Call me a skeptic, but I don’t believe in demonic possession. There is absolutely zero empirical evidence of any kind to support the hypothesis that demons exist and sometimes set up shop in your lower intestines. Yet we see time and time again stories of Jesus casting out demons from sick people.
This post may be more of a jab at Christianity than it is at the bible. That’s because to this day we still find Christians who claim that demonic possession is real. Recently there was even a story in the news about a catholic priest who claims that demonic possession is 100% fact.
Let me set the record straight. Because there is zero evidence to corroborate the demonic possession hypothesis, we are left with two non-mutually exclusive theories to explain claims of demonic possession:
- The “victim” of demonic possession suffers from some kind of severe mental or neurological disorder.
- The “victim” of demonic possession merely wishes to mitigate the seriousness of crimes they’ve committed by claiming to have committed those crimes because satan made them do it.
There is no divine theory in academia that can explain “demonic possession.”
So why is it so prevalent in discussion? It’s because the bible shows Jesus walking around in a world quite literally littered with people who had demons living inside of them. Let’s take a look at the gospels.
Matthew 8:28-34 tells the story of Jesus coming across two thugs hanging out in a grave yard. They used physical violence to make sure no one could enter the tombs. They saw Jesus and were like “Naaww he di’n’t! It ain’t the apocalypse yet! You can’t touch us!” Then for some reason demons came out of their bodies and begged Jesus to trap them in pigs. Jesus was like “word” and cast them into the pigs. Then, for reasons unknown, the pigs promptly committed suicide, and the thugs ran away.
Then in Mark 5:1-17 we have the story of a man suffering from rabies and PCP overdose or something. He became so violent that he was bound by chains, but broke them and started howling and hitting himself with rocks. Then he saw Jesus, ran up to him, and reminded him that he could not be judged until the book of Revelation. Jesus once again casted the man’s demons into pigs, who then committed suicide.
Demonic possession also appears in Mark 1:23-26, Mark 1:32-34, Mark 1:39, Matthew 12:43-45, James 4:7, and tons of other places (including the Old Testament). Especially in Jesus’ world, it seems that every other person has a demon living inside them.
This might explain why, even today, some Christians are quick to blame strange behavior on demons. In extreme cases, not only is demonic possession blamed for murders, but people believed to be possessed by demons might be murdered themselves. And as we’ve seen in the news quite often lately, some people suspected of demonic possession die during their exorcisms. In less extreme cases, blaming something on demonic possession is ignoring the true root of a problem. Going back to the two theories to explain claims of demonic possession, we can make some recommendations.
- The claimant might have mental illness or neurological problems, which can be treated by medication, therapy, surgery, or other proven methods. An exorcism will do nothing to help the underlying problem, and it may be dangerous.
- The claimant might be trying to justify their behavior. For example, a murderer might claim that he wasn’t responsible for his actions because he was possessed by demons. Indeed, this has happened. Simple education goes a long way here. Teaching criminals to take responsibility for their actions and not blame it on the devil might reduce recidivism.
The point is the bible was written during a time when people had few resources to explain natural phenomena. Simple illnesses were blamed on devils. Today we know that cancer has no demonic explanations. But for some reason, there are many Christians out there who have retained these millennia-old hypotheses, and when things get really bad, they whip them out like they’re full-fledged theories and call it a day. Here it would be much more healthy to find the true causes of life’s problems.