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Tips to know when someone is Demon-Possessed

Recognizing the difference between a person who’s possessed and a person struggling with a mental illness or other infirmity is a vital part of the ministry of exorcism, according to a long-time exorcist and priest.

Father Cipriano de Meo, who has been an exorcist since 1952, told CNA’s Italian agency ACI Stampa that typically, a person is not possessed but is struggling with some other illness.

The key to telling the difference, he said, is through discernment in prayer on the part of the exorcist and the possessed – and in the potentially possessed person’s reaction to the exorcist himself and the prayers being said.

The exorcist will typically say “(a) prolonged prayer to the point where if the Adversary is present, there’s a reaction," he said.

“A possessed person has various general attitudes towards an exorcist, who is seen by the Adversary as an enemy ready to fight him."

Fr. de Meo described the unsettling reaction that a possessed person usually has, detailing a common response to the exorcist’s prayer.

“There’s no lack of frightening facial expressions, threatening words or gestures and other things," he said, “but especially blasphemies against God and Our Lady."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between demonic activity and mental illness. From paragraph 1673: “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness."

In April of last year, the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and the Sacerdos Institute hosted a seminar at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum University, specifically aimed at training priests and lay people in spotting the differences between psychological problems and demonic possession.

The conference included interventions from a wide range of experts in the field of exorcism, including practicing exorcists, medical professionals, psychologists, lawyers, and theologians.

Fr. de Meo also emphasized that not all cases of possession are going to look the same, which is why it is so important for exorcists to go through rigorous training.

“It’s up to the priest serving in this ministry to know how to deal with the case, by the will of God, with love and humility," he said.

“For this reason, with my bishop’s authorization, for 13 years, I’ve led a school for exorcists. I’ve tried to especially prepare those who are beginning this ministry," he said.

However, even though cases of demonic possession are not as common as cases of psychological illness, most people are too unaware and unfamiliar with spiritual realities, he said.

In 2014, the International Association of Exorcists (AIE) called the rise of occult activity a “pastoral emergency."

“It usually starts out of ignorance, superficiality, stupidity or proselytizing, actively participating or just watching," AIE spokesperson Dr. Valter Cascioli told CNA at the time.

“The consequences are always disastrous."

Father de Meo said that people often turn to “the chatter of magicians and Illusionists" for answers, rather than “the weapons the Lord has put at our disposal."

While people often seek radical answers or signs, the best defense against demonic possession is a simple and sacramental life of prayer, the priest said.

“It’s absolutely fundamental to get rid of sin and live in the grace of God," he said.

“The Church in fact, wants a life of prayer, Not just on the part of the priest but also the (member of) the faithful asking for the intervention of the exorcist, who benefits from the help of family members as well," the exorcist explained.

The Catechism offers further guidance on how to avoid demonic activity: anything that involves recourse to Satan or demons, or that attempts to conjure the dead or reveal future events, is to be rejected.

From CCC paragraph 2116: “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone."

As for the exorcists themselves, it is important to remain humble and to remember that their power comes from Christ, Father de Meo added.

“Regarding spiritual preparation, humility and the conviction that we exorcists aren’t the ones who are going to cast out the demon that’s fighting Christ. We’re called to fight on behalf of Christ."

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This article was originally published on CNA March 17, 2016.

This Article was written by



    1. Mperez Reply

      That’s exactly the weakness the devil counts on, ignorance , a blind eye, and doubt. Sounds like your in already in trouble. Be careful . You have no protection so that would make you more vulnerable.

      1. Tom Rafferty Reply

        How do you know there is a supernatural realm, let alone demonic creatures?

  1. Doug Reply

    Very revealing and well stated. This is a topic that should be, but is not, taken seriously in today’s culture.

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    So we’re going back to 1614. Seriously? Seriously? Priests conducting exorcisms should be charged with practicing medicine without a license and punished with jail time.

    1. sueduh Reply

      Hi Patrick. Based on the fact that you read the article, must mean that you have an interest in the topic. Many people condemn or belittle the power of prayer, until they have exhausted all hope and throw their hands up to God and plead for his help. This is a form of prayer. Punishing a priest for praying is kind of like punishing a doctor for practicing medicine. Both are helping people. I just said a prayer for you, Patrick and hope you have a nice day. Peace.

      1. Tom Rafferty Reply

        How do you know that prayer works? How do you know that there is anything supernatural? Not idle questions.

        1. sueduh Reply

          It’s a great question, Tom. I know by faith that prayer works, I had a quintuple bypass at 51 years old (3 years ago). I selfishly went on Facebook to ask friends and family for prayers and good thoughts for me and for the team operating on me. I went in thinking everything was going to be fine – but there were complications and I was on life support. When I finally came to – 2 days later, i was overwhelmed by a feeling I never had before and its hard to explain – just a “knowing” that everything was going to be ok and I would come out of this (even though my family who visited me with all of the tubes and wires coming out of me knew it was a very grave situation) …I had a very calming feeling and an acceptance of whatever comes next. I would say it was a sense of peace. Come to find out I had been anointed with oils (we used to call it, last rites) by a priest while I was unconscious. I also found out later that my family and friends had requested prayers for me in their churches and on facebook and my thoracic surgeon also told me that he had unashamedly said a prayer for me as well . I was the beneficiary of the power of prayer and it has never left me. I pray for everyone, whether they ask me to or not. It can’t hurt, right? Faith is supernatural. Change the word prayer to “thoughts”. People are always asking to send good or positive thoughts for one thing or another. I just pray for them instead. I’m so sad for people who think there is nothing to look forward to after death. How painful that thought must be. I have faith – that after this life, there is another life that we can’t even begin to imagine! I wish you peace and happiness all the days of your life.

