Sat | Jul 24, 2021

Are criminals possessed by demons?

Published:Sunday | September 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

I have always wondered if some people who commit atrocities are 'possessed' by evil. And if that were the case, I could totally understand when Jesus said, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing ... ." But, I don't really know much about such things so I can only speculate.

There is a whole bunch of readers just itching to pound the keyboard and email to rebuke me for believing in anything other than what we can see, feel, smell, hear and taste. Well, I believe that there is a God and that there is a lot more to the universe than meets the eye, ears, nose, tongue and skin.

The recent shooting to death of a preacher in church - at the pulpit - caused a minister of religion to assert that gunmen were not to blame for their evil deeds. He said that they are all possessed. The Bible makes many references to demonic possession in the Old and New Testaments. It speaks to demonic possessions as if they were not uncommon.

Of course, we know that, once upon a time, anyone suffering from psychosis was thought to be possessed by demons. They were subject to all sorts of ridiculous rituals and even torture in order to chase the evil spirit(s) out of them. Now, oftentimes, it only takes a monthly injection or a once-a-day pill to get rid of the 'demons'.

But then I also wonder if a chemical malfunction can render individuals susceptible to demonic possession? Perhaps medication negates that possibility. Could it also be that certain thoughts, beliefs and negative experiences render individuals susceptible to demonic possession? Could that explain the widespread mayhem that we are witnessing today?


No end in sight


Gruesome acts, mass murder, genocide, rape and beheadings epitomise the evil let loose among us. Instead of abating, they seem to be getting worse every day. Many say that these things herald the end, but people have been saying that for centuries, so we may have those horrors with us for a very long time.

I once asked a priest if it was possible that demonic possession could explain some of what's going on. But, he said that although possession was real, it did not manifest in criminal activities. That confused me because I had always thought of possession as potentially producing violence in people.

So, let's go with my theory for a while. The theory that the people who are committing horrible violent crimes are 'possessed' by some sort of evil in some way and to some extent. We already know that some murderers play the insanity card as soon as they are caught. They want to distance themselves from the responsibility of their deeds. Is that another way of saying, "The devil made me do it?" And, some build their defence on bad childhood experiences like extreme poverty, physical and/or sexual abuse. Does 'something' get into them from that early age and finally make them commit some terrible murder or murders?


Questions to ask


We must also ask this question: If demonic possession is real, does it take place over a long period or does it only last long enough for the perpetrator to commit the crime? In other words, does it influence the thoughts of the criminal mind? Or does the criminal mind inadvertently let it in and then the violent crime is committed?

Whether evildoers are literally forcibly possessed by evil, let evil influence them, or are only metaphorically possessed, we need to exorcise the real or imagined demons.

I know nothing about exorcism as practised by people of faith, but I know something about social exorcism. We need to exorcise the evils of ignorance, prejudice, dependency, sloth, hopeless poverty, squalor, bad parenting, marginalisation, divisiveness and handouts. If we succeed, even if there were such a thing as demonic possession, it would have great difficulty finding fertile minds to inhabit and influence.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and