Theories of demonic possession and the belief that exorcism is an effective cure have done unimaginable damage to countless people suffering from mental illness over the centuries. This is an important and very sad lesson about the evils to which religion can lead. Just when we think that modern science has finally displaced these dangerous myths, we find those who are determined to return us all to the Dark Ages in the name of their religion. Thus, we should not be surprised that even now in 2010 there are Roman Catholic bishops insisting that we need even more of this superstitious bullshit!
How many more people have to suffer efforts to exorcise demons? How many more will be led astray by belief in demonic possession, deprived of the benefits of medical and behavioral science? How many more lives must be wrecked merely to sustain the superstitions of others?
Admittedly, I have both personal reasons and professional ones for having little patience with talk of demons and exorcism. This may not be an issue on which I can be very objective. Having said that, I have studied enough about the history of how mental illness has been treated through the centuries to reach the conclusion that it is high time we stop doing this to people.
Finally, let me end this grim subject on a positive note. I learned about this story from a Catholic psychologist who also thought it was complete bullshit. I suppose that's progress.
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