          1. Tom Rafferty

            First of all, I am glad you are doing well. That said, think about how you answered. You answered “I know by faith that prayer works.” I am not surprised by your answer, if fact I expected it. Have you educated yourself regarding probability, how the brain works to create cognitive bias, and how the brain responds to lack of oxygen to create the experience you had? Everything you experienced can be explained through natural processes. I wish you well in the future.

        2. James Neufeld Reply

          Nobody “knows” that prayer works, nobody “knows” there is anything supernatural.And nobody “knows” that prayer does not work, and nobody “knows” there is no supernatural.

          The believer in God must use faith to tell the story to his or her heart of who they are.The believer in no god must do the same.

          But you my friend have the most impossible negative to prove in the history of

          What I find perplexing is the effort you put into forums that do not reflect your beliefs, by a subtly scoffing of the forums believers.You must know that believers find your beliefs as ignorant and in the dark as you find ours.But I have no temptation to go to your forums and question your beliefs with subtle questions of doubt. Your attempt to proselytize your beliefs are as annoying as the proselytization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

          The power of doubt destroys the construction of faith.Doubt destroys construction of hopes edifices of heavenly thoughts .Sometimes I wonder if I believe in God, and the stories, or rather do I hope they exist. Both to me are holy.

          If you were given the power of a god, would you give eternal life to mankind?

          Do you find anything holy Tom?

          1. Tom Rafferty

            How do you know that your views are true? There are thousands of religions. How do you view evidence? Faith is a place holder for “I don’t know.”

      2. Patrick Gannon Reply

        My interest in the topic, Sueduh, is the same interest I have in snake handlers, speaking in tongues, and other odd and unusual ways that pagan practices persist into modern times. Jesus exorcised demons at a time when nobody understood epilepsy. Jesus apparently had no foreknowledge whatsoever of technology, or he intentionally left humanity to suffer for centuries with unnecessary disease, sickness and deaths, when he could have explained what germs were and why sanitation was important – instead of telling his followers that it was not necessary to wash their hands before eating.
        As for prayer, I don’t really understand why Christians do it. Yahweh is supposed to have this grand plan, this grand design, right? Who are we to ask that he should change his grand design, just for us? And Paul tells us that we’re predestined to salvation or damnation. God, knowing all, knows what’s going to happen, so what use is there in prayer to your god?
        The real problem, of course, is that there’s no objective evidence that prayer works. The Templeton Foundation performed a prayer experiment some years back and it was a total failure. People prayed for patients who were all having a particular procedure. The prayers made absolutely no difference to the predicted outcomes. The one odd thing, was that people who were told that they were being prayed for, did worse on average than those who did not know they were being prayed for. Researchers think this might have put additional stress on them, or led them to think their condition might be worse than they thought. In any event, the experiment indicated that prayer provided no beneficial difference. Clergy were quick to proclaim that “you can’t test God!” but we all know that if the results had turned out otherwise, they’d have been on it like stink on a dog pile.
        Then there’s the problem of the limits on prayer. One can only ask Yahweh to do certain things. He is apparently unwilling or unable to heal amputees no matter how hard they or anyone else prays for a limb to be regrown. You prove to me that prayer led to the regrowth of an amputated limb, and we’ll have something to talk about – till then, it seems that statistically speaking, there’s no difference in praying to your god than there is in praying to a milk jug. The answer is always, ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘maybe later’ at the same statistical rates.
        Now, does the act of prayer, as a meditative practice, have benefits? That could very well be the case. It could be that prayer puts the brain and consciousness in a state that enables the brain to better heal the body. We know there are beneficial results from meditation – lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, clears the mind, etc., but whether it helps us heal our own bodies is not confirmed – but there seems to be some evidence for it. I don’t think the prayers of others helped you a bit, but it’s possible that your own prayers, in the form of meditation, prior to your operation, calmed you and better prepared your mind and body to deal with the crisis that ensued.
        What really seems to be missing in cases like this is that the credit always goes to an invisible being that lives in the sky, instead of the actual doctors and nurses who saved the life, or healed the wounds of the believer. If it was me, I’d thank them rather than some deity I have no evidence for.
        I’ll touch on one other point. Believers always assume that it’s so painful for non-believers to consider that there’s no afterlife, but that’s a false assumption. Atheists and agnostics in some cases might fear death, but certainly not to any greater degree than believers. In my experience, they fear it much less on average. If Christians, for example, really believed in their religion and their god, why is there so much mourning at funerals? Why isn’t this a time of celebration and joy? Why aren’t people happy for those who got to go on ahead? Why the objection to abortion? (Oh, because the RCC says they go to Hell). Why did you bother to have your surgery instead of moving ahead to your eternal reward? Why would you go out of the way to avoid going to heaven, if it’s so wonderful and you are so convinced that it is there waiting for you? Why are you so delighted that prayers prevented you from going to your eternal bliss? It seems to me that you went out of your way to avoid that which you supposedly “look forward to after death.”

