I am seventeen. My girlfriend's brother is in rehab in a multi-level, suburban Chicago building that is also home to mental patients. The words of Jesus in Mark 16:17 permeate my thinking,
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues…
I live in a demon saturated, demon haunted world. I know that there are demons present, I can feel them. Walking up to the building, I am a soldier in the army of Jesus Christ. I place my hand on the brick, and out loud I pray:
Father God, I pray Thy Spirit of deliverance upon this building, to fill in every room, every heart and to bring all knees to the ground in prostration before Thee. So shall the Light of Thy Presence chase away all the demonic forces and all the darkness that fills the souls of those here. In the name of Jesus I pray these things, in the name of Jesus I cast out the demons here—I throw them to the swine, to the outer places and bind them, in the name of Jesus, I bind them to their place of torment, never again to trouble the souls of the weak and the hurting. I ask for this *now* in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, amen.
My heart races, I feel the presence and power of God moving through me. I repeat a similar prayer with even more passion and even more authority, "In the name of Jesus I command the demons to flee…"
It is after visiting hours, we hop back in my girlfriend's car and drive away talking about how Jesus healed, cast out demons, and performed miracles in the Gospels. Jesus promised us, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father" (John 14:12), and I believed this with all my heart.
>>> fast forward over fifteen years
I was recently asked by a person who knows I am a naturalistic atheist why I don't believe in demons. He asked me what evidence I have against demons. His question amused me beyond words; I wouldn't have felt much different if I had been asked what evidence I had against fairies or imps. As a person who used to live a world haunted and overrun by demons, who used to see himself as a warrior in God's army, I used to live with the "reality" of demons. I could potentially describe my personal theological narrative from a demon-saturated world to Orthodox Judaism and its world of unclean spirits and then back to Evangelical Christianity with a rather "matured" view of demons as signs of dispensational transition whose activity was now silent, like God, waiting to yet up the ante just before Jesus returned. But, I won't go into all of the biographical details at the moment.
Demons do not exist. Notice, there are no mental health diagnostics in the Gospels. The world of the Gospel writers was also a demon-haunted world. It was a world in which demons were invoked to explain mental and physical illness. Now, frankly, to ascribe a demon to a person like my birth mom who has schizophrenia is an insult to the patient and to our intelligence. We know now that mental health matters can be treated through naturalistic means such as therapy and/or medication. To enter back into the world of the Gospels, the world which I once had tried to reconstruct for myself, would be a step back into the Dark Ages. It would be to ignore the last two hundred years of learning about mental health and its naturalistic, physical origins.
Though a bit disconnected from the above, let me lay out a clearly bulleted reason for my rejection of belief in demons:
- There is nothing observable that requires demons to exist or is best explained by the existence of demons
- Demon theory has been made obsolete by modern medicine
- Demon theory holds people into the bondage of ignorance
- There is no evidence of the supernatural and demons are supernatural