Letter: Souls in torment

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The Independent Culture

Souls in torment

Sir: Catherine Von Ruhland, film critic of the New Christian Herald, admires The Exorcist because, she says, it portrays the "vocation" of the Catholic exorcists as "honourable" ("Holy Ghostbusters", 18 June).

Ms Von Ruhland seems unable to separate fantasy from reality. The exorcist is a work of fiction. Exorcism is a medieval anachronism, and a dangerous one at that. People with common mental illnesses are still being cruelly tormented by those who are convinced that possession by "evil spirits" is possible.

Despite the Vatican's - and for that matter, the Anglicans' - renewed enthusiasm for exorcism, we should not give credence to such preposterous superstitions. Instead, we should educate people to recognise when their friends, family and colleagues are sick and in need of compassionate treatment by fellow human beings. Deluded men with crosses and holy water can only add further sorrow to an already distressing situation.


General Secretary

National Secular Society

London WC1