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March 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Meet America's top exorcist, the inspiration for 'The Rite'

Editor's Note: This story comes from a new CNN Special, "Stories Reporter," with Tom Foreman which features an in-depth look at the news of the day.

By Tom Foreman, CNN

The sun was shining on the Santa Cruz Mountains. The freeway from the San Francisco airport to San Jose was still buzzing in my ears when I stepped into the parking lot of an unassuming church and the most famous exorcist in America walked up.

“Hello, I’m Father Gary Thomas.”  At 57 years old, he has an easy smile, an abiding love for the Giants and strong convictions about the nature of evil.

"You believe there is a devil?"  I ask him as we settle in at a small, beautiful chapel near the church.

“Yes.”

“You believe that this devil acts upon people?”

“Correct.”

He says it with the certainty that I reserve for answers to questions like, “Did you bring your lunch?” but that’s no surprise.  He has faced skeptics many times and never more than now, because his life and training as an exorcist in Rome are the inspiration behind the Hollywood film "The Rite."

Father Gary Thomas at the premier of 'The Rite'

Indeed, at the premiere, as the cameras swirled around the star, Anthony Hopkins, Thomas walked the red carpet alongside him.  This movie, like salvation, is something the priest believes in.

“First of all,” he says, “it was very emotional for me.  I found some of those scenes very riveting.  I found some of them very profound.  They’re very accurate.  That’s what I’ve seen in real life.”

That’s saying something.  "The Rite" is chock-full of heaving, cursing, ranting characters, who, according to the screenplay, are possessed by Satan, people who one moment seem fine and the next are raging against all that is holy.

And yet, Thomas says people who fear that very fate come to him constantly.  “Well, often times they’ll begin the conversation with ‘Father, I need an exorcism.’  And my answer back to them is, ‘I don’t do them on demand.’”

But he does think a lot more of them need to be done.  It is all part of a push by the Vatican to make more exorcists available to the faithful.  Some in the Catholic Church believe the world is facing a rising tide of demonic activity, particularly in America, where millions are moving away from traditional faiths and looking for alternatives.

"A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that … classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous.  People can get themselves involved in Wicca, or people will go see some sort of fortune-teller, or people will go to a séance, or they can go and they can learn how to channel spirits. …"

A vision of politician Christine O’Donnell fills my head and I interrupt.  “But a lot of people would tell you up front, ‘I’m just playing around.’”

“Right.  Absolutely.  And it’s not,” he says, noting that those who feel adrift from the church and from others of faith are more likely to be drawn in.  “Demons are always looking for human beings who have broken relationships.”

Simply put, Thomas believes just as surely as a person can summon God through prayer, through other rituals, the devil can be called, too.

Father Thomas, left, and Tom Foreman

Thomas says an exorcism usually takes from 45 minutes to two hours and involves reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water.  Of course, that’s like saying surgery involves a knife and some sponges.

It is vastly more complicated.  Before the rite is even considered, there must be psychological testing by professionals, extended consultations and questions about drug and alcohol addiction.

Thomas says fully 80% of the people he meets claiming demonic possession have actually suffered some kind of abuse.  An exorcism, he says, is the last step in a long process.

“I have a particular situation now,” he says, “where I think this particular person is suffering from a very unique psychological disorder, but she’s also been exposed to satanic cults, and I want to make sure that what we’re dealing with … is satanic or if it is psychological.”

Even when an exorcism is prescribed, it often must be repeated.  Judging from Thomas' comments, it takes something of a trained eye to decide whether it is even working.

Father Thomas and Anthony Hopkins at the premier of 'The Rite.'

The movie, to be frank, complicates this whole discussion.  Not "The Rite."  Thomas says he likes that one, and found Anthony Hopkins a “delightful” man.

But rather the movie from 1973.  "The Exorcist" captured America's imagination about demons taking over a person’s body and profoundly shaped the public's perceptions about the process of throwing those devils out.  It was lurid, violent and unforgettable.

It was also based on a real exorcism in Washington, which was far less dramatic than the film.  Thomas will tell you emphatically there are no spinning heads, spewing pea soup or levitating bodies.

