Faith and doubt — get a room!

I hate watching scary movies but my grades possessed me to watch this one.

My reaction paper on “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” for Philosophy class. I’m posting this because it’s also my general mindset on a lot of things.  Even though it’s a mind f*ck, I love philo because if you cuddle with it enough, it doesn’t leave you alone the next morning. 


I broke out in freak out fits while watching Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I sat at the edge of my seat and reluctantly watched through the peep holes of my hand covered face and thought: What the hell possessed me to watch this theologically, psychologically and horrifically gripping movie?

The strange voices, latin tongues, piercing cries, catatonic episodes and limb contortions — I soon got over those. To my dismay something else lingered upon my skin and sent more than mere goosebumps down my spine. The question “Is it possible?”  is enough to disturb your soul and shake up your faith.

In her final argument defending Fr. Richard Moore, a priest accused of murdering Emily Rose during an exorcism he performed, Erin Bruner asked the jury to consider that question. Medical experts say that Emily Rose suffered from a psychotic epileptic disorder while Emily, her family and Fr. Moore believed that she was possessed. Who is correct?

Despite the verdict of the jury (sorry, no spoilers!), the question is still left unanswered in the end. Because no matter how much burden of proof the movie offers on both ends, the true answer can only come from your faith and belief.

However,  with the plot driven by the dialectical tensions between the secular and supernatural world, the believer and the unbeliver, science and religion, Derrickson definitely makes it difficult to discern. Both religion and science make a claim for every hair-raising scene. The convulsions and images of dark figures are caused by Emily’s inner demons says religion. But the over-extending limbs and hysteria are caused by psychotic epilepsy mocks science.

Interestingly, the paradox continues with the agnostic (Bruner) defending the supernatural and the Catholic (Atty. Thomas)  affirming the secular until it reaches it’s inexplicable twist. It’s the unbeliever who ends up believing.

When Bruner refutes Thomas’ judgement of Fr. Moore with “What about forgiveness and compassion? Isn’t that part of your Creed or does that just get in the way of your work?,” she reveals the equivocal meanings of faith and belief.

People have a double standard view of morality which distorts the true meaning of belief. Initially we have the traditional believer and the unbeliever personified by Thomas and Bruner, but towards the end which is which? Have their roles been reversed or was it always like that and we just weren’t aware of it?

Personally, I feel that we get so blind sighted by the so-called facts of religion. Because the idea of faith and God become so institutionalized we judge what we can not understand. It is this close mindedness that has the capacity to persecute good men like Fr. Moore and burns witches at the stake.

Like what Quentin Lauer says in The Problem of Unbelief, belief is a process, always approaching but never achieving complete grasp. This implies that no absolute certainties really exist and that belief in facts should be subjected to the same scrutiny. We’re educated society that facts are what matter and they can not be contested.

But “Facts leave no room for reasonable doubt” says Bruner. Who gave anyone the authority to state what is true or untrue? Science also works from principles and axioms that can not be proven but are assumed to be true. Science consists only of proximations and describe to an extent what is truly out there.

“Demons exist whether we believe it or not” points out that there will always be an element of the unknown that is beyond the current scope of scientific investigation. Just because it can not be logically proven now does not mean it is not possible. So in the case of Emily Rose and Fr. Moore’s supernatural world of spirits and demons, how can we condemn them for their beliefs and say that demonic possession is not possible?

So, is it?

Earlier I mentioned that only my own faith can answer that for me. Even though I am a Catholic, I’m not traditionally religious. But I believe that there’s a world of the supernatural that is beyond my capabilities of knowing. As Lauer says, “Belief demands courage to accept the risk of believing and not knowing.”

Whether or not anyone believes it’s possible that Emily Rose was possessed, it’s making room for reasonable doubt that I believe entitles anyone to their own religion or faith.  Perhaps the true test of faith is in remember to leave room for it.


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