the jury. Despite being found guilty, the defendants received just six months in jail and probation. The courtʼs judgment notwithstanding, Michelʼs story has continued to grip peopleʼs imaginations and her grave site is a place of religious significance for those who still believe that she died battling demonic forces. A commission comprised of German bishops and theologians decided in retrospect, however, that she had been mentally ill, and in 1984 they petitioned Rome to change the exorcism rite.
The problem, as they saw it, was the practice of speaking directly to the demon, which they believed caused damage by confirming and reinforcing the patientʼs belief that they were possessed. When Rome did issue a revised version of the Rituale Romanum in 1999, it caused astonishment by leaving open the option to speak to the Devil directly.
Stephen Applebaum, “Satanic Curses,” The Scotsman, UK, Nov. 12, 2005
Kyung-A Ha was beaten to death in 1995 in San Francisco, California by members of the [Pentacostal] Jesus-Amen Ministries.
“Exorcism Related Deaths”
Excerpts from American Exorcism
by Michael W. Cuneo
Iʼve personally witnessed more than fifty exorcisms—and this isnʼt even counting the occasions where Iʼve seen dozens of people undergoing exorcism all at once…
But nothing happened—at least nothing startling, nothing that reached out and grabbed me by the throat. At the exorcisms I attended, there were no spinning heads, no levitating bodies, no voices from beyond the grave. (There was plenty of vomiting, no question about it, but nothing more impressive than what youʼd probably catch most Saturday nights out behind your local bar.) I wasnʼt counting on demonic fireworks, but neither was I counting them out. After all was said and done, more than fifty exorcisms - no fireworks, none at all.
At least none that I could make out. Occasionally I found myself in a situation where I was the odd man out, the party pooper of all party poopers. Just about everyone else on hand would claim to see something extraordinary, and theyʼd be disappointed—confused and disappointed—that I hadnʼt seen it also.
“But you must have seen the body rising. The rest of us saw it. It clearly rose two, maybe three feet off the chair. How could you not have seen it?”
“Iʼm sorry, but I didnʼt see it. I was looking as hard as I could, and I didnʼt see it.”…
So what did I see? Some of the people who showed up for exorcisms seemed deeply troubled, some mildly troubled, and some hardly troubled at all. The symptoms they complained of—the addictions and compulsions, the violent mood swings, the blurred self-identities, the disturbing visions and somatic sensations—all of this seemed to me fully explainable in social, cultural, medical, and psychological terms. There seemed no compelling need, no need whatsoever, to bring demons into the equation. Bringing them in seemed superfluous, a matter of explanatory overkill.
The same with the antics I sometimes witnessed while the exorcisms were actually taking pace, the flailing and slithering, the shrieking and moaning, the grimacing and growling—none of this, insofar as I could tell, suggested the presence of demons. It was sometimes an attempt (poignant? pathetic?) to satisfy the dramatic needs of the moment, it was sometimes an exercise in sheer self-indulgence, and it was sometimes an indication of profound personal distress. But demons? Here again, I saw no evidence of them; I saw nothing that had me itching to make a break for the door.
But I donʼt want to get too far ahead of myself. I donʼt want to make out that I know more than I really do…
Who says… that if youʼre suffering from some diagnosable psychiatric condition, you canʼt also be demonized? Why should the first diagnosis necessarily rule out the second? If demons actually exist, who can really claim to be an expert on their preferred modes of operation?
If demons exist… More than fifty exorcisms later Iʼm still in no position to pass judgment on this. All I can say is that my fifty-plus exorcisms turned up no definitive evidence of their existence. And right now this is all I have to go on.
But hereʼs something else: Some of the people I met during my research claimed to have experience significant improvement in their personal lives as a result of undergoing exorcism their depression lifted, their fears fled, their inner torments dissipated, their blues melted away. I have no way of knowing how extensive this improvement was, or how long-lived, or whether the people who told me about it were always telling the truth. But letʼs say, for the sake of argument, that they were telling the truth, and that their exorcisms really did have positive therapeutic impact. How can we account for this? How is it that exorcism works, unless itʼs by doing what itʼs supposed to do, namely, driving out demons?
Well, itʼs quite possible that exorcism sometimes works, but this need not have anything to do with the driving out of demons.
In psychotherapy—indeed, in virtually any medical procedure—the expectation of getting better may contribute a great deal to oneʼs actually getting better. Simply receiving treatment—any kind of treatment, but especially treatment in a supportive healing environment—is the ticket at least partway home. The medical sciences have always strongly suspected as much, that suggestion and expectancy are powerful inducement to healing, and today only the most hardened scissors-and-scalpel skeptic would argue otherwise. Thanks to recent research on the subject, we now know for certain that the placebo effect is unquestionably real and sometimes quite powerful-so powerful, in fact, that some researchers have recommended that it actually be incorporated into clinical practice. If youʼre given pharmacologically inert drugs (dummy pills) for depression, food allergies, even heart problems, chances are your condition will improve. If youʼre given a bogus operation (pretend surgery!) for arthritic pain in the knees, chances are the pain will subside or disappear altogether. The placebo might not work (it doesnʼt work for everybody), its effects might not be long lasting, but this shouldnʼt obscure the basic point. For many people the symbolic aspects of healing—the sympathetic attention of a therapist, the ministrations of a physician, the bolstered hope and renewed optimism that derive simply from being in a healing situation—for many people intangibles such as these may go a long way toward actually improving health.
Now, if placebos can be effective when administered in the relatively antiseptic confines of a doctorʼs office or a consultation room, imagine the possibilities in the emotional swelter-box of an exorcism. Most people who seek out an exorcist are suffering from some psychological or emotional problem that theyʼre convinced has been caused by demons. They believe that demons are just as real, if not quite so obvious, as anything else in the world and that only through an exorcism will their problem be eliminated and their circumstances improved. They anticipate walking away from the exorcism with a new lease on life. The person charged with performing the exorcism and the supporting cast of friends, family members, and assistants anticipate the same thing. All parties to the exorcism have an enormous investment in the affair: They want it to work; they expect it to work, they pray for it to work. The symbolic universe they inhabit, with its shared religious meanings and discourse, demands that it work. It doesnʼt always work, of course, but often enough (if only temporarily) it seems to. And little wonder—exorcism is a ritualized placebo, a placebo writ large, one that engages its participants on levels to which more conventional therapeutic procedures could scarcely aspire.
