Catholic Pastor: Maybe the Devil Made James Holmes Kill Those People

I don’t know why James Holmes killed all those people in Aurora, Colorado, but I can cross at least one thing off the list: He was possessed by demons.

That’s what Father Dwight Longnecker suggests, in yet another example of why you shouldn’t automatically pay respect to someone just because he has a religious title in front of his name:

Was [Holmes] demon possessed? Maybe. It happens.

Demonic infestation is a rare, strange and terrible psycho-spiritual affliction. In simple terms, a malevolent, separate intelligence infests the mind and spirit of a person. It takes over the rational faculties and dominates the personality. The phenomenon is real, but anyone who has ever dealt with the problem realizes that the demonic realm is complex. The human person is an intricate organism in which the physical, mental and spiritual aspects are totally interwoven. Therefore, in most cases, trying to diagnose the possibility of demonic influence is extremely difficult.

James Holmes has red hair… it must be a SIGN!

After spending half his article talking about what Demon Possession is all about, Longnecker qualifies his remarks and then switches gears to EVIL!

Is James Holmes demon possessed? It is impossible to say without a detailed diagnosis. Even then, it is a slippery question. We are dealing with a reality that is rubbery. In many ways this is the wrong question. Better to ask, “Was James Holmes taken over by Evil?”

Yes. Something happened to the mild mannered science geek. He turned into a monster. Something twisted in his mind and heart, and Evil made an entry. Evil infested his life. It took him over. Whether the twist was through mental illness, some inner wound or some terrible dark intelligence, we cannot say. The fact that we can’t say what went wrong and don’t have a neat and tidy answer is the key to understanding the terrible conundrum of evil.

A friend of mine who is an exorcist says this is why the ministry of exorcism is so exhausting and grueling — because the demons constantly lie. Whenever evil is manifested, it wears a mask. The evil ones squirm and hide. They flatter one moment and hiss with rage the next. They are one moment obsequious and aggressive the next. Because they are liars, reason and trust can find no grasp. Pure Evil is random, violent and unpredictable.

He speaks of Evil as if it were a *thing* and not just a bad idea. Evil doesn’t need to be capitalized every time you talk about it. This is just a religious figure who can’t be honest and say, “I don’t know why he did this.” Instead, he makes up his own reasons. What I dislike most about this strategy is that it takes the responsibility of what happened off of Holmes and puts it on this mystical spirit that no one can capture.

It also ends the conversation. (“Evil did it. There’s nothing else to figure out here.”)

There was something going on in Holmes’ head that night, but no one physically possessed his mind. Maybe he wanted attention. Or maybe he just wanted to kill people. Or maybe the court will declare him to be insane. Or maybe there’s a reason we haven’t considered just yet.

Longnecker doesn’t know any more than we do. He just thinks he does because he can couch his response in religious terminology.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Tainda

    That’s my main problem with religious people, they don’t take responsibility for anything.  If I do something stupid, I blame myself and not some fairy tale.  

    • Guilberube

      Yeah, funny thing you say, I had a debate yesterday with a religious friend on abortion. What he was saying was that women should take responsibility for the consequences of sex. Funny how it is so easy to use one’s religion as a shield to protect against understanding others.

      • Tainda

        Yep, that’s all it is, a shield.

        On the abortion subject: My ex-husband was violently opposed to abortion when we were married.  We got divorced and he got a girl pregnant and she got an abortion.  Somehow that made him change his mind…

  • Hellbound Alleee

    I hate to say that I somewhat sympathize with this, as someone whose life has been touched by schizophrenia in the family. Of course it is not “demons,” but there is possession of a kind–by one’s own “demons.” So many schizophrenics have a “person” or an “entity” sort of living in their minds. One or many. If you take away the mentally ill idea that those “spirits” are real, you have a plausible scenario.

    Schizophrenia + religion is a dangerous mix. Take away religion and those demons become aliens or “light beings.” Just as Sleep Paralysis went from devils and witches to alien abduction. Of course, this phenomenon happens to perfectly sane people who have just not been informed.

    This is not to say the insane do not have any responsibility for their actions. But I can’t “help” feeling some compassion for people inflicted with this disease if this is indeed the case.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      I think we all know that the sort of “demon” the religious nut is talking about is not the sort of “demon” we refer rather colloquially to when discussing schizophrenia and other mental illness.

      • Kodie

        I agree. A mental illness happens in the brain, perhaps it is triggered by an event, but it’s not like someone reads Harry Potter or sees a boobie or even has access to guns that are making demons possess, or something that we’re all in danger of. Their answers about the demons is to outlaw things they don’t like, like “gay” or “abortion,” and spreading rumors about the dangers of reading books or dressing up in costumes. They see these spooky things as gateways for demons to just walk right in someone’s brain and make them do demonic things, and/or god allows it because he’s displeased about something, and can be “believed” away or avoided by opposing marriage equality and not letting your kids read Harry Potter.