        The fear of death among believers, from my personal perspective, is indeed greater than the fear of atheists and agnostics, who figure the lights are just going out. There’s no concern that the tyrannical god of the bible might be real, and might send one to eternal torment, where I was told as a child, my skin would be burned off and constantly replenished from below in screaming, abject agony for billions and trillions of endless years. How could anyone who believed that kind of thing, not be afraid of death and question whether they believed, said and did the right things to avoid that punishment – after all, what if the Lutherans were right? Or the Baptists, or the Jehovah Witnesses, or god-forbid, the Muslims or Buddhists? You don’t know – and your god might burn you forever because you believed the wrong things. Atheists and agnostics don’t worry about things like that, so our fear of death is probably less than yours on average – but I know of no studies that specifically address this.
        Anyway, pray away if it makes you feel better; it’s your time. Prayer is for the person doing the praying. Hopefully it offers meditative benefits.

        1. sueduh Reply

          Thank you Patrick – I will continue to pray for myself and others and it does offer amazing benefits.

  3. Nishad Shally Reply

    Faith and Conviction in our Lord makes things possible because if we’re aware that there is a happiness in Faith while deriving these demons out in the name of The Father Son and Holy Spirit

  4. sueduh Reply

    Thanks Tom, and of course you expected that answer – the name of this site is catholicsay. 🙂 I’m just wondering why you are here. Are you looking for answers, or trying to dispute the beliefs of others by trying to apply science, where science has no basis?. If it’s answers you’re looking for – I hope you find them, if you’re trying to turn believers into doubters – you may be on the wrong website. There are still many things unknown to science. Mysteries. Why is there more matter than anti matter, what is dark energy, whats at the bottom of a black hole, why can’t we cure all diseases? Maybe science doesn’t have an answer for everything. One day we will all know the answer to all mysteries in the universe, but you have to believe. Of course you may have already been in deep thought and perceive the answer is 42. 🙂

    1. Tom Rafferty Reply

      sueduh, I am on this site mainly to challenge the thought process of theists in general, and Catholics in particular. I was a very devout Catholic myself until well into middle aged. I was exposed to the application of my skepticism (I had been a skeptic in all but religion) to religion via the internet. I now see the harm from religion that you don’t and am trying to get others to at least fully understand the thinking of atheists, thus, lessening society’s stigma of us. Deconversion from Catholicism would be a bonus. If you are curious, here is my blog: Peace.

      1. sueduh Reply

        Good Morning Tom. While I can appreciate the fact that you have a passion and are driven by a seemingly sincere desire to make, what you believe would be, a positive change in the way that catholics think – I truly doubt you will deconvert anyone on this site. Catholics, by and large, do not go out of their way to blatantly change the minds of anyone (even though we are called to evangelize) – we leave that to the Jehovah Witnesses 🙂 We don’t dislike atheists or any other group of people. You were a devout baptized catholic, so you know how we work. Prayer and fasting are ways that we try to change the hearts and minds of those who have not accepted Jesus. Many of us try to lead by example instead of words and rhetoric (Pope Francis and Bl.Mother Teresa – 2 “current” examples). We set up food pantries, orphanages, schools, hospitals. We go to poor countries and treat the sick, shelter the homeless and comfort the dying. We visit prisoners and bring them hope and pray with them. We do it as an act of love and treat everyone as a brother or sister in Christ. It’s much easier for a cradle catholic to abandon their church than it is for those of other faiths to convert to catholicism. Those are the people I truly admire. Apostasy on the other hand, comes with a huge warning and unless repented prior to dying, will involve an eternity of pain and suffering. I don’t want that for you. I will continue to pray for you and hope that you reach out to God with your last breath. He gave us free will and loves all of his children, even those who have renounced him.

        1. Tom Rafferty Reply

          Well, you certainly have the dogma internalized. I will not argue with you. However, since you hold your religious belief by faith and not by science/evidence based thinking, how do you verify the truth of Catholicism from any other denomination of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter? After all, there are thousands of denominations of Christianity, let alone other religions, and all claim to have “The Truth.”

          1. sueduh

            I don’t know claim to know all that much about other non Judeo-Christian religions, but I do know something about Christianity. As a former catholic, I would have thought that you would have a fundamental knowledge of the history as well. For the sake of time, I cut and pasted this bit of history from a place you would be familiar with – the internet 🙂 “The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest and original Christian Church, therefore, the beliefs and teachings of the Church were directly passed onto the leaders of the Catholic Church by the apostles. The Catholic Church began with the teachings of Jesus Christ, around 1st Century AD in the province of Judea of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus and no modern Christian Church can make that claim. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods and to correct doctrinal and policy issues and by the time the 3rd century came around, the Bishop of Rome (Pope) served as the decisive authority, kind of like a court of appeals, for problems and issues the bishops could not resolve. This is identical to the Bible’s teaching. In Exodus 18 we see where the children of Israel brought their disputes to Moses and Moses settled those disputes. However, it also shows where leaders appointed by Moses also worked to settle disputes.

            The Catholic Church remained the only Christian Church until the East-West Schism of 1054, which caused medieval Christianity to split and become two separate branches. The greatest division, however, came during the Reformation from 1517-1648, led by Martin Luther.”