Here again, exorcism is more in tune with the Zeitgeist [prevailing world view] than one might imagine. In recent years increasing numbers of American have started experimenting with alternative medical therapies. Unhappy with the current state of the medical establishment—its impersonality, its technology, its bureaucratic chilliness—theyʼve sought healing through the soothing, cottage-door remedies of a dizzying array of herbalists, homeopaths, acupuncturists, diet gurus—you name it. Though I wouldnʼt want to stretch the point too far, exorcism may be regarded as part of this scene, on its fringes perhaps, but part of it nonetheless. It, too, advertises a drug-free, X-ray free, incision-free approach to restored health. It promises to mend not just the body and the mind but the soul as well. Itʼs an alternative medical therapy for those who see demons, not cholesterol, not toxic particles, not environmental stress or genetic predisposition…as the major scourge of our time.
So exorcism, letʼs say, may sometimes work, though not most likely (or not very often) in precisely the way itʼs advertised. This is the positive side.
But thereʼs also a negative side. It doesnʼt always work, and in some cases itʼs downright detrimental. Some people, as weʼve seen, are bullied or badgered into undergoing exorcism. For others itʼs simply a cop-out or a means of self-glamorization. They want to avoid responsibility for their own shortcomings by blaming them on demons. Or they derive some perverse thrill from casting themselves in the role of demoniac. Itʼs difficult to imagine anything good coming from exorcisms carried out under circumstances such as these. Emotional extortion, moral evasion, vainglory—this is what exorcism can sometimes amount to.
It can sometimes amount to even worse; sometimes exorcism can actually prove fatal. Weʼve all heard the stories. In March 1995 a group of overzealous ministers connected to a tiny Pentecostal sect in the San Francisco Bay Area pummeled a woman to death while trying to evict her demons. Two years later a Korean Christian woman was stomped to death by a deacon and two missionaries operating out of a church in Glendale, California. The three men had gotten carried away trying to expel a demon they believed was lodged in the womanʼs chest. The same year, on the other side of the country, a five-year-old Bronx girl died after her mother and grandmother forced her to drink a lethal cocktail containing ammonia, vinegar, and olive oil and then bound and gagged her with duct tape. The two women claimed that they were merely trying to poison a demon that had infested the little girl several days earlier.
There are other true stores of exorcisms gone horribly wrong, none more heartrending than Charity Mirandaʼs. In 1998, on a cold Sunday afternoon in January, Charity Miranda spent her final hours undergoing exorcism at the hands of her mother, Vivian, and her sisters Serena and Elisabeth at their home in Sayville, Long Island. At one point, as fifteen-year-old Elisabeth subsequently informed the police, “Mom put her mouth to Charityʼs mouth and told her to blow the demon into her and she would try to kill it.” When this didnʼt work, their mother said, “Iʼm sorry, girls, this isnʼt Charity. Itʼs taken over her.” She then tried to destroy the demon by smothering Charity with pillows. This also didnʼt work, so she picked up a plastic bag that was lying on the living room floor. Elisabeth Miranda told the police what happened next: “Mom placed the bag over Charityʼs head. Serena was holding Charityʼs body down because it was fighting. My mom told me to leave and I went into her bedroom.” When Elisabeth, sometime later, came back into the living room, the job was finished. “Serena was pacing. Mom said donʼt be sad because that wasnʼt Charity, donʼt be attached to the body…The three of us went into momʼs room and she was saying donʼt cry because Charity left that body long before. We held hands on the bed and listened to my grandfatherʼs favorite Frank Sinatra music.”
Charity Miranda was seventeen years old and a cheerleader at Sayville High School. Her friends informed reporters that sheʼd been looking forward to starting college next fall.
Cases such as this, I should emphasize, are very much the exception. The vast majority of exorcisms are relatively innocuous affairs. They might not add up to much permanent good, but neither do they end in tragedy.
There is no evidence that Charity Mirandaʼs mother and sisters, or Charity herself, got their beliefs about demons and exorcism from the popular entertainment industry…
[But] there is [one] thing we do know for sure. Exorcism became a raging concern in the United States only when the popular entertainment industry jacked up the heat. Only with the release of The Exorcist and the publication of Hostage to the Devil and all the rest of it did fears of demonization become widespread…
One final note. In September 2000 [a quarter of a century after its original theatrical release] a newly restored directorʼs cut of The Exorcist was released to movie houses around the country. It was the cinematic event of the season, inciting yet another jag of media-obsessed demon-and-exorcism blather. For a solid month, or so it seemed, you couldnʼt pick up a newspaper, flip through a magazine, or turn on the television without coming up against it…
My central point here is that exorcism-related beliefs took hold within certain sectors of (mainly white) middle-class America only when Hollywood and its allies began spreading the message. Again, there is nothing (to my mind) surprising about this. There seems no limit to the effects of suggestibility on human thought and behavior. We know, for example, that people in general complain of being afflicted by certain physical maladies (such as repetitive-motion disorder) only when these maladies have been publicized by the media. And we also know (on an entirely different front) that people in thirteenth-century Europe claimed to be stigmatized only after popular accounts of the stigmata of St. Francis were published. Psychologists Elizabeth Loftus, Giuliana Mazzoni, and Irving Kirsch have recently performed experimental research that directly supports my thesis concerning the power of the media to induce belief in diabolical possession. For a good account of their study, see Ray Rivera, “Demons Usually in the Mind not Body of Victim, Experts Say,” Seattle Times (October 28, 2000).
For a good introduction to the vast literature on exorcism-related belief and practice throughout the world, see Felicitas D. Goodman, How About Demons? (Bloomington: Indian University Press, 1988).
Michael W. Cuneo, American Exorcism (Random House, Inc. : New York, 2001)
As we neared Eagle Rock… she said, it sounded perhaps a bit strange—something sheʼd seen on an infomercial and they seemed like really nice people—she was going to an exorcism. Would I like to come?
Well, itʼs not every day that you get invited to an exorcism—this was not a chance to be missed. This womanʼs intellectual curiosity—her background seemed to be atheist-Jewish—had led her to a strange place indeed, I thought. As my companion attempted to explain what might be in store for us, we arrived at the bus stop she said was our destination. She asked, “Are you with me?” We exited the bus together. I was committed.
By now we were in a city called Eagle Rock (there is a big boulder on the side of a hill overlooking the 134 freeway that supposedly looks like an eagle), and we were heading towards a theatre on the corner of Yosemite where the exorcism was to take place. I was thinking (hell, was I thinking!): “If I donʼt do this story, the Skeptic office staff wonʼt let me come visit tomorrow.” (Actually, I recalled an investigation of a haunted house in Germany, and I remembered the spookiest thing was actually getting past the crowd of onlookers gathered in front of the house. The investigation itself was then pretty straightforward.) My companion noticed my silence and commented. I apologized. She suggested that we get some water to drink from a store on the way, which we did. At some point I mentioned that I sometimes write for a magazine, and just as we were crossing the road to the theatre she asked me which magazine it was. “Tell you later,” I replied.
