Theology professor Joseph Laycock presents some reasons why exorcisms remain so popular.
When science started to explain how life on Earth actually evolved, religion began losing its grip to a considerable percentage of its believers. But surprisingly, the concept of exorcism and belief in the supernatural was unscathed by such knowledge advancements. Through the years, people are divided when it comes to belief in demonic possessions. Based on yearly surveys, an average of 50% of Americans believes in demonic possession suggesting that exorcism remains a popular religious act today.
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In an article, theology professor and writer Joseph Laycock presented some of the reasons why exorcism remained popular throughout the years. Laycock recounts history citing that exorcism was considered a tool for a religious group back then like the Catholic Church to exhibit its clergy’s supernatural power over demons. Additionally, it’s a competitive tool to attract more believers or to attack other religious groups.
Laycock pointed historian David Frankfurter’s explanation saying that people often used demons and evil spirits as the reasons behind bad luck, misfortune or as a basic response to change and modernization “Attributing misfortune and social change to hidden evil forces, Frankfurter suggests, is a natural human reaction; the demonic provides a context that can make sense of unfamiliar or complex problems.”
The professor has also cited that exorcism’s popularity today is a product of people’s imaginative desire to experience the supernatural in today’s disenchanted age. He calls it the “exorcist effect” which is based on the 1971 paranormal novel of William Peter, The Exorcist. The novel which was eventually adapted into a movie was considered one of the most successful films in history. And until now, The Exorcist became a popular reference as to how demonic possession occurs and how exorcism is performed.
If exorcism is traditionally used to explain bad luck and modernization, today, exorcism remains popular because demonic possessions have been associated with the current social issues and problems. Evil spirits have been linked with abortion, crimes, addiction, to gays and lesbians and even political leaders or candidates who are misbehaving or doing the wrong actions. Laycock cited the national exorcism of Mexico last May 2015 as an example which was mainly attributed to the country’s drugs and violence problems including the issue on abortion.
Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church according to Laycock is also a key figure why exorcism remains popular. Even if the pontiff is noted for his liberal and modern views on most religious issues, Pope Francis still retained his traditional belief in evil spirits, demons, including demonic possessions. He even spoke of evil in most of his speeches and messages to the public.
Quotes from an exorcist
Father Juan Jose Gallego from Barcelona, Spain is just one of the few priests who were appointed by the Catholic Church the challenge of becoming an exorcist. In an interview, the exorcist describes some of his actual encounters with evil spirits “All I had to do was look over my shoulder and I saw demons… they (possessed individuals) speak strange languages, they have inordinate strength, they feel really bad, you see very well-mannered people vomiting and blaspheming.”
Though it’s certainly a challenge to come face-to-face with an evil spirit, Fr. Gallego notes that the devil was never more powerful than God. For his very concerned friends and relatives, he constantly reminds them that the “devil is (just a) creature of God.”
Finally, he cited that people who are going through the most difficult times of their lives are more vulnerable to demonic perceptions and possessions. Pride according to him is the favorite sin of the devil. And interestingly, the priest identified that the practice of Reiki and Yoga served as entry points for demons to an individual.