But he has seen manifestations of possession.  "Sometimes the person's head will begin to move in very rigid ways.  Sometimes their eyes will roll.  Sometimes there will be epileptic-like seizures," Thomas said.  "Occasionally people will take on kind of a body language of a serpentine look, and they'll begin to stick their tongue out and use their tongue in ways that would look snake-like, and they'll coil up in a snake-like position."

“And these are things that you have seen in real life?” I ask.

"I have seen that," he said with a wry smile.

I’ve seen it, too.  A few years ago I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to report on a Protestant exorcist who was holding a session in a hotel meeting room.  Several dozen people filed in while, no kidding, "The Devil Inside" by INXS played on a stereo system.

Suffice to say, there were plenty of eye-rolling, seizure-like eruptions in the crowd as people cried out and the exorcist confronted them, pressing his Bible against their heads, and demanding that their demons reveal their names.

We talked to some of the participants before and after, talked to the exorcist, too. For all their heartfelt expressions of belief, I can’t help but ask Thomas the same thing I asked that night: Couldn’t all these folks just be acting?

"I don't think they're acting out in a conscious sense,” he says, “because many times … they don't remember the experience itself.”

What’s more, he says, occasionally the person will do something that defies explanation.  "Sometimes the person will begin to speak in a language in which they have no competency in.”

Meaning, for example, someone who knows no German might start speaking precisely and accurately in that language.  Thomas says he has witnessed that, too.

I stopped by the Pew Center in Washington, where some of the best research on religion is done, to ask about all this.  Allison Pond is a charming young researcher who kindly sat me down before delivering some startling news: A Pew survey found more than one in 10 Americans have witnessed an exorcism, and when you narrow it down to Pentecostals it’s about one in three.

“Forty percent of Americans said they completely believe angels and demons are active in the world,” she told me, “with 28% telling us they mostly believe this."

That is the kind of information that needs more than a priestly explanation, so I roamed over to Georgetown University to talk to Ori Soltes, a theologian.  The problem, he says, is that we can’t know for sure what people mean when they say they’ve seen an exorcism.  Was it a formal ceremony?  A personal revelation?  A changed way of life?

Still, he has no doubt that claims of demonic meddling are high, because, after all, the year 2000 rolled around less than a dozen years ago, and at every millennium fears of the devil’s influence rise.

"My sense is that we are still in the backwash from the millennium,” he says, “but then you know ... events have helped to proliferate that:  9/11,  the war in Iraq.  And now as we approach 2012, suddenly everyone is very interested in the Mayan calendar and how we interpret the idea that the apocalypse is coming in December of 2012 at the time of equinox ... all that sort of stuff.”

So maybe it’s no wonder that Thomas is getting calls for exorcisms from not only Catholics, but also from followers of other faiths.

"How often?" I ask.

"I would say probably one out of 10."

Thomas says there are about 50 Catholic exorcists in the United States, and that’s not nearly enough.  He’d like to see one exorcist in every parish.  But until that day, he does not mind explaining over and over what exorcisms are really all about.

“It's a healing ministry.  It's not hocus pocus.  It's not smoke and mirrors.  It's not magic. But I think if we don't respond to people who come in their very troubling moments, I think it diminishes us as a church."

Despite all that Hollywood has done to mythologize exorcisms, he still believes in the power of this rite, a power born not of fear, but of faith.

CNN's Eric Marrapodi and Katie Ross contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Devil • Mass • Movies • Vatican

soundoff (1,247 Responses)
  1. Seenen

    The majority of Americans do not believe in evolution but 40% believe in angels and demons. (The same?) 40% believe in UFOs and ghosts. And these people all get to vote. That's scarier than an exorcism.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Well said my friend.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • pat carr

      very well said. i am sorry to say the land of the "Free" is a backwards religious state

      March 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • XxAdamJxX

      Too bad you're so close minded

      March 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • dsallen

      I like how the prospect of UFOs is so hilarious while at the same time Richard Dawkins believes Earth could have been seeded with life by aliens, and that's considered a legitimate theory.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • mike

      Hey pat...there are religious nuts everywhere.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • JohnR

      @dsallen Not every "non-believer" is fond of Richard Dawkins. I* consider him too much of an egotistical showman to take very seriously outside his specialty in evolutionary theory, and he has more than a few critics AMONG evolutionary theorists. (*In interest of full disclosure, I am not an atheist. I would best characterize my positions as "not sure whether or not I should be agnostic." 🙂 But my recoil from simply embracing agnosticism is an attraction to animism, not atheism.)