        I play some video games, and I scan the reviews first. Some of them have magical elements, but as soon as you make some demon symbology or even just pagan or eastern religious plots, some reviewers give it a bad mark and a warning. I’ve also been around mentally ill (one ex-boyfriend had a psychotic break while we were living together) and it does people a disservice to equate that with demons. It’s kinda like demons metaphorically, but when they say demons they mean something completely ignorant of mental illness, what causes it, and how to treat it.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

    I can’t remember the exact quote, but I think it was Richard Dawkins who asked why these religious leaders’ opinions should matter in the least.  Just because they have some title like “Father,” “Reverend,” “Rabbi,” etc., does not mean that they have anything whatsoever to add to a rational discussion of any subject, seeing as their entire perspective is based in mythology and the supernatural. 

  • Stev84

    Better send in one the Vatican’s official exorcists

     

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Is James Holmes demon possessed? It is impossible to say without a detailed diagnosis. Even then, it is a slippery question. We are dealing with a reality that is rubbery.

    Your reality certainly is rubbery, Padre. Your reality is so flexible, elastic, stretchable, and compressible that it can be twisted and molded into any bizarre psychotic, erotic, sophomoric, egotistic fantasy that you want it to be.  A “diagosis”?? By whom? a Doctor of Demonology? Do you ride a donkey to and from work? Do you think that disease is caused by imbalances of the Four Humors? In your “reality,” are the stars lamps hung on crystal spheres surrounding a stable, flat Earth?  Do Jews kidnap and eat Christian babies? Is Lycanthropy  real?

    There is no line between superstition and religion. They are one and the same. Society has simply become more easily embarrassed by some superstitions than by others, so it has put them into artificially separate categories. Each person seems to have differing selections of each category.

  • writzer

    “She turned me into a newt!!! ….(i got better).”

    Always interesting to be swept back to the middle ages. And always gratifying to come home again. 

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    Absence of evil is frightening. People blame evil because it justifies using the death penalty on murderers, as if we had free will to not kill people if our brains want to. Brains malfunction. The same chemicals/electricity that force your hands to make a sandwich when you’re hungry are the same as those that make you shoot people indiscriminately. Many different factors could make anyone vulnerable enough to be the next shooter.

    Blaming the devil or evil just makes people think there was nothing they could do, after all, it’s the devil! But knowing that he had a brain malfunction of some sort, that he likely showed warning signs, that he was stockpiling weaponry, other inside and outside influences, and that this could have been prevented, well, that is hard to come to terms with.

    Holmes should be put away. We can try to fix him, but for the time being he needs to be removed from society. For his sake, and everyone else’s. But I don’t think there’s any humane, secular justification to put him to death. We’re better than that now.

  • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

    “It takes over the rational faculties and dominates the personality.”

    Said the pot to the kettle.

  • Stev84

    I just saw that there are dozens of people commenting on his blog who fully agree with this dimwit. And I live on the same planet as them. I’m terrified now…

  • Shouldbeworkin’

    “This is just a religious figure who can’t be honest and say, “I don’t know why he did this.” Instead, he makes up his own reasons.”

    Well duh. Isn’t that the the whole point of religion?

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I’ve worked with people who have disabilities for a long time. The priest should take note that Evil can often be managed with the proper antipsychotic medication.

  • NeedingMoreFacts

    “This is just a religious figure who can’t be honest and say, “I don’t know why he did this.” Instead, he makes up his own reasons.”

    But, doesn’t everyone do this?  None of us have been inside Holmes head, and no one will ever truly know why he did what he did.  All we know is that it’s a very strange/violent way to behave (the killings, the way he behaved in court), very few people actually behave in this manner.  The point I’m trying to make is that if *anyone* tries to explain why, then they are, in your words, making up their own reasons and being dishonest by not admitting they can’t explain why. 

    I’ve kept up with this blog for a bit, and I’m always very turned off to much of what Atheists proclaim because, I would argue, you’re not very friendly.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      I don’t know why he did this.

      Gee, that was hard. See? Not everyone feels the need to play arm-chair shrink. There’s nothing unfriendly about pointing out that these religious officials don’t know the guy, the case, or his state of mind and should keep crackpot theories to themselves since, wait for it… they don’t know.

      Oh, and a bit of advice from me to you: Hemant called his blog Friendly Atheist, that doesn’t mean anyone other than he is obligated to be overly or extra friendly. I’m sorry you didn’t understand that we’re all individuals; some friendlier than others. Get used to it, build a bridge, and get over it.

