Exorcism (demonic possession) is easy to fake

Skeptic44

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I'm sure every Christian knows that Jesus was an exorcist. At least, he's described as one in the Gospel of Mark. Here's one example.

Mark 1:21

And they go on to Capernaum, and immediately, on the sabbaths, having gone into the synagogue, (Jesus) was teaching, and they were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as having authority, and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:23

>> And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, 'Away! what -- to us and to thee, Jesus the Nazarene? thou didst come to destroy us; I have known thee who thou art -- the Holy One of God.'

Mark 1:25
And Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be silenced, and come forth out of him,'
__________
Right away, I have some concerns.

The demon knew Jesus by name. As soon as he saw Jesus, the demon cried out, ".... Jesus of nazareth... I know you (as)... the Holy One of God."

So, IF there are no such things as demons, how did this man know Jesus by name? Why did he say that Jesus was a "Holy One of God">>??

Is it possible that the man wasn't possessed at all, but was one of Jesus' group that had gone into the synagogue ahead of Jesus to play out a charade? That would explain it.

Continuing
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Mark 1:26
and the unclean spirit having torn him, and having cried with a great voice, came forth out of him,
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So the process of exorcism involved a lot of shouting, and falling down to the ground and screaming in pain... but no actual demon ever appeared, did it?
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Mark 1:27
and they were all amazed, so as to reason among themselves, saying, 'What is this? what new teaching [is] this? that with authority also the unclean spirits he commandeth, and they obey him!'

Mark 1:28
And the fame of him went forth immediately to all the region, round about, of Galilee.
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So, this is how Jesus became "famous". He commaned "unclean spirits" and they obeyed him. IN front of witnesses in a synagogue.

Mark 1:29
And immediately, having come forth out of the synagogue, they went to the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John,

________________

This is the first of many credibility problems with Christianity.

Jesus is described as a man who had a conversation with an "unclean spirit" (Greek: pneuma) who was speaking with the voice of a man he had taken possession of. Jesus gave the spirit a command and the spirit obeyed.

Today, such men would not be worshipped. They would be viewed with suspicion as con men, or a psychiatrist would be called to give them the right medication. Not worshipped.
 

iBrian

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Firstly, you presume a complete accuracy of the account, which in itself could be a problem - after all, if the Gospels are actually propagandist works (to any degree) then there's always the danger of...spin, for lack of a better word.

But on the objections themselves - the ancient world was filled with unseen forces. Disease itself was invisible, excepting when it started to fully manifest itself in the form of symptoms. Animistic thought would still be prevalent to some degree - certainly I'd think among the lower classes - so that the idea that invisible forces could take hold of a body would make sense to such an audience. We can make a distinction of the differences simlpy because we have a couple of centuries of medical biology behind us.
 

WHKeith

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I can address the idea of possession from two diametrically opposed traditions.

First, when I was a Charismatic fundamentalist Christian, many years ago, I took literally the Gospel injunction to "go forth and cast out unclean spirits." On numerous separate occasions, I found myself engaged in conversation with . . . an entity . . . that claimed to be a demon, and each time it departed when commanded to leave in the name of Jesus.

Nowadays, I've abandoned fundamentalist Christianity--my apologies to those of you on this board who find this offensive, but I did so for reasons that seemed right to me.

My perspective now is from the other side, in a manner of speaking, as a practicing witch and a student of the occult. I find now that true examples of what might be termed demonic possession are quite rare. However, the human mind is an astonishing entity in its own right. It is quite possible--and surprisingly common--for the mind to form a splinter personality, if you will, a manifestation of some dark or repressed aspect of the psyche. Much modern magic is shaped by the knowledge that we each possess a "shadow self," perhaps analagous to the Freudian "id," that tends to want things its own way regardless of what that does to the person's conscious mind.

And if the belief structure of the person is such that he BELIEVES that the name of Jesus, or a particular incantation or spell will "drive out the demon," then the demon is driven out. The amazing thing is that the mind appears to use this formula in order to allow the person to accept healing and forgiveness where that simply wasn't possible before, whether due to pride, inflexibility, or what-have-you. A related phenomenon--multiple personality disorder--appears to usually (some say always) manifest in victims of childhood sexual abuse or other severe psychological trauma; the creation of alternate perosnalities and identites is a very clever way for the mind to escape or endure the unescapable/unendurable.

