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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. george in texas

    let's send jesus back to jerusalem and islam back to mecca.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  2. Ian

    consider this

    if everything that happens is gods will and it is predetermined then what is the point of praying?

    noting you pray about or wish for (because essentially thats what it is.. a wish) will ever come about BECAUSE you wished for it but because god already decided from the beginning it would be that way.nothing will change gods mind as to what he will do. And by that logic, satan and all he has done is GODS fault since he knew this would happen.

    justify your false god all you want. Praying does nothing if by your own claims e he has a divine plan for each and every one of us.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  3. Shamrock6

    How can belief create two opposing yet very concrete realities? How can you explain two people looking at the same glass of water and one believes it is half-empty and the other believes it is half-full? Aren't they both correct according to their beliefs? How could anyone prove either of them wrong? You can't. It's because your beliefs create the reality that you experience and it's the same for everyone else in the world. It's the same reason certain people experience poverty while others experience wealth. Your beliefs. If you believe in the devil I have no doubt he exists in your world and can harm you. If you do not believe in it how can you prove otherwise? Belief is very strong. It has created everything around you – everything you see, feel and touch...it was created through belief.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  4. InFaMoUsLy_AgNoStIc

    God just needs to show himself to the World.. that would end all doubt, wouldnt it...

    March 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  5. george in texas

    that the middle eastern scams, aka christainty and islam, still exist in america shows we have along way to go on high school education in science and math. if it is not oil, we don't want it.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  6. think about it

    'Physician, heal thyself' as the saying goes. Why not start with exocising the evil from the abusive Catholic priests who prey on young children?

    March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  7. Ian

    consider this

    if everything that happens is gods will and it is predetermined then what is the point of praying?

    noting you pray about or wish for (because essentially thats what it is.. a wish) will ever come about BECAUSE you wished for it but because god already decided from the beginning it would be that way.nothing will change gods mind as to what he will do. And by that logic, satan and all he has done is GODS

    March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  8. Joe - Providence

    Funny we can't comment on this story "The rich still buying homes" which is something that actually matter's but we can comment on this “FLUFF” story all day long. Thanks CNN for finding ways to distract us from what's the real evil in the world – GREED.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Jimmer

    MustObeyRichardDawkins
    100% of internet atheists are atheists only because they are raging against mommy and daddy who made them take a bible class when they were younger. Take that mom that will show you to make me consume the holy spirit!!

    Best.. Post.. Ever.. Couldn't be more right.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Jimmer – I'm an agnostic, not an atheist. And one of the reasons is that my parents didn't force me to go to church and be brainwashed practically from birth to believe in those old myths. They let me make up my own mind, which I did, based on science and logic and reason, not on old myths written thousands of years ago.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  10. SB

    What century is this? I could have sworn it was the 21st. Listen, if your loved one is showing signs of "demonic possession", please do that person a tremendous favor and call a doctor. Medical science saves.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • But Seriously

      No. There are thousands of things medical science has yet to solve. If somebody came into the ER with possession symptoms these days (seizing, vomiting, speaking in guttural/ancient tongues, bending limbs into absurd and anatomically impossible positions) they would be given a horse tranquilizer, a Prozac, and told to see a shrink/go home and get some rest.

      I'm sure that would help immensely. Yes, the wonders of Modern Medicine truly are incredible.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  11. george in texas

    i would hope the americans are too smart to fall for middle eastern scams, aka christainty and islam. if it is not oil, we don't want it.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  12. darkstar

    There is no such thing as demonic possessions and exorcisms are nothing more than bogus acts that have been totally refuted by science and rationality. Please grow up.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Peter Pan

      I don't wanna grow up!!!!

