Cheap Religion Kills

“The last state of that person is worse than the first.”


“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”

Strange words – and from Jesus himself (in Matthew 12).

I think I am finally getting some kind of grip on them – and I am not entirely sure it’s only about demons.

For most, it is relatively easy to get rid of the spirit of uncleanness in our lives and make ourselves feel good about ourselves.

We can cut out some of the drink, maybe stay at home and watch series.

Maybe we don’t swear as much. Obey the traffic rules. Generally feel good about ourselves. We are clean – we have no spirit of uncleanness.

There’s a trap here. That spirit does not like the wilderness, the desert regions. You can’t simply expel him. It comes home looking for you. And when it does, it brings friends, the real evils of the spiritual life – perhaps pride, smugness, priggishness, hypocrisy, grumbling – the things which actually steal your soul.

Social science would seem to back this up. If you live in places where there is a lot of religion, but don’t actively practise, you actually end up worse in terms of things like divorce rates. See here.

What’s the solution?

It’s given in the text. The house of your soul can’t simply be ’empty, swept, and put in order’. It must be occupied with something – with the Spirit. Actual goodness – not the vacuum of a life simply of cleanness.

Intriguingly, this passage seems to be actually quite literally true.

The Daily Telegraph reported this past week that demand for exorcism, not usually reported in the press, are vastly increasing in an empty age. What’s more, these exorcists are very reticent to treat non-Christians – saying an exorcism just makes life worse for ‘the empty house’.

Somewhere along the line, you actually have to find God.