The "demons" I've encountered have not been instances of full-blown MPD, but they may well represent conversations with temporary aspects of the dark/repressed side of the victim's unconscious.

Given your handle, Skeptic44, I'm sure a lot of this is less than plausible from your point of view. I relate it only to point out that there IS a genuine phenomenon that has been termed "demonic possession" throughout history and in every culture, and which continues to be encountered today; and, further, that there are times when the magical and psychological explanations become so blurred and intermingled it is impossible to separate the two.

Certainly, we don't need to imagine a hoax or con-game fomented by the Apostles on a gullible population, especially in light of the knowledge that the writers of the Gospels DID have an agenda. That "unclean spirit" that knew Jesus's name could have been able to do so for any of the following reasons:

1. The demon was a fragment personality of the victim. It knew the name either through unconscious channels (i.e. telepathy--which does often manifest through direct interaction with the unconscious) or simply because the victim knew that an itinerant rabbi named Jesus was in the area casting out unclean spirits. Word traveled far and wide within small communities solely by mouth in those days, remember.

2. It was a real demon with real supernatural knowledge. To my current understanding, there ARE entities within and without that could be called demonic . . . albeit without the Medieval Christian window dressing of hellish legions following Satan. Most of these have little to do with or interest in humanity, but there ARE exceptions. (Even here, I wouldn't want to dogmatically exclude the possibility that this is just an extreme case of #1, above. The human mind possesses extraordinary power and scope.)

3. The fact that the spirit knew Jesus's name was a later glib polish put on the incident by the writer of the Gospel. As Poobah said in The Mikado--"to lend verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."

Anyway, I again ask the forgiveness of those on this board who might be offended by an occultist's presence. I just thought some might enjoy seeing the issue from a slightly unusual vantage point.
 

Skeptic44

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I said:
...the ancient world was filled with unseen forces. Disease itself was invisible, excepting when it started to fully manifest itself in the form of symptoms.
_________

Not exactly on point.

The story in Mark says that the possessed man spoke to Jesus.

Said he addressed him by name, "Jesus of Nazareth."

Said he shouted in a synagogue full of Jews, "Jesus of Nazareth is the Holy One of God."

Not exactly "disease" or "unseen forces."

Unless you'd care to speculate on how "disease" or "unseen forces" could product this kind of an exchange.
 

Skeptic44

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WHKeith said:
many years ago... On numerous separate occasions, I found myself engaged in conversation with . . . an entity . . . that claimed to be a demon, and each time it departed when commanded to leave in the name of Jesus.

.....And if the belief structure of the person is such that he BELIEVES that the name of Jesus, or a particular incantation or spell will "drive out the demon," then the demon is driven out. The amazing thing is that the mind appears to use this formula in order to allow the person to accept healing and forgiveness

...The "demons" I've encountered have not been instances of full-blown MPD, but they may well represent conversations with temporary aspects of the dark/repressed side of the victim's unconscious.

.....there IS a genuine phenomenon that has been termed "demonic possession" throughout history and in every culture, and which continues to be encountered today; and, further, that there are times when the magical and psychological explanations become so blurred and intermingled it is impossible to separate the two.

>> Certainly, we don't need to imagine a hoax or con-game fomented by the Apostles on a gullible population, .
_____________

Going back to the adage, "Proportion your belief according to the evidence."

Which is more likely? Which is a better explanation?

(a) Jesus had one of his friends pretend to be possessed so he could exorcise the "unclean spirit" in front of witnesses, on cue, in a synagogue, in a manner that convinced people he was an exorcist who could command supernatural spirits, or

(b) the man in the synagogue suffered from a dissocative condition that allowed him to identify Jesus by name and be cured when Jesus called on the demon to leave...

I think the next line is, "And if you believe that one, there's a gold mine in Argentina that I want to sell you."

The only reason the "demonic possession" you talk about is considered to be a "genuine phenomenon" is that the con game is so easy to pull, scam artists in every culture do a variation of it.

The big hurdle is getting over your previous conception of Jesus as a wise, honest teacher.