      • NeedingMoreFacts

        GloomCookie, my “unfriendly” comment was directed toward the blog owner.  Note that I never referenced anyone else, never replied to commenter – I only replied to the blog owner.

        Wow, angry much?

        • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

          “I’ve kept up with this blog for a bit, and am always very turned off to muchof what Atheists proclaim because, I would argue, you’re not very friendly”

          “Atheists” denotes the community at large (being plural and all), not the singular blog owner. Work on your writing clarity if you don’t want to be misunderstood.

          Nice try on the back-pedal though, even if you failed.

          • NeedingMoreFacts

            Really? How long did it take for you to nitpick that one? I said I was turned off to much of what Atheists say (you know, since a lot of them are referenced here) because the blog owner isn’t friendly in presenting them.

            How about you learn to read.

            I also find it funny and strange that there is an Atheist channel on Patheos – hosting the conversation on faith – when so many Atheists vehemently fight that they are without any faith. Kinda like the time an Atheist tried to fight me that you don’t capitalize the “A” , while having the scarlet, capitalized “A” as her gravitar.

            • Deven Kale

              I find it interesting that you’ve already been informed that atheist/atheism are not proper nouns, and yet you still treat them as such anyway. For someone with the name “NeedingMoreFacts” it seems to be somewhat counter to the image your trying to send. Why do you want people to think you care about facts when you so obviously don’t take to heart those that you receive?

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

      There’s a big difference between suggesting a) Holmes possibly suffers from a documented mental illness, like schizophrenia, and b) evil spirits, which have never been proven to exist (much less possess people) are responsible.

      The person who suggests a flattened dead cat was hit by a car deserves more credibility than the person who insists the cat was trampled by a herd of unicorns.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      It’s kind of a regular thing here for people to confuse ‘not being a doormat’ with ‘unfriendly’.

      You should try wnd or theblaze some time for some contrast in ‘friendly’.

  • Karl Withakay

    “It takes over the rational faculties and dominates the personality.”

    It’s nice to know that even some Catholic pastors don’t believe in the concept of (contra causal) free will either.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Wow! I thought for a moment I was ready a novelization of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. Do people in civilized parts of the world really still believe in demons as though they were real beings?

    A friend of his who is exorcist is his authority on exorcism? Da faque?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

      That’s what I thought when I read this article, and out of curiosity I decided to take a stroll over to Longnecker’s blog to check it out for myself.  I’m telling you, it’s Crazy Town over there!  People coming out of the woodwork talking about evil spirits, Satan, demonic possession, etc., etc.  Holy shit, I can’t believe these people are living in 2012. Seriously scary stuff, especially when you consider that these people vote.  

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    … in yet another example of why you shouldn’t automatically pay respect
    to someone just because he has a religious title in front of his name…

    Who with a rational mind would remotely suggest such a thing? A religious title should automatically engender suspicion that we’re dealing with somebody intellectually unsound, somebody who will likely deserve less respect. A religious title is a big red warning flag: approach with caution!

  • Ray

    “A friend of mine who is an exorcist…” is there any need to read anything else by this person?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Scary. I always think of Catholics as being more “normal” than evangelicals. They keep their demonic side very hush-hush, so it’s easy to forget that they actually believe in them. Priests aside, I wonder how many American Catholics believe in Satan, and how many think devils are just as silly as prohibitions against birth control.

    • Stev84

      I think Real Life Catholics can be quite laid back. At least if they aren’t from South America or the Philippines where RCC still has a huge amount of power.

      But I’ve noticed that the ones you can find on the internet tend to be just as batshit crazy and fanatical as the evangelicals. The shit that goes on on the Catholic Patheos blogs is mind-boggling.

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        That’s true. The Catholics I’ve run into online are entirely unlike any I’ve met in real life!  And they’re very convinced of their own superiority, too. Almost worse than the “sophisticated” evangelical crowd.

    • Kodie

      The little ritual of confession, the transubstantiation, and the rosary beads.. the satin dresses, the funny hats, that thing that sprinkles holy water on everyone, the stained glass… I’ve often thought of Catholics as the most backward and attached to the material stuff. The sacredness of this stuff to them is very appealing. I guess to me there are two kinds – the kind who really believe it and the kind who only believe it when they have a kid to baptize or a fireman dies. The latter will have all the premarital and extramarital sex and use birth control, but they’re still Catholic and proud of it. The former are not more normal than evangelicals. Maybe they believe in evolution, but they’re scared of Halloween and don’t eat meat on Fridays and have eleven children. I understand they literally think god will strike them dead if they did anything they’d been taught was a sin, and they’re paranoid about it. Always gotta have to stroke those beads and count them and chant some bullshit repetitively until you run out of beads. Whacko. Yeah, they believe in possession. The devil is waiting around every corner to seduce them.

