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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. Loren

    1. My family never went to church when I was growing up. I still do not go to church. I am not really a believer... more agnostic, sometimes borderline atheist.

    2. I do not believe the Bible was written by God. It was written by men.

    3. I don't believe in Heaven and Hell

    4. I am a computer programmer, make my living on science, am a firm believer in evolution etc. Not a creationist at all.

    I am really not a follower of any church... there have been times in my life when I felt "spiritual" but I have no idea what the answers really are.

    However...

    I have had two real experiences with ghosts. One was a demonic presence that was later exorcised, the other was a ghost that lived in the apartment I lived in with a girlfriend (I'm male by the way).

    Without going into detail on the proof that these were not my imagination... they were confirmed by others' statements without my having said anything about it and without my having sought any feedback... it was an accident that my experiences were confirmed by others.

    So.. while I don't have the answers, and don't think anyone else really does either... I do know that there can be things outside of our understanding, that are real, and are often thought of as evil spirits. Don't know what they are yet... but they are there.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  2. Fatima

    A List of Masons in The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church
    I. Introduction
    The essence of the Third Secret of Fatima is that Satan has entered the Catholic Church, bringing with him agents to occupy highest positions in the Church. Here are the revelations by the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lord Jesus Christ through Veronica Lueken as a voice box:

    "How I warned and warned that satan would enter into the highest realms of the hierarchy in Rome. The Third Secret, My child, is that satan would enter into My Son's Church." (Our Lady through Veronica, May 13, 1978.)
    "Satan, Lucifer in human form, entered into Rome in the year 1972. He cut off the rule of the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI. Lucifer has controlled Rome and continues his control now." (Our Lady through Veronica, September 7, 1978.)
    "I say this evening, as your God, that on that date, as promised at Fatima, satan entered My Church upon earth. He brought with him his agents - and satan himself, the deceiver of all mankind - sat in on Vatican II and maneuvered all the outsiders to come in and distort My doctrines and distort the truth ... You will speak out and say that satan is in the Church, My Church upon earth. He knows his time is growing short." (Our Lord through Veronica Lueken, June 18, 1986.)
    "Yes, My child, even with Vatican II, it started out with the best resolves, but then satan took over the scene. And with his agents he reached into the highest professions, the highest league of the Hierarchy, until, it saddens Me to say that many priests are now on the road to perdition and taking many others with them." (Our Lord through Veronica Lueken, July 25, 1985.)
    Editor's Note: For additional information see http://www.cephasministry.com/world_church_black_magick_pope.html
    These are confirmed by at least another source: The Blessed Virgin Mary's words to Father Don Stefano Gobbi:

    "I am weeping because the Church is continuing along the road of division, of loss of the true faith, of apostasy and of errors which are being spread more and more without anyone offering opposition to them. Even now, that which I predicted at Fatima and that which I have revealed here in the third message confided to a little daughter of mine (i.e. Sister Lucia) is in the process of being accomplished. And so, even for the Church the moment of its great trial has come, because the man of iniquity will establish himself within it and the abomination of desolation will enter into the holy temple of God." (To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons, No. 362, September 15, 1987, p. 572.)
    "The black beast like a leopard indicates Freemasonry; the beast with the two horns like a lamb indicates Freemasonry infiltrated into the interior of the Church, that is to say, ecclesiastical Masonry, which has spread especially among the members of the hierarchy. This Masonic infiltration, in the interior of the Church, was already foretold to you by me at Fatima, when I announced to you that Satan would enter in even to the summit of the Church. If the task of Masonry is to lead souls to perdition, bringing them to the worship of false divinities, the task of ecclesiastical Masonry on the other hand is that of destroying Christ and his Church, building a new idol, namely a false christ and a false church." (To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons, No. 406, June 13, 1989, p. 649)

    March 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  3. ERIN

    "There are no witches, demons, ghosts, angels, etc!
    How is it possible for 21st Century educated people to accept this nonsense?
    "good and evil" were invented by man, not by nature."