Once you allow for the very real possibility that he was running a con game in order to establish a reputation as a faith healer and exorcist, several of the stories in the Gospel accounts make a lot more sense.

Raising Jarius' daughter, for example, where he tells the crowd, "She wasn't dead, she was only asleep."

What if he was telling the truth? She wasn't dead. He went into the room and found her asleep, and then she woke up.

The most likely explanation - why reject it in favor of giving exorcists and "demonic possession" a level of crediblity they don't deserve?
 

iBrian

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Skeptic44 said:
Going back to the adage, "Proportion your belief according to the evidence."
Actually, if I personally do that, then at no point am I able to distinguish historical reality in the New Testament, from the propagandist element that my British cynicism tells me is inevitably present.

In which case, why not even question the actual event itself even occuring? Hence why I made a general point on unseen forces - to indicate that the story itself would not be improbable to accept for a 1st century audience.
The big hurdle is getting over your previous conception of Jesus as a wise, honest teacher.

Once you allow for the very real possibility that he was running a con game in order to establish a reputation as a faith healer and exorcist, several of the stories in the Gospel accounts make a lot more sense.
The big hurdle is actually taking too much at face value in the Bible. Jesus as the "con man" is an interpretation that has limitations - as does the "wise man" perception. The situation appears far more complex (some would say prosaic) than that.

Unfortunately, a great amount of Atheism is rooted in that superficial treatment of Biblical literature - Dennis McKinsey does a particular job of ridiculing the KJV English, rather than making a required exploration of the Hebrew or Greek epistemology.
 

Skeptic44

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I said:
...to distinguish historical reality in the New Testament...., from the propagandist element

... Jesus as the "con man" is an interpretation that has limitations - as does the "wise man" perception. The situation appears far more complex (some would say prosaic) than that.
_____________

Brian,

My theory that Jesus was a con man... or to narrow it a bit, the men in Jesus' group were con men who spread a story after Jesus died that they knew was false... because most of what we know about this group came from the period after Jesus was dead... but this "group" of Galilean fishermen led by Peter wanted to con other people, possibly because they had grown up in an occupied country and simply wanted to show their lack of respect for the Romans... In Acts, we have a list of names:

Acts 1:13
and when they came in, they went up to the upper room, where were abiding both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James, of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zelotes, and Judas, of James;

Acts 1:14
these all were continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication, with women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
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The "Christian" version would be these men were meeting to pray together. But what if they were con men, drunks, who were planning how to sell the story of "Jesus" to the public? Would we wind up with something like this:
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Acts 1:1
The former account, indeed, I made concerning all things, O Theophilus, that Jesus began both to do and to teach, till the day in which,

>> having given command, through the Holy Spirit, to the apostles whom he did choose out, he was taken up,
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Lie #1 - Jesus was speaking "through the Holy Spirit" when he gave these apostles "command" - the authority to speak for God....
________________--

Acts 1:3
to whom also he did present himself alive after his suffering, in many certain proofs, through forty days being seen by them, and speaking the things concerning the reign of God.
________________

In this version, Jesus appeared to the apostles for a period of forty days... an appropriate period in Jewish tradition
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Acts 1:4
And being assembled together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, [saith he,] 'Ye did hear of me; because John, indeed, baptized with water, and ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit -- after not many days.'
_________________
So the risen Jesus was "assembled together with them" and gave them commands in plain, simple English... and he talked about "baptism" - a topic which would appear again and again in the early church.

But... IF Jesus talked about "the reign of God", what did he say about the Messiah kicking out the Romans and creating a new nation of Israel? That would have been a question every new convert asked.

