I recently ordered a copy of American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty by Michael Cuneo, who teaches anthropology and sociology at Fordham University in the Bronx, here in New York City. According to various reviews (listed near the bottom of this post), Cuneo’s book is an in-depth study, from an open-mindedly skeptical point of view, of exorcism as practiced by both Catholics and Protestants here in the U.S.A.
Archive for the 'Christian' Category
The recent movie The Rite is loosely based on a (supposedly) nonfiction book that was published two years ago, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio. The book is about an American priest who spent his sabbatical year in Italy training to be an exorcist.
As Laura Miller explains in “Eat your saints, purge your demons,” Salon, March 27, 2009:
Father Gary Thomas, Baglio’s trainee exorcist, half fell into the job; he volunteered when, in 2004, the Vatican asked every Catholic bishop to appoint an official exorcist to his diocese. This startling development can be explained by the fact that for the past decade Italy has been gripped by an intermittent satanic ritual abuse panic similar to the hysteria that swept through the U.S. in the 1980s.
Earlier I commented briefly on the nonsensical protests against the construction of a mosque several blocks from Ground Zero. Now, according to a post today by Richard Bartholomew, a Controversial Preacher Seeks to Establish “Outreach Center” Near Ground Zero. The controversial preacher is Bill Keller, who is planning to build an anti-Muslim “9/11 Christian Center at Ground Zero.”
Today I surfed onto a blog belonging to a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian named Hank Hanegraaff, who runs something called the Christian Research Institute (CRI).
He seems to be, in some ways, one of the more honest and reasonable evangelical Christian public figures. Back in the early 1990’s, CRI published some articles debunking the “Satanic ritual abuse” scare , for which I would like to thank him. Back then, standing up against the SRA scare required quite a bit of courage.
In most other ways, though, I still have to regard him as being very much in the enemy camp, for reasons aptly summed up here on RationalWiki (although, as I’ll detail later, the RationalWiki page contains some inaccuracies).
Anyhow, I would like to call attention to some things he says that are of interest both to Satanists and to Pagan Witches.
In the General feedback thread,
Hi Ms. Vera, I’m trying to write a novel utilizing themes of pagan symbolism in Christianity as part of the plot device … , but thus far I have not located a great source documenting the history of that symbolism.
I’m writing to you to ask if you could recommend any such sources that I can use to research.
I’m sorry — this is not a topic I’ve researched in depth. If anyone else here is knowledgeable about this, I too would be interested in recommendations of good scholarly sources on this topic.
You also wrote: “(if you’ve seen the Zeitgeist documentary on YouTube, that gives you some idea)”
Ugh. Zeitgeist. Definitely not a good source on anything. Amd full of grand conspiracy ideology and other related nonsense, e.g. regarding the Federal Reserve System. For some debunking, see Resources for debunking grand conspiracy claims, and for documenting their political significance.
In the general feedback thread, meowmixeater asked me one of the usual questions that Christians commonly ask theistic Satanists: “Do you believe that satan is actually more powerful than God? If so why?”
My answers to that question can be found here:
- Post-Copernican natural theology
- The here-and-now principle in theology
- Theology of the Church of Azazel
If you have further questions, feel free to post them as a comment here.
Here on WordPress, I just now came across a blog with some fascinating, very informative, and disturbing posts about today’s African witchhunts:
- Nigerian Christians join in witchhunts – 18 December 2007
- African neopentecostals battle witchcraft in the West – 24 December 2007
- Witchcraft, African and European – 6 April 2008
They pretty much confirm what I already knew, but provide more historical details. The author is apparently South African and a believer in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
P.S.: I just now came across an old post on Marie Ravensoul’s blog, Christian Rapper Calls for the Killing of Witches and the Slaying of Demons. It seems that the song is paralleling real-life trends, alas.
I came across an interesting post here on WordPress about Halloween, with a lot of annoted info about the ancient Celts, the Druids, Samhain, and the evolution of Halloween festivities. Written from a Christian anti-occultist “ex-witch” perspective, but much more scholarly than most. Among other things, this article points out how little is known, historically, about the religion and customs of the ancient Celts. For example, there’s not enough evidence to know for sure whether the ancient Celts practiced human sacrifice, and it’s not even known for sure whether they had a feast day called Samhain.
However, like a lot of other relatively well-informed writings, this article seems to assume that all Satanists are LaVeyans.
I just now came across the following:
- In Brazil, pope to face a church losing hold
Priest shortage, evangelicals represent challenges
By Monte Reel
Washington Post, via MSNBC
Updated: 4:02 a.m. ET May 9, 2007
This article said some things I expected, such as the following:
Latin America is still predominantly Catholic, but not like it used to be. In Brazil, for example, as evangelical Pentecostalism has spread, the country’s population has gone from being 89 percent Catholic in 1980 to about 64 percent today, according to a survey released this week by the Brazilian polling firm DataFolha.