    Hmmmm.. I have to sit back and wonder if your educated? You see If infact you can prove that these things DO NOT EXIST than congradulations my friend you would have been the first person ever to prove this as im sure all the worlds leading scientists and doctors havent sparked a world wide debate over the last 100 years for nothing? Until someone can prove beyond a resonable doubt that no such thing exists than I will continue to believe that what I have experienced in my life as well as many others is infact a reality and that I do not posess some sort of " delusional" personality ..

    March 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • macavalon

      Erin, you are obviously not educated – your instead of you're, congradulations instead of congratulations, etc.

      Anyway, the onus is on the believer to prove the existence of something...we don't believe in supernatural beings because they are not provable, there is no evidence to their existence. If you have some evidence, then show us.

      March 8, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Drew

      @ macavalon

      You seem to be taking it for granted that the scientific method is a sure-fire means of arriving at "truth." I agree that empirical evidence is a kind of truth, but its certainly a "leap of faith" (excuse the irony) to assume that is the only truth

      March 9, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  4. Hugo

    http://whatstheharm.net/exorcisms.html

    March 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  5. demonslayer

    @David Johnson

    You will be visited by three spirits....

    March 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  6. demonslayer

    It appears as though the athiests are very zealous on this site. I wounder if their mighty logic might be useful on a different type of website, say, a muslim wesite for example. Not that I would wish athiests upon them either, but you seem awful brazen in your verbal attacks against a people that are attempting to live according to a message of peace. Perhaps our muslim bretheren would have a differing opinion as to how to handle the situation.

    March 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Michael

      That's a common criticism of atheists by people unable to tolerate criticism of (their) religion. I think you'll find political discussions have far more heated/colourful exchanges than anything here, but people are used to that. If someone calls your political views stupid or ignorant, you'll defend them. When someone calls your religious views silly or baseless, and you can't come up with actual evidence or good arguments to support them, then you accuse the person of being zealous, strident, rude, etc. Try looking at your beliefs critically and grow up.

      March 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  7. Jim Royal

    This man is absolutely barking mad. Raving insanity.

    March 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  8. nam

    Evidence:

    Sir Bedevere: What makes you think she's a witch?
    Peasant 3: Well, she turned me into a newt!
    Sir Bedevere: A newt?
    Peasant 3: [meekly after a long pause] ... I got better.
    Crowd: [shouts] Burn her anyway!

    March 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  9. mira

    Many people ask why atheists and skeptics bother to argue against things they don't think exist. Well here is a very real reason for you that you should be able to figure out yourself: because it causes gross miscalculations in actions of people who do take it as solid truth.

    I urge you to learn about Africa's witch children (go and google the phrase)! They take the words 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live' seriously. Thousands and thousands of innocent and defenseless children are killed and tortured the cruelest ways imaginable all because of the magical and demonic thinking. Often times it's the children's own parents who are crazed by those ideas into doing such things!

    Our brains and senses are far from perfect they are riddled with blind spots and short circuits and optimizations and compromises between operations... Planting these deeply disturbing concepts of demons into people's minds is in effect like pumping hard drugs into people's brains!

    And from CNN I'd expect more responsible and informed reporting!

    March 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  10. morpheus

    The more I read these posts the more I am convinced that we should all just give up on life it self and follow @David Johnson. He seen it all, he knows it all.. David where have you been all of our lives, just admit it for the rest of us "YOU ARE GOD"

    March 8, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Al

      You want to be careful there mate, that's pretty close to believing in a false God and/or blasphemy. And I've read all about how your YAHWEH tends to respond to things like that. Hint: He doesn't tend to have a sense of humour or perspective about it all...

      March 8, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  11. morpheus

    @David Johnson

    Sorry but the human mind to understand the infinite wisdom of God and why the world is the way it is. What kind of God would I believe in if me a mere person had to fight his battles for him. I have never seen a picture of my great great great great great grandparents but yet I know the existed. Or maybe life started with my great great grand parents who came out of the water. I ask you one question: Do you believe in good and evil??

