“How had I found myself in a cheap horror movie?” wrote Bill Scott in the first pages of his book The Day Satan Called. The sense of disbelief in Scott’s tone of voice is one that is common for someone brought up in mainstream American society.
Scott is not alone in his conclusion that stories of demon possession, the occult, and overall “spiritual warfare” are largely rejected as fantasy in popular culture.
Dr. Karl Payne, chaplain for the Seattle Seahawks, recently wrote a book on the subject titled Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Payne noted the contrast in belief in demon possession both in regards to countries and in regards to denominations.
“In developing countries demons are typically feared and appeased. In industrialized countries demons are usually ridiculed, ignored or entertained as a curiosity,” noted Payne.
Both Scott and Payne believe that Christian schools, especially the evangelical Protestant ones they were educated in, do not provide a good education on this issue.
“Our churches have not adequately dealt with the issue of spiritual warfare. I am receiving emails on a regular basis from Scotland to the United States and the theme is, our churches do not talk about the battle we are in spiritually,” Scott told CP.
“So why is it we don't spend time in our churches getting to know the enemy, how he works and how to win the battle? Honestly, it's time to leave our comfort zone and get ready for battle.”
Payne wrote in his book Spiritual Warfare that neither of the evangelical institutions he attended in the 1970s had “remotely pretended or attempted to prepare students to recognize, distinguish, or contend with the realities of spiritual warfare.”
“Discussions I’ve had since then with alumni of other evangelical Bible schools and seminaries have consistently confirmed that my experience was the norm,” wrote Payne.
While Payne and Scott consider the lack of preparation for dealing with demonic possession and the occult to be harmful, others find it to be a step in the right direction.
Roy Speckhardt, executive director for the American Humanist Association, told The Christian Post that he supports the trend of American seminaries not addressing spiritual warfare.
“We see this as a positive trend in American religion today. It shows that even the faithful can no longer believe such superstitions,” said Speckhardt.
Regarding demonic possession, Speckhardt and the AHA “find insufficient grounds for belief and recognize the whole idea to be both unscientific.”
“These sorts of claims are nothing new and have always been unconvincing.”
As for the strange behaviors of those who appear to be possessed, Speckhardt believes these to be more of a medical matter rather than a supernatural one.
“[T]he next time you need medical attention, thank your doctor for choosing scientific treatments instead of simply uttering magic words over you to cast out your demons,” said Speckhardt.
As someone who claims to have treated many people suffering from demon possession, Payne does not believe all physical or psychological problems come from a demonic source.
“On a number of occasions, I’ve referred individuals to clinical counselors or medical doctors when I’ve sensed that their problems weren’t spiritual in nature,” wrote Payne.
“I don't believe there is a demon under every rock and we need to be very careful not to assume someone is being controlled by a demon,” Scott agreed.
Scott explained that in addition to demons, Roxanne, a demon possessed woman who claimed to be part of a witch coven, probably also had Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder).
“I have heard the argument before and there is some truth to it. Many are challenged with mental illness. I have seen those who have multiple personalities,” said Scott.
However, Scott added that “Mental illness doesn't leave a person's body and begin to turn lights on and off, open and close doors, move objects within the home...”
“I am not saying Roxanne was exempt from some mental illness but it was very evident that demons were using her in a massive way.”
Even though in America, seminarians and secularists alike tend to dismiss discussion on the issue of demonic possession and the occult, books written by John Ramirez, Bill Scott, and Karl Payne may bring about conversation on these taboo topics.