There were few people standing in the lobby, who politely greeted us, although they seemed to know my companion. We moved without delay into the theatre, up to the third row: she indicated that she liked to sit up front. There were about 25 people present, roughly half Hispanic, the majority female, one or two couples. On stage left hung a hollow cross more than two meters high, over which a piece of purple cloth was draped; on the right thee was a menorah on which one candle had been completely burned down. Then an elegantly dressed man (fortyish, in a freshly ironed shirt and tie) identifying himself only as a “Christian pastor” announced we would begin.
The service, the first of a series of seven prayer meetings entitled “Seven Spiritual Mysteries,” consisted of cycles of alternating sitting and approaching the altar with eyes closed and hands on hearts to hear a prayer. Apart from this, there was little apparent structure to the ceremony, although the process did intensify in dramatic tension towards a climax, after which there was a certain denouement that led to the profane matter of a collection at the end.
The pastor commenced by handing out some envelopes instructing us not to open them yet. Before we had much time to wonder about the contents—the envelopes were not sealed—he rebuked an acolyte (of which there were three or four), “Next time we hand out the envelopes when the people come in.” And then apparently to the same person, “Next time we seal the envelopes otherwise people are going to open them and look inside.” (This was hardly evidence of much forethought, and I thought he might be wanting to try the magicianʼs billet reading routine, but no such luck.)
Not much suspense and not much time later we were told to take the sheet of paper out of the envelope and read what was on it. It was the first spiritual mystery: “All spirits are looking for a body to live in.” From this and the accompanying sermon we learned that there are only two kinds of spirits: gods and evil ones. We could also determine when an (evil) spirit has taken possession of a person, how they enter a body, and what makes people susceptible to spirit possession. In a monologue characterized by idiosyncratic grammar (“D’you understand?”) interrupted by occasional loss of continuity (but in a voice that revealed some practice at speaking without the aid of an amplifier) the pastor proceeded to expand on these topics, indicating that we could make notes on the sheet of paper if we wished.
At around 40 minutes into the service, and by now well versed in what to expect from the evil spirits, we were given another altar call. This time things took a more dramatic turn compared to the introductory payer. I heard some other voices from behind us. I peeked around (we were meant to be praying with eyes closed) and saw the acolytes, or “pray-ers,” were standing next to members of the congregation whispering prayers into their ears. I certainly found this to be both uncomfortable and unsettling, and I can imagine it could freak some people out. This effect is probably based on a number of factors. First you cannot really understand the whispered prayers but you can hear that multiple whispering is going on from different spatial sources which, with your eyes closed, leads to an eerie effect. Second, the pray-ers move about randomly and pick out individual members of the congregation.
I also had the feeling that the pray-ers were trying to move things along in the service. While a pray-er was praying into someoneʼs ear, he would hold the forehead of that person with his right hand, with fingers and thumbs on opposite temples. The left hand was placed on the personʼs back below the neck. I got the treatment as well. The grip was quite firm, if not menacing, and I realized that they were “body-reading” any reactions, such as teeth grinding or shoulder tensing, that might indicate that a person was reacting to the prayers being recited. I just relaxed and did my best to keep the situation under control. The prayer invoked evil spirits, demanding that if they were present they were to give a sign. Suddenly a woman screamed.
Now my eyes were wide open. A young Hispanic woman (Iʼll call her Y) was bending over. Or was she being bent over? With the grip that the pray-ers employed, they could easily force a person to take up any posture they wanted. Screaming at the top of her lungs, vomiting two or three times, it appeared that the evil spirit had manifested itself in this woman. She screamed several times more, apparently in great anguish. Looking around, I now saw several other people bending forward, and it looked like they too would be emotionally overcome.
At that moment the pastor asked us to take our seats, leaving him and Y in front of the stage. One acolyte proceeded to mop up the vomit with paper towels, another procured a steady cam from backstage. Y stood there with her face down, her medium length dark hair covering her features. The pastor stood alongside, holding her in the pray-ersʼ “brace” with a microphone in the other hand. “In the name of God, I command the evil spirit to speak!”
Well, the lord God may be almighty (for he was repeatedly thus invoked over the next half hour) but he must have encountered some unforeseen difficulties with this particular spirit. “Are you the greatest one?” the pastor asked Y, addressing the spirit possessing her. Y was silently sobbing and sweating profusely.
What was obviously intended at this point was that Y—speaking with the voice of the evil spirit—would answer a number of questions that would enable the pastor to identify and then banish the spirit. But letʼs be clear on one point: Y wouldnʼt actually have to say anything except to affirm the pastorʼs questions. Of course she would have to lose control over herself, “hit me or pull my tie” (the pastorʼs words), scream and stamp her feet, and generally misbehave, but all she was required to answer repeatedly was, “Yes.”
Alas, it did not come to pass. Despite repeated invocation of the Almighty, Y managed to calm herself down and the pastorʼs futile attempts at getting the spirit to speak up turned increasingly pathetic. However, it was possible to glean an inkling or two from the pastorʼs comments and his other questions directed to Y.
Y is married and has a child. Her problem is—in her own words—that she has “fallen out of love” with her husband. We were told that her husband is a “good man,” the presumption being that there is no reason to leave him. That, in turn, suggests that Y has considered leaving or intends to leave her husband, but since he does not deserve such treatment something else must be provoking Y to take such irrational action. Evil spirits?
A more likely explanation is that Y has fallen in love with someone else. Since she is Hispanic and probably therefore Catholic, her environment probably opposes divorce and remarriage. She is probably feeling guilty about her love affair, which is why she has rejected taking marriage counseling with her husband, where she would have to admit her indiscretion. But what to do? Trying to extract herself from one nightmare, she plunges into the next.
During his cajoling of the evil spirit we learnt from the pastor that Y had also given a “manifestation”—a far more energetic one—the previous week. The current manifestation had come and gone without much ado—although Y was repeatedly warned by the minister that her only salvation was to manifest the evil spirit.
Finally, it dawned on the pastor that he wasnʼt getting anywhere. But he had no exit strategy! Invoke as he might, nary an evil spirit was willing to appear. Then it occurred to him to send Y out of the room with his wife for “counseling.” Whatever went on in that woman-to-woman chat is anyoneʼs guess. The pastorʼs next homily was a little more revealing. Over the two hours of intermittent prayer and homily, I managed to glean the following theology of the first of these seven spiritual mysteries.