    March 8, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  12. Shawn

    People need to get out of the Middle Ages and face the fact that there is no devil. The idea that some imaginary being possesses people is absolutely, positively absurd. I'm so thankful I was never brainwashed to believe such nonsense. But even if I had been, common sense and reality would have hopefully caught up with me by now.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  13. JT

    I always tell people that there is no reason to argue about whether there is a God, or if the Devil exists or which Church is the true Church – we will all have an opportunity to find out soon enough...and some of us are going to be very surprised.....

    March 8, 2011 at 6:40 am |
  14. mustbejoking

    Excorcism is a wizardry specifically forbidden by God for man to practice. Yet more blatant evidence that the Catholic church and any other church that participates in this practice......is false.

    March 8, 2011 at 6:19 am |
    • Me

      I don't know frm your post whether you belong to a religion or if you are an atheist but anyone who believes in Christ must believe in exorcism, after all, He did cast out (exorcise) demons. There are many non christians who believe in exorcism. Many satanic cults fear it. Your logic escapes me or wasn't clear in your post. It's difficult to respond to someone who makes categoric statements without any logic or explanation for their opinions.

      March 8, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  15. peter

    For those of you justifying your bizarre beliefs by attacking atheists: Is that really the best you can do to defend your crazy beliefs? Well, atheists are just lashing out against their mothers therefore the devil and exorcism are realities. Yeah that makes about as much sense as summoning the devil. How old are you people, anyway? You're like a bunch of children who believe in demons to justify your belief in God and an after life so you don't have to feel so scared about dying. Live your lives while you are alive and stop obsessing over death. You can't do anything to stop it, so just accept it and go on with your lives rather than spend all this energy on childish fair tales.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • Trimelda

      Wow! Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or something, Peter? Chill! I say the same thing to the rest of you guys freaking out over the fact that people believe in God and the devil. Calm down!

      If you really believe that this is all a bunch of fairy tales, crapola, whatever, then why are you so stressed when people state their beliefs? What's your point? It's almost as if you have a need to make God believers agree with you lest your head explodes or something. I am a Christian. I believe in the Lord and I acknowledge the existence of the devil. Okay. Is there room in your world for me and my beliefs? Or do you want us all to shut up and go away so you can feel better?
      The more you wig out the more it makes you seem like a closet believer.

      As for Face, "When you do have some evidence I'll start listening and convert to whichever religion has the most evidence."
      Evidence of what? That God exists? That the devil exists? i can tell you from sad experience that seeing or hearing the supernatural doesn't convert you. Tons of folks see the unexplained or weird every day and remain skeptics. The reason people convert is because they see that they need God in their lives. Hit rock bottom with drugs, alcohol or some other addiction and you'll run to God (Higher Power) for help. So will you if you have the misfortune of being enslaved by substance. But until that happens, you're not going to believe in God no matter how much "evidence" you see or hear.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • pat carr

      "If you really believe that this is all a bunch of fairy tales, crapola, whatever, then why are you so stressed when people state their beliefs? What's your point? It's almost as if you have a need to make God believers agree with you lest your head explodes or something. I am a Christian."

      this is what christians say when people oppose their beliefs. "hey chill out", "hey you're getting all upset". It's a game christians play all the time

      Ok let me then fill you in...we're tired of your belief system shoved on us. Understand? Christians cannot take ANY criticism of their beliefs at all. They call it "persecution", they say you're not letting them have their beliefs, etc. Yet they feel fine to "evangelize", "witness", blah blah blah. We DON'T want your "everyone is going to hell who doesn't believe" dogma pushed on us anymore.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Michael

      The reason atheists get annoyed with people expressing their belief in things that they have no actual evidence for (A book written decades after the actual events by 1st century shepherds is NOT evidence), is that they use those beliefs to change public policy, school curriculums, medical/health benefits, or to justify illogical/immoral behaviour.