            Therefore – other christian denominations started with the same “truth” also known as Jesus Christ – but splintered away due to differences in doctrine developed over time by people who wanted to reform the church or add their own views. Henry VIII wanted a divorce, but the pope would not allow it – so he broke away, burned down the monasteries and forced the british catholics to align to the newly formed Church of England, the Anglican Church. Christ gave the sacrament of the Holy Orders to the 12 Apostles and that lineage remains unbroken in the catholic church.

          2. Tom Rafferty

            I didn’t ask for a history lesson, I certainly know what the Catholic Church teaches. In fact, I taught it from the elementary through high school level and almost went into a teaching order. What I am asking for is this: how do you know that the Catholic Church is TRUE and divinely-inspired, and not just like all other religious myths?

          3. sueduh

            Apologies Tom, it wasn’t meant to be a lesson as I am far from qualified to teach, It was a reply to your question “how do you verify the truth of Catholicism from any other denomination of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter?” My question to you in response to “how do you know that the Catholic Church is TRUE and divinely-inspired, and not just like all other religious myths?” is, how do you know it’s not?

          4. Tom Rafferty

            I don’t know it’s not. I only know that there is insufficient evidence to convince me that there is any interventionist God, let alone the Christian/Catholic variety. This is science-based thinking, not dogma-based thinking. The religious are the ones making the claim that there is a God, thus, they have the burden of presenting sufficient evidence. No religion has done so.

          5. sueduh

            A great philosopher, theologian, proponent of natural theology and saint once said “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Peace out.

          6. Tom Rafferty

            Thomas Aquinas. I can’t challenge philosophy, as there is no way to verify a claim from a philosopher or theologian. It is a good tool for organizing reason, but to understand reality, – – -. Thanks for the respectful conversation. Have a great day.

          7. sueduh

            🙂 Thanks Tom, you too.

          8. Patrick Gannon

            Great discussion. You engaged Tom, but left me alone – which is fine. He’s “nicer” and less verbose than I am! You said we’re unlikely to deconvert anyone here. I’m not sure that’s my goal – but only to get people to think – and if that thinking leads them to deconvert themselves, then that’s up to them. Hopefully things discussed in these forums are shared in other discussions with friends, and family. These are tough times to believe in Yahweh given that the very foundation for His existence has washed out. We know today, beyond reasonable doubt, that there was no six day creation, no global flood, no mass Exodus from Egypt and no Conquest of Canaan, as described in the bible. Without these things, there is no basis for the Abrahamic religions – any of them.
            Most people didn’t know this 10 years ago, but word is spreading quickly, and the tools are there for people to do the research and draw their own conclusions. Many of us who have read the bible cover to cover and studied it have shared things in the bible that ought to concern any civilized human being – like worshipping a god who condones or orders slavery, rape, murder, genocide, etc.. It is becoming more widely known, for example, that when the Church translated the bible to English, four words (Sheol, Gehenna, Hades and Tartarus) were translated to the pagan word “Hell.” How we understand Hell, comes more from Dante’s “Inferno” and Milton’s “Lost Paradise” than from the bible. You mentioned to Tom “an eternity of pain and suffering,” clearly referring to Hell – but which one? Before Jesus came, there was no eternity of pain and suffering. Was he really the “good news?” And what did the original word “aionion” that was translated to “eternal” really mean back then? Please look these words up if you don’t already know them.
            For Catholicism, the overwhelming problem is what to do about evolution. The fundies reject it, largely through lies and willful ignorance, because their clergy understands the implications. The problem for the RCC is that a series of popes has accepted evolution to ever greater degrees and they now “allow” Catholics to believe in it (as though one needs permission to believe in facts). Evolution isn’t something you believe in, you accept it as explaining how we got here (not how we started). The problem for the RCC is that evolution kills original sin dead in its tracks. The DNA evidence does not support a 2-person bottleneck. There was no Adam and Eve. There is no evidence of any kind that humans in any number did something to get Yahweh’s panties in a wad and curse us all as a result. Paul and Jesus did not know about evolution, else Paul would have had to come up with some other way for us to have been born broken and commanded to be fixed. Paul’s story of original sin which came from one man (Adam), was based on his belief that the Genesis account was factual, and Jesus apparently didn’t correct him in his visions. There was no Adam. This should be wonderful news. We don’t need to believe, say and do the right things in order to avoid eternal torment. There’s simply no reasonable foundation for these pagan beliefs that benefit a select group of celibate, virgin men dressed in robes. We don’t know if there are gods or afterlives, but we can be assured that there is no Yahweh. If Israel would admit this, it could start the discussion the world needs to have.
            I can’t speak for Tom, but I will use every opportunity to raise questions and to share information in hopes that Catholics or other believers will a) research what I’ve said and call me on it if I’m wrong, then b) take it to their clergy and ask for an explanation, which I hope they will share here for continued discussions.
            I cannot emphasize how important it is for believers to read the entire bible, cover to cover. Here’s this book that they believe has the information needed for the single most important reason for being here – and few ever read more than the cherry picked passages read in church. In the old days, the RCC would burn you at the stake for reading the bible on your own. Only clergy were allowed to do so to ensure the proper interpretations. That policy has been rescinded. Catholics are allowed to read the bible, just like they are “allowed” to believe in evolution and Limbo; so please read it if you never have! (It’s OK to skip through the endless ‘begats’). Read one chapter every day at lunch. It will take about a year. There’s sex and violence and sex and murder and sex and war and rape, and slavery and more sex, and what can I say – parts of it are a real soap opera – getting dad drunk so his daughters can take turns raping him! Yowza!
            Be prepared for the possibility that reading the bible may adversely affect your faith. Your clergy will want you to read it in a program so you’ll get the “proper interpretation,” but read it for yourself, at least the first time with an open mind just to see what it really says. Then read it again in a program and give them a shot at explaining why you should worship Yahweh for any reason other than fear.

