How Do Exorcists Operate?

For some reason, Pastor Michael Mohr and University of Kentucky adjunct professor Kenneth D. Royal surveyed 170 self-professed exorcists (PDF) to get an idea of what they believe.

(Had they asked me, I could’ve just said “in bullshit” and saved them all this trouble…)

Anyway, here’s what they found:

… today’s self-professed exorcists don’t see ["casting out demons"] as special or complicated. That is, most believe any mature Christian can cast out demons, and that no special items — water, oil, or crucifixes — are needed beyond the authority of Jesus’ name.

In other words, they’re just making it all up as they go along.

Here’s the infographic with the results, because you know you want to see people argue over the colors of unicorns’ horns:

Who knows how representative these exorcists are of the general exorcist population, but the fact that anyone thinks they have some special power is horrifying.

(via Christianity Today)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Mommiest

    Hmmm… most of them don’t bother to have the possessed person (or their guardian) sign a consent form… maybe because a mentally ill person’s consent to be tortured probably wouldn’t hold up in court anyway?

    • Gus Snarp

      This, to me, is huge. It really stuck out like a sore thumb in the results. 69% of surveyed “exorcists” never or almost never get signed consent from anyone before performing an exorcism. Only 15% always get consent.

      Then jump down to laying on hands. 32% always lay on hands, only 25% never or almost never do. So what you’ve got is most exorcists are putting their hands on people who have not consented to cast out demons that don’t exist.

      And they think they should be commissioned or ordained by their church to do it. The shouldn’t be commissioned, they should be prosecuted.

  • Golden Phi

    I think an interesting way to begin the entire study would have been to ask if they actually believed that they cast out demons.

    This might be a very lucrative side business.  

  • Wleebarbo

    When Marvin Gorman was still active as an evangelist, (prior to his outing Jimmy Swaggart as a cheating sexual perv) I was ‘privileged’ enough to witness an exorcism performed (and I do mean ‘performed) by ‘Brother’ Gorman. I was 16 and very active in my church’s youth group. The afflicted woman (funny how it’s females who are possessed more often than males) had stood in line to be prayed for at the front of the auditorium where Mr. Gorman’s crusade was held. Gorman began calling some of his men over (note that the MEN are doing the casting out). Then this woman falls to the floor writhing about. Several people in tge audience began clapping, smiling, and praising God (note that none of us could differentiate between a spiritual experience from God and a possession by demons). It was at that point that Gorman took his microphone in his grasp and began dramatically commanding us all to pray -in tongues, if we’d been baptized in the spirit. He warned us not to watch…we were to have our heads bowed and eyes closed. He then told us that the woman was possessed (I wonder if she knew) and that not doing what he said put us at risk of having the demon enter one of us. I did as I was told, shaking in my shoes, as I listened to him plead the Blood of Jesus and command the demon to come out, saying, “I see it! I see it! There it goes!” And then he pronounced it gone. Cheers, loud praise, and prayers in tongues erupted in the auditorium. I had nightmares for years. Looking back, I still get so angry for the years I wasted being a fool.
    Lee Barbo

    • The Other Weirdo

       That’s convenient. He tells everyone not to look, and then yells dramatically, “I see it! I see it!” Because no one’s looking, no one can actually confirm that there’s anything there to see.

      • Artor

        And if they do look & don’t see anything, that’s proof of the exorcist’s extraordinary powers.

        • Physeter

          And if they do look, they get their faces melted off like a bunch of Nazis. Seriously, it sounds like he’s getting the Bible confused with Indiana Jones here

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    When exorcists cast out demons, where to they cast them? On the floor? On the side of the road? Are there laws against demonic littering?

    “Please do not flush demons down the toilet. They can clog the sewage system. Please place them in a proper waste container. Thank you.”

    Do they end up in a land fill? Incinerating them probably would have no effect.

    If they’re just cast out carelessly, won’t they just go posses somebody else?  Actually, that would guarantee the exorcists a constant demand for their services. Sounds like collusion.

    • Fargofan

      It reminds me of the Bible story where Jesus sent demons into a herd of pigs, who promptly committed pig suicide. Clearly, that wasn’t the best place to send them.

      • Pedro Lemos

        It reminded me of “The gospel according to Jesus Christ”, from Saramago. A book full of gold passages…

    • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

      I put them in the compost, my tomatoes have never been better.

    • Alex

      They recycle them, so that more good Unix daemons could be made.