      In the recent past the religious have used their beliefs to fight against or discourage abolishing slavery, anesthetics during childbirth, abortion for any reason including severe birth defects or life of the mother, stem-cell research (which could easily cure spinal cord damage in the next 5-10 years), teaching evolution in school (Which has more evidence supporting it than even the Atomic Theory, Quantum Theory, or Theory of Relativity), women's rights, elections, etc. On top of that, some of the religious are actually looking forward to the world ending, so to them a nuclear exchange would be a good thing...

      Atheists have good reason to be annoyed, particularly since there are a lot more of them than most people realize.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Zach

      Just thought I'd add something... I'm a Christian but I'm not gonna shove it down anyone's throat. I'm gonna to the ultimate thing here! 🙂 I live you all! 😀

      March 9, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Zach

      Love*** sorry!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  16. JCizzle

    A "real" exorcist? So this guy can "really" exorcise imaginary beings? Nice.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • Simply Joe

      Let me guess. You the song 'IMAGINE'. No i will not wish evil on you, because if i do it will happen to you. I chose to pray for you and your loved ones, because i know in GOD's time you and other non-believers will believe in Jesus.

      March 8, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  17. CH4:D

    A very questionable and self-serving article!

    Here's the reality: I call God. Nothing happens. I call the Devil and still NOTHING happens. Nobody's listening and nobody's coming. Both are manifestations of our desperation and regret respectively.

    March 8, 2011 at 2:23 am |
    • larry

      i dont mean any disrespect everybody has their rite to beleive or not..but i recently had problems at my home..because prior owners use to do seances ouiji board etc..well what we caugt on evp's..the voice was the most horrifying thing i have ever heard..this thing that was in my home hit me..scratched me..i am not the only one who dealt with this..my whole family did we got priest in my home to do a deliverance an it was amzing,..now the questions is their a god..absolutley is their the devil an demons absolutley i expierced them both maybe not the devil but i did hear on the evp recorder it was chanting somekind of language an then it chanted for satan..i wish anybody who has doubts would come talk to me..becaus i lived it for 10 months i do go to church now i do believe in jesus christ because what i have heard an seen i wouldnt want my worst enemy to expiernce

      March 8, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • CSmith

      You call God and nothing happens because you don't believe. No surprise. I wouldn't come if you called me either, even if you used a phone to do so. You call the Devil and nothing happens because it doesn't need to do anything. You already don't believe, so why risk it by proving the Devil exists?

      March 8, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • pat carr

      moreso they are products of men's imagination. before "jesus" and the "devil" there was Odin, Thor, Loki, etc. Noone believes these exist now and the gods and doctrines of xinianty are just as imagined up

      March 8, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Mao

      I called for my kids to come, they never did. I called on them again, and they kept fighting upstairs.

      God and Satan do not obey, nor do they have to. We're not even allowed to speak slanderous of Satan because of the distance between us and angels (Jude 1:8-9).

      This stuff is real, it's scary, and it has to be experienced to be understood. I pity those who have not experienced it and don't believe because if it comes, it will be a rude wake up call. Meeting the supernatural makes ya realize this world is more weirder than just our 5 senses can perceive.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • E.J.

      It is easy to say you call to God and he doesn't come. Why don't you try working to find him. Anyone can sit around and scratch lottery tickets and when they don't win complain of being poor. A greater man goes and works for his living. Don't sit passively and call for God. Go out and find him yourself, and He is there, waiting for you.

      March 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Pirran

      Thor is real. So is Zeus. Sometimes they play hockey one-on-one and this explains the the thunder and the typhoon. Repent now of your false Gods before it is too late.