          9. sueduh

            Hi Patrick – You really didn’t give me any room to engage with you. You answered all of your own questions in the way that suited you, leaving me no need to respond. You do come off a bit condescending as well, which is kind of off-putting and made reading your entire comment a bit of a drudgery, to be honest.

            Our priest encourages reading the bible and not just in a bible study, but it is not only the bible that is important – Sacred tradition along with sacred scripture and the Magisterium make up the foundation of the catholic faith. The bible has never adversely affected my faith. I do read it by myself.

            For catholics, the primary purpose and value of the old testament is to prepare for the coming of Christ. The ancient world was very violent as the OT shows. God is just and merciful – even though his people may not be – which is why in his infinite love he sent his son into this world to be sacrificed in order to offer us salvation.

            There was an eternity of pain and torment or “hell” before Jesus came. By Christ’s death and Resurrection, Jesus opened heaven. Prior to that time all who died went to “hell”; however, the just went to a place in hell referred to as “the Bosom of Abraham,” where they would be comforted. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) seems to indicate that there were two parts of hell. Both Lazarus and the rich man died and went to hell, but Lazarus was comforted in the bosom of Abraham while the rich man was in a place of torment. The two parts were separated by a great chasm.

            Don’t worry Patrick – I just prayed for you, too – and there’s nothing you can do about it. No take backs! 🙂

          10. Tom Rafferty

            I agree with Patrick 100%. My approach to believers is just briefer. I ask a few questions and, if the person is firmly invested in the unsupported dogma, then I bow out. Thanks for what you do, Patrick, I just lost my taste and patience for what you are doing. 😀

          11. Patrick Gannon

            Sorry for the condescension – I’m trying to be informative. When people suggest that those who don’t believe what they do are going to eternal torment, that usually tells me they don’t understand Hell, and that they would worship a god who would send someone to what most envision as Hell, is very off-putting to me! I don’t understand how any human could worship such evil, other than out of abject fear.

            Sheol was the ‘hell’ of the OT, and it was not described as a place of punishment, nor considered as such till at least the time of Daniel, which many scholars consider to be a forged or fake book. The idea of two hells, is a NT idea based on the allegorical passages you refer to. Earlier books make it clear that Sheol was for good and bad alike, languishing together in permanent unconsciousness, and all would be judged at some point, with some rewarded by a new paradise and others punished by destruction – not torture. Eternal torture is the “good news” we get from Jesus, who spoke of Gehenna, the Jerusalem town dump, which has been closed for some time now. Hades, pagan brother of Zeus and Poseidon provides another Hell, with Tartarus being the bottom level of Hell apparently reserved for Satan and his demons. It’s all pagan. Jesus was clearly speaking allegorically to Jews who knew that being thrown into the dump was the worst possible insult for a Jew in lieu of a normal burial.
            The Luke passage you referenced was clearly allegorical – as you said, it was a parable. That means it was a story, and Jesus took some liberties with his description of Sheol it seems. How would one communicate across this chasm? Why is this two-room Sheol not mentioned anywhere else? The term “bosom of Abraham” is not found in my search of the bible (but then neither is trinity, purgatory, immaculate conception, limbo and so on). It’s a story not intended to be literal, just like Gehenna. It teaches a moral lesson, but rather than accept the lesson for what it is, Christians have to turn Jesus into the biggest monster of all time, by insisting that he sends us to eternal hellfire, even though we live here but a few decades. You said “God is just and merciful” but in no way is eternal torture either of those things. It’s the worst evil mankind has dreamed up. If you read Gen 3:22 you’ll see that it says we humans know what good and evil are. Sending anyone to be tortured for eternity is about as evil as you can get.

          12. sueduh

            You have a Get out of Hell free card – but you have to use it before you die. His name is Jesus. Accept him instead of denying him. That’s the free will we were given. God does not demand that we worship him. I’m confident that when the time comes to make such a decision – you will choose him. When you do – I’ll see you in heaven. 🙂

            Patrick, I am not a scholar nor do I pretend to be. I have a high school education. I know what I know. There is no way I can match wits with you. You’re very informative, but how do I know you’re right? How do you know I’m wrong?

            What’s your story – why do you hate the thought of God and have no tolerance for those that love and seek him? Why do you invest so much time denying Gods existence? You seem to be very negative and self serving? Are you your own higher power? Do you have any love in your heart? What happened in your life that scarred you? I know you don’t care, but I hope you find peace.