Did the ghost of Jesus actually tell Peter the answer?
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Acts 1:6
They, therefore, indeed, having come together, were questioning him, saying, 'Lord, dost thou at this time restore the reign to Israel?' and he said unto them, 'It is not yours to know times or seasons that the Father did appoint in His own authority; but ye shall receive power at the coming of the Holy Spirit upon you,
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The ghost of Jesus answers the question by saying, "God doesn't want you to know... so don't ask me again." And all the apostles can verify that, because they were there as eyewitnesses and saw Jesus talking to Peter....
___________________

and ye shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and

>> unto the end of the earth.'
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Even Jesus mentions "the end of the earth." Because this was an End of the World cult, and it made sense to have the ghost of Jesus affirm that the end of the world was near, and would take place while his apostles were witnessing in Judea and Samaria...
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Acts 1:9
And these things having said -- they beholding -- he was taken up, and a cloud did receive him up from their sight;
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So the ghost of Jesus levitates up into the sky until it is hidden from their sight by a cloud....
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Acts 1:10
and as they were looking stedfastly to the heaven in his going on, then, lo, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men, Galileans, why do ye stand gazing into the heaven? this Jesus who was received up from you into the heaven, shall so come in what manner ye saw him going on to the heaven.'
______________

Now we have two angels - messengers from God - who told the apostles that Jesus is going to return the same way, appearing from behind a cloud and come floating down....

And you wonder - every Christians shows the same skepticism - why I stand on a soap box and say, "Jesus and his buddies were con men. They made up stories. You can't believe any of this actually happened. It's dishonest men making up any kind of nonsense that they think will fool the naive and stupid."

_________________

Acts 1:12
Then did they return to Jerusalem from the mount that is called of Olives, that is near Jerusalem, a sabbath's journey;
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So they went to the top of a mountain - always the appropriate place to have face-to-face meetings with deities in the Jewish faith - and that's where this all took place.

con men. Once you get the image that Peter and the boys were scam artists, all of this makes perfect sense. Levitating up into the sky to disappear behind a cloud, the two angels delivering a prophecy about HOW the world would end, that it would be announced by Jesus appearing in the clouds and coming down... yeah.
 

Dave the Web

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My reply on the other post was as much a reply to this as that. I was signed out during posting and had to come back. I hope I did not post in the wrong one.
 

Skeptic44

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Carrying out the hypothesis that much of the gospel accounts was the product of a group of con men and women working together....


Mark 15:46
And Joseph of Aramethea, having brought fine linen, and having taken him down, wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre that had been hewn out of a rock, and he rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre,

Mark 15:47
and Mary the Magdalene, and Mary of Joses, were beholding where he is laid.

Mark 16:1
And the sabbath having past, Mary the Magdalene, and Mary of James, and Salome, bought spices, that having come, they may anoint him,
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Here are the names. Mary the Magdalene... where do we know that from? (See below)
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Mark 16:2
and early in the morning of the first of the sabbaths, they come unto the sepulchre, at the rising of the sun, and they said among themselves, 'Who shall roll away for us the stone out of the door of the sepulchre?' And having looked, they see that the stone hath been rolled away -- for it was very great,

Mark 16:5
and having entered into the sepulchre,

>> they saw a young man sitting on the right hand, arrayed in a long white robe, and they were amazed.

Mark 16:6
And he saith to them, 'Be not amazed, ye seek Jesus the Nazarene, the crucified: he did rise -- he is not here; lo, the place where they laid him!

Mark 16:7
and go, say to his disciples, and Peter, that he doth go before you to Galilee; there ye shall see him, as he said to you.'

Mark 16:8
And, having come forth quickly, they fled from the sepulchre, and trembling and amazement had seized them, and to no one said they anything, for they were afraid.

Mark 16:9
And he, having risen in the morning of the first of the sabbaths,

>> did appear first to Mary the Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons;
__________________

Here's the POINT:

Mary the Magdalene is described as the subject of an exorcism.

Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary the Magdalene.

And this is the same woman who said the risen Jesus appeared to her, FIRST, on the morning of the sabbath...


.... and IF she was an actor who pretended to be possessed by seven demons so Jesus could cure her in front of an audience, how much credibility does her testimony about seeing the "risen" Jesus have?

Should it have?
________________

Mark 16:10
she having gone, told those who had been with him, mourning and weeping;and they, having heard that he is alive, and was seen by her, did not believe.
________________

According to Mark, no one in the group found her testimony credible.

why should we? Since we've never met her, and all we really know about her is that she pretended to be possessed by seven demons and was exorcised by Jesus????
 

iBrian

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Hi Skeptic44 -

I'm afraid I fail to see your argument about Mary as relevant - you're inventing your own strawmen in your own argument to support a conclusion you're not otherwise supporting.