But there were also some surprises (to me, anyway). In particular:
Young people have shown a greater reluctance to join the clergy, resulting in a priest shortage that is 10 times more severe regionwide than it is in North America or Europe.
“There is a trend here — even among priests — that people should be more free to follow their own conscience, and there’s a growing distance between most Catholics and the church’s hierarchy,” said the Rev. Luiz Roberto Benedetti, a Catholic priest who is a professor of social science at the Catholic University of Campinas, near Sao Paulo. “It’s a trend that goes in the complete opposite direction of the message that the pope wants to send.”
Very interesting, and quite contrary to Philip Jenkins’s characterization of the Catholicism of the southern hemisphere, in general, as a hotbed of Catholic traditionalism and love of hierarchy. (See The Next Christianity by Philip Jenkins, originally published in The Atlantic, Volume 290, No. 3, October, 2002, about the recent explosive growth of the more fanatical forms of Christianity in non-Western countries.)
I would be interested to hear from anyone who can give me solidly sourced information about religious trends in Latin America.
(For more about religious trends in general, see the many articles listed on my page about The growing number of Christians of kinds which inherently fear demons, Satanists, witches, occultists, Pagans, and atheists.)
In response to my initial reply to “unitedcats,” I got replies not only from “unitedcats” himself but also from another person:
April 18th, 2007 at 5:28 pm
dianavera… are you not guilty, in that last line, or doing the same thing you decried of unitedcats? Why would non-mainstream folks be “even more varied” than mainstream folks?
You get some pretty different ideas, regardless of where you’re looking.
Diane Vera wrote::
April 20th, 2007 at 10:56 am
“dianavera… are you not guilty, in that last line, or doing the same thing you decried of unitedcats? Why would non-mainstream folks be ‘even more varied’ than mainstream folks?”
Obviously there are more ways to differ from the norm than there are ways to be normal. That’s simple math.
Of course it’s true that even amongst “normal” folks there is quite a bit of variety.
I would add now that what I was doing was not at all the same thing that I (perhaps incorrectly) perceived that “unitedcats” was doing. I was not making a generalization about all people outside of some norm of my own.
As it turns out, I may have misperceived what “unitedcats” meant by “fringe cults.” (See my previous post,“Fringe cults”.)
Admittedly my reply to “katyjane” was rather abrupt, since I was arguing what seemed to me to be an extremely obvious point. But apparently it wasn’t.
Read the rest of this entry »
I recently ran into the following two stories, both on the website of Baptist Press in Tennessee:
- A ticket from Satanism to holiness by Gwan Garrison, April 2, 2007
- Many Satanists prefer the shadows , by Joe Westbury, Posted on Apr 2, 2007
Gwan Garrison claims to be an ex-Satanist. Googling “Satanism Gwan Garrison,” I found the following earlier versions of the above two articles, on Christian Index, a Georgia Baptist site:
- The devil had my heart, but Christ wanted my soul by Gwan Garrison, Pastor, Franklin Baptist Church, March 29, 2007
- Satanism: a real force in the world March 29, 2007
His bio seemed awfully fishy to me.
On About.com, in an article titled “Satanic Panic, or ‘I was a Satanic Witch (No, Really, I Could Fly and Everything!)’,” Jennifer Emick sums up Gwan Garrison’s story as follows:
Baptist Pastor Gwan Garrison talks about how much he enjoyed “persecuting Christians,” and he’s sure to mention (with the amount of accuracy typical in these stories) his “Satanic altar” and his “crystals.” It’s light fare compared to some of these stories- no bloody sacrifices, no marriages to Satan- but there is a glowering cat and a high-voltage Satanic bible- and there is, of course, that ever-present character, the tirelessly persistent evangelical whose refusal to stop pestering the ungodly results in his miraculous transformation.
A Russian Orthodox public movement called the “People’s Council” has made some ill-informed, panic-stricken claims about Satanism:
- “People’s Council urges authorities to equate Satanists to terrorists,” Interfax-Religion, Russia – Apr 2, 2007
It released a statement claiming that “ritual murders” and various other nasty activities are all “characteristic of Satanic organizations.”
The statement is said to mention several ritual murders including the allegedly notorious “murder of three Optino monks killed by a Satanist on Orthodox Easter.” (I found no further information about this crime via Google.)
The statement also says, “There is an enormous number of Satanic organizations and groups acting in Russia today. Many of them are united in a single branchy network.”
The statement then goes on the mention the “Church of the Satan” [sic], failing to note that the Church of Satan has been an above-ground organization for over 40 years and does NOT endorse any kind of criminal activity.
I found the following blog entry:
- “‘Satanists as dangerous as terrorists! World at risk from Satan cults’ claim Russian Orthodox,” Signs of Witness
It closes with the comment, “It could be that Religious Right Hysteria is the real ‘danger to Society…'”