Adventures In Recovery ~ Boo! Letting Go Of Magical Devil Thinking

Adventures In Recovery ~ Boo! Letting Go Of Magical Devil Thinking March 31, 2011

 by Calulu 

Sometimes I forget just how far my thinking has changed since I left
Possum Creek Christian Fellowship only be to reminded in a very big
way when I least expect it. The other day I was reminded how much my
thinking on ‘The Devil’ has changed.

I was working at the quilt studio helping a customer pick out coordinating fabrics for borders and bindings on several quilts she was finishing up. This customer was someone I knew vaguely from my PCCF days, a lady that attended a sister church that has split off from PCCF named Abundant Grace Fellowship. This lady, Michelle M., was a regular at both of the studios, the fiber arts-quilting one and the fine arts studio. She is one of those few from my former world that actually deigns to speak to me like I’m a human being, not an enemy or someone to be pitied.

As I stood at the cutting table unrolling the fabric bolts and cutting her fabrics, the door behind me, the one leading into the employee area, slowly mysteriously creaked open on its own. It opened fully, both sides of the saloon-style door flaying out until you could see all the way to the back door of the building.

Michelle startled, gasped and moaned out, ‘What was THAT?’ I kept cutting before answering her with a shrug and a smile, ‘That’s just our ghost’

The studio is in a former Presbyterian church. The church was constructed in the late 1700’s before becoming our shop ten years ago when the congregation outgrew the building. A building that old is bound to have a few quirks or perhaps unusual visitors. Everyone who works there has seen the opening closing door leading to the employee area. We sometimes hear footsteps upstairs and what sounds like people talking from the upstairs.

For some reason I think our visitor’s name is Charles and he was a former pastor of the church. I think he comes back to check to make sure everything is in order. It’s not spooky, it’s just the way things are there. We’re used to whatever it actually is.

The building next door was a tuberculous sanitarium from that same time frame and people have seen strange shadows and lights inside. Across the street is a pre-Civil War hotel also rumored to have unexplained phenomena.

I’d forgotten until that exact moment how Fundamentalism views anything outside of the norm until Michelle opened her mouth and begin to berate me for trucking with The Dark Side. This was clearly DEMONIC!!! and I must cast it out with prayer and the BLOOD OF JESUS!!! It’s a DEMON!

Before I could think I started laughing hard and telling Michelle, ‘If that’s a demon he’s the most ineffectual evil I’ve ever seen. All he does is open and close the door.’

Which opened the door to her shouting out a huge screed about how God was punishing Japan and that demonic activity caused the tragedy over there along with the election of our president. DEMONS! DEMONS! DEMONS!

I was biting my tongue so hard and trying not to bray out that the pressure of molten magma at the core of the earth makes Tectonic plates shift which causes earthquakes that result in tsunamis, not demons or the wrath of the Almighty. It’s basic scientific facts.

Later that day I got a phone call from an old friend telling me she’d heard I was fooling with dangerous demonic things and was on the path to hell. I tried to explain to her my thinking that so-called ‘ghosts’ have a scientific basis, like perhaps the electrical currents that run our nervous system don’t always dissipate when we die. I believe that’s why most of these sites thought to be haunted have off the charts high electrical readings. It’s just something we don’t know about yet.

Anything mysterious and unknown, is chalked up to demonic activity in my old church, not science, not the fact that there’s so much unknown out there, not to facts but to old Beelzebub. Well, the Devil must be busier than the proverbial one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest according to what all gets laid at his feet as his ‘fault.’ I think he gets a bad rap, surely we, circumstances, science, and other things screw up way more things than some ultimate evil.

This Demon-thinking is so rooted in fear, fear of the unknown. I’m so glad I don’t live in that fear any longer. There’s just too much unknown out there that I like to ponder to waste time being afraid. Living in fear is paralyzing. I much prefer thinking for myself and coming to my own conclusions instead of being told what to think.

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  • julie paradox

    It’s a terrible way to think. When I was a teenager I had massive angst over my predictive dreams (nothing useful, just “oh I’ve dreamed this scene”, but frequently very definite and unmistakable) which because current scientific understanding couldn’t explain them were obviously something God disapproved of!

    Actually, that’s significantly different from the earthquake devil – I’m a British Anglican with a strong scientific bent – but I had similar ideas on ghosts (I do remember thinking that a churchyard was a sanctuary from ghosts because it was consecrated ground so they wouldn’t be *allowed* to do anything bad to you).