      March 8, 2011 at 5:04 am |
  13. Reality

    Casting out demons in the ancient world was equivalent to eliminating a fever. (G. Ludemann, Jesus After 2000 Years). Could it be that JB and Jesus found a natural occurring aspirin? Ahh, the magic of first century healers and witch doctors!!!---–

    Then there is this observation:

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead, expelled devils etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

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

      He raised the spirit not the physical. If you read the bible you would know, the flesh counts for nothing, slso in the bible, sounds like your a bit touches

      March 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      People that blindly accept ancient myths are a bit touched.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  14. Nicole

    Whether or not you believe in this, that is your opinion. However, based on the comments presented here, it seems as if no has any respect for anyone else's beliefs. I am a devout Christian and believe in God and that there is a Devil. People think that demonic possession doesn't happen, or that spirits can't play with your mind, etc...and that is your opinion; however, I truly believe that it does happen and probably more often that it is talked about.

    People often like to deny that this happens because they are afraid it may happen to them. Just because you don't believe in it, doesn't mean that Satan won't target you. If you've seen the movie, Anthony Hopkins character makes that same claim. I posted earlier that Satan wants you to believe he isn't real, but he is. He wants you to think that God is made up by man and that there is no Hell or Heaven, but there is.

    I'm not here to try and convert anyone, but only to share my opinion...just as many of you are doing. Whenever the last days occur (whenever that may be), I will feel more as ease knowing that I gave my life over to God. I would hate to think that I spent my life pushing away the one person who matters most. I don't know any human being who would forgive and forget all of my sins, who would welcome me back with open arms after years of rebellion and shameful ways; who would allow me to cast every burden I carry upon them so that I don't have to carry it with me. God does all of that. Satan will try to make your burdens heavier...making you feel alone and worthless. Why would anyone want to feel that way?

    This is all my opinion and you don't have to agree with me. I've learned over time that throwing stones and casting insults get you nowhere with people; but reasonable conversations do.

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

      Nicole, the problem is, you are likely so haunted by grotesque nonsense and superst-itions that it is pointless trying to reason with you. I can only hope you do not have children to continue this Dark Ages nonsense.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Nicole

      Yet Colin, you seem to spread nothing but insult and hate towards those who believe different from you. What makes you right and myself wrong? It seems as if you WANT people to challenge you so that you may continue your insults and comments–all of which seem to have no real point.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Legitimate Question

      You say that you believe in God so there must be a Devil. What if you don't believe in God?

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

      If you worshipped God you would follow his commands and statues which are found in the old testament, the commandments, and feast, then you wouldn't have fear the devil.a.k.a evil, because they are really worthless and they do not like sentence

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

      Nicole, sadly, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that perish. But I wanted to support you and agree that Christians must provide calm and careful debate, even if the blind cannot receive it. It provides a soothing balm to the rabid rhetoric.

      See you here, there, or in the air!

      D.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      I don't "worship" anything. Least of all an invisible, mythological, supernatural being in the sky. If there were an all powerful being why would he/she/it want to be worshipped and praised and glorified and prayed to, etc. etc. Is he/she/it insecure? Arrogant? A megalomaniac? Sorry, it's just old myths from thousands of years ago. Get a brain.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • BullzFan

      Nicole, everything that you stated as being your opinion is just that: your opinion. There is absolutely, positively no proof at all, whatsoever, for what you believe in. However, if you want to continue to believe in it, go right ahead. I prefer to use my brain and live in something called reality.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Why should people have respect for ignorance and stupidity? They shouldn't. They should oppose it at every opportunity.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Tom

      I don't beleive in the devil. There is no such thing. How cannot believing in a thing that doesn't exist make it stronger? Maybe in your world, my not believing in the devil makes your imaginary devil stronger in your mind. But since he's not real, how can he be stronger? Do you not see the fundamental flaw in your logic. There is no devil. Not believing in him puts no one in danger, myself and you included. It's not real.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Nicole

      Luis...do you harbor the same feelings towards Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc...? It seems to me that people who believe like you, only target Christians. You say that there is no proof that God exists...where is your proof that he doesn't exist?