      March 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Colin

      DSalle. Simple, there is no credible evidence that flaying saucers exist, and as such the theory does not merit serious attention unless/until some is adduced. The "seeding theory" is (as I am sure Dawkins would admit) hugely speculative, but is nevertheless a possible source of life on Earth.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  2. chop

    "There is no Devil, only God when he's drunk" – Tom Waits

    March 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Paulie

      Not funny

      March 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Tom

      Totally funny!

      March 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • pat carr

      it IS funny

      March 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Michelle

      That's kinda funny but only in the sense that the devil is nothing more than ancient mythology, as is virgin birth and resurrection.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • George Washington Hayduke III

      Wrong! Funny as all get out! Let the sanctimonious and their witchdoctors get over themselves and their Tribal Mythologies before they kill us all in some glorious holy war-induced madness.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • mike

      Funny, and what if it were true? Two sides of the same coin...yin-yang and all that...

      But that's what we're all talking about here, isn't it? The manifestation of humanity's need to classify everything as "light vs. dark", "good vs evil", etc. It's all fantasy rooted in a common psychological quirk residing in our brains.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • JohnR

      Actually, just plain not very funny. Not offensive to anyone who doesn't deserve it, but just lame.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  3. george in texas

    give me a catholic, i will do a dexorcism on him and turn him into a rational human being.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Teresa

      Actually doesn't even follow the bible

      March 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • mike

      Why only Catholics? There is lunacy in all religion. The "Big Three" are all rooted in the same fantasy.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Steve

      Ok George in Texas. Maybe we should all follow you instead of God? Guess again. And i guess you are going to say, "we should be our own person and follow nobody". I'll race you to the grave my friend, hope you don't get there soon, you just never know when because, YOU HAVE SUCH VERY LTTLE CONTROL OVER YOUR LIFE. If we don't follow Jesus, we are truely lost.
      Sincerely,
      Rational Catholic
      PS. Remember your teachers in the past, the ones who were extremely rational and FAITHFUL! You are not that special to go against your ancestors who had true faith, and were FULL OF LOVE. Come now

      March 8, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  4. billy

    Seizure-like behaivior? Like the kind of seizures you get from malnutrition? Like when you've been strapped to a bed for days or weeks with no food or water besides communion? Must be the devil.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  5. Dan

    ..."as surely as a person can summon God through prayer, through other rituals, the devil can be called, too". Technically that's correct, they're both fairy tales.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  6. veronica

    If you don't believe in this stuff that is fine but you should not mock it that is not a good idea. THis stuff is scary

    March 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Tom

      It's not scary at all. It's Freddie Kruger, Jason and Chucky. Pure fiction.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  7. Ok...

    Don't believe any of this. Just another guy saying he does something for some fame.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  8. EvilPersonified

    Faith is the last bastion of true ignorance. Organized religion is the single greatest evil ever perpetrated on the human species. Proud to be raising my kids as atheists so that they learn from the beginning to think for themselves and never be afraid to stand up and ask questions and challenge all conventional belief systems. The Catholic in-laws call me "Evil Personified" and refuse to even speak to me or my wife (their daughter) or their own grandkids, just because we don't believe the same fairy tale hocus locus jumbo jumbo that they do. How's that for Christian love? LOL.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Colin

      Well done. I once had a date tell me she would "never be with an atheist". I told her the next morning (she was pretty hot).

      March 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Stunned

      EvilPersonified,

      I'm sure you know that you and your family are better off without the "Delusion Personified" in-laws in your life.