          13. Patrick Gannon

            I don’t need a ‘get out of hell free card, Sueduh. First, because the evidence we have destroys the concept of original sin, thus there’s no reason to go to Hell. Think about the god who would allow someone to be born, knowing in advance that this individual will not be “predestined” to salvation, and would thus spend eternity in Hell. Where is the free will? This god already knows the outcome, and fails to stop it. How much more evil can you get? If you knew your child was going to step in front of a car, and you could do something to stop it, yet failed to do so, would you be worthy of worship?
            You suggest accepting Jesus instead of denying him in order to avoid Hell. This is extortion. When a mafia goon shows up at your shop, and tells you to hand over 25% of your earnings or he will shoot your knee out, then are you “choosing” to have your knee shot out by failing to hand over the money? Does the shop owner really have “free will” in this case? It’s the same thing with Christianity – there’s no free will, there’s extortion. Besides if you read the entire bible, you’ll see that there is more to support the Calvinists who deny free will, than other Christian denominations who say there is. Remember Yahweh “hardened the heart” of the Pharaoh, and if you read it all, you’ll see that He directed a lot of other human behavior. Scientifically speaking, we still don’t know if we really have “free will,” but research is underway to determine this, as well as the properties of consciousness – which appears to be an illusion – but let’s make that a different discussion.
            What does it mean to “accept Jesus?” That alone may be enough in some Christian denominations, but it certainly isn’t enough in the Catholic Church. You might “accept Jesus” whatever that means, but still go to Hell for not doing other things that the RCC insists are required for salvation. I accept that a man named Jesus lived at that time – in fact there were a lot of them. Joshua (which is what Jesus means), was one of the most common names of the time. It was an apocalyptic time for reasons having to do with failed prophecy in Jeremiah, that they tried to fix with Daniel, and which pointed to potential end times around the time of Jesus – but as we know the prophecy was still wrong, since we’re still here. Was there a man named Jesus with a spiritual movement who railed against the clergy? Quite possibly so. But accepting that alone is not going to keep me out of your Hell, is it? (BTW, the RCC catechism primarily refers to Hell as Gehenna – the Jerusalem town dump). I’ve read scholars such as Bart Ehrman who argues that Jesus the man existed, and I’m reading a book now by Richard Carrier who points out that the probability of a real Jesus is very low. We simply don’t know if this particular Jesus existed. We have no reliable evidence for his existence, never mind the supernatural aspects attributed to him.
            You say you may see me in heaven, but so what? If we get there, we’ll be zombies without any free will. (“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” That means God’s will, not ours). Without the free will we have here (which may or may not be illusory), we will certainly be zombies without it in heaven. Whoever that person/soul in heaven is that is now “me,” will no longer be “me,” without the free will I appear to have now. It will be some very different person – and I don’t really care about that person, since it won’t be what I think of as “me.” It also sounds dreadfully boring. I recall Billy Graham once being asked about heaven, and saying it would be like going to church all day long.. I can hardly think of anything less attractive than sitting on wooden benches and springing from knees to seat to feet in a continual chorus of zombie hymns for all of eternity. If you read the entire bible, you’ll find that it says almost nothing about heaven. There’s very little “carrot” to attract us to heaven. All the emphasis is on the “stick” of Hell – which it turns out, is not what we think it is when we go back to the original words. You have to keep in mind that the RCC intentionally misled people with their translation of four very different words to the pagan word “Hell,” and the word “eternal” which meant “of an age” which implies an end to the torture, because “ages” always end. I don’t trust people (such as the RCC) who lie to maintain their power.
            How do I know I’m right? Well unless we’re talking about specific things supported by evidence, then of course I don’t know if I’m right. That’s the whole point. We don’t know. We have no objective, empirical evidence for gods or afterlives. We just don’t know. The brains of intelligent, educated people, know that they don’t know – and when the mind tells the brain they must “believe” that which the brain doesn’t know – then this must set up internal cognitive conflict, that affects the behavior of the individual. I think the surge of information about religion that is now available to the masses, presented in forums like this, is creating more and more of those cognitive conflicts, and the end result is the increased “hostility to the other” that has come to personify Christianity today. The thing is, you don’t know either. You could die and end up in front of Allah or Shiva or JuJu of the Jungle. The JWs might be right. How can you know? The way I look at it, if there is a god, He/She/It will more likely respect the individual who used the “talents” or tools they were provided with to seek answers, versus the coward that stuck his talents in the garden and failed to use them. Read the parable of the talents to see what happened to the guy who did that. If I’m going to have to gamble on there being a god, I’m going to gamble that this god wants me to use the talents I was given, rather than discard them and bury my head in the garden, and instead simply believing what I’m told to believe by authorities who use fear to indoctrinate me.
