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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

exorcism The expulsion of the Devil, spirits, and demons from persons, animals, or places by occult or religious rites.
      The Roman Catholic exorcism rite first came into use at the end of the third century, and in A.D. 341 it is mentioned in church writings. A specifically ordained order of exorcising priests was created, and the process is still practiced by the Roman Catholic church today.
      As recently as 1972, Pope Paul VI affirmed the existence of demons and the Devil:  

      Sin, on its part, affords a dark, aggressive evildoer, the Devil, an opportunity to act in us and in our world. . . . Anyone who disputes the existence of this reality places himself outside biblical and Church teachings.

      Perhaps inspired by this declaration, in 1976 Germany's Bishop Stangl instructed two priests to perform the rite of exorcism upon a twenty-three-year-old epileptic Bavarian girl, Anneliese Michel. The local newspapers reported that the church had decided her body was being inhabited by various demons, including Lucifer, Adolf Hitler, Judas Iscariot, and Emperor Nero. Anneliese, an epileptic, died in the process of being exorcised, and the autopsy showed she suffered beating and starvation. Her parents and the two priests were convicted of negligent homicide and given suspended sentences.
      Significantly, when Bishop Stangl died during the trial, his death was attributed to a stroke, not to demonic possession.
      In recent years, similar exorcism farces have taken the lives of children in the United States, too.
      Christians who believe in the Holy Bible must also believe in demons, devils, and other such creatures, and they must believe that those entities cause disease and that they can be “cast out” by proper ceremonies——exorcism——simply because it's in the Book. If they deny the reality of those entities, they deny the Bible, and thus their faith. It is not a matter of choice, but dogma.

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