The world contains evil spirits and the spirit of God. The evil spirits are not disembodied spirits (souls) of deceased human beings, because souls pass to either heaven or hell. And that was where any semblance with mainstream Christianity ended. The rest was a bizarre mixture of pop theology, psychology, and urban legend pressed into the service of demonization. Evil spirits want to take possession of human bodies. Evil spirits often pass from one generation to the next in a family. Evil spirits have the appearance of an angel of light. Evil spirits enter you when you are addicted to something, such as shopping or eating. (You bought shoes because they looked new and nice and exciting; but after a few days the shoes were ordinary and so you had to go out and buy a new pair to sustain the thrill.) Evil spirits enter you when you follow your heart rather than your mind. This was probably a comment on Yʼs predicament. Perhaps an evil spirit had entered her when she had become bored with her husband or had fallen in love with another man. Apart from addiction, evil spirits can enter a person when they are angry, hateful, tempted, or unforgiving.
We must be strong and ignore the yearnings of our heart, the pastor continued. We have to be logical. A human being consists of a body, a soul, and a spirit which, in the best case, would be the spirit of God. There is no room for a weakness of the heart, which allows in evil spirits. This, according to the pastor, is Intelligent Faith.
“Another five minutes,” he muttered. That not only sounded like, but in fact was the commencement of the sting. “What is it that feeds us? What principle feeds us? It is multiplication! You take a seed and grow it into a plant with fifty seeds.” What in the world was he talking about? “And so now brothers and sisters. I am opening a Bible, which I will leave open for you to plant your seed that it may grow into a healthy plant and yield a harvest!” My companion indicated to me to remain seated while she made our “contribution.” I had been in a bit of a quandary because I needed the last dollar bill I had for the bus ride home. Saved again.
With the money in the bag it was time for leave-taking. But no, there were two more points. Everyone would come up and receive a red ribbon, which the pastor would tie around their right wrist as a sign that we had received the first mystery. And then, we were told, God would perform something supernatural this week.
Well, I cannot convey just how thrilling all this was. You go to L.A. for a Skeptics conference and you get the offer to experience a real supernatural event into the bargain! But then—as every now and then in the exposition of his theology—the pastor suddenly mistook the supernatural for the vague and banal. The supernatural event would have something to do with our work—thatʼs about as detailed as King Learʼs threats.
During the ribbon ceremony I asked the pastor whether I might take his photo, to which he graciously consented. Then my companion and I left for the bus stop. She had not forgotten about her earlier question. “So, what magazine do you write for?” she asked, as soon as we were out on the street.
“Uh, um, er, The Skeptic.”
“I think my dad gets that magazine. Are you going to write about this?”
“Well why not? It was public and advertised. Anyone could go. And besides,” I said taking up eye contact with her, “you were recording the whole thing on cassette in any case.” She blushed. During the service sheʼd had a bit of a coughing fit, during which she left the room, leaving her handbag open on the floor. It hadnʼt taken much more than a quick glimpse to reveal a cassette recorder whose red light was blinking as it was recording. Thatʼs why we were in the third row, and why she had left the room during the coughing bout: she hadnʼt wanted to ruin the recording. With my companionʼs objections safely quashed and her anonymity assured, she headed back down to the theater to hang out with her friends. And I returned to the bus stop.
Shortly before my bus arrived, I noticed one of the acolytes—perhaps also just going home—on the bus and decided just to keep my thoughts in my head until I reached my hotel, where I filled several pages with notes and kept myself out of any more trouble.
Lee Traynor, “A Skeptic Goes to an Exorcism,” Skeptic, Vol. 12, no. 1
If there are “pissed off” spirits, maybe thereʼs also “Good Samaritan” ones, bi-polar ones, even jolly tricksters? I figure that if you look on the bright side of life, and have friends and love people, then “pissed off” spirits wouldnʼt enjoy being around that kind of person anyway. But I donʼt even think in those terms anymore, not after having read about Christian “Satan Selling” liars, and Christians who see demonic influences everywhere, in nearly everything. And why should I be eager to become a Christian if even Christians get driven “crazy” by “fear of Satan,” including being driven to suspect and hate others, coerce fellow Christians, cheat them out of money, tell lies, and sometimes even commit manslaughter?
I had a friend who told me about an exorcism he attended in which the minister asked for the name of each entity before banishing it. He told me everyone was surprised when one of the entities called itself, “The Demon of Baptist Dogma,” and another called itself, “The Demon of Methodist Dogma.” The group who was working with the minister then began to discuss the demonic sides of dogma and lightened up a lot about almost everything.
Will Bagley, personal email, recʼd by Edward T. Babinski March, 2005 [Will Bagleyʼs personal testimony is in Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundametalists]
Bob Larson: Banking on Peopleʼs Fear of Demons
Bob Larson of Bob Larson [Deliverance] Ministries says, “More people are possessed today than ever have been in history.” He concedes that throughout history people have suffered from mental illness, but he also says that people have always been possessed by demons. Larson spent years working as a radio talk show host and motivational speaker, and he has little formal religious training. Instead, he says his expertise concerning “how to exorcise demons” comes from reading books, and performing exorcisms at seminars. The seminars are “free,” but Larson asks for donations of at least $120 per person to pay for his work and to build a national center for exorcism. [If you donʼt give Larson the $120 cash for his “free” seminar, you can keep your demon and go home possessed. Not that he plays on people fears, turning them into cold hard cash or anything like that.—E.T.B.]
Janelle Mallard was exorcised by Larson. During the ceremony she spoke in a strange voice and flailed around almost uncontrollably. “I feel refreshed, like somethingʼs lifted off my spirit,” Mallard said after the exorcism. [For the $120 “minimum donation,” Janelle could have experienced two hours of massage by a professional with some formal training, instead of “flailing around on the floor” in order to feel “refreshed.”—E.T.B.]
Gretchen Passantino is a Christian writer who has studied deliverance ministries. She does not believe Larson is delivering demons. “What he is doing is exploiting and manipulating people, appealing to their fears, their needs, their sense of inadequacy,” Passantino said. “He certainly is a performer.”