      March 9, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  18. Tess

    I do believe in people being possessed by demons and that there is a devil for real, but I strongly reprimand and disbelieve in the use of holy water, crucifix, and stuff. I only believe in the fervent prayer of the believers in Christ and the casting out of devil in Jesus' name, in which lies the power; no crucifix or holy water can bring about such deliverance- i mean, that's idolatry! Wake up people: if you believe you're in such a trouble, don't want Jesus only for the restoration of your normal life- that's where people make the mistake. You've got to genuinely seek God. Deliverance does not come by some rituals, but by faith in Christ and through prayer.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • CSmith

      There is no ritual in the New Testament. There are no ceremonies prescribed by Christ. The closest we get to that at all is the Last Supper (As often as you do this...), but that is (or at least should be) nothing more than a celebratory meal. The power in Christianity is in faith in Christ and nothing else. Real protestant exorcists (who put their patients through similar physical and psychological tests to ensure they're not dealing with schizophrenia or epilepsy or the like) don't need a rite, or holy water, or a crucifix. There's no special music that needs to play, no candles need to be burnt.

      March 8, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  19. Theresa

    There is good & there is evil.I have seen both.I have been clinically dead;& there is an after life. I saw hell...and heaven;& I am not going to hell.I do not have any mental problems. I was raised Catholic & though I do not adhere to all of their beliefs. I do believe in God & Satan. I've seen more than most people in this area & I don't care what others think!Call it what you want;good & evil do exist & are constantly around us. I go to church...on my dime & my time,usually on my front or back porch.There is a God & a Satan....to others a higher power;etc. This world is going to hell in a bucket....as most of this I have read is sad. No one believes in anything anymore....but it's there...if you would only pay attention!!!

    March 8, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Michael

      "Clinically dead" does not mean dead. "Dead" means you can't be resuscitated – you aren't alive anymore. So if you weren't actually dead, you didn't see an afterlife. There have been plenty of studies that have shown that when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted (eg. clinically dead, pilots in centrifuges until they pass out, etc.) the brain hallucinates all kinds of things (eg. the "birth experience" – moving through a dark tunnel into light and seeing out of focus figures). The near-death experience is simply the brain shutting down due to lack of oxygen.

      Unless someone having a near-death experience can return with some testable knowledge that they couldn't have known (eg. formula for a new cure for cancer, grand unified field theory, knowing exactly where Amelia Earhart's body is, etc.), then I'm sorry but you just had a vivid dream.

      March 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  20. Talyseon

    All I can say is that the response to my review of The Rite http://bit.ly/fCvZy8 has been very marked. So was the Last Exorcist http://bit.ly/b00lec And they continue to draw hits. America is interested in the topic.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Brad_Norwood

      It is March 2011!
      There are no witches, demons, ghosts, angels, etc!
      How is it possible for 21st Century educated people to accept this nonsense?
      "good and evil" were invented by man, not by nature.

      Remember your place on the food chain!...it has nothing to do with good or evil.

      A lion brings down an antelope, eats it, relaxes. This is not evil or good. It is this natural planet.

      A child rapist is not good or evil; he is a sick dysfuntional human who needs to be imprisoned or executed. No demons!

      Wall Street is not good or evil; it can be criminal, greedy, beneficient(Carnegie, Rhodes,Gates); it has no demons/angels.

      Sooooo..very....childish.....Put your toys away, Father, and direct 100% to proper medical care.
      The only demons I see daily are on TV religious channels...what a bunch of nuts!

      March 8, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • brad

      @ Brad_Norwood: well, for an atheist, you are consistent. Most atheists sooner or later will appeal to reason, they will praise justice and charity and tolerance. But there is no place for these things in nature – only natural selection and survival of the fittest. Truth is ruthless. If we think Darwinism through to it's ultimate conclusions, such abstracts as love, tolerance, etc., exist because we have evolved into a freak.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • brad

      @ Brad_Norwood: I agree that some folks on religious seem like nuts. But I'm curious. What do you think of the bloodbaths Hollywood pours into our livingrooms? Do you feel like a peeping Tom when watching someone elses bed scene?

      March 8, 2011 at 11:46 am |
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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.