      Best regards to you.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Stunned

      Colin,

      I dunno... that you could consider a delusional person "hot" is kinda strange. I could not relate to, or with, such a one.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • mike

      Better to raise your children to just be agnostics who don't bother with such things. Militant atheism is as much a waste of time as fundamentalist religion. The entire discussion is wasteful.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Whatever

      Atheism is just another evangelical belief system, and is just as reliant on faith as religion. You can't disprove that God exists because if it exists, it's outside of our observable system – therefore, the only logical answer to whether or not God exists is to say "I don't know".

      Once you grow up (and mellow out) you'll realize that agnosticism is where it's at.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • pat carr

      Good for you EvilP. Stand up for what is right. The catholics should be so ashamed as not even to speak, after the centuries of horrors they have inflicted on us.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Colin

      @Stunned. The rack my friend, the rack. you would be surprised how willingly I will subordinate my staunch atheism to the overwhelming pleasures of the y chromosone. Not very admirable, I'll admit, but I once took a stand with a georgeous, but delusional Texan with a 10 chest, and have regretted it ever since.

      No, my friend, I am far from perfect when it comes to the girls.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • John

      @Whatever Sorry the maybe god exist maybe he doesn't argument doesn't work for me. Not anymore, not when the real evangelicals want to create a theocracy in this country. Sorry I won't ideally stand by and flip-flop on the existence of supernatural beings. Plus it is not the Atheists who need to prove anything. We make no claims of absolute authority on any subject. Everything is open as long as their is evidence and that evidence can tested over and over again with same out come each time.

      March 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Abacus

      Amen to mike and Whatever. Atheism is intellectually flawed. Often atheists pick apart a strain or two of religion (or as often, pick up a few clever and quotable lines from media-ready atheists), and say they've proven God doesn't exist. Hence the strikingly similar defensiveness and self-righteousness militant atheists share with militant believers. Neither is really open to information.

      March 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  9. Deepak SnakeOilPra

    Unbelievable that people still fall for con artists and frauds like this schmuck.

    There is no god people, the church is the biggest ponzi scheme of all time.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Teresa

      Why do you say there is not a God, I can understand about the church yeah what a crock

      March 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • mike

      Teresa, of course it's almost impossible to disprove something that can only be taken on faith.

      Then again, why would you say there is no "Flying Spaghetti Monster"?

      The burden of proof is not on the deniers, it's on the believers.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  10. AsayaYeahyas

    If they would quit playing with the children they would not have "demons". Exorcism is an excuse to hypnotize their victims to keep them quiet.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  11. Maria Shield

    Read your Bibles! Demons recognize and cannot abide holiness! They flee from it. All true Christians have received the Holy Spirit who resides within them from the second they accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Now that the Holy Spirit lives within a true Christian, NO demon can enter in to possess that person! If it were any different, God would not be sovereign.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • AsayaYeahyas

      BS

      March 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • CNR

      Does the Holy Spirit enter the very second or millisecond after conversion? Can't the demons be faster? What if they beat the holy spirit? How do you know?

      The bible leaves a lot of questions unanswered given the stakes that it raises are so high.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      AsayaYeahyas

      It's not BS, but it's quite true. It's those who are dead in their sins and trangressions who are available for possession. In fact, the bible says that as long as they are unbelievers they are used by Satan according to his desires. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

      March 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • mike

      So, dunking a baby in magic water keeps invisible goblins from getting inside, because the room is already leased out to Santa.

      Got it.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Godless

      "In fact, the bible says that..."

      And here is where your argument lost any validity....

      March 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  12. george in texas

    so, now vatican is going to offer a solution (exorcism) to a contrived problem. sounds vatican, alright. before you accept anything from vatican, remember vatican has a history of having killed millions over the course of history. its sins will never wash no matter how well laundered white robes they wear.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  13. Colin

    You know, a bit of reflection reveals that believing in this childish "monster" nonsense is not totally different to believing in the "good fairy" nonsense of god, angels, saints etc. Same superst-ition, just different parts of it.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Drew

      What's to say that all that is nonsense? "the center of science was as nihilistic as a psychopath’s sense of God"-Norman Mailer. Science is nonsense too!

