Demonic possession? Great.
Salon has an interview with M. Scott Peck, one of the biggest proponents of the craze that is sweeping America--belief in demonic possession and the practice of exorcism. It doesn't get more looney tunes than this. I read an interesting book about this trend by Michael W. Cuneo called American Exorcism and he spends time talking to Peck, who has lost his mind, if he was all there to begin with.
Exorcism functions in its current incarnation as a form of therapy. Everything from alcoholism to masturbation to homosexuality is called a "demon" and there are attempts to cast them out of people. (Whether or not anyone has had being gay exorcised out of them is unlikely, I'm sure. Stubborn "demon", that one.) It's a neat way of avoiding responsibility and/or accepting yourself as you are, but I think it attracts people for another reason on top of that, which this article hints at in this description of an exorcism.
She attempts to bite her exorcism team, has to be forcibly restrained, and bucks violently when touched with the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. She tries to escape, and puts her hand through a bathroom window.
You have to admit, it's an impressive way to dramatize one's problems. I wonder if she would have had the same reaction if you touched her with a Grisham novel but just told her it was the Bible. Time and time again in Cuneo's book, he talks to people who have rather mundane, everyday problems that just seem way more exciting if you reframe them not as simple problems like drinking or lust but as epic battles between God and Satan being fought out in your body. Of course, that means that you aren't dealing effectively with your problems, as is evidenced by the fact that this woman they mention above ended up dying, but that sort of thing doesn't seem to bother exorcism enthusiasts like Peck.
My pet theory as to why there's a sudden need to believe in literal, physical demons that are constantly preying on ordinary people is that it helps people plug up the logical holes that are created by sin-obsessed, anti-diversity fundamentalism. If I remember correctly, Cuneo's theory was that it helped believers understand why they still felt the urge to sin after converting to Christianity. I think that's part of it, but I also think it helps smooth over uncomfortable questions like why the Muslims won't just up and convert--if Satan and demons are real and all over the planet, of course it's difficult to break through that wall of demonic activity to get conversions. Viewed through a the lens of belief in demons, things like terrorism itself can be dismissed as the work of Satan, and acts as incomprehensibly evil as those of the 9/11 hijackers are the result of demonic possession. (Remember all those photos that went around with the face of a devil in the smoke at the WTC?) It's a large and small scale explanation for a lot of things.