Academic journal suggests that schizophrenia may be caused by demons

Well, this beats all! A new paper in the Journal of Religion and Health (reference and download below), written by M. Kimal Irmak, listed as on “The High Council of Science, Gulhane Military Academy, Ankara, Turkey,” suggests that some schizophrenics might actually be possessed by demons, and therefore might be better helped by faith healers than by mental-health professionals. The abstract tells most of the story:

Schizophrenia is typically a life-long condition characterized by acute symptom exacerbations and widely varying degrees of functional disability. Some of its symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, produce great subjective psychological pain. The most common delusion types are as follows: ‘‘My feelings and movements are controlled by others in a certain way’’ and ‘‘They put thoughts in my head that are not mine.’’ Hallucinatory experiences are generally voices talking to the patient or among themselves. Hallucinations are a cardinal positive symptom of schizophrenia which deserves careful study in the hope it will give information about the pathophysiology of the disorder. We thought that many so-called hallucinations in schizophrenia are really illusions related to a real environmental stimulus. One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world. Demons are unseen creatures that are believed to exist in all major religions and have the power to possess humans and control their body. Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders with delusions and hallucinations. The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons. A local faith healer in our region helps the patients with schizophrenia. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months. Therefore, it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.

Irmak’s evidence for possession is the similarity between behaviors of patients with schizophrenia and those supposedly possessed by demons (hallucinations, disorganized speech, etc.). He then floats his idea of demonic possession, saying that many scholars accept demons as a reality. Irmak even gives the characteristics of demons (my emphasis)!:

Illusions are transformations of perceptions, with a mixing of the reproduced perceptions of the subject’s fantasy with the real perceptions. One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world.

In our region, demons are believed to be intelligent and unseen creatures that occupy a parallel world to that of mankind. In many aspects of their world, they are very similar to us. They marry, have children, and die. The life span, however, is far greater than ours (Ashour 1989). Through their powers of flying and invisibility, they are the chief component in occult activities. The ability to possess and take over the minds and bodies ofchumans is also a power which the demons have utilized greatly over the centuries (Littlewood 2004; Gadit and Callanan 2006; Ally and Laher 2008). Most scholars accept that demons can possess people and can take up physical space within a human’s body (Asch 1985). They possess people for many reasons. Sometimes it is because they have been hurt accidentally, but possession may also occur because of love (Ashour 1989; Philips 1997). When the demon enters the human body, they settle in the control center of the body–brain. Then, they manifest themselves and take control of the body through the brain (Whitwell and Barker 1980; Littlewood 2004; Gadit and Callanan 2006; Ally and Laher 2008). Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders (Al-Habeeb 2003; Boddy 1989).

I wonder who constitutes “most scholars”?

At the end, Irmak gives the evidence that “faith healing” can cure the apparent cases of schizophrenia that are really caused by demonis possession. Needless to say, that evidence is pretty thin:

It has been shown by World Health Organization (WHO) studies that faith healers may help patients with psychiatric disorders (Gater et al. 1991). Currently, the churches in the United Kingdom retain the services of faith healers (Friedli 2000), the task of whom is to expel the demons in cases of real possession. Rollins is an Anglican priest in London. Prior to the priesthood, he was a trained and qualified psychiatrist. He turned to the priesthood and exorcist feeling that medicine failed to address certain human sufferings (Leavey 2010). Similarly, B. Erdem is a local faith healer in Ankara who expels the evil demons from many psychiatric patients with the help of good ones. B. Erdem contends that on occasions, the manifestation of psychiatric symptoms may be due to demonic possession. An important indicator of his primary suspicions about the possession is that, if someone has auditory hallucinations, he would remain alert to the possibility that he might be demonically possessed. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months.

I haven’t had time to read the WHO study, but there are two problems: do the “psychiatric disorders” helped by faith healers include schizophrenia? And is there a possibility of placebo effects? The testimony of “Rollins” the exorcist, of course, carries no weight, since it’s accompanied by no data at all. Likewise for “local faith healer” B. Erdem.  I’d be truly suprised if his ministrations cured schizophrenics within 3 months, since the disease is notably refractory to treatment, and even drugs have limited success.

