The idea of an exorcism is, I think, one that I would have found ridiculous even when I was a believing Catholic. It just smacks too much of the kinds of magical explanations invented by ancient humans who had no idea how the world works. Apollo drives the sun across the sky each day? Sure, why not.
Christianity got its start during these times, and it hasn’t let go of the old mythologies, even though the rest of the world has moved on when it comes to blindly accepting as true magical explanations that cannot be verified. Case in point: exorcism.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches, in all seriousness, that the Devil takes control of people’s bodies. From a 2010 New York Times article on the subject:
Some of the classic signs of possession by a demon, Bishop Paprocki said, include speaking in a language the person has never learned; extraordinary shows of strength; a sudden aversion to spiritual things like holy water or the name of God; and severe sleeplessness, lack of appetite and cutting, scratching and biting the skin.
Now if you could take control of people’s bodies and you wanted to sow evil in the world, would use your power to make people bite themselves? I would think it more effective to take a person in a position of power, say in the government or in a large corporation, and use that power to perpetuate violence or economic collapse. Maybe start a war, maybe enslave the masses. Something like that. But biting yourself? Seems like that’s aiming a little low.
But see, I’m already thinking about this more than those who create such myths. Someone was acting crazy? The Devil made them do it. Mystery solved! It’s best not to bother with all the little details (and the devil is in those too, you see).
These stories are silly. Any person with half a brain can see that. And if you can believe in this nonsense, what else can you believe in?
Harry Potter, apparently. A brand new article in The Telegraph quotes a Catholic priest saying some very silly things about demons and wizards (the least of which being that he thinks one of those is real).
Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”.
Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest…
The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, “seem innocuous” but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Father Amorth said.
I would think that any misconceptions a child had about the existence of magic would be allayed upon realizing that it isn’t really possible to fly on brooms or turn people into frogs. But even if some young Harry Potter fans have been deluded into thinking that their fantasy books are, um, not fantasy, is there really much harm in it? Eventually they’ll realize that all events, even the most magical-seeming ones, have natural explanations, and that’s what makes reality different from fantasy. The truth is right there for you to see.
Ah, that’s the problem then. Religious people such as Father Amorth actually want children, and adults, to believe in magic – as long as it’s their kind of magic. Amorth doesn’t want us to reject “truths” that can’t be verified, because then we’d reject the mythology that is his religion, as well. This is why it’s common for religious people to act as if they’re threatened by mere fiction – because if you’re already amenable to believing one set of myths about reality, what’s to stop you from believing another? A rational person would say the idea of making objects float using magical words is silly. But you can’t think Harry Potter is silly without thinking that demon possession and zombie messiahs are silly as well. And that’s the problem for the Catholic Church – they want you to buy their stories, but not anyone else’s.