      March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  14. Newshound

    digitalheadlines dot net, check it out for your daily headlines!

    March 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  15. MustObeyRichardDawkins

    Well look at that all the smug internet atheists are out in force. Can't have anything written about religion not on my internet! You guys are seriously the most annoying people in the world and give us regular atheists and agnostics a bad name.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Colin

      Sorry, my friend, but if we don't speak out against superst-ition and dogma, who will. If we say nothing, next thing you know Presidential candidates will believe in creation and there will be attempts to stop teaching evolution in schools.

      Oh hell, I'm too late!!

      March 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      1. You claim to be an atheist.
      2. You're posting on the Internet.
      3. Ergo, you're an internet atheist. You're one of us.

      Except you're not. You're pretending to be one to cry foul and lump us in with your delusions. Nice try.

      We are at war against ignorance and hocus pocus that results in death and misery every single day. Children being born with HIV in Africa because the church forbids c0ndoms. Holy wars that result in hundreds dead every day. School education under siege where scientific method plays backseat to thousands of years of mis-translated fairy tales.

      You bet I'm angry. You should be too.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  16. C+

    if you have doubts about heaven or hell, there are 2 books that everyone needs to read. One is by Bill Wiese called, "23 Minutes in Hell" which tells of his account after death (who didn't believe in God) and how he woke up in Hell! The second is "23 minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper which the author dies in a terrible car accident and wakes up in heaven. they both desribe very vividly their experiences and both have very profound insights in to what takes place after death. There are many ohter people who have given an account of the same experiences that these 2 individuals have experienced.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      that's "90 mins in heaven"

      March 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      Remember the biblical account of the rich man and lazarus. The rich man goes to hell and begs God to send him back to warn his family. God replies that they had the prophets of old to warn them. If they didn't believe them, they wouldn't believe if a man rose from the dead.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • C+

      you're absolutley correct. It is "90 minutes in heaven". Please pardon the typo!!

      March 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Colin

      Really. After 10 minutes on google, I bet I could point yo u100s of books by Mormons, Scientologists, Hindus, Jains, buddhists, Muslims and Jews all claiming after life experiences consistent with their respective faiths. These alleged personal experiences are as worthless as the mainstream christian ones.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Double B

      Well then, that must make it "true"....excuse me for having another thought. What a dimwit

      March 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • JohnR

      If you are going to believe this "life after life" accounts, at least be honest and admit that people who found themselves going to heaven weren't all evangelical Christians.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  17. Charles P.

    It's amazing how so many unbelievers bank on their unbelief being the truth! Stop ridiculing what you don't understand. After all, what if the 1% chance that you are wrong turn out to be just that when all is said and done?

    March 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Tom

      That's not a problem. There's a 0% chance.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • ray

      Well Tom, if you don't know how to pray, than at least start praying that you are in fact right...

      March 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Zamiel

      I love this argument. "What if you're wrong?"

      OK. So suppose there is a God, and suppose there is an afterlife. Are you saying that an omniscient God is stupid enough to be fooled by someone who only *pretends* to believe "just in case"?

      Look... Either you believe, or you don't. If God were real, you couldn't fake him out by pretending to believe just to cover all your bases. I think He'd know.

      What's more, if he's omnipotent and omniscient, then not only would he know, but He would have known how I think and feel about His existence since the beginning of time; He would have known before I was ever even brought into existence.

      That's what "omniscient" and "omnipotent" mean. He knows EVERYTHING, EVER. If He knows everything that ever will be, then my not believing in Him is not only no surprise to Him... It's how He planned it.

