I know there are Christian sects that do not believe in the existence or the power of Satan, but I think it is safe to say that most accept his presence. Along with a belief in God and Jesus, the concept of a fallen angel who competes with God for souls is central to many Christian sects. This belief in the Devil and his demonic minions is considered very mainstream, not merely in the tenets of marginal sects.
Once you accept the existence of demons, the next step, easily taken, is that occasionally
these hellish creatures may possess the bodies, minds, or souls of individuals. Then, it only seems reasonable that using the power of God, people can be relieved of their dark passengers. In the bible, on several occasions, Jesus performed exorcisms, or showed his power over demons.
Since then exorcisms have been an important part of many sects of Christianity, with two recent popes, John Paul II and Francis performing the rite while in office. These exorcisms are quite harmless to the victim, and may provide some relief to them and their families. Sometimes, they can be a group event as happens today in Moldovia under the auspices of the Moldavian Orthodox Church, or a TV event, under such preachers as Bob Larson and his daughters.
Sometimes, however, exorcisms can turn dangerous.
A group of former members of a US-based protestant church, the Seventh Day Adventist, are on trial in France for torturing a 19-year-old woman while attempting to exorcise “the devil” out of her in shockingly-violent style….
They are accused of tying up the young Cameroonian woman, Antoinette, in the position of Jesus Christ on the cross and keeping her bound to a mattress for a week.
The four claimed that she requested the exorcism after becoming convinced that she was possessed. Thus is the power of belief. She believed as strongly as the others in the power of demons, and was willing to undergo almost anything to be relieved of her torment. Although, I’m not convinced she understood what lay ahead of her.
When police found Antoinette in Grigny, a southern Paris suburb, she was dehydrated, emaciated and showed signs of having been beaten. The woman later told investigators that her captors fed her small amounts of oil and gave her water just to keep her alive.
This is not an isolated incident.
Last month, blood-curdling screams woke neighbors in the middle of the night in a quiet area of Limoux, South France. Locals alleged that a woman was being murdered, but when police arrived they found out that a bizarre exorcism ritual was being held in an evangelical church where a pastor was trying to release a member of the congregation from demonic possession, media reported.
The web site What’s the Harm has over 1,000 incidence of people harmed during exorcisms.
We like to think that we live in enlightened times, where demonic possession is limited to the movies, but this is not the case. The belief lies just down the street at your local church.