We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our New England forefathers. For if it hadnʼt been for their amazing wisdom and foresight over two hundred years ago, weʼd be up to our asses in witches.
- Cecil Wyche & Tom Weisel
It was believed that people by the aid of the Devil could assume any shape they wished. Witches and wizards were changed into wolves, dogs, cats and serpents. Within two years, between 1598 and 1600, in once district of France, the district of Jura, more than six hundred men and women were tried and convicted before one judge of having changed themselves into wolves, and all were put to death. This is only one instance. There were thousands.
- Robert Ingersoll, “The Devil”
In three centuries (1450 to 1750) more than 100,000 persons, the overwhelming majority of them being women, were tried for the crime of witchcraft, and more than half were executed. The prosecutions by church and governmental authorities often involved the use of torture, and constitute one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the history of the West.
- Witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe, Vol. 3, Articles on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology, ed., Brian P. Levack
For centuries the Catholic church proclaimed the reality of the crime of “witchcraft,” backed by the Biblical command, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Even the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, said about witches, “I would burn them all!” John Calvin personally prosecuted twenty witches in one year who were executed in the city of Geneva for having “sent the plague.”
A few centuries later, after the smoke cleared, the famed Christian evangelist, John Wesley, lamented, “The giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible.”
(The Journal of John Wesley, 1766-1768)
My how times change.
- Skip Church
The witch text in the Bible remains; the practice of executing them changed. The slavery text in the Bible remains; the practice changed. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the Biblical texts that authorized them remain.
Is it not well worthy of note that of all the multitude of Biblical texts through which man has driven his annihilating pen he has never once made the mistake of obliterating a good and useful one? It does certainly seem to suggest that if man continues in the direction of enlightenment, his religious practice may, in the end, attain some semblance of human decency.
- Mark Twain, “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice”
If A Witch Curses Your Enemies Itʼs Witchcraft.
If God Curses Your Enemies, Isnʼt That ‘Godcraft’?
In 1994 the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert, a Washington D.C.-based prayer group, produced a list of twenty-five Democratic incumbents, and urged prayer partners to petition God to bring evil upon the people on that list. “Donʼt hesitate to pray imprecatory Psalms over them,” wrote one of the groupʼs founders, Harry Valentine, in the groupʼs newsletter. Imprecatory means to “call down evil upon.” Such Psalms include: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” (Ps. 109:8,9) “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into Sheol.” (Ps. 55:15)
“The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: he shall wash his own feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Ps. 58:10) (How is this different from sticking pins in voodoo dolls, or whipping up a witchʼs brew and mumbling curses? I guess itʼs all right for Christians to “curse” people so long as they use a “Biblically sound” method. - Skip)
- Skipp Porteous, “Election ʻ94 Observations,” Free Inquiry, Winter 1994/95
When The Bible Says “No Divination” It Means? “Some Divination.”
According to Deuteronomy 18:10,12, “There shall not be found among you anyone who…uses divination…For whoever does such things is detestable to the Lord.” However…
Joseph Practiced The Art Of Divination Known As Lecanomancy
The Hebrew patriarch, Joseph, practiced the ancient magical art of cup-divination (lecanomancy):
Is not this [cup] it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth??And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine? - Gen. 44:5,15
By means of cup-divination, a person could supposedly foretell the future and find lost objects. Neither was Joseph condemned in the Bible for being a cup-diviner. Go figure.
- Skip Church
Hebrews And Christians Practiced The Art Of Divination Known As Cleromancy
The ancient Hebrews and early Christians cast lots (cleromancy) to divine Godʼs will, kind of like tossing Chinese I Ching sticks haphazardly then “reading” the result. Or, as it says in the Bible, “The lot is cast into the lap; but its decision is from the Lord.” (Prov. 16:33) “The lot puts an end to contentions, and decides between the mighty.” (Prov. 18:18) Numerous examples of this magical practice of divining Godʼs will can be found in the Bible:
The tribes of Israel divided the “promised land” by “casting lots.” (Num. 26:52-56; 33:54; 36:1-2; Joshua 13:6; 14:1-2; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1-2,14-17; 18:6-11; chapts. 19,21,22,23; Isa. 34:17; Ezk. 45:1; 47:22; 48:29)
Hebrew kings were chosen and tactical decisions in battle were decided by “lot.” (1 Sam. 10:20-23; 14:41-42; Judges 20:9) Also chosen by “lot” were “governors” for each “ward,” and for the house of God. (1 Chron. 24:5-7,31;
People were chosen to receive special favors by “lot” (Lev. 16:8-10; Mic. 2:5; Neh. 10:34; 11:1)
The guilt of people was judged and confirmed by casting lots. (Josh. 7:13-18 - the Hebrew word ‘lakad’ translated ‘taken,’ means ‘chosen by lot;’ Jonah 1:7)
And when the first Christians had to choose between two candidates to take Judasʼ place among the twelve apostles, they did it, you guessed it, by “lot.”