Heather Nauert, “Exorcism: Ancient Art or Hocus Pocus?” ABC News, USA, May 16, 2006 www.abcnews.go.com
Investigative news programs like Inside Edition and Fox News6 have had programs on Bob Larson Ministries. To view such programs online go to the Wittenburg Door Insider for “June 1, 2006.” Go to the site below and click on the correct date in a box marked, “Insider Back Issues”
I am still in a state of shock after attending a Bob Larson meeting over the weekend. As Ez. 22:27-29 says, wolves like him are out to “destroy people” and to “get dishonest gain.” No one does that quite like Bob. My husband is planning on writing an extended report of it, so I wonʼt go into too much detail here.
Anytime I have seen Larson shoving his Bible on the heads of growling, screaming, women, supposedly possessed by the devil, I have wondered how on earth he got them to act that way. Well now I know. What he doesnʼt show on TV is how he works up the crowd into that state in the first place.
After spending an hour showing the crowd at the Wyndham Hotel in San Jose, California a video of him “casting out devils,” he then turns his attention to fund-raising. He belittled people who “tip God” and then told of his need to raise $1.2 million for his deliverance center in Phoenix. He spent a good (or not so good) hour of preaching about the awards of giving to God and the penalties for holding back. After he gave people time to write out their sacrificial checks, just before the buckets came around, he commanded all of them to take a bill out of their wallets and include that for the room rental. Shockingly, many complied, adding $10 or $20 dollar bills to their checks and then came the buckets.
And then he worked up the crowd to manifest something Satanic. He told everyone that if there were any strongholds of the devil within them, one only needed to reach back to past hurts to get them to surface and then be dealt with. He prepped everyone in how he expected them to respond and emote whatever they were feeling. “Some will scream or shake or weep or cry out. Let it out. Connect with it,” he shouted. “Let the devil drive. Let it come up. Let Satan express himself. Donʼt suppress it. You have to get physical!” [Something like that used to have a name in the 1960s, i.e., “primal scream therapy,” but Larson is talking about letting yourself go completely, not just screaming, but barking, crying, grabbing, punching, cursing, vomiting, drooling, probably peeing your pants too. Maybe Larsonʼs seminars are “primal everything” therapy?—E.T.B.]
He complained that he wasnʼt getting the kind of cooperation he was seeking. There were some muffled crying and a scream here and there from a women Larson said he has worked with before.” He didnʼt seem interested in her [he probably knew her bank account was low, or sensed his audience might get bored if he kept treating the same person over and over again.—E.T.B.], but told his team members to take her aside. Finally one pretty Hispanic girl began crying hysterically. She confessed that she was a victim of rape and then this wolf committed a spiritual rape against this helpless victim. He looked in her sad face and shouted, “Go to the pain. I rebuke you Satan.” And then he called the wrath of God down on the alleged devil. “I confront that pain in the name of Jesus. Get up and face the man of God now, Satan.” He brought her up to the front, and looking into her eyes he again addressed Satan. “Youʼre a liar, Satan. Look at me, come on work with me.” I donʼt think any deliverance happened there. All Larson did was push this poor girl close to the edge of insanity.
It was alarming how many people brought little children from infancy on to that meeting. An 11-year-old girl sitting next to me began to shake as Larson instructed. (I looked at her, gave her a smile, said a silent prayer and her shaking stopped.)
Larson describes his method of deliverance on his website. He writes “The devil traffics in human suffering, and we take people to the ‘point of the pain’ to discover where their souls have been scarred, allowing Satan to torment them.” If anything Satanic does manifest, it is apparent that it is because theyʼve opened themselves up to the demons this wolf traffics in.
Jackie Alnor, “Spiritual Malpractice,” “Bob Larson is of the Devil,” May 21, 2006
Meeting “The Exorcist”
Friday night, May 12th, Bob Larson held one of his “Exorcism Workshops” in San Diego. I decided to attend. Itʼs not often one gets to meet a con man face to face.
The workshop was held downtown at the Marriott and I arrived early. I took a seat in the back of the room which at that time was maybe 30 per cent full. Almost immediately, a young man sat down beside me. Although the room was fairly empty, he chose the seat right next to me. I thought it interesting that he gravitated to me. I introduced myself, we shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
Now, I knew that this young man was troubled. He was twitchy, ill-at-ease and obviously distraught. Meaning no disrespect to the man, but he resembled a young Don Knotts and was the same bundle of nerves that Knotts brought to Barney Fife. He carried his own bible to the workshop and repeatedly rose to leave the room. Often he was ushered back in by one of Larsonʼs assistants who was familiar with the man and called him by name.
I knew that he would be one of the people who would “need an exorcism” in the course of the night. Having him next to me would put me into the action but I didnʼt choose this spot, he did, so I stayed put.
The event started at 7 pm but Larson came in about 10 minutes early and started showing a videotape of his recent trip to Australia. It was a “short version” of a documentary which he assured the crowd was going to be seen in its full form on secular tv stations all across the country. The deal was almost signed, he said.
It may have been the short version but it went on for about 35 minutes, detailing not only his exorcisms in that country but also Larson having fun fighting rubber crocs, playing with his three daughters (4, 7 and 11…whom he brought up repeatedly) and climbing a high staircase to cure his fear of heights.
That was followed by Larson exhorting the audience to raise to their feet and “hug the people around you,” which spread to the whole room. Then there was the singing of a hymn and a quick prayer.
When that was over, Larson spent the next half hour talking about the missions heʼs been on all around the world and the excitement he feels about going to Germany for the first time in the coming weeks. He believes that Germany is the key to unlocking the entire European continent for his ministry since they are a powerful and rich nation.
Larson gave a quick overview of what he does, listing the four important points of the evening. He didnʼt have time to delve deeply into any of them but he held up the DVDʼs he had for sale which would give people the instruction they needed to help not only themselves but also exorcise family members and friends.
He had the audience “insert their names” as he walked them through four pledges to essentially accept Jesus into their lives and renounce Satan. With that, he said we were protected.
I found the next phase interesting as he led the audience through what he expected of them as he started his exorcisms. He already had shown the crowd the tape so they could see how they were supposed to respond but he followed it with very clear instructions that they were to think of the worst thing that ever happened to them. Concentrate on that. Relive it. Remember how it felt when it was happening. Go to that dark recess inside of you and let it come out.
He said, “the majority of possessions come about through sexual abuse.” Clearly he wanted people to recall that abuse. In my opinion he was exploiting this very abuse for his own financial gain but at least I appreciated his suggestion that people should seek help from mental health specialists to deal with these traumas.
Most likely he was correct when he said “probably not one person in this room has seen a therapist” and suggested for many this would be an important step. Unfortunately, I think they may also need to see a therapist about the damage he has caused to their fragile psyches with his religious based scam.