    Some years later (by now recovered) I was telling my sister about the dreams and my reaction to them, and she said “oh, I’d have been so excited to have something like that happen to me!” I realised how my experience had been spoilt – because actually, it *is* exciting. Partly in a speshul snowflake kind of way, but partly because of the very abnormality I was afraid of.

  • Still working on this mindset. I am mostly not afraid anymore, but the nightmares still freak me out.

  • Fantastic post. I’m not sure I could have bit my tounge like you did with that lady.

    I totally agree that it’s all about fear. I’m so glad to be free of that lifestyle!

  • Merri

    I can SO relate to your post…I was unfortunately one of the ‘if it’s not from God as spelled out in the Bible and pastor-approved, it is by definition Evil’ believers. It was all about trying to control my world and avoid pain. I was freed of that fear mindset a couple of years after leaving (ok, getting driven out of) the church/cult when I read a book by a buddhist monk who explained a basic tenant of buddhism, ‘suffering is.’ Allowing myself to understand that everyone has pain in life, and nothing can be done to avoid it, and no one is particularly at fault for most of it, was the most freeing thought-change of my life. I guess I’m a zen-christian now! I can imagine what my old church pals would say!!!

  • Carol

    “God couldn’t have wanted people to die in an earthquake so it MUST be the Devil!!!”

    “God COULDN’T have wanted a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT as President so it MUST be the Devil!!!!”

    “God couldn’t have wanted Newt Gingrich to cheat on all of his wives on their deathbeds so it MUST be the Devil!!!! Poor Newt. He’s suffered so much at the hands of the Devil.”

    How little we respect the Almighty when we presume to know His every purpose, His every motive and the details of ALL of His plans. How much power we give to a defeated foe (Satan) and how much we look down on the FULL WORK of Christ on the Cross when we say Satan has so much power to cause so much havoc.

    If we Christians believe that God is sovereign – then why are we always making the Devil out to be so much more powerful?

  • denelian


    i’m not Christian, but i have a theory, that i hope you won’t find offensive.
    [trigger warning: rape and similar]

    i think it’s the same thing that drives victim blaming, in a way. bad things happen – with rape, it’s a specific horrible dehumanizing bad thing that no one but the rapist has ANY control of. people are TERRIFIED of being raped, and even MORE terrified that they have almost no control over if it will happen – so they blame the victim for what she wore or drank or said or went or whatever, because if it was HER fault, all the blamer has to do is NOT do what the victim did, and they’ll be “safe”.

    likewise, BAD THINGS HAPPEN. we don’t have control over most of them – tsunamis or cancer or car accidents or floods or or or or – so many Christians do the same thing – they victim blame, in the very specific “Satanic/Demonic” way – if the person who suffered from random Bad Thing had been a REAL Christian, who had REALLY rejected Satan and the Demonic, then the Bad Thing *couldn’t* have happened, God would have prevented it – it ONLY happened because the victim “let Satan in” by not being Christian ENOUGH.

    if that makes sense?

    i don’t know – as i said, i’m not and never have been Christian. but many of my friends, including my boyfriend/partner of 7 years, ARE, and we talk. a lot. about everything, including religion.
    so this is what I, an outsider, have garnered from these interaction; may not be wholely accuracte, but i think it’s close

  • I’m always surprised at how many fundamentalist evangelical protestants seem to give the “devil” more power than they give either Jesus or God.

    I’m a missionary, and I once heard a pastor here in Panamá say: “The reason there are so many earthquakes in Costa Rica is because of their sin.” I said, “If God sent earthquakes to punish sin the entire planet would be shaking like a bowl of jello 24/7!” He disagreed. Oh, well.

    You are doing great work here.

  • Jenny Islander

    So over at fuglyblog dot com, there was this farm run by a couple who apparently extended the Quiverfull lifestyle to their livestock, however that’s supposed to work. They used demons to excuse all kinds of laziness and preventable suffering. Predators get into the chicken coop? DEMONS! Don’t fix the henhouse; pray over the dead chickens. Something almost rips your poor dog’s head off and he comes running home whimpering and hiding his head under your arm like a scared puppy? DEMONS! Don’t even bother putting some antiseptic on the horrible wound. Just pray over it and leave the poor animal on the porch overnight.

