Doctors warn that exorcisms reinforce delusions

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The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has warned about the alarming rise in the number of exorcism attempts in Australia – some on children as young as two.

At News.com.au Tory Shepherd reports

Perth-based Set Right is a non-denominational Christian ministry. Their Leader, known as ‘Apostle’ Michelle Pecoult, says they’ve seen a “massive rise” in possessions, and now exorcise four or five people a day. She said people find them online and through psychic fairs and they also visit schools and prisons.
 
The Set Right website notes that depression is a “common low ranking demon” while schizophrenia is “another demon we have met often and evicted”.
 
“We’ve removed schizophrenia. People have been healed of it… God is greater than any medical doctor, he’s greater than me. We’ve seen absolute physical healing… and people in a major state of depression,” Ms Pecoult said.
 
“Depression can be a symptom of a demonic power being in there. Jesus dealt with lunatic spirits, they’re real. You can’t get rid of them by medication. You have to renew your mind.” […]

Ms Pecoult says her team has intensive training through the Holy Spirit to treat people and worked in conjunction with her husband Vince who has a psychology degree.

“The two should go together,” she said. She also emphasised that they do not take payment for exorcisms but do it to “glorify God”.

Mr Pecoult said he studied psychology but then the Bible taught him that there might be a spiritual root to mental health issues. He said they counsel people after ‘deliverances’.

“The casting out of demons is the easy part of the process,” he said.

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Exorcisms are a religious rite that some believe can remove demons from a person, and are reportedly on the rise in Australia and around the world.

Dr Choong-Siew Yong, who represents psychiatry on the AMA’s Federal Council, said he was concerned about untrained practitioners making claims that contradict science. He warned that saying someone was possessed could reinforce their delusions and stop them getting proper care.

“There is an enormous amount of research that has discredited the idea that people with psychiatric conditions such as depression and schizophrenia are because of demonic possession,” he said.

That’s a very old idea, not held up by science. We’d be concerned that people were missing out on reliable, well-evidenced, modern medical treatment.

Last Sunday Australia’s 60 Minutes TV show featured and item titled “God’s Angels,” in which ‘three American teen exorcists and their mentor, Bob Larson’ were interviewed.

Tory Shepherd writes

News.com.au spoke to WA former police chaplain and Anglican priest Barry May, who is also an author and ‘freelance exorcist’, about that program.
 
He says the ‘teen exorcists’ obviously did not have the experience needed to do the job, and that to do it properly requires far more investigation.
 
He says while demand for exorcisms was on the rise, he would only have done 25 exorcisms over 40 years.  He is approached far more often but prefers to offer people the “ministry of healing”.

As our parent website, Apologetics Index, notes

On his website, Bob Larson refers to himself as “the world’s foremost expert on cults, the occult, and supernatural phenomena.”

Yet you would be hard-pressed to find any Christian apologist, cult expert, or theologian familiar with these fields who would take those claims seriously.

Bob Larson is known as a sensationalistic and (deservedly) controversial “evangelist,” notorious for attacking rock music, alleged demons, wallets and critics (real or perceived).

Statements made by Bob Larson should not be considered representative of mainstream Christian beliefs and/or practices.

Research resources on exorcism and on demon possession
Man who turned alleged exorcism into cottage industry features on reality TV show

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016