And fragile he clearly thinks they are. He told them so. As he ran down the list of problems he felt many in the audience faced, including issues with their parents and physical or sexual abuse, he hit very hard on how many of them must feel themselves completely worthless. This clearly affected the young man sitting next to me who started to sob at this.
Larson spent at least ten minutes setting the stage for how he expected people to behave. Among other things, he said that we should be free to say anything we wanted to and not be embarrassed or afraid to look stupid or be judged for our comments.
After priming the crowd he started looking for his marks in the audience. He was scanning the crowd trying to find someone to get the ball rolling. He got off to a very slow start and after five or ten minutes was actually raising his voice at the crowd for not trying hard enough. “I donʼt have all night,” he assured us and shouted again about how we had to think back to that horrible experience weʼve never talked about before. Relive it. Cʼmon people!
It was equally important that we all looked Larson in the eyes. Donʼt pray with your eyes downward or cast upward to the sky. He needed to look into our eyes. I had no trouble doing that as I found it interesting watching how he was scanning the place, looking for someone “possessed.”
Mind you, the entire time, Don Knotts next to me was doing everything he could to get Larsonʼs attention, making loud coughing noises, spitting out words and virtually jumping out of his seat. Larson was avoiding him because he knew the kid was trouble.
Finally, he went to a woman in the second or third row and she was actually “possessed.” She was speaking about herself in the third person and saying “The girl must die!” Larson had a live one…or did he? Lorna (Larson found it impossible to remember her name) was doing everything she was supposed to but he got uncomfortable with her and tried to silence her. She was sobbing uncontrollably but Larson moved on to another woman in the row. Try as he might, he found it hard to concentrate with Lornaʼs sobbing
Finally, Larson barked back at Lorna that he needed silence and if she couldnʼt get herself together he was going to have her removed from the room. I found this unbelievably callous. Larson had a woman from his ministry try to shut Lorna up at her seat as he moved on.
He tried a couple other people farther back in the room with modest luck. No pay dirt yet. All the time, Don Knotts was drawing more and more attention to himself with his noises and thrashing until Larson must have felt he had to come over to him. Larson anointed him with some oil and the kid writhed in his seat, pressing himself onto my shoulder as two of Larsonʼs guys tried to keep the kid in his chair.
Having a close up view of Larson fighting a demon virtually in my lap, curiously had little effect on me. Being that close to evil surely must have put me in jeopardy but it was obvious to me that the only evil nearby was in Larson for exploiting this damaged and needy kid.
The boy wanted more attention but Larson wanted to get this over with fast. He did a quick laying of the bible on the kidʼs head and cast the demon out then turned and walked away. Barely a cursory nod to the kidʼs misfortunes. As Larson turned away, the kid was still clearly spouting his “satanic spiel” but Larson had his back to him as he proclaimed that the devil was gone and the kid was back to normal.
This was too much. I let out a small but audible laugh at the audacity of this man. This stopped Larson in his tracks and he swiveled around to glare at me. “Something funny?” he asked. “Yes, this whole thing,” I replied. Larson come over to me and got his face close to mine. Putting the mic to my face, he wanted to know more.
“You are such an immoral con man. You should be ashamed of what you are doing, exploiting these people for money.” There was a gasp from the crowd. They were clearly not on my side. They came to see “The Exorcist” as Larson proudly calls himself. They were believers.
I knew I wasnʼt making any friends in the room but he asked for my comments. My plan was simply to come and watch but he asked for my involvement and he got it.
“Are you with him?” Larson indicated the young man next to me.
“No,” I continued. “Itʼs outrageous what you are doing. You whip these people into a frenzy, you reduce this woman (Lorna) to tears, sheʼs obviously distraught and then you threaten to kick her out of the room. How dare you?”
Iʼm not deaf. I heard some of the boos coming at me. Larson, too, knew he had the crowd on his side. He shook my hand and said he was always glad to have someone like me show up. Then as he walked away from me, he added “just another demon in the room.” This got him a good round of applause and produced another laugh from me. Iʼve never been called a demon before.
We left it at that. Larson moved on and the kid, still seeking attention, was play acting loudly though few were listening. As Larson called me a demon, the kid threw his armʼs around me and, speaking as the devil in a throaty voice said, “I have another friend,” yet no one wanted to pay attention to him.
My comments must have gotten to Larson, or at least he felt he needed to address them because now he moved back to the still sobbing Lorna and tried to comfort her. He asked if she was seeing anyone for mental health issues and she admitted she was schizophrenic but hadnʼt been to see her doctor in a while. He urged her to get back into care. “You may still need an exorcism but you also need to take care of this.”
Again, I was grateful that at least he was advocating seeking treatment even if he was still bamboozling them. Thatʼs more than Scientology can say.
The kid next to me continued to act up as Larson moved a few rows ahead to another man dealing with anger issues.. As Larson dealt with him, the still agitated kid next to me continued gyrating and speaking in his community theater devil voice.
I felt bad for him and put my arm around him to try to comfort him and tell him he was alright. That drew attention away from Larson who again asked if I was with the kid. I said no and Larson had the kid move across the way to one of his assistants who called him over by name.
This extra interaction with Larson caused him to threaten to bring security down to have me thrown out. I reminded him that just a little while earlier he told us to feel free to say anything at all in the room and we wouldnʼt be judged. “I paid for this room!” he boomed at me several times. As I said, I wasnʼt there to cause trouble. It just sprang up. I let him go on with his act.
Finally he had found a man who was to became the main attraction. The man with the anger issues was a black minister who came with his wife. He was brought to the front of the room to role play his way through dealing with his childhood sexual abuse. The demon came charging out of him and he needed three big guys to hold him back so he wouldnʼt throttle Larson. After ten minutes of being whacked around by Larsonʼs bible and having his head anointed, the guy was exhausted and came out of his trance wanting to know how long heʼd been gone. He was ready now to go forth and minister free of Satan.
This was the huge win for Larson. Not only had the devil been chased out of a man but he was chased out of a preacher! Now was the time for the sale pitch. A quick reminder of just how important it was for Larson to go over to Germany to do exactly what they just witnessed with the added caveat that it wasnʼt cheap. It was going to cost $50,000. They needed to raise that in the next week.
On an easel at the front of the room, Larson suggested that for a $50 donation, they would get a DVD of the Australian documentary. For $100 they got a second DVD and for $150 they would get a third.
But hopefully they would be far more generous than that. He next wrote $5000 on the board. They got no extra trinkets but were told that this is what is really needed to perform these miracles. Or $10,000. “Why, just last week in Bakersfield,” he told us, “one person in the crowd single handedly donated $25,000!” Thatʼs whatʼs needed! If they had that, theyʼd be set. So please be generous.