Based on the strength of so many Bible verses, the Puritans took the “casting of lots” as seriously as they took the hanging of witches. They outlawed all “dice” play in games or gambling because the casting of dies or lots should be reserved only for divining Godʼs will. And yet there isnʼt a church today that decides how its money will be spent, or which preacher to hire, or who is guilty of crimes against the church, based on “casting lots.” Write me if you hear of one. I guess todayʼs believers donʼt have as strong a faith in Yahwehʼs ability to communicate via cleromancy.
- Skip Church
Not Only Does The Hebrew Lord Play Dice, But He Also Changes His Mind, As Any All-Knowing Being Will Do. ?Not!
The Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
- 1 Sam. 15:35 (But the Lordʼs “dice” had chosen Saul to be king in the first place!)
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
- Gen. 6:6 (see also Deut. 32:36 & Ps. 135:14)
And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
- Ex. 32:14
And the Lord repented of the evil, that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not.
- Jonah 3:10
I [the Lord] am weary of repenting.
- Jer. 15:6
More “Godly” Divination: The Urim And Thummim
Another magical way to divine Godʼs will was via the “Urim and Thummim.” Those two objects were connected with the breastplate worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:30) but it is not known what the Urim and Thummim were. Were they gems kept in a pouch worn on the high priestʼs chest? Were they engraved with symbols that reflected a divine “yes” and a divine “no?” Were they like the ancient Assyrian “Tablets of Destiny” that were tossed to determine the will of ancient Near Eastern gods like Marduk or Bel? We donʼt know. But such prominent figures as Aaron (Ex. 28:30) and Joshua (Num. 27:21), and the Hebrew tribe of priests, the Levites (Deut. 28:8), used the Urim and Thummim to divine Godʼs will.
King Saul consulted the “Urim” but received “no answer.” (1 Sam. 28:6) Maybe the Urim and Thummim were the two most sacred “lots” of Israel, and after you tossed both of them, if one landed on its “yes” side, but the other landed on its “no” side, it was interpreted as God leaving the receiver off the hook?
- Skip Church
Hereʼs Christʼs Spit In Yer Eye!
Magical spit was an ancient remedy of folk medicine and was widely known for its healing virtues. Jesus used it on several occasions to cure the blind and those with impediments of speech (Mark 7:31-37; 8:22-26; John 9:6). Hence Jesusʼ miracles appeared to his contemporaries to be those of a typical ancient wonder worker.
- A. J. Mattill, Jr., The Seven Mighty Blows to Traditional Beliefs (enlarged edition)
Behold The Bird Of God, Who Takes Away The Mildew, Mold, And Leprosy Of The World!
Weʼve all heard the story of the “scapegoat,” which, according to the Hebrew Bible, was an animal that God told the priest to transfer the sins of the people onto, then send out into the wilderness with all of their sins. (Lev. 16:20-22) But we forget about the lowly scape-bird, an animal that God told the priest to transfer “uncleanness” to, then send flying into the sky. (Lev. 14:4-7,48-53) What kinds of “uncleanness” does the scape-bird carry away with it? Would you believe leprosy, mold and mildew?
To the ancient mind “mold on clothing or on leather goods, moldy growths or algae in or on the walls of houses, and certain forms of skin diseases were all regarded as manifestations of that dreaded disease, leprosy! (The same Hebrew word applies to all despite the tendency of modern translations to use such words as ‘mold’ or ‘mildew’ in the cases of leather goods and houses.) Might not that greenish growth in the wall of your house or on poorly stored clothing and leather goods be just another manifestation of that dreaded skin disease? Some of the ‘inspired’ authors of the Bible thought so! Consequently, such matters are treated as extremely important and extreme remedies are required by Godʼs law.”
- Dave Matson, “Godʼs Ignorance Concerning Leprosy,” Commonsense Versus the Bible
But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?
- Mark Twain, Autobiography
I have no special regard for Satan; but I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue Bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind this is irregular. It is un-English. It is un-American; it is French.
