Bill Donohue boasts: exorcism now mainstream

Bill Donohue, president of the mis-named Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (which, too often, seems to be more interested in imposing conservative Catholic values on the rest of society than in protecting the rights of Catholics as people) likes the movie The Rite, and likes most of the mass media response to it. Donohue says that the mass media have been mostly very respectful toward the Catholic Church's claimed power to cast out demons -- much more respectful than the mass media typically are toward the Catholic Church in general, he says.

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Actually, there has been some mainstream mass media criticism of the recent Catholic exorcism trend -- although, admittedly, not very much so far.

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The exorcist-as-hero meme might eventually wear thin if there are enough sex scandals involving Catholic exorcists. There has already been at least one such sex scandal, though it hasn't yet been very widely publicized yet.

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Is "demon possession" real? I certainly don't claim to know the whole story, but, in my opinion, it's important to listen to what the skeptics have to say, even though they've gotten hardly any mass media coverage lately:

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Catholic exorcism and NYPD "experts on occult crimes"???

I recently came across the news story Updated: Vatican steps back from Discovery's 'Exorcist Files' by T.L. Stanley, Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2011, according to which:

"Aside from the priests, experts like Richard Gallagher, a faculty member at Columbia University's Psychoanalytic Institute, will be part of "The Exorcist Files." So will psychiatrists, theologians and New York Police Department experts on occult crimes. The series doesn't have a host, per se, but Adam Blai, who identifies himself as a Roman Catholic demonologist, is a guide through the episodes."

The New York City Police Department has "experts on occult crimes"??? I'd sure like to know who they are and how they came by their alleged expertise. Historically, people who have billed themselves as "experts on occult crimes" have been, in most cases, Christians with an ax to grind against alternative religions and subcultures, regarding them all as demon-inspired. The linking of "experts on occult crimes" with exorcism is not a good sign.

It's worth keeping an eye out for anything having to do with Catholic exorcism in New York -- as well as Pentecostal and new-Apostolic "Deliverance Ministries," of course.

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Recovered memories -- true vs. false?

In a comment thread on Talk To Action, I got into an interesting discussion about "recovered memories" -- the very idea of which has been the focus of lots of controversy among psychologists and psychotherapists. Is it possible for people to repress, more-or-less completely, their memory of a traumatic event, and then to recover it later? The 1980-1995 "Satanic Ritual Abuse" (SRA) scare was fed, to a large degree, by "recovered memories" -- in many cases "recovered" via the "hypnotic regression" that was faddish back in the 1970's and 1980's.

Most of the writings I've read on the topic of traumatic "recovered memories" have had an all-or-nothing attitude: Either they were inclined to trust all (or at least most) "recovered memories" of trauma, or they were inclined to distrust all of them. Until just the past few days, I don't recall ever reading any intermediate stances except by a few of the people who endorse truly wacky SRA claims. And I never encountered anyone who provided any useful, down-to-earth advice on how to distinguish between probably-true and probably-false recovered memories of trauma. Admittedly I haven't been staying up-to-date on the relevant academic literature, so it's quite possible I missed something important.

In my Talk To Action post "Exorcism and religious intolerance," Tue Feb 01, 2011, I refereed briefly to the SRA scare and "recovered memories." Someone with the name OldChaosoftheSun replied with a comment arguing that recovered memories are indeed a real phenomenon -- and so too did ArchaeoBob, whom I am inclined to respect, here and here.

In my reply to ArchaeoBob, I said I would be "interested to learn more about the circumstances under which a recovered memory is likely to be true." ArchaeoBob replied with what seems to me -- at first glance, at least -- to be a very credible, down-to-earth list of differences between probably-true and probably-false recovered memories. Of course, I'm no expert on memory and not really in a good position to evaluate the validity of his list, but at least it's not prima facie wacky in my opinion.

Quick hello to folks from Religion Dispatches

This blog was linked recently from the article Crying Witch: Learning From the O’Donnell “Dabbling” Debacle by Spencer Dew on Religions Dispatches, October 28, 2010.

For those readers who might be looking for my group NYC Satanists, Luciferians, Dark Pagans, and LHP Occultists, which was mentioned in the above article, details are here on Meetup. It's a discussion group that holds regular monthly meetings in New York City and is one of the very few Satanist groups, anywhere, to hold regular meetings open to the general public. We welcome Satanists, Luciferians, "dark" Pagans, and "Left Hand Path" occultists of all law-abiding kinds, and we welcome people interested in learning about the many kinds of Satanism, Luciferianism, "Dark" Paganism, and "Left Hand Path" occultism.

Our next meeting is on Thursday, November 4.

