A Skeptical Analysis

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Exorcism & Satanic Panic: A Skeptical Analysis

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Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

New York Times RetroReport


From course website:

Exorcism! Driving Out the Nonsense

“The Exorcist”: The Real-Life Story Behind the 40-Year-Old Horror Classic

A Brief History of Satanic Panic in the 1980s

The history of Satanic Panic in the US — and why it’s not over yet

The Real Victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse

Babysitters Accused of Satanic Crimes Exonerated After 25 Years

A Skeptical Look at “The Conjuring 2”

‘Annabelle: Creation’: The ‘true’ story of the evil doll star


If people are not actually being possessed by demons, what are some ordinary, down-to-earth explanations for what’s going on during an exorcism?

The movies, popular culture, and religions portray “demonic possession” as a horrendous experience you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. However, in the real world, there are a number of advantages both to claiming you are possessed by a demon or to claiming you can exorcise (remove) a demon.

Put on your skeptics hat, write at least one 4-5 sentence paragraph in response to each prompt and upload to the appropriate folder on turnitin.com:

  • People who claim to be demonically possessed are often extremely religious. People who perform exorcisms are usually priests or other religious authorities. How might belief in demonic possession help explain “the problem of evil” and reinforce the faith of both the “possessed” and the “exorcist”?
  • How might “demonic possession” reduce personal responsibility for one’s actions?
  • What role might desire for attention play in the appearance of demonic possession?
  • Briefly explain how Occam’s razor suggests that demons do not exist and so-called demonic possession is psychological. What are some extraordinary assumptions that would have to be true if exorcism could cast out demons from the genuinely possessed?
  • Belief in extraordinary claims such as the existence of demons and other satanic forces can do extraordinary harm. In the 1980s, Satanic Panic swept the nation. Many mainstream media outlets, police departments, and parents claimed that satanic cults had infiltrated daycare and pre-school centers across the nation and were secretly subjecting the children in their charge to ritual satanic sexual abuse. The McMartin Pre-School trial accused most of the employees of the school of participating in sexual abuse of the children as part of a satanic ritual.
    • Child psychologists interviewed many of the children who attended the McMartin school. Explain the flaw in the interviewing process that led to the extraordinary accusations of ritual satanic sexual abuse.
    • How might so-called “repressed memory therapy” lead to an individual falsely believing they’ve been sexually abused?
    • As women began to routinely enter the work force in the 1980s, many families began using daycare and pre-school for the first time. How might this fact have contributed to Satanic Panic?

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