  • Thank you for this. During my early Christian days I was too shy to attend church so I got my religion fix by listening to Bob Larson’s radio show. It was quite confusing, listening to him to on and on about Satan (often more than he talked about Jesus), but then castigating callers who had even the slightest interest in anything spiritual that wasn’t straight out of the bobble. I remember him telling a woman who practiced yoga (“Just the stretches,” she insisted) that she was the most spiritually afflicted person he had ever encountered, and then hung up on her.

    So glad I’m far, far away from that mindset and the poor people who are still … possessed by it.

  • Sporkey

    I’ve always been perplexed that people assume ghosts=evil/demon. I know ghost hunters and have hunted myself, and it’s never occurred to me that they were anything other than normal, regular people who died. Kind of sad, in a way. I mean yeah, sometimes you get the heebie-jeebies, like something’s not right, but demons? Heck, some living people give me the heebie-jeebies!

    denelian – I believe the same as you – that if you can attribute a “cause” to something horrible that is arbitrary and random, then if you do the opposite, you won’t have random and arbitrary horrible things happen to you. A lot of people believe this, whether religious or not. I tend to think that it is a human coping mechanism. If Cavewoman Unga ate those mushrooms over there and became deathly ill, you know to stay away from them…and that thought process starts spilling over into things that happen randomly. Our brains are wired for patterns but sometimes we see patterns where there isn’t any to be found.

    I think the demons thing just outlines the fear people live in. When everything’s evil, the world must be a terrifying place. How horrible and stressful it must be to worry about the devil every moment of your life.

  • vanessa

    Personally, I think you’re just trading one set of superstitions (demons) for another set of superstitions (ghosts). At least your set of superstitions doesn’t include eternal hellfire for those who don’t believe, so that’s an improvement.

  • Carol

    I think you made some excellent points.

    I’m tired of Christian idealism. Bad things do happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people too. Who are we to say who deserves what? We’re not God, we shouldn’t judge. It’s not up to me to figure out what God is thinking or what His intentions are – it’s up to me as a Christian to show love to ALL. I was lost but God saved me – I have no merit in my salvation so who the heck am I to go around pointing the finger at everyone else, telling them they are not good enough? That’s the REAL work of the Devil – to divide people, to make us hate each other for whatever reason. Because when we’re busy hating – no one is talking about Jesus and the Cross, are they?

  • Moe

    Rape is a real fear to women. Look at the stats of those who HAVE BEEN raped. “date” rape, acquaintance rape, gang rape, incest, you name it, these are all real, not imaginary like the devil. And yes people years ago did blame the victim. BTW the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn rape, just consider it a property issue, like when the Armies of Gideon after butchering a town kept the virgin “women” for themselves. And in the OT if a woman is raped and she doesn’t cry out , she is to marry her rapist.

    This ” demons” in everything belief was shown well in the “Trading Spouses” episode where the Xian mother went nutso and showed her irrational fear when she was with a New Age family.

  • Moe

    Bob Larson has gotten worse. Now he claims to be a “real exorcist”. As a long-time Bob Larson watcher I heard BL make a number of insane and outrageous statements, including his claim that since Christopher Reeve was for stem cell research, he is in hell now.

    Larson adds to the “demons” in everything fear and exploits it for his own vanity and to feed his greed.

    I’ve been a Pagan for 30 years now and I still am amazed at the mindset that such ans such has to be from demons. This is the ” spiritual warfare” garbage gone amuck aided by the paranoia that “Dr. Rebecca Brown” popularized before she was exposed.

  • Moe

    Actually ghosts may not be a “superstition.” While I am skeptical of a number of things supposedly paranormal and think ” Coast To Coast AM” is full of nut cases, in all honesty I understand we humans perceive in a limited spectrum and that there is a possibility that ghosts exist in some form. I do think that having a critical mind about these things helps filter out credulity. However I also think that being too ” rational” is a handicap. When the coelecanth first surfaced in the 1930s scientists thought it was a hoax of an ancient fish. Until more of them showed up and we now have preserved specimens. Sadly no coelecanth has survived being near the surface.