      Think about that.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Tom

      It's a fact. I don't pray.... what a waste of time.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • pat carr

      that known as "pascal's wager" and is a very poor argument. what if thor was right? odin? you better believe i will ridicule the abusive and destructive cult known as christianity.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Rob

      @Zamiel Very good point. We all need to question our own views of God using rational non-emotional logic. For instance, why in the world would I want to worship a God who would torture anyone forever and ever. I may joke for instance that Hitler deserves to be tortured forever, but honestly, no one deserves that.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • standingwave

      @Pat Carr,we can't know if Odin or Thor was right because Christians slaughtered all their followers if they wouldn't convert to Christianity.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  18. Tom McLaughlin

    There is no such thing as a person "possessed" by something supernatural. Therefore, exorcisms are pure theatre.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Drew

      Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you had a complete and comprehensive understanding of how the world and the human psyche operate

      March 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • CinC

      It must be nice to have all the answers. I thought there was still some things in this universe that we didn't understand. It's nice to know you've got it all covered.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • ray

      one of my best friends is a retired catholic priest, he's also one of the brightest people I've ever know,, It's interesting to note that you wont hear him dismissing the notion of possession.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • R Burns

      Maybe it's one of those moments you have to experience before you can join in the conversation. Like reading the Bible. Unless you read it, you can't comment. With possession or presentation of demonic presence in the environment, unless you've had that happen how can you judge those who need to converse about the experience? I've had two moments in my life when it was obvious that demons were about. In one case I remembered a paragraph from the Bible that helped in calling for spiritual help against a spiritual foe. It wasn't easy, but it worked and brought in the presence of God to drive it out. Several years later a lesser demon who had been bothering a family member presented itself to me and I felt confident to cast it out with the other experience under my belt. Neither instance was a full possession, but very real nonetheless. The resolution was terrifying and clearly demonstrated the power of God.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • John

      @ray why would your friend dismiss the notion possession. He is part of the reason that notion exists today. Also you should widen your circle of friends if he is the brightest person you know. I would say a man who has spent his life a virgin is not very bright.

      March 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  19. mars25

    i can dig this. people always dodge religion or anything that has to do with god . when really what if? these things need to be brought up. truth is there is good and evil everybody knows that..so wouldnt it be possible that theres a hell and promise land. ive always questioned god and the devil..but when you hit a "j" and take a break from the fast pace life. think about evrything.we have jackd up this world in last 50yr than ever(devils wrking hard!!these days). its really crazy the world we live in. chief up think about smaller things and youll appreciate it more. good job thomas!!

    March 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • pat carr

      no religion doesn't need to be brought up. it needs to be buried and forgotten

      March 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  20. Donna

    WOW! For you non-believers I shall pray that our Lord in his infinite wisdom and mercy shall forgive your small mindedness and accept you as His own.
    There is life after death, there is a heaven. I have experienced it first hand over 11 years ago. It makes life here even more difficult because I want to go back there, but yet I have to wait until He calls my name. But I also learned not to sweat the small things as they really don't matter. I also learned that those that don't believe will never hear tHis voice for their ears and minds are both sealed shut to the truth.

    March 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • andrew.peter

      what's your story sister?

      March 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Tom

      If I hear his voice, I'll get to a psychiatrist quickly, as you obviously should have done years ago.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • richunix

      What is his name (please other than tiles like LORD, GOD...etc) ?

      March 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Colin

      Soooo, you died 11 years ago and went to heaven, hey? Get help, Donna, get help now. From a real shrink, not someone like Fr. thomas, who, I suspect, is nuttier than you.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Donna Don't bother. I doubt you have any "pull" anyway.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Zamiel

      No. What you experienced was your brain entering a state similar to sleep paralysis or lucid dreaming. It's a defense mechanism caused by extreme trauma, and from what we understand it's the brain' s way of comforting itself as you slip from life or experience terrible pain and/or fear.

      I'm sorry you were so brainwashed by those who pushed religion on to you to be able to differentiate mental trauma from fearie tales, but there is no afterlife. When you die, you're just gone. You cease to exist.

      Stop being so terrified of that fact, and maybe you can eventually let go of childish stories about magic and living forever.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Jesus

      It is not small mindedness to reject religion. These fairy tales have been forced down the throats of our species for thosands of years now. No I think you have to have a pretty big mind to dispel religion. Evolution, chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics – all of these take some serious brain power to understand.
      Talk to yourself if you must (I mean prey) if anyone answers ytou then you are crazy.