      March 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • sadie

      Nicole I agree completely with your post.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Nicole – ALL religions are just old myths form thousands of years ago. All of the gods worshipped throughout history would fille 10 football stadiums. But of course YOUR god is the only real one. Stop wallowing in your fantasy world and use logic and reason instead of blindly accepting old myths. Christian mythology is the one being discussed here. But I find them all equally insulting and ridiculous.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Nicole

      I feel very sorry for you that you have no friends or family who would stand by you if they knew the worst. I do not have close relationships with people I cannot trust to accept me as I am. I do not need nor believe in a sky God created by stone age humans in order to feel accepted. My close friends are those who have been with me over a lifetime when I failed and when I flourished. They are the ones who forgive me and encourage me. I believe that Jesus told his followers to be this way with each other.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Nicole

      CalgarySandy...It's not that I don't have amazing parents, an great sister and unbelieveable friends–I do and I am beyond blessed to have them in my life. I know without a doubt that my parents would forgive me for whatever I have done in my past; however, what I meant is that, as humans...it is often more difficult to forgive and forget, to accept others who have pushed you away, or to offer to help those who need helping. God does all of that, not man. God can look at your slate as wiped clean when you repent; however, man often does not.

      March 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  15. Andy

    ‘I don’t do them on demand.’”

    You don't do them at all. You cannot "exorcise" something that does not exist.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  16. Daniel

    Fr. Thomas says fully 80% of the people he meets claiming demonic possession have actually suffered some kind of abuse. So it's NOT a devil but a real, live human who inflicted this psycho-emotional damage on the victim(s)! The other 20% may well have been caused by experiencing catechism classes in parochial schools.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  17. Curious Christian

    I've always found it interesting that the church would allow, eve, tell its people that there is such a thing as the Devil. Looking at things logically one would think such a request would borderline heresy. Because if you think about it the New Testiment states how God is all loving, all forgiving, etc etc, and that there is no one equal in power to God. HOWEVER, to say there is a devil means someone/something had to have created him. To say that God created the devil contradicts the "all loving" image the church proclaims, or at the very least if you go by the legend of Lucifer as a fallen angel becomming the Devil, then the story at least contradicts God's all knowingness (Why after all would he create something that he knew would become evil). But at the same time to say that God didnt create the devil and that the devil has been around as long as God is to suggest that there is someone equal to God in power (God has the power to create life while the Devil has power to create evil).
    I believe in God as much as any Christian, Jew, or Muslim, but I dont believe there is a Devil.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • raelalt

      Dude, we are talkin' religion here, why are you bringing up logic?

      March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • idiocracy82

      To those of us that are faithful, the answer is as simple as gravity- what goes up must come down. There can be no good without evil, no light without darkness, etc. Personally, I believe in God, which to my own definition means that by default, I believe in the Devil. You cannot have one without the other. I believe that the devil is a real thing, that does not mean I chose to worship him.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Curious Christian

      I just find it curious as all. That and why Catholics make a big deal about one god & Jesus Christ yet allow their people to pray to Mary and other saints. To me it's just one of those odd things, you know, and I just find the argument behind the existance of the devil facinating.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      The devil is just a mythological figure made up to keep people in line. Hell is just ancient people attempting to explain volcanic activity. If people used science, logic and reason instead of blindly accepting multi-mellinia-old myths, it would be obvious to them.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • sadie

      Then you haven't read the bible thoroughly. The devil wasn't always evil. He was an angel created by God who decided that he wanted to do Gods job so he was kicked out. Gid is more powerful but dont be mistaken, there are evil things working in this world.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • raelalt

      "here are evil things working in this world."
      .
      And that would be Justin Bieber.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Sadie – I read the bible from cover to cover, both the old testament and the new. I found it to be entertaining, but just silly old myths for the most part. And of course that's exactly what it is. Old myths, written thousands of years ago by members of a bronze-age civilization. No different than hundreds of other old myths.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      You might ask why gave humans free will but already knows which ones will make the cut and which will go to the hot spot. Freewill is a stickler as it is a gift we are only to use in way, for god and the church, knowing it might be a waste of time if we are not one of the one's who will get in heaven's gate. Why does god stick a tree in the garden that the human's are not too eat and make a big production out of it? In the area of law that would be called entrapment.