As the donation envelopes were being handed out, I sat quietly knowing that these people were being duped. Iʼd seen his tax returns. Iʼd seen his divorce papers. I knew the money this guy was pulling in. I knew that even as he was telling these people that none of these donations were going to him, that “he was only making a $69,000 a year salary,” he was also giving himself a $10,000 a month expense account and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I felt I really needed to share that with these people….but again, I didnʼt come to create a scene and I knew they didnʼt want to hear it anyway. They wanted to believe in this huckster.
Finally, he pulled out some big buckets and said that everyone should now reach into their pockets and pull out some more cash above and beyond the donations. Why? To pay for the room, he explained. That was too much. “But YOU paid for the room!” I shouted. My protest fell on deaf ears. What balls. He made such a big deal about how he paid for the room and now he wanted them to pay for it.
With this, the event was over. The assistants were called to the front to personally minister to anyone who needed personal prayers, with the admonishment to them to keep it brief and not take too much time with anyone.
Larson went to the front door and started shaking hands. I went up to him and shook his hand firmly so I would have a captive audience. I told him that I had seen his IRS tax forms and read his divorce papers and I knew how much money he was really making. I told him he should be ashamed of himself and asked how he was going to explain to his three daughters just what a con man. he is.
“Leave this room,” he told me. “The room these people paid for? Donʼt worry. Iʼm leaving.”
Witches, Divination, and Magic
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our New England forefathers. For if it hadnʼt been for their amazing wisdom and foresight over two hundred years ago, weʼd be up to our asses in witches.
Cecil Wyche & Tom Weisel
It was believed that people by the aid of the Devil could assume any shape they wished. Witches and wizards were changed into wolves, dogs, cats and serpents. Within two years, between 1598 and 1600, in one district of France, the district of Jura, more than six hundred men and women were tried and convicted before one judge of having changed themselves into wolves, and all were put to death. This is only one instance. There were thousands.
Robert Ingersoll, “The Devil”
One of the many torture devices used
The vaginal pear was used on woman who had sex with the Devil or his familiars. The rectal pear was used on passive male homosexuals and the oral pear was used on heretical preachers or lay persons found guilty of unorthodox practices. Inserted into the mouth, anus or vagina of the victim, the pear was expanded by use of the screw until the insides are ripped, stretched and mutilated, almost always causing death. The pointed ends of the ‘leaves’ were good for ripping the throat, intestines or cervix open.
In three centuries (1450 to 1750) more than 100,000 persons, the overwhelming majority of them being women, were tried for the crime of witchcraft, and more than half were executed. The prosecutions by church and governmental authorities often involved the use of torture, and constitute one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the history of the West.
Witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe, Vol. 3, Articles on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology, ed., Brian P.Levack
The “witch-hunting” mania continued until the 18th century. In Scotland, an old woman was burned in 1722 after being convicted of turning her daughter into a pony and riding her into a witchesʼ coven. In Germany, a nun was burned alive in the marketplace of Wurzburg in 1749 after other nuns testified that she climbed over convent walls in the form of a pig. The last legal execution of a witch occurred in Switzerland in 1782. By that time, various scientists and scholars had raised doubt about the reality of witchcraft to bring an end to the madness. [p.78]
A profound irony of the witch-hunts is that they were directed, not by superstitious savages, but by learned bishops, judges, professors, and other leaders of society. The centuries of witch obsession demonstrated the terrible power of supernatural beliefs. [p.79]
James A. Haught, Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1990)
For centuries the Catholic Church proclaimed the reality of the crime of “witchcraft,” backed by the Biblical command, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
The Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, said about witches, “I would burn them all!”
John Calvin stated, “The Bible teaches us that there are witches and that they must be slain… this law of God is a universal law,” and also pleaded in 1545 that the government of Geneva, Switzerland, should “extirpate the race [of witches] from the land” of Peney.
A few centuries later, after the smoke cleared, the famed Christian evangelist, John Wesley, lamented, “The giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible.” (The Journal of John Wesley, 1766-1768)
My how times change.
The witch text in the Bible remains; the practice of executing them changed. The slavery text in the Bible remains; the practice changed. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the Biblical texts that authorized them remain.
Is it not well worthy of note that of all the multitude of Biblical texts through which man has driven his annihilating pen he has never once made the mistake of obliterating a good and useful one? It does certainly seem to suggest that if man continues in the direction of enlightenment, his religious practice may, in the end, attain some semblance of human decency.
Mark Twain, “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice”
Modern Day Witch Hunts
In 1928, a Hungarian family was acquitted of killing an old woman they thought was a witch, and as late as 1970s, a poor German woman was suspected of being a witch after the people in the small town ostracized her, pelted her with rocks, and killed her animals. In France, a man was killed for suspected sorcery in 1978, and in 1981 a mob stoned a woman to death in Mexico because they believed that her witchcraft incited an attack on the pope.
W. Sumner David, Th.D., Heretics : The Bloody History of the Christian Church
If a Witch Curses her Enemies itʼs called “Witchcraft.” so if a Christian invokes God to Curse People, Shouldnʼt that be Called “Godcraft?”
In 1994 the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert, a Washington D.C.-based prayer group, produced a list of twenty-five Democratic incumbents, and urged prayer partners to petition God to bring evil upon the people on that list. “Donʼt hesitate to pray imprecatory Psalms over them,” wrote one of the groupʼs founders, Harry Valentine, in the groupʼs newsletter. “Imprecatory” means to “call down evil upon.” Such Psalms include: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” (Ps. 109:8,9) “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into Sheol.” (Ps. 55:15) “The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: he shall wash his own feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Ps. 58:10) (How is this different from sticking pins in voodoo dolls, or whipping up a witchʼs brew and mumbling curses? I guess itʼs all right for Christians to “curse” people so long as they use a “Biblically sound” method. But, leaving the “imprecatory Psalms” aside, donʼt these people realize that Jesus commanded his disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?”—E.T.B.)
Skip Porteous, “Election ‘94 Observations,” Free Inquiry, Winter 1994/95)
When the Bible Says “No Diviniation” it Really Means…”Some Divination.”
According to Deuteronomy 18:10,12, “There shall not be found among you anyone who…uses divination…For whoever does such things is detestable to the Lord.” However, didnʼt the Hebrew patriarch, Joseph, practice “divination?” He practiced the ancient magical art of lecanomancy, otherwise known as “cup-divination.”
Is not this [cup] it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?…And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can certainly divine?