      March 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • pat carr

      Save it Donna. I left the cult known as christianity over 10 yeas ago. no devils, no demons no god. It's all just made up crapola. I'm very sorry that my parents pushed me into it and i lost a lot of time i can never get back

      March 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Eric R.

      All you have said is very true. God is real. Jesus is real. All Jesus spoke of is coming to pass. I have had certain experiences (not enough space here for them), that have proven beyond all doubt that there is more going on than what we can experience with our limited bodies of flesh. Science is an invaluable methodology by which we learn, but it still can't explain human consciousness. It also can't explain how nothing, can become something, just given a few billion years(the universe). Face it people, we were engineered and created by a being that has so much understanding and power that it is mind blowing. No amount of pointing and laughing is going to change the fact. Everybody, just be sure you seriously consider what Jesus said of being saved before you die.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • CNR

      If you claim something cannot come from nothing and that God created the universe, then who made God?

      March 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Oh, Donna, please get professional help soon, and not from a priest or clergyperson. I mean a real psych work-up. You appear deeply misinformed and more than a little troubled.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Eric R.

      @CNR, I have asked this very same question. I wished I had an answer for you, but I don't. It would be like me trying to explain how the universe came to be.....it boils down to God being of a nature that we simply can't understand. God makes reference that he is the Alpha and the Omega....if that is true, then he is everlasting(because if you are the beginning and the end...that makes you everything...or at least the very source of everything).

      March 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Eric R. – I would love to view and evaluate your evidence. It sounds very compelling. Would you please grace us with your findings and proof? But remember, your evidence must be verifiable and repeatable. Anecdotes and scripture are not evidence. Anecdotes and scripture are fascinating stories, some with parables, and nothing more.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Colin

      @EricR I believe in Leprechauns.

      I know there is not a lot of evidence to support my beliefs, but that is just the point. The Leprechaun King wants us to have “faith,” so he never reveals himself. To make an unambiguous appearance and settle once and for all the question of his existence would deprive us of free will and, even though he is all knowing, he would not know who his true believers were.

      In fact, I believe that the Leprechaun King is “beyond understanding”. He is “outside the Universe” and any time I am faced with something about my Leprechaun belief that makes no sense, I don’t dare question it, I just close my mind and tell myself that "the Leprechaun King moves in mysterious ways" or that my mind is too small to understand the greatness of the Leprechaun King. After all, he says he is the Alpha and the Omega. These are satisfying answers to me.

      Some people, called “atheists,” are skeptical of my belief in the Leprechaun King. They point out many inherent contradictions and unsupported assumptions that underwrite my belief in Leprechauns. But, they can’t prove he doesn’t exist, so he must exist. They also can't definitively explain where the Universe came from or how life on Earth first started, so it must be the Leprechaun King.

      And so what! Even if I am wrong, and go my whole life believing in nonexistent Leprechauns, I have lost nothing. However, if they are wrong, the Leprechaun King will send them to hell to burn forever in the presence of the Evil Ground Troll. Am I convincing you to believe in Leprechauns yet?

      March 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Drew

      Wow you all seem to have a lot of "faith" in science, and since your type likes to point out all the harm done by religion, I could do the exact same with science. Nazism and Stalinism both sprang from the materialistic concepts of the enlightenment. Not to mention capitalism, which is possibly more dehumanizing than either of them. Thinkers a lot wiser than you have been believers, do you really think they failed to "understand" science? Maybe they understood it better than you all.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Eric R.

      Consider that buildings and cars don't build themselves. The same is true for me, yourself, and this universe. We(humans), by far, are the most advanced piece of technology on this Earth....even computers pale in comparison to what we can do and think. Our level of complexity does not "just happen" at random. We were engineered and that means that there is an Engineer behind us.....God has communicated to us that he is the Engineer. You can accept him or reject him, the decision is yours to make. Choose wisely!

      March 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Disappointed American

      I've had a dream that I died too, but I didn't go to heaven or see any hell. I remained a spirit and could wander the beautiful earth eternally. To be honest, I liked that dream. Why waste your life trying to get into some fairy tale happy land when you could enjoy the life you have on this earth? People are just so greedy - one life is all you need.

      March 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.