      I was told that god sets things in our paths (stumbling blocks) to test our faith and trip us up. I thought that indicated a nasty individual when I was a child. I still do.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      God consorted with the Devil. Read the book of Job where poor old Job, who was a seriously godly man, was horribly tormented and had everything he had worked for and cared about taken away so that God could prove his power over the Devil. It was this kind of thing that sent me fleeing the Baptist Church that I had been raised in. I just cannot reconcile the vile behavior of God and the Church, any monotheistic church, with the idea of a loving God.

      If God knows all he must have known when he created Lucifer that things would badly. So why did he create him and allow Lucifer to mess with humans? If it isn't bunk it is just too obnoxious to be tolerated? If God needs to allow this so he can see that some will worship him then he is extremely petty. I am with the god in Monty Python: Stop sniveling. I hate sniveling.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Adrian

      Curious Christian,

      I'm glad you're thinking about this issue critically. I have two questions:

      1. Why is Satan non-existent if he is talked about hundreds of times across the bible in both Testaments? Seems like to deny the existence of Satan is to deny the inerrancy of the Bible, which then would cause everything to crumble. Not sure how you can be a Christian (i.e., follower of Christ and God’s teachings through the Bible) but not believe in the existence of Satan. If you say Satan doesn’t exist, aren’t you in effect saying you don’t believe parts of the Bible? If so, are you really a Christian? And if Satan didn’t exist, then what was the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross?

      2. How does God being loving mean that Satan doesn’t exist? The existence of Satan does not mean the absence of God’s love. The love of God is manifested by the simple fact that each and everyone one of us DESERVES death because we have sinned against him, but in his LOVE, he has allowed us to continue living and in effect given us a second chance (or more like third, fourth, millionth) chance to repent, turn back to him, and have a chance to spend eternity with him. That to me is love.

      If there wasn’t evil, how would we know good? At that point, everything would be the same – just plain vanilla. Nothing’s hot or cold, fun or boring, up or down. It’s all the same. By ALLOWING evil to occur (which is different from CREATING evil with intention of causing pain for the sake of pain), God shows us love by giving us something to which we can compare good, so we know much more how good God really is.

      March 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  18. george in texas

    exorcism was banned by vatican. and now it is bringing it back? what gives?

    March 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  19. Praetorian

    So, we take people who are obviously suffering from severe mental illness, physical sickness, or both, call them 'posessed', and call in a priest to cast out the 'demon'. Sounds like something from the days when we assigned deities to the weather because we had no means of understanding it. Maybe what all the pedophile priests should use as an excuse is..wait for it..
    THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!

    March 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Joe

      People who are severely mentally ill or sick are weeded out. They wouldn't be cured by an exorcism anyway.

      And it's funny how the people who are positive it isn't real don't see that they're as bad as the people who are positive it does happen. It sounds like the old "is the earth round" debate.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Joe, it has no resemblance to the is the Earth round debate. We KNOW the Earth is round because we can measure it, see it from space, etc. etc. etc. There is observational scientific evidence that it's round (or nearly so). But there is no evidence whatever for an invisible, supernatural being in the sky, nor for one below the ground. It's just old myths written thousands of years ago by members of a bronze age civilization. I think I'll stick with science rather than old myths thank you.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Try reading the article again with the chip off your shoulder. He makes it very clear that there is a long process to determine if it is a possession including psychological help. I don't believe in any of this but I do believe in reading critically before shooting my mouth off. As others DO believe it I accept that they do and that if I wish to understand them and their world I have to actually pay attention.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  20. Ania