All in all, this paper, which appeared in a reputable journal put out by Springer, a reputable (though greedy) publisher, is a travesty. It misrepresents the view of “scholars,” who surely don’t accept demonic possession, it presents unscientific data which appear to be based on wish-thinking, and, most important, it reaches the unwarranted conclusion that “it would be useful for medical professionals to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.”

In the absence of some controlled studies of the effect of faith-healing on schizophrenia, this suggestion is not only useless but dangerous. Really, we should get exorcists working together with psychiatrists? Not until faith-healing is shown to be effective. And how do you know which patients really have schizophrenia, and thus need psychiatrists, and which are possessed by demons, and require the additional help of exorcists?

By and large, the articles in the Journal of Religion and Health appear far more reasoned than this, few espousing a religious form of faith-healing. And I doubt whether psychiatrists are going to take Irmak’s suggestions seriously.

But really, how did the referees manage to approve a paper with such a weak foundation? And didn’t editor Curtis W. Hart, a Lecturer in Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College, whose credentials are “M. Div.” (is that a master’s degree in divinity?) exercise any editorial discretion? Weill Cornell is a highly reputable institution, and I’m surprised that someone in its “medical ethics” division would allow a paper like this to be published. To my mind, recommending unsubstantiated faith-healing for schizophrenia is unethical, because it’s untested and potentially dangerous. Anyway, I’ve written Dr. Hart inquiring about this paper.

It’s not okay to endanger ill people with ill-informed speculation masquerading as science.  Dr. Hart should know that. As for author Irmak, well, he’s probably beyond redemption.


Irmak, M. K. 2014. Schizophrenia or Possession? Journal of Religion and Health 53:773-777 LA  – English.


  1. Posted June 10, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Well, I now have another journal to cross off the credible list.

    • rohan
      Posted June 11, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      lol I don’t think “Journal of Religion and Health” should be on anyone’s credible list ever

  2. francis
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    So, the devil is to blame…What bull shit.

  3. GBJames
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    The Journal of Religion and Health?

    The title of this journal is a clue. From the journal’s self description:

    “Journal of Religion and Health explores the most contemporary modes of religious and spiritual thought with particular emphasis on their relevance to current medical and psychological research. Taking an eclectic approach to the study of human values, health, and emotional welfare, this international interdisciplinary journal publishes original peer-reviewed articles that deal with mental and physical health in relation to religion and spirituality of all kinds. Founded in 1961 by the Blanton-Peale Institute, which joins the perspectives of psychology and religion, the journal provides a scholarly forum for the discussion of topical themes on both a theoretical and practical level for scholars and professionals of all religious faiths and backgrounds.”

    The Blanton-Peale Institute was founded by The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale of New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church and the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Smiley Blanton who had trained in analysis in Vienna with Sigmund Freud.

    I’d be surprised if the journal wasn’t full of nonsense and woo.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      (I should have had quotes around that link… It is from their web site.)

    • Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      That it was founded with support from Norman Vincent Peale does not bode well for the journal. At worst he was considered by mental health experts to be a con man; a somewhat less wacky and less successful version of Deepak Chopra.
      Now there is a scary thought: what if Chopra starts his own ‘scientific’ journal? Yeesh.

  4. Posted June 10, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Springer, a reputable (though greedy) publisher

    How reputable is Springer these days? The only book I’ve read of theirs in recent years proved to be a complete mess, with egregious typographical errors everywhere, a text that clearly had been seen by neither proofreader nor copyeditor — it was as if the author had used word-recognition software and never bothered to read the product — and, worst of all, Coulteresque summaries of researches which, when I followed up the references, often didn’t say quite what the summaries said they did. I kept checking the spine to make sure this was a Springer book I was reading, not a PublishAmerica one.

    • krzysztof1
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      If you find a book today that isn’t riddled with typos and messed-up sentences, hang on to it! Proofreading seems to be a lost art. In the old days you would be lucky to find one typo in just about any book you would pick up. Not any more. . . .

      • Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        I know what you’re getting at, although most of the books I read are moderately clean of such stuff. (UK books are, I think, if anything slightly better than they used to be, US books a little sloppier.)

        That said, I was astonished last year when the (US) publisher of one of my own books — 675,000 words of dense encyclopedic text — blithely announced that, silly me to have thought otherwise, they never deployed proofreaders: I was the sole safety net, and could I do the job in three weeks? (No, I said: not properly.) I’ve actually earned my living on occasion from things like editing and proofreading, but for the average author to be sole proofreader is . . . well, maybe that was what was wrong with the Springer book I read. Although it was such a complete and absolute shambles that I’d guess even the author hadn’t proofread — perhaps, as a naive academic, he assumed Springer was doing it.

        • ichbindaswortistich
          Posted June 10, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          I consider it an appalling audacity to sell books with as many typographical errors as publishers nowadays do. If I pay for a book, I have the right to expect at least fewer errors than one per page. Instead, most of the time, I could use a red marker on each page several times: orthography, grammar, punctuation – not even huge spaces between words, often caused by insufficient knowledge about syllabification, are corrected. And this applies not only to publishers with questionable reputation and reliability, but also to renowned publishers as Oxford University Press and Harvard University Press.
          Besides, English is not even my first language.

        • Marella
          Posted June 10, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          I contributed a chapter to a Springer book a few years ago. An editor went through it and got rid of a bunch of my anglicisms not considered appropriate for an American book (amongst => among), and they had no opinion at all of my comma placement, but the person did actually exist.

          • Posted June 10, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink


            and got rid of a bunch of my anglicisms not considered appropriate for an American book (amongst => among)

            Ha! US editors almost universally change my “among” to “amongst” . . .

        • krzysztof1
          Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          My own experience with typos, etc., is that correcting them is a little like the concept of limits, or more accurately, half-life of a radioactive element. Every time you go through the text you will get a certain percentage of the remaining errors. The percentage may remain constant. At least it seems that way.

          • Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

            I have a friend whose habit is to proofread her (long) novels backwards, so as to be better able to spot typos within words: she’s not distracted from this task by the sense of what she’s reading. Then she reads the text forwards to check for missing words, homophones. etc. Not much gets left after that.

            A good professional proofreader should catch at least 99% of typos.

    • Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      I contributed to a Springer volume about 2 years ago. As far as I could tell, they offered no editorial services whatever.

  5. Joe L
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    major facepalm.

  6. Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink


    • Diane G.
      Posted June 11, 2014 at 12:54 am | Permalink


  7. ascanius
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    and elsevir’s social science research journal foisted mark regnerus’s fraudulent anti-gay parenting “study” on the world with horrific results.

    although it’s been discredited in the us and regenerus himself has been humiliated in court, at the urging of radical american evangelicals his work is being used worldwide to pass draconian anti-gay legislation which has resulted in the imprisonment, torture and deaths of many lgbts.

    fraudulent science and religious zealotry are a dangerous combination.

    • Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Yup – SSR was a highly respected, quantitative journal, which should have been the last place Regnerus was able to foist his scam. Unfortunately, the board of SSR is dominated by conservatives, the editor has a known history of being a contrarian and out of touch with mainstream sociology, and there was a perfect storm of collusion betweeen the reviewers, consultants, at least one board member. Brad Wilcox was all three – he coordinated the funding of the study, recruited Regnerus personally, specifically intervened with the Editor to secure expedited review, was a paid consultant and a referee/peer reviewer! Unfortunately, the editor, Jim Wright, has never acknowledged the full extent of his responsibility as editor for such a massive failure and in fact, he doubled down when faced with criticism and defended Regnerus, even allowing him to publish a disingenious rebuttal, along with the rantings of Walter Schumm, a discredited anti-gay researcher who defended Paul Cameron and testified against allowing gay adoptions in Florida. Elsevier, UCF and UT have basically washed their hands of any responsibility and just pretend that none of this ever happened. The article should be retracted but apparently Jim Wright is too stubborn to even consider it…

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Expect an uptick in sales of one-way tickets to Ankara.