- Mark Twain
We may not pay him reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents. A person who has for untold centuries maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest order. Not only that, but Satan hasnʼt a single salaried helper, while the Opposition employs a million.
- Mark Twain
Another “Satan seller” is Dr. Rebecca Brown. Her tales of “Satanic cult abuse” (He Came To Set The Captives Free) were published by Jack Chick, who specializes in publishing mini-comic books portraying demons and hellfire. “Dr. Rebecca Brown” was originally “an Indiana physician named Ruth Bailey, who had her license removed by the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana for a number of reasons. Among the boardʼs seventeen findings are: Bailey knowingly misdiagnosed serious illnesses, including brain tumors and leukemia, as ‘caused by demons, devils, and other evil spirits;’ she told her patients that doctors at Ball Memorial Hospital and St. Johnʼs Medical Center were ‘demons, devils, and other evil spirits’ themselves; and she falsified patient charts and hospital records. The boardʼs report states: ‘Dr. Bailey also addicted numerous patients to controlled substances which required them to suffer withdrawal and undergo detoxification, and that she self-medicated herself with non-therapeutic amounts of Demerol which she injected on an hourly basis.’ A psychiatrist appointed by the board to diagnose Bailey described her as ‘suffering from acute personality disorders including demonic delusions and/or paranoid schizophrenia.’ Refusing to appear before the board, Bailey moved to California, changed her name to Rebecca Brown, and began working with Jack Chick.” (David Alexander, “Giving the Devil More Than His Due: For Occult Crime ‘Experts’ and the Media, Anti-Satanist Hysteria Has Become A Growth Industry,” The Humanist, March/April 1990) Jack Chick recently stopped publishing Brownʼs books, “We used to publish her books. Then the Lord told us he didnʼt want us to put ʻem out anymore.” (Jack Chick, speaking to Dwayne Walker in 1997)
Even the editors of Christianity Today praised a book in which well-documented research showed that the problem with the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s was that “rumor was prevailing over truth, and people, particularly Christians, are too believing.” The Christian book reviewer cited a case in a megachurch in Chicago where one man was “disfellowshipped” because a female in the congregation “freaked out” whenever she saw him on Sunday mornings, claiming he was a “Satanic cult leader” who had “ritually abused her.” “The man was not allowed to face his accuser, nor would they discuss with the man any specific dates or events of alleged crimes. Though the man denied the allegations, and the elders and pastor of the church saw no evidence of sin in the manʼs life, they felt compelled to protect the accuser.” The review continued, “To date there has been no investigation that has substantiated the claims of alleged Satanic abuse survivors. Recovered ‘memories’ are the only evidence any specialist will offer…Well-meaning but uncritical therapists have validated, if not helped to construct, vile fantasies that foment a terror of Satan rather than confidence in God…In periods of rising concern over actual child abuse and sexual immorality the historical tendency has been to find scapegoats for social ills. A despised segment of society is depicted as the perpetrator of a villainous conspiracy. Romans accused the early Christians of wearing black robes, secretly meeting in caves, and performing animal and baby mutilation. In the Middle Ages, the scapegoat was the Jews. In America of the 1830s and 40s, kidnapping and murder of children were said to be the work of the Catholics. A best-selling book of the time, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, chronicled the atrocities committed by priests and nuns at a particular convent. That account sparked myriad copycat claims by other young women.” (Susan Bergman, “Rumors from Hell,” Christianity Today, Vol. 38, No. 3, March, 1994 - a review of Jeffrey S. Victorʼs, Satanic Panic)
The modern “Satanic cult hysteria” only began in 1981 with the publication of the best-seller, Michelle Remembers. “Prior to 1981 there were no reports of ‘satanic-cult torture and murder.’ We have none on record, and I challenge you to find any in the psychiatric or scientific literature.” So says F.B.I. Special Agent Kenneth Lanning (who has a masterʼs degree in behavioral science and whose published work on the sexual victimization of children is well-known in the law-enforcement and psychology fields). (Interestingly enough, the article featuring Lanningʼs statement appeared in Penthouse magazine, while the statements directly preceding Lanningʼs appeared in Christianity Today. Itʼs nice to know that Christians and secularists, can agree on some matters!)
