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From The CriticsIf there were ever any question about the power of pop culture to influence people's behavior and beliefs, it is put to rest by Cuneo's provocative and frightening but limited book on exorcisms in modern-day America. Once an almost forgotten Roman Catholic rite, exorcism—the act of casting demons out of the supposedly possessed—was reintroduced into the popular imagination in part by the 1973 horror film The Exorcist and the hysterical 1976 bestseller Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Americans. Since then, according to Cuneo, thousands of people have used demonic possession as a way to explain mysterious illnesses and mental problems, much to the chagrin of the church, which usually tries to distance itself from the practice. Cuneo paints a broad portrait of an America where rogue Catholic priests and even Protestant (mostly Episcopalian and Pentecostal) ministers perform exorcisms (called "deliverances" by non-Catholics) every year. His research takes him to some fascinating places where ancient religious dogma meshes with New Age therapy. Unfortunately, he's so worried about not being judgmental that he lets most of these self-styled spiritual warriors (the vast majority of whom seem little more than evangelical shysters) off the hook too easily.