  9. Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink


  10. Dennis Hansen
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Other favourite paper titles from that “journal”:

    Therapeutic Effects of Islamic Intercessory Prayer on Warts (Hoşrik et al.)

    True Believers? Religion, Physiology, and Perceived Body Weight in Texas (Ruiz & Acevedo)

    • marvol19
      Posted June 11, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      At least the warts article finds no positive effect – although it is written up as a muddled mess:

      “The results revealed that there were no significant differences between the groups in terms of healing. Although participants believed in the therapeutic effects of prayer, when participants did not trust the intercessor, prayer had no effect on warts.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 12, 2014 at 1:45 am | Permalink

        “prayer had no effect on warts”


        I shall treasure that phrase, and the vision it conjures up of a patient lying in bed with a big wart on one of his feet and a small circle of the faithful standing round praying at it…

  11. krzysztof1
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Holy Tweetie Bird, Sylvester! The world’s gone strange. Is Sagan’s Candle in the Dark guttering? I hope not.

  12. Sastra
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I think there’s a deepity hiding within this new attempt to harmonize science and religion in the more explicit sense (ie not as different domains but as merging towards the same consensus.) It’s found in the rational hypothesis that people with schizophrenia may find it helpful to think of their disease as demonic possession instead of a problem in the brain. By “helpful” I mean that they may treat or manage it better. The “demons” don’t have to be real; it can be used as a framework.

    Maybe; maybe not. That’s testable.

    It’s also not what this paper is really suggesting though, is it? They’re trying to use schizophrenia as support for demons and thus a sort of proof of God. Shame on them. Demons were probably invented as an explanation for what we now know is schizophrenia. They want to turn that one backwards … and for their own ends.

    I’m also skeptical about how “helpful” it would be even in the more reasonable sense. On the one hand a person with schizophrenia may be comforted with the idea that it’s not just “all in their head” and there’s a whole loving community out there who will validate and support the idea that God is real, the devil is real, and they’re so important that they’re being attacked. On the other hand their delusions are being reinforced and strengthened. This is not necessarily going to comfort them in the long run.

    Years ago I met someone online who said that she had been seriously messed up by New Agers. When she started showing symptoms of mental illness in her late teens the spiritual community she was in encouraged her to accept and embrace her special “powers.” She was clearly some sort of adept, a psychic receiving messages and emotions from a transcendent Beyond. They would all try to find the deep or personal meaning behind her voices and visions. Thus she zigzagged for years between pride and terror until she eventually became suicidal — and finally got the help she really needed.

    She was very bitter. The people who weren’t crazy allowed their crazy belief system to make her worse under guise of making her not just normal, but special.

    • krzysztof1
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      I read your comments with interest–very perceptive. It’s reasonable that there might be some short-term benefits to the schizophrenic to think that he or she is possessed, if the person might otherwise think that he or she was somehow responsible for bringing on this condition perhaps. If there’s a demon inside, perhaps it can be exorcised. But what if exorcism has no effect? What then?

      I once knew a person who was a catatonic schizophrenic. She was also, unfortunately, a Christian Scientist. This was not helpful in keeping her on medication, but I understand it’s common for schizophrenics to go off their meds periodically. I suppose there’s a certain irony there–thinking that your disease is “all in your head”, when in fact that’s exactly where it is!

      • darrelle
        Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        “It’s reasonable that there might be some short-term benefits to the schizophrenic to think that he or she is possessed, if the person might otherwise think that he or she was somehow responsible for bringing on this condition perhaps.

        Yes. Just to add, the problem is that the set of courses of action considered to try and deal with the problem then become detached from reality. And the probability of such a course of action having any positive benefit is then on a par with the probability of any made up explanation for reality, like christian and other religious mythologies, being accurate. And we all know how their explanations have faired since we have developed the tools to examine and test them.

      • Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        I believe Bunge or one of the Churchlands or someone like that once proposed that instead of saying “it is all in your head”, we should say “it is in no less than your brain”!

    • Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Years ago a friend who is bipolar told me that she thought her illness was caused by a demon. She was a Christian fundie and had spent a couple of decades trying conventional psychiatric treatments with varying success. I suggested that she could go to a Pentecostal church and ask for a healing, ask a Catholic priest, curandera, or Tibetan-style Buddhist lama for an exorcism, or I could help her design and conduct a demon-be-gone ceremony.

      She never mentioned demons again.

  13. Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    For a minute or two, there, I feared I would need to write an apology to that exorcist airline passenger I made fun of a couple of weeks ago, the one who made international news with his complaint that a demon- possessed lesbian sitting in the row behind him on the plane pelted him with chocolates throughout the flight.

    Not so fast. You’re still a nutjob, exorcist.

    • Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      Calling that person who believes he is an exorcist a “nutjob” only makes things harder for people with real mental illness afflictions, like schizophrenics. It reinforces societal skepticism about the existence of mental illness, and may contribute to resistance to treatment of the diseases and integration of those who suffer into society in the manner to which they are entitled.

      There are ways to confront superstitious belief that do not also redound negatively to those already burdened by circumstances beyond their control. My regrets and apologies.

      • Posted June 10, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        I’m confused. Did you just call someone a “nutjob” in one comment, and then reply to your own comment to criticize yourself for calling someone a “nutjob?”

        • Posted June 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          oh, now I get it. I didn’t read carefully enough. My regrets and apologies.

  14. SM
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Name of journal is Religion and Health and that says it all. Secularists do not need to look at it.
    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink


  16. Jim Knight
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    This journal was started in 1961 by the Blanton-Peale Institute. Blanton was a student of Freud, and the Peale is Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, so there is no real surprise when viewing the subject matter of the “research” published in this journal.

  17. Simon Hayward
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Just checked the impact factor of the journal 0.768 in 2012 apparently – I’m not sure if that reflects the quality of the work presented or the very “specialized” nature of the people publishing. I know that some very good but specialist maths and engineering journals -for example – can have a low IF because nobody outside a small group works in the field/understands the work. So it could be that…or then again it could be people understanding but choosing not to cite dodgy work.

    • Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      I think Jerry was overly generous in his description of the journal as respected 🙂

    • Posted June 11, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      I should know more about IF than I do, but how does it categorize subject? If the subject is “religion and health”, does make it likely to be a small area and hence low impact because the area is small, or will it tend to big because there wouldn’t be many journals period in that area?

      Alternatively, if the area is just “health” or just “religion”, then the small could happen regardless …

  18. Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    “Illusions are transformations of perceptions, with a mixing of the reproduced perceptions of the subject’s fantasy with the real perceptions.”

    Every thought whether it is delusional/problematic/intrusive or not, is created by that person’s mind emerging from their brain forged through nature and nurture. ‘Nurture’ could include mind control techniques for example which are used by psychopaths and cults. However, the brain-washed person is still creating their own thoughts. Demons need not apply.

    However, there have been reputable studies showing that diagnosed schizophrenics have an easier time interfacing with others depending on their society/culture, though they remain schizophrenic.

    And what Sastra said.

  19. Robert Seidel
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    There’s no chance of this being a Sokal? Please?

    I wonder about the references, though.

  20. Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    > I’d be truly suprised if his ministrations cured schizophrenics within 3 months, since the disease is notably refractory to treatment, and even drugs have limited success.

    Cured, certainly not but if you’re dealing with patients experiencing a primary psychotic episode associated with schizophrenia or a mood affective disorder rather than a secondary psychosis associated with a neurodegenerative condition or a reactive psychosis associated with PTSD then, in the absence of treatment using anti-psychotic medication, the typical duration of such an episode from onset is around 3 months, so there’s your answer.

    It’s no different to treating the common cold with a homeopathic remedy; you’ll get better in seven days where if you don’t bother you’ll be fine in a week.