Although there's certainly room for charlatanry in the circumstances of the 1st century AD, you're narrowing your viewpoint far too hard.

If the whole "Jesus" thang was just one big con, why was it carried on to such extremes afterwards? You haven't isolated either why the con was so amazingly convincing for the people of the first and second centuries, or else why it didn't work so well elsewhere (ie, if applying the same arguments to Apollonius of Tyrana, or Elagabalus and his Syrian vision).

If you want to see deception and trickery at work in the gospels then you're going to see it, precisely because you want to see.

I found your comments on the property issue in the other thread properly interesting, because you make a supported assertion - that followers were at least sometimes required to hand over their assets to the early Christian church.

However, in this instance, you are simply guessing. Whereas there's nothing wrong with guesses in themselves, please be reminded that the purpose of this site is to ensure respectful dialogue between paths - and I fear there's a very real danger of you causing offence. Please try and be more structured in your objections.
 

Skeptic44

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I said:
Hi Skeptic44 -

I'm afraid I fail to see your argument about Mary as relevant - However, in this instance, you are simply guessing. Whereas there's nothing wrong with guesses in themselves, please be reminded that the purpose of this site is to ensure respectful dialogue between paths - and I fear there's a very real danger of you causing offence. Please try and be more structured in your objections.
_______________

First, we're talking about Mary Magdalene, NOT the mother of Jesus.

Second, she is identified IN THE TEXT as the woman who was possessed by demons, which were exorcised by Jesus. So I'm not guessing about that.

But if we KNOW she was a member of Jesus' group, and washed his feet with her hair... AND we take the simple step of saying demons don't really exist and therefore it is reasonable to conclude that Mary was one of the actors who pretended to be possessed...

.... then it is certainly relevant that this same Mary reported back to the disciples that she had seen a "messenger from God" sitting in the tomb. And the people she told didn't believe her.

If we can't assess the reliability or credibility of the source of these stories... and that's what I'm doing.... then how can you learn whether they're credible or not?

Christianity seems to have been founded on the reports of a small cult, which gained converts based on predictions of the End of the World and the ability of their leader to command demons and the wind.

If I'm wrong about that, show me. Please. Give examples.

I'm sorry if this theory offends Christians, but they get so much of the other side in their churches.... Seriously, how many people in this country earn paychecks based on their ability to convince people Christianity is credible? Benny Hinn? Pat Robertson? Jim Bakker? Jimmy Swaggert?
 

Skeptic44

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I said:
Hi Skeptic44 -

If you want to see deception and trickery at work in the gospels then you're going to see it, precisely because you want to see.

.

that's one opinion.

But the subject is exorcism.

Jesus encountered "unclean pneumas" who not only identified him by name, but shouted at the surrounding spectators that Jesus was "the Holy One of god."

It's not that I see deception and trickery at work when it isn't present.

The story in Mark's Gospel is that a demon - an invisible spirit - took possession of a victim's body and then used it to tell people Jesus was the Holy One of god.

Do you really think I'm see this deception ONLY because I want to?
_____________________

>> I, Brian: You haven't isolated either why the con was so
>> amazingly convincing for the people of the first and
>> second centuries

I thought it was obvious.

Because Jesus was dead and not on the scene, the doctrines of Christianty could be changed to whatever "con" would sell to a particular people.

The idea that Jesus was a "Soter" - a term in Roman mythology for a god who took human form and performed miracles while on earth for a while - Jesus became a "Soter" or "Savior" when the story was told in Rome.

The idea of baptism - God will only forgive your sins when you are immersed in water - struck home with Jews who had seen their Temple leveled. There had to be some reason why God had allowed it to happen. A cult that said God couldn't forgive your sins without an act of cleansing was easy to sell. Then, after the baptism, God would fulfill his promise to create a New Earth where justice prevailed.

Lots of other reasons - mostly because the stories about Jesus were changed to "give the people what they want." Which you mentioned in your post, when you said that different people have different concepts that can't always be reconciled.
 

Skeptic44

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This article appeared in the Washington Post on Wednesday, August 20, on page B1.

Headline: No Woman Dreamed Up This Hocus-Pocus

By Courtland Milloy

Have you heard about the African sex "cleanser" scam?