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        Yes, I have a lot of Catholic relatives, but all of them are members of the latter group. Sure, they got married in the church and went through all the rituals, but they also use birth control, support same-sex marriage, and think the Vatican is seriously out of touch. To me, these are the “normal” Catholics. They would never start praying out of the blue or yammer on about angels or spirits (even though they believe in them) and I’m pretty positive all of them would roll their eyes at the notion of demon possession. The Catholic fundamentalists are an entirely different ball game. Luckily, their numbers are on the wane, especially in the United States.

  • smrnda

    Isn’t Occam’s Razor an adequate refutation of the type of magical thinking which postulates supernatural causes when they aren’t necessary?  There’s been enough studies on the psychology of violent people that there really isn’t much left where we really need demons or evil spirits to explain people’s behavior. Not that everything is always totally explained, but there are adequate, non-supernatural explanations.

    • Kodie

       You mean challenge these people to reason and pay attention to science in the news? Occam’s Razor – have you heard their circular arguments, their logical fallacies? They’re immune to Occam’s Razor. Confirmation bias or whatever, that’s they’re best friend. I had a friend I would call “intelligent” and a scientist, another friend had to miss something from going to a seminar about Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s! And this guy says it’s a made-up over-exaggerated non-existent thing. It’s not like there are, you know, dissected brains and imaging of people who died, he’s just convinced it’s not real. Biochemist, I think he is? I don’t know of him to have a religion, per se, but he does swear by astrology. Tell him when your birthday is, and every 6 months or so, he’ll compare what you just did to your sign and “prove” how accurate it is.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

        “They’re immune to Occam’s Razor.”

        That’s for damn sure.

  • http://alertareligion.blogspot.com/ Pablo Flores
  • http://truelogic.wordpress.com/ truelogic

    Only God (if he is real) can make James Holmes or anyone else do the evil they do.  
    God is apparently the potter that creates a vessel for dishonor and in fact it is God that planned everything and a time for every matter and event (according to his own words).  In fact, not only did God “create evil” but he is the one that takes credit for it.   “…shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?” (Amos 3:6).
    “What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil” (Job 2:10).Christians need to stop blaming the creation of God, including the devil for the evil that is done.  If they actually believe their God is real then believe his very words, he did it, he planned it, all is before “ordained” by God and “according to HIS will”.  Not the will of man, not the will of Satan.  The will of God.  truelogic at wordpress dot com

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Exactly. Couldn’t be any other way if you accept that a god is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Their imaginary devil can’t logically make their imaginary Triple O god give him permission to do anything, evil or otherwise.

      Do Christians really have a single (though triune) god? Angels, fallen or otherwise seem to have significant supernatural powers attributed to them. In the absence of something more powerful, such a creature if it existed would qualify as a god.

      Perhaps, like Krishna, these are all aspects of the same god. Neither the Son, the Ghost, Lucifer nor any of the host of angels are independent of the omnipotent One, if that’s what He were.
       

      • Clarinet Life

        There talking the catholic religion moron not the Christian one! Gees talk about ignorance at its fines!

        • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

          ^Pfffft.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    Just what I would expect a priest to say.  Decades ago the Catholic church became self-conscious about talking about the Devil, either because they were aware of psychiatric medicine, or because talking about the Devil made them sound too much like “holy rollers.”  They don’t want to do a bunch of exorcisms- lack of manpower and fear of being sued if the “possessed” person was harmed- but they don’t want to entirely let go of this franchise.

  • JMB

    Ugh.  Seeing that guy’s name just puts a bad taste in my mouth. 

    I remember a particularly hateful post from him several years ago.  Did you know that working women are all butch evil feminazis?  It’s true!  Also, TEH GAY is caused by feminism!!  *eyeroll*

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2009/10/the-bitter-pill.html
    “women started going out to work. They started competing with the men.
    They started bossing the men around and being butch in all sorts of
    ways. So the men adapted. They took off. They opted out. They started
    being attracted to guys instead. They started to sleep around. …”

  • Coreyadams

    My name is Corey M Adams. I sold my soul around 1993 to the devil. Now I claim souls that need to be taken. I do whatever I want whenever I want. I’m an ex-Mormon devil worshipper and I believe in White Supremacy and Oppression of people weaker than me. I have gotten away with murder and would do it again. If you want to be powerful like me, sell me your soul and you will get Anything you want and I will show you how to claim souls. Email me coreyadams@me.com join my CULT


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