  21. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Ultimately the only meaningful test of a treatment is what works best in the long run with the most patients that does not appear to be working via a placebo effect and/or feeding a power-trip on the part of the alleged healer.

    The devil is often used as a scapegoat to explain evils that are human in origin. I’m sure that a psyche that is fragmented and poorly integrated can !*feel*! like it is demonically possessed. But what may be in order is simply to get in touch with feelings which are either repressed or from which one has become deeply dissociated, and then !*own*! those feelings.

    I find it fascinating that there are science-fiction fantasy writers who postulate demonic-type entities while removing them from Abrahamic mythology. Colin Wilson’s “The Mind Parasites” comes to mind, as does sci-fi author Philip Dick’s belief he had been possessed by some angelic spirit. Clearly it’s a meme that isn’t necessarily tied to religion.

    I can’t resist mentioning the joke that if you don’t pay the exorcist your soul gets repossessed.

  22. Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Link is bad…

  23. Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Asch (185) is a genuine reference. Asch, S. S. (1985). Depression and demonic possession: The analyst as an exorcist. Hillside Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It doesn’t advance the claim that psychiatrists accept demonic possession. It suggests that Freudian ones do a sort of symbolic exorcism

    • Posted June 11, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      I’ve heard of the idea that psychoanalysis is to be regarded as a “secular confession” and other pseudoreligious views. This is one way in which psychoanalysts and such try to evade the (quite juistified) charges of pseudoscience/pseudotechnology against their field.

  24. Kevin
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Maybe the authors should have considered what solutions they might provide for demon possession. There are no known ways to remedy demons, particularly since there is no proof of their existence.

    People should think about the next stages of their research when they make conclusions.

    If I find out that if I shine light onto a metal surface and electrons come off and I can say, “What can I do next?”. I might vary the material coatings to enhance or prohibit the photoelectric effect, or maybe I might change the energy of the photons. These are known knobs.

    Demons do not have a power spectrum and human brains do not have a work function associated with the demonetric effect. Ff they do no one knows what it is.

  25. Latverian Diplomat
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    One of Gater’s research interests seems to be “pathways to care”, which seems to be about how psychiatric patients seek help and whether that leads to effective medical treatment.

    So, I suspect that in many societies, faith healers play a role in that process.

    I also suspect that aspect of the WHO study is being quote-mined here.

  26. Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    A show featuring an exorcist and his adventures could be the next hit series on The History Channel!

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Don’t they have that already?

  27. ploubere
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    That author is like Fred Flintstone in a lab suit.

  28. ladyatheist
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    One of the biggest problems to start with is diagnosis. It is possible to have a hallucination without being schizophrenic. (Read Oliver Sacks “Hallucination”)

  29. Jeffery
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I would think that it would be necessary to first PROVE the existence of demons, by the usual (and accepted)scientific methods, before one goes on to discuss the best ways of dealing with them, wouldn’t you? The attempt to equate ignorance and superstition with true knowledge is one of the worst “side effects” of religion, and the attempts to somehow “merge” these things with scientific disciplines is nothing less than a vile perversion and an insult to the human mind!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      This is my opinion too. Until demons have been proven to exist, it’s impossible to take the next step of eliminating them.

      Those with religious beliefs are frequently incapable of reason when employing it opposes an accepted tenet of their religion. It should lead them to question their religion; instead they suspend logic.

  30. gravityfly
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Well, transient psychotic episodes have been know to resolve on their own within 3 months.

    How does Dr. Irmak know that it was the faith healing that helped his patients?

  31. noncarborundum
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The life span, however, is far greater than ours (Ashour 1989).

    Where can I get the raw data for this groundbreaking study of demon longevity?

    • Jeffery
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      I found a book in a dumpster entitled, “Demons, and How to Deal With Them”- it might have had that information in it, but I threw it away before reading all of it- sorry! Have you tried Googling it?

  32. cremnomaniac
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    As one who has worked directly within the mental health field, I suggest that faith healing is ineffectual and even dangerous for treatment of mental health issues.