    @ Donna 11yrs ago u have gone to heaven? and now u wish to go back, wht stopping you? I mean all you religious ppl say that heaven is great well if its so great GO THERE. Why wait for the call? If ur GOD forgives all then he will forgive u for checking in ealry? RIGHT?
    How can any of you say that GOD is real when none of you have saw him none of you have touched him, and plz dont say that u feel him inside and thats how you kno. If your god was so real and powerful why is he OK with this world being so destructive, lil kids getting molested by priests, kids getting killed by thier parents, drugs, war ETC ....... You guys have a funny god that u pray to everynight. I was born and raised a catholic, once i actually got some brains realized that religion is destructive. For example my catholic church would look at ppl of other color in a weird way, my ex church was filled with whites that didnt accept other races in there. How is this OK? in any way. OR how my priest told me "Im lucky that today he is having a good day" and that he will allow me to baptise my son in his church even tho i wasnt married (but married now to my sons father). How is ok that the garages for the nuns and priests are filled with BMW's LEXUS's Range Rovers and im driving a 97 subaru thats falling apart and my ex church would keep notes on how much $$$$ each person would give to the church and then send you a notice in the mail saying YOUR NOT GIVING ENOUGH!!!! When u baptise, or got married in my ex church you had to give the priest a "tip" few hundred bucks for services in a envelope at the end of the service. WHY? The funny part is when i was younger i wanted to be a nun i slept with the bible and read it every night. That all has changed with unexplained stories. Religion isnt magic so why does it sound like it? This isnt to bash religion but i think more ppl should rly look into instead of just believing. And Why do we have so many GODS? every race, nationality has a GOD? ALL THESE GODS and the world is falling apart? DId the gods go on vacation? Maby they are visiting a diffrent planet? OR maby just maby there is no GOD maby just maby this whole religion thing is to make ppl feel secure in some kind of weird way, and maby this religion thing has became more a business then religion and MABY just maby more and more ppl are realizing it. Go try knocking on the door of the church when u loose or job or home and ask them for help. The chances are they wont hlep you, they will pray for you. But if you havent noticed 1000 hands in prayer dont do crap, but if you took those 1000 hands and cooked or cleaned up the city or helped other, you would def see some sort of result.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • PulTab

      glad to see you escaped from the catholick cult.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Teresa

      By the way catholic dont follow God they do their own thing

      March 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Michael

      The problem with your argument is that you're assimilating the faults of man with being God's fault. All of those things that you mentioned were things man have done, not God. By no means am I saying that I am a christian or atheist; those two groups have a tendency to have the dumbest followers but what I am saying is that the problems you have listed all seem to be problems of man/problems of evil and all of these problems can be dealt with a philosophical manner. You can say that because bad things happen in the world, it allows for good things to happen; without the bad you can't have the good. Or to try and answer the question of "if God is a good God (omni-benevolent) then why does he let these things happen?" Well you can say that what is ultimately best is for God not to intervene and to let us figure out how to be just and ethical on our own but who knows? I certainly do not.

      P.S. work on your grammer

      March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Prankster

      Very well said!

      March 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • dmm

      Dear Ania, I am so sorry that you have been so hurt by the church. Your pain is clear in your post. But the church isn't God; churches are filled with imperfect people who make mistakes. I pray that you find healing, forgiveness, and peace.

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

      Ania,

      I wish everyone's as smart as you are! I mean it 🙂

      March 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • JJ

      wow, really?

      March 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      You sound like someone with no education and, thus, someone not worth reading because of your terrible English. Who wants to wade through that cr@p?

      March 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • njt

      Ania – I hear you – but as a convert to Catholicism some 40 years ago after 30 years of "drifting" ... I would like you to investigate other parishes ... and read your Bible .... there are good people and bad people in ALL walks of life – and society as a whole has never been a very good guide for humanity .... from the days Jesus walk on our earth. God Bless ... Peace ... and Shalom.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Stef

      I feel sorry for you and your (and others') very uninformed comments. Too bad, many people prefer drugs and alcohol than God. May you be saved.