"Satan" and the "God" of Christian dominionists

In the Dark Christianity LiveJournal community, in a thread titled They're at it again, begun by roseross, there was a comment by underlankers referring to dominionist Christianity as "de facto Satanism." Naturally, I questioned that.

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In my opinion, the very idea of "absolute evil" is an absurdity. It cannot possibly exist. See my page about Elliot Rose on the absurdity of "Evil" as a principle.

One of the philosophical considerations that helped me give up (a fundy-leaning form of) Christianity, at the age of 15, was my realization that the whole idea of "absolute Good vs. absolute Evil" was very war-propaganda-ish, and that it was highly unlikely that either side in any conflict could be 100% good or 100% evil.

Many years later, I had a totally unexpected series of profound, ecstatic spiritual experiences involving a Being that answered to the name of "Satan." Then, for several years after that, I spent quite a bit of time pondering what those experiences meant. I did not accept Christian theology, or an inversion thereof, but considered a variety of alternatives.

Recently, a few friends of mine and I agreed on the following "micro-creed" as an oversimplified summary of some important aspects of what "Satan" means to us:
We revere a God,
Who manifests at that which is feared,
Who dares us to face down our fears,
and to stand with those people who are unreasonable feared.

In those forms of Christianity and Islam that promote belief in a Devil, Satan is associated, primarily, with any and all straying outside the religion's own little box. However, to anyone with intellectual integrity, it is a good thing, not a bad thing, to face down irrational fears and to explore ideas outside one's own ideological box. So, if there's a divine Being out there that wants us to face down irrational fears and to have intellectual integrity, an enticing "Satan" would be the most emotionally resonant form under which such a Being could manifest to people in our culture.

No, I'm not a LaVeyan. I'm a theistic Satanist.

See also What is Satanism? and Satan and "Evil" in Christianity (and Satanism).

Meaning of "brat brigade"

treph posted a comment here, regarding my use of the term "brat brigade" to describe obnoxious teenage Satanists:
I'd appreciate it if you would respect the "Brat Brigade" a little more. Not all teenagers such as myself are uneducated in Satanism. Sure, you probably have your reasons for not liking teenagers and I do not blame you old curmudgeon iconoclasts but you should be a little more open minded. It is not easy being a teenage Satanist especially in these times and having people I look up to criticizing me for becoming a Satanist doesn't help either.

Let me clarify: I do not use the term "brat brigade" to refer to ALL teenage Satanists, but ONLY the ones for whom Satanism is primarily an excuse for being obnoxious, or in some cases an excuse for lawbreaking. A "brat," to me, is not just any kid, but an especially obnoxious kid. Unfortunately, Satanism does seem to attract more than its share of obnoxious kids, but not all young Satanists are in this category by any means.

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A Nigerian Yoruba chief stands up to the Christian and Muslim missionaries

Christian missionaries, especially of the dominionist/"Transformations" variety, love to claim that the spread of Christianity will dramatically reduce crime. But now a traditional Yoruba leader in Nigeria, Chief Kayode Idowu Esuleke, Baale Esu of Osogbo, is pushing back with similar claims for a return to the traditional Yoruba religion.

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Baale Esu also explains how the god Esu came to be identified with Satan. Collapse )

He then makes the standard Satanist/Luciferian/Gnostic critique of the Garden of Eden story -- with which almost any outside to the Abrahamic faiths would likely agree. Collapse )

Christian anti-Santeria crusader here in NYC

Yesterday a press release was put out by one John Ramirez, author of a book titled Out of the Devil's Caldron: A Journey from Darkness to Light, in which he claims he was "trained to be the third-ranked high priest of a satanic cult (Santeria) in New York City--casting powerful witchcraft spells and controlling entire spiritual regions" -- until, for whatever reason, he finally converted to Christianity.

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I don't know enough about Santeria to know whether this guy is a genuine ex-Santero or is just making stuff up. (For example, I don't know whether a genuine "third-ranked high priest" would be likely to believe he had control over "entire spiritual regions.") I can only say, offhand, that (1) the press release gave me the superficial impression of sounding awfully Mike Warnke-ish, and (2) his claim that Santeria is a "Satanic cult" is obviously not objectively true, although perhaps it is something an ex-Santero who had converted to fundy Christianity might say.

Ancient Roman allegation about Christian ritual murder of infants

In the Mystic Wicks forum I saw a post about The New SRA Revival... by Bryon Morrigan, who also has a website and a blog. On his blog, a post titled Intolerant of the Intolerant contained a very interesting ancient Roman quote about Roman pagan rumor-mongering against Christians, reminiscent of today's "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare. Among other things, Christians were alleged to have eaten babies.

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In the Middle Ages, all too many Christians made similar allegations against Jews. And, these days, all too many Christians, and some other folks too, have made similar allegations against Satanists, Pagans, etc.