            Where did I say that I “hate the thought of God and have no tolerance for those that love and seek him?” First, it’s hard to “hate” something for which no evidence exists. It’s like hating unicorns and fairies. Believers frequently accuse atheists and agnostics of hating something they have no reason to believe exists, apparently not realizing how dumb that assertion is. I don’t think BigFoot or UFO’s exist, so does that mean I hate them? Second, I don’t have any problem with “hope” for gods and afterlives – my problem is with faith: pretending to know things you don’t know and acting on them. Third, I have a hard time respecting a fellow human being who would worship a god that would send another human being to eternal torture and torment in a lake of fire. Do you know official RCC doctrine on abortion and miscarriage when it comes to the (supposed) souls of those infants? The RCC provides three options that I am aware of – and I researched this: 1) The default position is that they go to Hell. They have this (imaginary) original sin thingie that denies them salvation and only by baptism can they be saved. The Catechism specifically says it knows of no other way that they can be saved. 2) Theologians recognizing how cruel it would be to send an innocent, unbaptized soul to eternal torment came up with the idea of Limbo, sort of a suburb of Hell where I guess the flames weren’t so hot. The RCC “allows” its members to believe in Limbo, but it’s not official, and of course has no biblical support like so much other Catholic dogma. 3) The RCC “allows” Catholics to “hope” that their god is not a monster who would send these souls to Hell. It provides no real likelihood for this, but they allow you to “hope” that they are saved. You aren’t allowed to have “faith” that unbaptized infants will be saved. You can’t pretend to know that they will be; you can only hope for this. Can you imagine being a mother who miscarried and is told by the RCC that she will never see her child unless she goes to Hell? Now, I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine any all-powerful being who would need to send unbaptized infants to Hell when He knew in advance that this would be their fate. If such a being exists – I will not worship this tyrannical monster even if it means burning in Hell, as at least I will own the moral high ground. Speaking of evil, another fun exercise is to count how many people in the bible, Yahweh kills, versus how many Satan kills.
            I do not deny your god’s (or any other god) existence. I only point out that there is no evidence for any of them. One or more of these gods might exist – but we have no way to know, and I have no reason to trust the men who insist that these gods and afterlives do exist, particularly when the organization that insists on these beliefs is for their benefit. I would remind folks once again, something most Christians constantly overlook. Jesus railed against the clergy again and again and again! That was his mission. When you read “gnashing of teeth” in reference to Gehenna, he’s speaking to clergy. Jesus, if he existed, gave us one powerful message – Don’t trust the clergy!
            Thank you for your concern over my well-being. I do have love in my life, thank you very much. Having concern for the mental well-being of others might also qualify. A little story. I was a gymnast in high school and did too many high dive rolls to the back of my neck. By the time I was in my mid-20s I had persistent neck issues. I lived with this worsening condition for several decades until one day a few years back, doing push-ups, my left arm collapsed. The vertebrae were crushing the nerves in my neck and I had to have an operation where they fused several vertebrae together. When I awoke from the surgery, there was discomfort from the surgery, but the neck pain was completely gone! I had gotten so used to it over all those decades, that I didn’t realize how bad it really was. It was an incredible relief. Now, to another story. When I read the bible cover to cover the first time, I realized that all the fear the RCC had indoctrinated into me as a child was false and unsupportable. I can’t tell you how joyful and uplifting this was. The loss of the pain in my neck was nothing compared with the relief at realizing I had been living a lie, and a life of immense fear, and that I could walk away from it with joy. It was the most amazing feeling ever, and for a while, I was subject to bouts of laughing and crying at the same time at the abject joy I had never experienced in my life before. Now, along with that, there also came anger at the Church, at my parents, teachers, politicians, and all of society that had insisted I be so full of fear. I was a very angry atheist for a while, but I now think of myself as a persistent agnostic. My anger will rise (a) when Christians invoke the lie of Hell as fear to unbelievers – so very Christian of them, (2) when the Church speaks of indoctrination of innocent children, and (3) when the Church contributes to the horrible deaths of children, by starvation and disease, every minute of the day because their parents were denied contraception under penalty of eternal torment. So, yeah, I still have some anger issues, and I figure if Christianity can be the “religion of hostility to the other”: then I can be an agnostic with “hostility to the religion.” You talk about hoping I have peace, but man I never had so much peace as when I threw off that indoctrination – and “throw off” is not the right word. It took years to bleed it out of my system, and since it was indoctrinated at childhood (when synapses fire, the brain is wired), I’ll never get rid of all of it. It’s why the term “recovering Catholic” exists.
            Sorry once again for the long post, but your questions are good questions that deserve a well considered response, even if you don’t like the answers.