There are indeed practicing “Satanists” in America, but the F.B.I. has been studying ritual criminal behavior for many years and has not found evidence of any organized “satanic menace.” According to Lanning, “I started out believing this stuff [about ritual murders by organized satanic-cults]. I mean, I had been dealing with bizarre crimes for many years and I knew from experience that almost anything is possible…But I canʼt find one documented case [of satanic-cult victimization], and Iʼve been looking for seven years or more. I personally have investigated some 300 cases - and there is not a shred of evidence of a crime.” He mentioned how psychiatric patients [and/or people who undergo hypnosis to “recover memories”] are the ones claiming such crimes took place, but when the alleged crime scene is investigated there is never a trace of blood or bone, though the F.B.I. has many means to detect even the faintest traces of splashed blood, and whole lawns and farm fields have been dug up in search of bones and bone fragments though none were found.
Satan-mongers inflate statistics, claiming that “according to the F.B.I., two million children are missing each year.” “Itʼs wrong,” said Lanning. The Justice Department (Juvenile Justice Bulletin, January 1989) reported that between 52 and 58 children were kidnapped and murdered by non-family members in 1988. The “Cult Crime Network” claims that “50,000 human sacrifices” are being performed each year by “satanic cults.” But there are only 20,000 murders, total in the U.S. each year, and that figure accounts for all the gang, drug, domestic, and “regular” murders in the country.
People do commit strange crimes. Some may even be committing human sacrifice in the name of Satan. But there is absolutely no evidence of any widespread, organized satanic movement. At one conference on Satanism in America in 1989 the same photo of a boy whose death was “linked to Satanism” was dragged out by just about everyone interviewed by a reporter covering the conference, implying that was the one and only corpse in the U.S. that could be traced to satanic-cult activity, and it was the result of an isolated incident that could not be connected in any way with an organized group.
As Lanning sums things up, “The fact is that more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus, and Muhammad than has ever been committed in the name of Satan.”
- Skip Church
The Father of Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther, saw “Satan” lurking everywhere. (The following quotations, unless otherwise stated, are from Table Talk, a volume in The Collected Works of Martin Luther):
Snakes and monkeys are subjected to the demon more than other animals. Satan lives in them and possesses them. He uses them to deceive men and to injure them.
In my country, upon a mountain called Polterberg, there is a pool. If one throws a stone into it, instantly a storm arises and the whole surrounding countryside is overwhelmed by it. This lake is full of demons; Satan holds them captive there.
Demons are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark pooly places ready to hurt and prejudice people; some are also in thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightning and thunder, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds.
How often have not the demons called “Nix,” drawn women and girls into the water, and there had commerce with them, With fearful consequences.
I myself saw and touched at Dessay, a child which had no human parents, but had proceeded from the Devil. He was twelve years old, and, in outward form, exactly resembled ordinary children.
A large number of deaf, crippled and blind people are afflicted solely through the malice of the demon. And one must in no wise doubt that plagues, fevers and every sort of evil come from him.
Our bodies are always exposed to the attacks of Satan. The maladies I suffer are not natural, but Devilʼs spells.
As for the demented, I hold it certain that all beings deprived of reason are thus afflicted only by the Devil.
Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind for he is the prince of death.
(So, who needs modern medicine, sanitation, health and city planning practices? We just need more exorcists to heal “all the maladies which afflict mankind.” Of course, even the “apple of Godʼs eye, the ancient Hebrews, did not enjoy unparalleled good health to judge by the lengthy number of illnesses mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy. - Skip)
When I was a child there were many witches, and they bewitched both cattle and men, especially children. (Luther, Commentary on Galatians)
I would have no compassion on a witch; I would burn them all. (Luther, Table Talk)
The heathen writes that the Comet may arise from natural causes; but God creates not one that does not foretoken a sure calamity. (Luther, Advent Sermon)
(For further quotations like those above, see Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil)
Some people believe in the Devil. So do I, in a way. He could be nothing more than one of Godʼs staff members, the one who on Judgment Day will take the fall for war, famine, tooth decay, etc. (In fact, “Armageddon” is probably Aramaic for “reshuffling the cabinet.”) He could be just random badness, the absence of goodness: evil doesnʼt have to unionize to be effective. I just do not believe that old Splitfoot has a hot line to everyoneʼs id and makes us go all steamy with evil thoughts when the fancy strikes him.
- James Lileks, “The Devil, You Say,” Fresh Lies)
May The Higher Power Win
I cannot find Satan or Him
In this desolate heart.
Nor have I found a concrete way
To tell the two apart.
Through the myths, I hear the legends.
Through the songs I hear the praise.
Through “Glory God” and “Satan Rules” -
I still hear but one phrase.
Have mercy on my empty soul,
Whoever bids the lot.
And may the Higher Power win,
If itʼs a soul I got.
- Norbert Thiemann