  • denelian

    um… people STILL victim blame in rape cases. i was blamed, despite the fact that i was 12 years old, and my stepfather had been abusing me for years.

    even better CURRENT example – Cleaveland, Texas. where an ENTIRE NYT article was pretty much nothing BUT various residents talking about how that 11-year old victim of a violent rape [committed by somewhere between 19-28 DIFFERENT MEN, aged 14-29].

    the Bible DOES directly state things like “do unto others as you wish them to do unto you”.

    i’m sorry – it’s just that your post makes me believe that A) you don’t think rape is that big of a deal, despite the numbers you vaguely cite and B) you think that blaming the victim doesn’t happen anymore. i’m fairly sure you don’t MEAN to come off as a person saying “well, the Bible doesn’t say it’s bad, so it’s not really bad”.

  • denelian

    that explained it MUCH better than i did, thanks 🙂

  • Actually, I’m not really into ‘ghosts’ or the ‘supernatural’, it was more a simplistic way to explain those doors to someone else. The point of my post was that after leaving instead of blaming things I didn’t understand on some universal evil I’m now open to different explanations or even none. There’s just so much out there that I don’t know but the unknown is not to be feared.

  • Roger M

    Of course there is some explanation why doors open by “themselves”, be it draft, gravity or some other force. I think you did a bad move throwing “ghost” out there as this obviously would spark some reaction from any person believing in spiritual or metaphysical “matter”.
    As far as I know, NO ghost has ever been detected for real. It’s just as debunked as any power of praying. Nothing has been proven. Nor have spirits, or whatever some people believe “leaves” a person after death. It all relies on faith, and faith has no ground in reality. So I would suggest you clear your mind from claims that depends solely on faith when you deal with situations as the one described. Just by merely open the door for “ghosts”, you inadvertently open a can of worms where xians and other type of believers carry a lot of (scary) luggage. Be a skeptic, and ask anyone telling you to believe something based on faith, to come up with proof other than the numb faith. It saddens me though, that so many fear a silly devil, demon or hell at this day and age. Seems like the dark age is alive and well in some circles……

  • val

    I don’t think that’s totally fair. The old “oh, that’s just my ghost” joke is generally a harmless and fun expression meaning you don’t know why the door opens or the book fell on its side. I can easily see someone forgetting what company they are in and throwing it out there in good humor.

    On another note…I think it’s fun to entertain ideas about what may be out of our realm of understanding. I don’t think it’s harmful at all, as long as the people doing it are rational enough to step back into the real world after their flight of fancy.

    For example, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t kick back and “plan” for the zombie apocalypse every now and again! But do I believe in the possibility of zombies? No, not at all.

  • val

    “Our brains are wired for patterns but sometimes we see patterns where there isn’t any to be found.”

    Very well said!

  • Roger M

    Agree, as long as one knows the distinction between reality and fiction. Religion = fiction imho
    We absolutely need fantasy and imagination. Art, books, sports (I guess, even if sports tend to get close to religion 😉
    Not to forget video games! I’m fighting evil spirits/ghosts/zombies/walking dead and what not in video-games on daily basis!

  • julie paradox

    the rain it raineth every day
    upon the just and unjust fella;
    though mostly on the just, because
    the unjust nicked the just’s umbrella
    –Ogden Nash

  • Finally a scientific explanation for the door opening. Today I was on the other side of the doors unpacking fabric bolts from Japan when the main heating unit kicked on in the shop. I felt a whoosh and the doors popped open from the air pressure.

  • soldia

    This is such a great blog — I had a visit from my ex-brother in law a couple of days ago, and we had a three hour conversation about how the Russian government caused the Japan quake, how our government was stockpiling body bags for the great war they are about to rain down on us, about the family internment camps they are building for you and me. I kept laughing. Body bags? They stock pile them for hurricanes and other natural disasters! Internment camps? Those “camps” are run by I.C.E. and their purpose is to hold illegal aliens, as well as to provide shelter for disasters.

    As for the president and all other world leaders who meet in secret to kill and eat babies as they worship the devil, well …

    The “magical thinking” that happens is due to isolation and lack of intellectual growth, I think. I know that my brother in law is still sitting on his Y2k ranch waiting for the world to end. He doesn’t even have electricity anymore. How can he know what’s really going on when he forcefully isolates himself from reality in that way?

    The sad thing is that he still thinks that if I’m not “doing something” about it, I’m “one of them.”

    Whenever these people talk about these kinds of things, I am reminded of my favorite line from the movie Nacho Libre: “Why you always have to be judging me because I only believe in science? “