It goes like this: Widows and unmarried women in rural villages inevitably attract evil spirits, you see. And if those spirits are not "scrubbed out," the crops won't grow, and the cattle will die.

Enter the cleanser -- a man who roams from hut to hut getting paid to drive away the spirits by having sex with the women.
_______________________

(Skeptic44: This is a thread about the exorcisms Jesus performed, and how easy they would be to fake. Thought it would be relevant to see what it takes for a reputable American newspaper like The Washington Post to label a "religious belief" as a scam - in print, several times, in the second article on the same subject. This is how the editors of the Post define a scam - and this one has to do with men claiming the power to control evil spirits. Sound familiar?

Matthew 10:1 And when Jesus had called his twelve disciples, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness... Now the names of the twelve apostles are: first, Simon, who is called Peter...

So, in this Gospel, it says that Peter was given the authority to cast out unclean spirits by Jesus. Am I getting that right?

Matthew 10:5 Jesus sent these twelve out saying, "...go to the lost sheep of Israel... and as you go, preach "The Kingdom of god is at hand." Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons."

so, these are the powers of the disciples, including Peter, pretty much as Peter reported them to a church group in Rome, about ~50 AD. Some texts leave out "raise the dead".)
Continuing the article...
______________

A story about one cleanser, Francise Akacha, appeared Monday in The Washington Post. Women in the Kenyan village of Gangre refer to him as "the terrorist," because he is an unkempt slob who doesn't know, and doesn't want to know, whether he is spreading HIV/AIDS around the village.

But most women victimized by this custom don't believe that they have a choice. In Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Angola and villages across West Africa, the cleanser is believed to have the power to purify women.
_____________________

(Skeptic44: Peter and other members of the early Churc claimed the power to remove sin through baptism....) Continuing the article...
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"As tradition holds, [widows] must sleep with the cleanser to be allowed to attend their husband's funerals or be inherited by their husband's brother or relative," reported Emily Wax, a Post foreign correspondent. "Unmarried women who lose a parent or a child must also sleep with the ritual cleanser."

You can just imagine the guys who came up with this custom -- typical village losers, no doubt, leaning against a tree one night, reeking of home brew:

Bum No. 1: Man, I need a woman.

Bum No. 2: But we're too greasy and ugly.

Bum No. 3: So let's make up a new tradition, just for guys like us.

Apparently there's no limit to the games men will run on women just to have sex.

The truly surprising thing about this scam is that it has worked for so long -- some say for centuries.
________________

(Skeptic44: Interesting. Here's a scam using a religious belief about casting out evil spirits that has run for centuries. Does that make it any less of a con game? Not according to the editors of the Washington Post...) Continuing the article...
__________________


Then again, that appeal to tradition may be part of the con.

In 2000, an Anglican bishop in Kenya called on women belonging to his church to reject the practices of sex cleansing and inheriting wives.

In an interview published in Christianity Today, Bishop Joseph Wasonga said that although sexual relationships between widows and their brothers-in-law (among other relatives) had become the norm, that had not always been the case.

"In the olden times, the practice of wife inheritance was symbolic and fundamentally for the care of the widow and her children," Wasonga said. "The man then assumed the role of father to the children and performed important tasks like giving daughters away in marriage. The cleansing ritual involving the widow sleeping with another man was never part of the old practice. This ritual cleansing is a recent adaptation."

Wax noted that 30 percent of the women in Gangre now feel confident enough to tell the cleanser to get lost.

The biggest obstacle to change is Africa's centuries-old patriarchal societies.

"The men we interviewed did not hesitate to reveal their sexist attitudes, saying things such as women would 'automatically commit adultery' if they owned property,' " a Human Rights Watch official said during a recent appearance before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. "A chief said: 'A woman and the cows are a man's property.' "

Such attitudes need to change -- and fast. In Africa, Wax writes, "Women are six times as likely to contract HIV as men, mostly because of rape and customs like cleansing, in which a man can spread the disease to hundreds of women."

In what is clearly a life-and-death struggle, African women can't count on the courts or other authorities to help them. So they may be forced to take matters into their own hands.

Here's where the Western experience may be useful.