  • Kim

    Interesting. 94% of exorcists have people actively seeking them out (only 6% say that they are never/almost never sought out). There is clearly a market for this sort of thing.

    I would definitely be among the 15% who make my victims sign a waiver though!

    • http://twitter.com/OlivawR R. Daneel Olivaw

      We have a local “Christian” ghost hunter group that performs exorcisms.  They are apparently in high demand.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    It’s missing:

    “I ask the possessed to first get a CAT scan to rule out brain tumors”

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    Oh yeah, I cast out my own demons all the time. It’s called “crank up the punk rock and scream your head off.”

  • scinquiry

    This is 2012, right?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Did the survey ask them if they watched “Constantine” or the second “St. Trinian’s” movie first, to get pointers and tips?

  • onamission5

    My mom used to cast out my demons every time started to argue with her. Nothing like being 11, trying to make a point about how being punished for something you didn’t do isn’t fair and having your mom scream, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” at you.

    Whee, childhood.

    • Marco

      More like child abuse. It’s a wonder that you seem well, adjusted and familiar with technology. Many in your shoes would not have been able to get free of the nonsense.

      • onamission5

        I blame (thank) a handful of really great teachers in my public school and the fact that my folks weren’t openly religious at all during my very early years. It’s something that was inflicted upon me forcefully starting sometime after I declared that I didn’t believe in Jesus, which was about age 4-5. Before that, they were hippies, then they became dominionist evangelicals, now they’re a strange breed of survivalist/ultra-con/religious/tea partiers who believe they’re super open minded yet also think gay marriage is an abomination and aren’t above trying to convert elderly people on their death beds.

        I love them for their anyway, but there’s a reason I live waaaaaaay over here and they live waaaay over there.

  • http://twitter.com/ftsor ftsor

    Grown-ass adults. 

    *shakes head*

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

    I try to find out the demon’s name.

    Demons have names? Who named them – mommy and daddy demons?

  • Marco

    What do people do in places where they don’t believe in demons? Or for that matter anywhere where they don’t believe in Jeeeeesus? Seems like invoking Jesus is part and parcel of the ritual. 

    I cannot be bothered for a link, but there is a trio of teenaged, female exorcist making news here and there. Absolutely appalling. I think they just got or are shopping for a reality show. As if octomom wasn’t enough of an arbinger for the end of civilization.

  • Djlong77

    My father was an evangelical,charismatic, tent revival preacher……. ya I’ll just let that sink in for a bit…….ok, ready for the fun? My cousin had  turrets syndrome and I got to watch that exorcism go down when I was ten years old.  37 now and better but it took a while is all I’m sayin’.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Tourette’s Syndrome, actually.

      • Pedro Lemos

        Oh thanks, I get it now. When he said turrets syndrome all I could think about was those cute turrets from Portal shooting and cursing…

  • Nigel

    Sigh, I conducted one when I was a young adult, 30 years ago. My father had done many in our house over the years and I was convinced my girl friend of the time was possessed because I tried to make her say “Jesus is Lord” (the test that no demon allegedly can say) and she kept stumbling  on the words.    (No, the relationship didn’t last). 

    I’m pretty ashamed of it now. The memories of all of that stupid shit still haunts me (ok, no pun intended!) 

    • pureone

      I can’t say “Jesus is Lord” without giggling. Is that a test?

    • JohnnieCanuck

      It would take torture to make me say “Jesus is Lord”. Maybe that explains the reported techniques of some exorcists.

      • Nigel

        I’ll be right over to fix you up! 

    • Aaron Scoggin

      I think I would cringe just from the bad english. “Jesus is Lord” isn’t even a real sentence or statement. 

  • LesterBallard

    Bob Larson is the best Exorcist ever!

    http://youtu.be/mlMFAPcyTmY

  • http://twitter.com/moother moother

    People lying in the name of jesus…. who knew?

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Can you imagine if demons were real, and you could send them places?

    Hello, Westboro…

  • TheTrueScotsman

    Good to see Christians keeping up with the 15th century. 

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com/ GDad

    So if most exorcists don’t require a signed consent form, have I been exorcised whilst walking down the street without my knowledge?

  • Gus Snarp

    From the last two items I conclude that at least half of exorcists think they should be ordained for doing something they believe that any “mature Christian” can do. In other words: they readily admit that they have no special skills or training whatsoever, but want to be ordained because they like to play exorcist.

    And what the hell is a “mature” Christian?

    • Antinomian

      “And what the hell is a “mature” Christian?”

      Somewhat like a unicorn or a fairy.


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