  5. Leonard Reply

    Nice reading. Come to think of it,
    I never knew of someone called Tom Rafferty or Patrick Gannon not to talk of Sueduh. If I were told of your existence, I had to choices;
    1. To accept that you do exist and making the best of your lives. I do not need science to accept
    2. To deny your existence. I equally do not need science to deny.

    If I had chosen the second option, I would have been disappointed by my choice when I read your response to this link and most of all knowing that we’ve even done something in common(reading and responding to this post). I would have wasted my time refusing while it costs me nothing to accept.

    However, if I had chosen the first option, despite not seeing you, not to talk of having an exchange with you, I would have been happy of my choice when I write to you saying “I’ve read or heard about you before”

    I do not need a dogma to believe your names exist along side you, All I need is simple; Belief.
    Good luck on your quest of proving “No God” or whatever it maybe.

    God Bless you.
    Dear Sueduh, I just said a Three Word Prayer for you and will do so henceforth. Kindly include me in yours.

    1. sueduh Reply

      Thank you and God bless you too Leonard, I just did the same for you.

    2. Patrick Gannon Reply

      Faced with the same choices – I have two options as well – (1) research and seek out objective evidence that the person or persons in question are, or were real people, or (2) accept that they existed with no such evidence, understanding that they may not exist.
      With option (1) I have a very high probability that the persons in question do exist if I can find objective, empirical information about them that confirms their existence. With option (2), I’m just guessing, and if I insist to myself that I believe they exist without any evidence, then I am lying to myself, and that can’t be cognitively healthy. My brain knows that it doesn’t know, yet you want me to tell my brain that I do believe anyway – that’s a lie to myself and it must create a cognitive conflict that cannot be mentally healthy, and might explain why so many Christians and other believers, are so hostile.
      What I think you’re suggesting is Pascal’s wager which says you have nothing to lose if you decide to believe in God and it turns out that there is no god or afterlife…. but this assumes that the only god is the Christian god. When you wager that the Christian god is the real god, how do you know that you aren’t antagonizing another, real god, who will punish you for believing in the wrong one?
      When it comes to Pascal’s wager, the best thing to do is look for the evidence and keep a skeptical open mind. If there is a god, and the god is good, then the god is likely to reward us for using the “talents” (see parable of the Talents) we were given, that include the ability to use reason, logic, critical thinking, etc. Those who abandon those gifts might find themselves in the same situation as the dude in the parable of the Talents who didn’t use his talents…. Look it up.

      1. sueduh Reply

        Nice to hear from you again Patrick. Some need evidence to believe, others rely on faith (belief without proof). A blind man can not see the stars in the sky, but because you tell him they are there – he believes, although he could never prove it for himself. Basing belief on evidence is fine, it just means that you are taking someone else’s word that there is evidence, even though you did not discover it for yourself. How is that any different than faith? It just implies that you have faith in science instead of faith in religion. You may have faith to believe that God does not exist – although there is no conclusive proof. I know the parable well, but what it means to me is that everything we have comes from God and we are to be good stewards of those resources. What better way to multiply the God given resources we were have been entrusted with, then to share the Word of God with others.

        1. Patrick Gannon Reply

          No, a blind man thinks (not believes) with a reasonable degree of probability that the stars exist because of the objective, empirical evidence that he has access to. I have never seen Hitler or Elvis Presley, but because there is a great deal of objective evidence that they existed, I think with almost 100% probability that they did exist, despite never having seen them myself. There is no such evidence for the most important biblical characters including Yahweh, Moses and Jesus. We have no objective evidence for any of them. The objective evidence for stars is overwhelming, and can be described and explained to the blind man in excruciating detail. Now, he can still choose not to accept that evidence, just as creationists choose not to accept the overwhelming evidence for evolution, but saying the blind man cannot think stars exist because he can’t see them, is a non-starter.
          You go on at length about whether we can trust the evidence from another, but the difference is that when it comes to science, we have that evidence. We don’t have it for Yahweh, Moses or Jesus. The foundation for Yahweh has been washed out (no six day creation, no global flood, no mass Exodus from Egypt – and thus no Moses, no conquest of Canaan – and thus no Moses, no two-person DNA bottleneck – thus no original sin). Part of the foundation for Yahweh is Moses, and we know today that there was no mass Exodus such as the bible describes and no evidence that Moses was a real person, but more likely a mythical figure borrowed from prior pagan religions. We know that there is no objective evidence for a historical Jesus and a lot of evidence that he was a mythical figure turned into a human by the author of Mark. The difference between the amount of evidence available to explain stars to a blind man, and the amount of evidence available to confirm the historicity of Jesus are at completely opposite ends of the scale.
          I do not have “faith” that God does not exist. I think with a certain level of probability – pretty high – that gods and afterlives don’t exist, but I don’t believe this, I just think it based on the lack of evidence. Having faith is to pretend to know things you don’t know, and I don’t pretend to know that gods don’t exist – I just seriously doubt it. I’m close to 100% certain Yahweh doesn’t exist, but there could be a god or gods – but we have no evidence for them.
          Christians love to try and play these word games, asserting that non-believers (do you get that word? non- believer!), have faith in a belief that god does not exist. Some atheists might be described that way, but most agnostics, and probably most atheists, simply lack belief based on lack of evidence. It’s not a question of faith. One doesn’t have to pretend to know that there’s no evidence. We simply know this, because if this evidence existed, we wouldn’t still be debating it. You don’t need faith to not believe in a god, you just don’t believe in a god. It’s a dumb argument Christians make all the time, but we’re used to it. It illustrates that Christians and other believers, don’t understand that they are pretending to know things they don’t know, and non-believers aren’t doing that. Most of us just admit that we don’t know.
          You say you get the parable of the talents, but I’m not so sure. If there is a god or gods, and if they gave us the basic mechanism to evolve intellect, logic, reason, critical thinking, etc., then I would have to imagine that they would be very disappointed that many members of the one species on the entire planet to evolve to this level, failed to use the tools they were given, and indeed often act in outright opposition to such gifts. If I was that god, it would really tick me off – just like the parable says. I think you’re taking a big chance on antagonizing your god if He exists. You’re paying attention to what celibate virgins dressed in robes tell you, instead of what a real god, responsible for this universe might tell you. It seems to me that many believers are worshipping the Church, and not a god. I wonder how that would go over with a real god who felt the need to punish mere humans for not using the gifts they were given. The Parable of the talents doesn’t paint a pretty ending; fortunately it’s just a story.

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