Imagine a seminar for African women featuring, say, Al Green on how a pot of hot grits can make a man see the light; or Clara Harris on how you don't need a Mercedes-Benz to run down your cheating man -- a donkey and cart will do the job; or Lorena Bobbitt on how to do some real sex cleansing with a 12-inch kitchen knife.

This scam would be over in less time than it takes to toss that severed cleanser onto the side of the road.
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(Skeptic44: Some brutal language here at the end. My point is, try to imagine how non-christians view the pronouncement by Jesus that Peter and his friends had been given the power to cast out demons. Are they justified in saying "scam" in the same way the Washington Post did here?
 

Skeptic44

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Okay, you might ask, "How is a discussion of exorcism relevant to Christianity today?"

Not only are exorcisms still being performed in Christian churches today, there are instances where children die from the practice:

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
27 August 2003

Police are investigating the death of an eight-year-old autistic boy who suffocated during an "exorcism" ceremony performed by members of his church. The senior pastor at the church has already been arrested and officials said they were treating the boy's death as a homicide.

Terrance Cotrell died after being wrapped in sheets while members of the church attempted to cure him of "spirits", said David Hemphill, whose brother, Ray, led the service at the church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Saturday.

"[They] were just praying for him and asking God to deliver him from the spirit that he had," he said. "The little boy had spirits in him, and we was asking God to deliver him." Mr Hemphill said the prayers were in accordance with Matthew 12:43, which says: "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it."

The boy had been taken to the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith, located in a run-down shopping mall, by his mother, who joined in the prayers with Mr Hemphill and other members of the congregation. But at the end of the two-hour prayer session a woman noticed that Terrance was not breathing. Someone called the emergency services but by the time they arrived the boy was dead.

A neighbour said Terrance's mother was a convert who once said that the evil spirit had spoken through her son at the church. "She said he said, 'Kill me, take me, kill me'," said Denise Allison, a neighbour. "I was like, are you serious? I couldn't really believe that."

The Milwaukee County coroner's office said that a post-mortem examination had concluded that the boy had died of "mechanical asphyxia due to external chest compression". Eileen Weller, the office's administrative manager, said: "Air was not able to get in or out."
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The topic is comparative religions, and how Christianity compares to primitive or animistic religions where the local religious leader says a widow must go through a cleansing ceremony to rid herself of evil spirits that could hurt next season's crops.

How is this so very different from Christianity?
 

iBrian

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That was indeed a very tragic case - and thanks for reminding me - something I wanted to post up in the news section.

[EDIT - Hm, can't find a reference to "Terrance Cotrell" on either the BBC or CNN sites - do you have a link for the above article, pleae?]
 

Skeptic44

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I said:
That was indeed a very tragic case - and thanks for reminding me - something I wanted to post up in the news section.

[EDIT - Hm, can't find a reference to "Terrance Cotrell" on either the BBC or CNN sites - do you have a link for the above article, pleae?]

I went to Google and hit the News button.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=437511

http://news.google.com/news?num=30&...uster:www.ktre.com/Global/story.asp?S=1414950

news.google.com

Google lists 368 other links for the same story. Many of them just pull it off a wire service. Here's the story on BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3181637.stm

... Torrance was involved in other abusive "prayer sessions" both at the church and at home. During some of these sessions, church members would hold the child down and strike him. At another session, a neighbor reported seeing church members beat the eight-year-old boy with a belt.

The boy's mother, Patricia Cooper, defended the abuse with the "the Bible says it's ok" argument. Cooper was an impressionable single mother, financially destitute with a special needs child. She was willing to go to any length and believe anyone, even radically abusive fundamentalists, not to have to deal with her son's disability.
 

iBrian

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Thanks for that - I'll post it up in the enws section.

I had actually seen the stroy covered by another BBC service - simply couldn't trace the name on the BBC website. They don't appear to put all their stories online, which is sometimes quite a shame.

Or maybe it's just me being useless. :D
 

bible_reader

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This is an old topic. But I was wanting to pose this to the group.

Does this account of a demon knowing Jesus prove that Jesus actually had a Pre-Human existence?

Holy one of God? Why not Holy God?

Does this verse refute the Trinity Doctrine?
 
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