- Gen. 44:5,15
By means of cup-divination a person could supposedly foretell the future and find lost objects. Neither was Joseph condemned in the Bible for being a cup-diviner. Go figure.
And… didnʼt both the Hebrews and Christians practice the ancient magical art of cleromancy, otherwise known as “casting lots to divine the will of Providence?” (How different is that from tossing Chinese I Ching sticks to find out what Providence has in mind?) As it says in the Bible, “The lot is cast into the lap; but its decision is from the Lord.” (Prov. 16:33) “The lot puts an end to contentions, and decides between the mighty.” (Prov. 18:18) Numerous examples of this magical practice of divining Godʼs will can be found in the Bible:
The tribes of Israel divided the “promised land” by “casting lots.” (Num. 26:52-56; 33:54; 36:1-2; Joshua 13:6; 14:1-2; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1-2,14-17; 18:6-11; chapts. 19,21,22,23; Isa. 34:17; Ezk. 45:1; 47:22; 48:29)
Hebrew kings were chosen and tactical decisions in battle were decided by “lot.” (1 Sam. 10:20-23; 14:41-42; Judges 20:9) Also chosen by “lot” were “governors” for each “ward,” and for the house of God. (1 Chron. 24:5-7,31; 25:8-9; 26:14-16)
People were chosen to receive special favors by “lot” (Lev. 16:8-10; Mic. 2:5; Neh. 10:34; 11:1)
The guilt of people was judged and confirmed by casting lots. (Josh. 7:13-18—the Hebrew word ‘lakad’ translated ‘taken,’ means ‘chosen by lot;’ Jonah 1:7)
And when the first Christians had to choose between two candidates to take Judasʼ place among the twelve apostles, they did it, you guessed it, by “lot.” (Acts 1:23-26)
Based on the strength of so many Bible verses, the Puritans took the “casting of lots” as seriously as they took the hanging of witches. They outlawed all “dice” play in games or gambling because the casting of dies or lots should be reserved only for divining Godʼs will. Yet there isnʼt a Christian church or Hebrew temple today that decides how its money will be spent, or what preacher it will hire, or who is guilty of a sin, based on “casting lots.” Write me if you hear of one. I guess both Christians and Jews have lost their faith in Yahwehʼs ability to communicate via cleromancy.
Not only did the Hebrew Lord “Play Dice,” but he also Changed his Mind (or “Repented” of his Previous Actions). The Bible says he Did It so Often he Grew “Weary of Repenting.” but if God knows the Future, why Should he Ever have to Change his Mind?
The Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
- 1 Samuel 15:35 (But the Lordʼs “dice” had chosen Saul to be king in the first place!)
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
- Genesis 6:6-7 (see also Deut. 32:36 & Ps. 135:14)
And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.
- 1 Chronicles 21:15
Did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them?
- Jeremiah. 26:19
And the Lord repented of the evil that he thought to do unto his people.
- Exodus 32:14
And the Lord repented of the evil, that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not.
- Jonah 3:10
I [the Lord] am weary of repenting.
- Jeremiah 15:6
Evangelical Christians of the “Open Theism” school of theology take the above verses literally because they believe that God does indeed change his mind in direct response to what humanity does. Open Theists assert that God does not know everything there is to know about the future. However, the majority of Christians continue to believe that God already knows the future and they explain away the above verses as mere “metaphors” of how God “appears” to act from our point of view. So, these different Evangelical Christian theologians canʼt agree on what the Bible is “really” saying. They make their own choice as to what they think the Bible “really” teaches, which is something they blame “liberals” and “humanists” for doing. Some “Open Theism” Evangelicals have even had to leave the Christians colleges where they had been teaching.
More “Godly” Divination: the Urim and Thummim
Another magical way to divine Godʼs will was via the “Urim and Thummim.” Those two objects were connected with the breastplate worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:30) but it is not known what the Urim and Thummim were. Were they gems kept in a pouch worn on the high priestʼs chest? Were they engraved with symbols that reflected a divine “yes” and a divine “no?” Were they like the ancient Assyrian “Tablets of Destiny” that were tossed to determine the will of ancient Near Eastern gods like Marduk or Bel? We donʼt know. But such prominent figures as Aaron (Ex. 28:30) and Joshua (Num. 27:21), and the Hebrew tribe of priests, the Levites (Deut. 28:8), used the Urim and Thummim to divine Godʼs will.
King Saul consulted the “Urim” but received “no answer.” (1 Sam. 28:6) Maybe the Urim and Thummim were the two most sacred “lots” of Israel, and after you tossed both of them, if one landed on its “yes” side, but the other landed on its “no” side, it was interpreted as God leaving the receiver off the hook?
Behold the Bird of God, who Takes away the Mold, Mildew, and Leprosy of the World
Weʼve all heard the term “scapegoat,” but did you know it was based on holy commands given in the Hebrew Bible? God commanded that a priest transfer the sins of the people onto a goat, and send the goat into the wilderness, thus carrying away the peopleʼs sins. (Lev. 16:20-22) We remember the scapegoat story, but we forget about the lowly scape-bird, a bird that God commanded a priest to transfer “uncleanness” to, then send flying into the sky. (Lev. 14:4-7,48-53) What kinds of “uncleanness” did the scape-bird carry away with it? Would you believe mold, mildew, and… leprosy?
To the ancient mind discolored splotches of mold and mildew on clothing, leather or the walls of their homes, were lumped with that dreaded disease, leprosy. The same Hebrew word was used to describe them all, despite the tendency of modern Bible translators to make modern distinctions and use the words, ‘mold’ or ‘mildew,’ in cases of clothing and walls. The ancient Hebrews made no such distinctions but used the same word to describe a discolored growth on a wall, on poorly stored clothing, or on the skin of a leper. Consequently, the same remedy was required by Godʼs law.
Get your “scape-birds” here! They remove tough mold and mildew stains, as well as leprosy!
Dave Matson, “Godʼs Ignorance Concerning Leprosy,” Commonsense Versus the Bible [edited, with added comments by E.T.B.]
Spit In Yer Eye?
Magical spit was widely praised in the world of ancient folk medicine for its healing virtues. So widely known was the spit treatment in fact that two Gospel authors included stories about Jesus employing spit to cure the blind and those with impediments of speech (Mark 7:31-37; 8:22-26; John 9:6). Jesusʼs spit miracles mirrored those of his contemporaries and resembled those of a typical ancient wonder worker.
A. J. Mattill, Jr., The Seven Mighty Blows to Traditional Beliefs (enlarged edition)