      March 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Stef – Your imaginary god is the same as drugs. The opiate of the masses. Wallow in your fantasy world and have fun with your invisible friend. Just don't try to push your ignorance on others.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • James

      I read your post, and I'm with you in every particular save the final conclusion. Here is what I mean, to use one particular case: In the bible, Jesus and His followers were the 1000 hands who cooked and cleaned up, rather than the 1000 hands who used prayer and holiness as merely an excuse to not get involved.

      I would submit to you this conclusion instead: That religion today has descended to become merely a show, and a collection of excuses and dry, hollow, man-made traditions; that the reason that it's so hard to find God, is not that He doesn't exist, but rather that He isn't to be found with those who are claiming His name in vain. He doesn't force Himself in where He isn't really wanted. These religions are willing to accept God on their own terms, as they define Him, but not as He actually is, and God doesn't play that game. Never has, never will.

      Whether or not I agree with you is frankly irrelevant, because what's my opinion worth? James 2:14-20 says that God agrees with you, though, and that's got to count for something. This is part of the true description of what He is like. God is not the person they have told you He is.

      If you want to know the real God, the practical and genuinely loving one, who isn't the colossal, unfeeling jerk, whose wrath you can escape for just a few extra dollars, that you grew up being told about, ask Him to contact you. If God is in fact a real person, then He can do that easily enough, right?.

      The priest in this article said that prayer "summons" God, as if He won't even listen to you unless you twist His arm with a bunch of rituals. As if rituals could twist the arm of God. It just shows how dry and empty this religion is. It's actually a lot more simple than that: You talk, God listens. Simply because He really is there, and really does care. The only reason He wouldn't listen is if you really don't want Him to (see Psalms 66:18).

      Oh by the way, that last verse does NOT mean that God only listens to you if you're good enough, and if someone says so, they're full of it. It means that if you would prefer to have what you already have, and don't want God to show up and take it away, then He won't force you. Compare to John 3:19.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Godless

      "P.S. work on your grammer"

      Wow, that just makes me smile...

      March 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Citizen Kaine

      On another note, I am amazed at all the "scientist" here who claim if you have never seen or touched God then he never existed and cannot ever have existed. For the men and women who dreamed of flight, we had never flown, or seen a man fly so how did we know we could get a man to fly? Because eventually we used science to prove theories that became reality. Today we fly without thought, if I took you back to the 1600's most would of asked you to leave the village if you spoke of flying men one day.
      Do you know how many stars and planets science has discovered but yet we cannot see them or touch them yet? We use science to explian why a distant star wobbles on its axis and using what we know of gravitational pulls we have concluded there is a celistial body at a given set of coordinates and that bodies gravity is creating the wobble we now see.
      No one has ever seen a dinasour or touched one even. We have uncovered large bones that don't fit any living thing we know of and through science and our understanding of anatomy that these remains must of has muscles at one time as they "appear" to be the skeletal remains of ancient beasts that roamed this world. Nobody thinks someone is crazy when they draw a TRex with green skin or a red tongue. These are even by scientific reasoning "leaps of faith" for we have no Earthly scientific proof of any skin color or flesh color of dinasours. Some we have even had to change our views of them over the years as we learn more about anatomy and realize, there is no way this creature walked up right, or no way he could of weighed as much as we thought. Science, as does life, evolves.
      Some day we may develop the science to measure the existance of God. In the mean while, to say since I cannot touch him (her) or see him (her) only seems to me to degrade all the dreamers that now explain evolution, space flight, modern medicine, the computer age and countless other bits of real every day magic that at one time – we could not touch and had never seen, untill someone who believed hard enough, found a way to measure it in a way we could all grasp and say, "oh my God, I can fly..."

      March 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
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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.