NY Times: Roman Catholics are expressing a renewed interest in exorcism

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/13/us/13exorcism.html?_r=1

You can't make this stuff up:
There are only a handful of priests in the country trained as exorcists, but they say they are overwhelmed with requests from people who fear they are possessed by the Devil.
Now, American bishops are holding a conference on Friday and Saturday to prepare more priests and bishops to respond to the demand. The purpose is not necessarily to revive the practice, the organizers say, but to help Catholic clergy members learn how to distinguish who really needs an exorcism from who really needs a psychiatrist, or perhaps some pastoral care.
I'm not really sure what the methodology is for determining whether someone is possessed by the Devil, and to my knowledge no exorcism rituals have ever been subject to any kind of controlled experimentation. But that's not the real face-palming part. We know that there's a strong inverse correlation between education and religiosity. And who do you think is clamoring for all those exorcisms? According to one priest,

“People are talking about, are we taking two steps back?” Father Vega said. “My first reaction when I heard about the exorcism conference was, this is another of those trappings we’ve pulled out of the past.”
But he said that there could eventually be a rising demand for exorcism because of the influx of Hispanic and African Catholics to the United States. People from those cultures, he said, are more attuned to the experience of the supernatural.
"Attuned to the experience of the supernatural"? How about "less likely to seek rational explanations" or " more likely to commit errors of causal misattribution and confirmation bias"?

It's easy to mock exorcism because it's just that stupid. But a lot of people believe in it. I'm embarrassed to admit that when I was in the evangelical church as a teen, I took part in numerous "exorcisms". People claimed to have all kinds of bizarre and profound spiritual experiences, but the funny thing is that the poor kids subject to the exorcisms never seemed to get any better. Of course, I'm sure some Catholic professional exorcist would say we were just doing it wrong or doing it on someone who wasn't actually possessed, but again, the church has never established a rigorous, quantitative methodology for distinguishing between mental disorders and possession by a fictional deity (or minion, as the case may be). According to the article, they simply send someone off to a psychiatrist and if that psychiatrist comes up empty, they conclude it's the Devil. Sounds perfectly rational to me.

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