New on AlterNet: Catholicism’s Demonic Revival

My latest column is up on AlterNet, Why Do Many Christians Still Literally Believe in Demons and Satan? In it, I sum up the Harvard Black Mass fracas and place it in a wider context, showing how Pope Francis and the Catholic church are pushing a major revival of belief in the demonic. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:The Harvard Satanist fracas shows the immense hypocrisy of the Catholic church and its spokesmen. In their battle against the contraception mandate, … [Read more...]

Sympathy for the Devil

I wanted to write about something important this week, like the Greece v. Galloway decision, but events have conspired to thwart me. The story I covered earlier has had some dramatic new developments that cry out for a followup. So: Satanism.On Monday, I wrote about the Harvard student club that wanted to stage a Satanist Black Mass on campus and the ensuing onslaught of fury from Catholics. Some commenters demanded that the university forbid the event from taking place; others demanded that … [Read more...]

Satan Comes to Harvard

DevilGrin

As I've written in the past, I find Satanism silly and juvenile. If you're an atheist, as most of them say they are, then call yourself an atheist, and don't wrap yourself in the mythology of a religion you don't believe in. The only reason I can imagine to identify as a Satanist is as a stunt, to shock and outrage the easily shocked and outraged people whose religious beliefs cause them to jump at shadows. But I have to admit, if that's what they were going for, the Satanists of Harvard have … [Read more...]

Christian Radio Fans the Flames of Witch Hunting

A few years ago, I wrote about the horrible "witch children" craze in Nigeria. Like the witch hunts that once swept through America and Europe, this one is fed by sects of fanatic evangelical preachers, inflamed by Western missionaries, that believe in a miracle-drenched, demon-haunted world - and teach that people, including children, can be possessed by evil spirits, and that the only cure is to torture or kill them.One of the worst of the lot is a Pentecostal preacher named Helen Ukpabio, … [Read more...]

The Twitter Report: Could It Be… Satan?

In my early days of blogging, I would have exhaustive debates, sometimes lasting for weeks, with believers who came across one of my websites and posed a challenge to me. But although it was fun in its time, I've wearied of it, and with occasional rare exceptions, I don't argue with theists over e-mail anymore. I've rehearsed those arguments so many times, and they're usually so well coached in the corresponding apologetics, that it often seems less like a real debate and more like two actors … [Read more...]

Treating Demon Possession with Antipsychotics

As I've written in the past, modern Christianity has never outgrown the demoniac fixation of its founders, who believed that evil spirits were constantly on the prowl and assaulting them. People like Gary Collins - an evangelical, a clinical psychologist, and the head of a 15,000-member association of Christian counselors - still believes, based not on evidence but on his "theological beliefs", that demons exist and are the cause of at least some cases of mental illness. Although this post from … [Read more...]

Jehovah's Witnesses Hate the Smurfs

By Sarah BraaschIn the early 80's, the primary preoccupations of the Jehovah's Witnesses were Armageddon, Smurfs, Michael Jackson and demonic attack, but not necessarily in that order. As a young Jehovah's Witness girl, my worldview was what you might describe as surreal. Smurfs were little blue imps disguised as Saturday morning cartoon characters. They were capable of murder, rape, violence and general mayhem, and, as such, all Smurf paraphernalia had to be either banished or burned or both … [Read more...]

The Witch Children of Nigeria

I've written on several past occasions about how belief in malignant supernatural forces causes real harm to real people. There are examples of this from every region of the world, but some of the most wrenching are from Africa, where Biblical beliefs about demons and evil spirits still run rampant.In January, I wrote about the witch camps of Ghana, where people suspected of using black magic to harm their neighbors are exiled as if they were lepers. In April, there were the Pentecostals of … [Read more...]

Emptying the Haunted Air

Almost two hundred years ago, the English Romantic poet John Keats wrote a poem, "Lamia", in which he lamented that the advance of scientific understanding would rob the world of its beauty and wonder. Keats' chief villain, though not named in the poem, was Isaac Newton, whose use of the prism to split white light into its component colors was viewed by Keats as akin to desecration:Do not all charms fly At the mere touch of cold philosophy? There was an awful rainbow once in heaven: We know … [Read more...]

Why Does God Let Satan Roam Free?

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."—1 Peter 5:8"Only-begotten Son, seest thou what rage Transports our Adversary? whom no bounds Prescribed, no bars of Hell, nor all the chains Heaped on him there, nor yet the main Abyss Wide interrupt, can hold..."—John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IIIOne of the aspects of Christian theology that has always made the least sense to me is why God, having … [Read more...]


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