    Its could be effective to the extent that it “may” help a person with certain cognitive distortions associated with anxiety or depression. It is very unlikely to affect thought patterns of any schizophrenic any more than any other environmental condition, except that the god they hear speaking to them is typically irrational. Ironically, that seems a common trait of the god of major religions.

    • gravityfly
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      In the cases where anti-psychotic drugs have a positive effect…I wonder if they work on the patient’s brain, or on the demon?

  33. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Marvin, again.
    No, not the one about the diodes.

  34. Posted June 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Link to abstract & glimpse of first few pages

    On a positive note, however, this journal has recently published a piece on a topic that is closely aligned with my research interests.

  35. Posted June 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    “Amongst” is an “Anglicanism”? Jesus, no wonder no one around here (America, not this website) understands me…

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 10, 2014 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      … an Anglicanism being a word or phrase commonly used by the Church of England…

      • Posted June 11, 2014 at 6:22 am | Permalink

        Precisely. At least that’s what my Android thinks an Anglicism is. 🙂

        • Posted June 11, 2014 at 6:23 am | Permalink

          And the thing still capitalized it, I give up. No can communicate.

  36. glenn2point0
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I think the word should be “delusion” not “illusion”.
    With my delusions medicated and abated, the belief in the paranormal and supernatural also disappreaed.
    I was so suggestible prior to the antipsychotic medication.

  37. Doug
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone remember M. Scott Peck? He was a psychiatrist and author who believed that at least some mental illness was caused by possession. His books were best-sellers back in the 1990s.

  38. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    From the Journal of Monty Python:

    Peasants: We have found a witch! (A witch! a witch!) Burn her burn her!
    Peasant 1: We have found a witch, may we burn her? (cheers)
    Vladimir: How do you known she is a witch?
    Peasant 2: She looks like one!

  39. Andrew
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    To answer the question in the article, an M.Div is a Master’s in/of Divinity. It’s generally the professional degree one earns to become ordained. Requirements vary depending on the university and religion.

    There are several other religious degrees awarded by universities as well, but M.Div is more or less standard for ordination.

  40. Posted June 11, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    “Most scholars accept that demons can possess people and can take up physical space within a human’s body (Asch 1985).”

    I would be interested in what most physicists would have to say about this.

    • Doug
      Posted June 11, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Do they show up on X-Rays?

  41. cetin a.
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    To my knowledge, it is the other way around. People claimed to be possessed suffer from mental illness.

  42. Ben
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Hey guys, enough talk about schizophrenics. Put the person before the illness please, as in a person living with or suffering from schizophrenia, small changes in the language we use can have a big overall impact on the way society thinks about mental illness.


  43. Thomas
    Posted June 13, 2014 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    I quickly browsed through the article (note: the original, not the link). I agree that psychiatric patients /could/ benefit form the aid of faith healers. There have been numerous studies on the relation of faith healing and health. However, these studies conclude that though such healings occur, they occur mainly in the realm of psychological disorders and only if the one who undergous such a healing attempt actually believes it. As such, we can legitimately reduce faith healing to a placebo effect.

    What troubles me is that the author claims that ‘most scholars accept
    that demons can possess people and can take up physical space within a human’s body’. Notice the word ‘scholar’: this does not necessarily imply someone with a medical/psychological background, but it /does/ include philosophers and theologians, who are, especially theologians, religiously motivated.

    In order to substantiate further claims the author invokes solely religious sources on the intent of possessive demons, i.e., why they possess humans.

    So yes, faith healing may be beneficial, but only for those who associate themselves with such faiths. And no, demonic possession cannot be equated with psychological disorders in general or schizophrenia in particular, simply because we cannot objectively (scientifically) prove the existence of demons. Indeed, the author himself defines invisibility as part of the definition of the term ‘demon’; therefore, it cannot be the object of a scientific study.

    (The link to the article is dead. Here’s another, though I’m not sure if it works for you [access through my unilibrary]:

    • Posted June 13, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      Do you have links to any double blind studies indicating that faith healing has any statistically significant benefit over doing nothing at all?

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