Social Question

LostInParadise's avatar

What is the science behind demonic possession and exorcisms?

Asked by LostInParadise (25488points) April 2nd, 2011

I heard on the radio about an exorcism conference being held in the U.S. I was a bit surprised to find demonic possession is still being taken seriously. The article mentions a modern wrinkle of first screening people for physical or mental disabilities. How do we account for those who remain? I wonder if they are just faking it. I think it would be cool to be the center of a drama involving a team of priests invoking all sorts of prayer and ritual and then making everyone so happy by announcing that you have been freed of possession.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

18 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Most people who participate in exorcisms are very devout. I don’t believe they are faking it, the mind just does funny things when you really believe something. And the science behind it is that many of the people who seek exorcism really do have a mental or physical illness that causes their symptoms. There is a bit of a placebo effect that comes from exorcism, for some.

Talimze's avatar

People could definitely be faking it. Teenage girls are known for faking this sort of thing, especially. Of course, you don’t need to be crazy to sincerely believe that you’re experiencing/witnessing a demonic possession. You could just be mistaken, and your belief system is coloring what you think you’re seeing. That’s usually the explanation.

Judi's avatar

There are right wing fanatics who think all mental illness is demon possession and there are those who think science and psychology can answer everything.
I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
I know I have witnessed both.

FluffyChicken's avatar

I don’t know of any science backing it up, but I also don’t know of any science that proves it can’t exist.

ragingloli's avatar

Mental illness, maybe head injuries, and fakery.

mattbrowne's avatar

Placebo effect / self-fullfilling prophecy.

But most of the time it doesn’t work. There’s a sad history of cases applying exorcism to Asperger children until the mid 60ies, before Hans Asperger’s work was rediscovered by researchers and made know to a growing number of doctors. The effect of the exorcism nonsense had been zero of course.

snowberry's avatar

You won’t likely find any serious Christains talking about exorcism on THIS site.

GladysMensch's avatar

I’ve done some study on exorcism (wrote a fairly lengthy paper on it in college). My findings were that nothing happens in “possession” that can’t be explained by science. Don’t get me wrong, some of the symptoms seemed impossible (ie. speaking backwards in foreign tongues; having words “appear” on skin). However, when held up to scrutiny, all symptoms displayed by “possessed” people could also be found in the non-possessed as well.

Exorcisms, as stated above, only work as a placebo. But like a placebo, they can work. If the “possessed” truly believes that a demon resides inside him/her, then the person can also be convinced that an exorcism will remove the demon, and hence, the symptoms.

Rarebear's avatar

There is no science.

Response moderated (Spam)
Response moderated (Spam)
Response moderated (Spam)
LostInParadise's avatar

@GladysMensch , Some of those symptoms seem quite extraordinary. How does one account for them? To play devil’s advocate (no pun intended), one could argue that maybe those who did not think they were possessed really were.

dabbler's avatar

the utter lack of coherent science on the matter doesn’t mean nothing is going on. Psychic driftwood and intentionally hostile energies can mess people up and exorcism rituals compiled from past experiences of attempts to heal craziness could accidentally clean some of that up. But that is like imagining that your visit to stonehenge on a ritually important day lined those celestial bodies up. Instead you put yourself in the right place at the right time to experience a specific phenomenon that was know to have happened in similar circumstances in the past. An exorcism might open or close psychic centers that enable healing.

Rarebear's avatar

“An exorcism might open or close psychic centers that enable healing.” Wait…what?

GladysMensch's avatar

@LostInParadise, Well, the brain can do extraordinary things. Schizophrenics hear voices, and their brain waves when hearing those voices are similar to the waves when they’re hearing real voices. People have visions when under intense stress, drugs, or illness. Music savants can play songs note-for-note that they’ve heard only once. Others can do seemingly impossible mathematical equations in their heads. Some people can remember intricate details about every day in their life. I’m not saying that all episodes of possession are savants; I’m saying that “symptoms” of possession can be found in people who never claim or are believed to harbor any sort of demon.

mattbrowne's avatar

Hallucinations can be associated with drug use, sleep deprivation, psychosis such as schizophrenia and neurological disorders. Being “possessed” is often related to hallucinations. Sometimes also to unusual behavior that is poorly understood.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther