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People who do not attend church more likely to believe in ghosts, UFOs

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From Clay Routledge at New York Times:

Furthermore, evidence suggests that the religious mind persists even when we lose faith in traditional religious beliefs and institutions. Consider that roughly 30 percent of Americans report they have felt in contact with someone who has died. Nearly 20 percent believe they have been in the presence of a ghost. About one-third of Americans believe that ghosts exist and can interact with and harm humans; around two-thirds hold supernatural or paranormal beliefs of some kind, including beliefs in reincarnation, spiritual energy and psychic powers.

These numbers are much higher than they were in previous decades, when more people reported being highly religious. People who do not frequently attend church are twice as likely to believe in ghosts as those who are regular churchgoers. The less religious people are, the more likely they are to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about U.F.O.s, intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans and related conspiracies about a government cover-up of these phenomena. More.

We thought everyone knew that. For many people, there is no God but UFO (or Darwin or spooks or something). When someone dies, they lose touch with rationality. But if systematic thinking were their strength, they wouldn’t believe what they do anyway.

See also: If naturalism can explain religion, why does it get so many basic facts wrong?

and

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

21 Replies to “People who do not attend church more likely to believe in ghosts, UFOs

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    People who do not frequently attend church are twice as likely to believe in ghosts as those who are regular churchgoers. The less religious people are, the more likely they are to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about U.F.O.s, intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans and related conspiracies about a government cover-up of these phenomena.

    This is interesting. I did not know of these associations.

    I’m not sure this implies, as the OP seems to suggest, that the non-religious are particularly irrational. I would like to see whether there are studies which compare belief in angels, demonic possession, faith healing, &c. among the religous and non-religious. These are things that like ghosts and UFO’s, certainly could exist, but for which there does not exist a great deal of hard evidence.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Ghosts, UFOs, and evolution.

  3. 3
    tribune7 says:

    –The less religious people are, the more likely they are to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about U.F.O.s, intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans —

    It is silly to believe in invisible men in the sky.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    It is more parsimonious to believe in one man in the sky than many men in the sky.

  5. 5
    ET says:

    What about the empirically supported claims of UFOs and ghosts? Heck even stories in the Bible read like UFO encounters. Governments are opening up their UFO files and there is plenty of evidence.

    As for ghosts the challenge is to find and investigate the most haunted (claim) places you can get to. Then come back and report.

  6. 6
    harry says:

    And Saul said to his servants: Seek me a woman that hath a divining spirit, and I will go to her, and inquire by her. And his servants said to him: There is a woman that hath a divining spirit at Endor. Then he disguised himself: and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night, and he said to her: Divine to me by thy divining spirit, and bring me up him whom I shall tell thee. And the woman said to him: Behold thou knowest all that Saul hath done, and how he hath rooted out the magicians and soothsayers from the land: why then dost thou lay a snare for my life, to cause me to be put to death? And Saul swore unto her by the Lord, saying: As the Lord liveth there shall no evil happen to thee for this thing. And the woman said to him: Whom shall I bring up to thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice, and said to Saul: Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said to her: Fear not: what hast thou seen? And the woman said to Saul: I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said to her: What form is he of? And she said: An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul understood that it was Samuel, and he bowed himself with his face to the ground, and adored. And Samuel said to Saul: Why hast thou disturbed my rest, that I should be brought up? And Saul said, I am in great distress: for the Philistines fight against me, and God is departed from me, and would not hear me, neither by the hand of prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest shew me what I shall do. And Samuel said: Why askest thou me, seeing the Lord has departed from thee, and is gone over to thy rival: For the Lord will do to thee as he spoke by me, and he will rend thy kingdom out of thy hand, and will give it to thy neighbour David.
    — 1 Samuel 28:7-17

    It seems that the Scriptures testify to the existence of ghosts. It also testifies to the existence of angelic and demonic beings. It is not that the religious do not believe in supernatural beings; it is that they are more astute at recognizing them when they are real, and realizing when an account of a ghost is a hoax.

  7. 7
    News says:

    It’s worth noting that orthodox Christian and Jewish traditions (and, one suspects, orthodox traditions in some other faiths) strongly discourage curiosity about “spirits.” The point of Saul’s story seems to be that he resorted to “trafficking in spirits” only when he was doomed and the witch could not help him.

    In the Biblical tradition, the fact that the spirits exist does not justify attempts to use them.

    By contrast, beliefs in all sorts of weird stuff might suit someone without a solid faith in a rational, if unseen, world.

  8. 8
    rvb8 says:

    Mung @2,

    “Ghosts, UFOs, and evolution.”

    Troll:)

    And @4,

    I agree, it is far more sensible to believe in One Man in the sky, than Many Men in the sky.

    That is indeed the history of humanity. Whittling away at our pagan cornicopia of ancient gods. Bringing those vast numbers of ancient deities down to our present Abrahamic faith’s belief in One God; or in Christianity’s case Threeish.

    Now Mung, if you could just go the extra yard, and toss that last one, you will have made it.

  9. 9
    rvb8 says:

    NEWS @7,

    are you seriously discussing ghosts on this site?

    “In the Biblical tradition, the fact that the spirits exist does not justify the attempt to use them.”

    Ummm, “the fact that the spirits exist”!?

    Ah huh. Spirits existing is a, ‘fact’? And do you have empirical proof these ‘spirits’ exist? I would love to see the evidence for non-corporeal entities. What is the test BTW, for these beings; sorry non-beings?

    That is, ‘beings’ that are actually not, ‘being’. Wait, now I’m confused.

    And that last part of the quote; ‘does not justify the attempt to use them.’

    ‘Use them!’ You have seen ‘spirits’ being used? How? Where? When? And most important, and I can not stress this enough, why?

    NEWS, you have partaken in exorcisms, or you believe in Satanism?

    As an old friend used to say; “I love Satan. Satan? Sorry I meant Santa.”:)

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    rvb8:

    Now Mung, if you could just go the extra yard, and toss that last one, you will have made it.

    First let me say that I said nothing about how it is more sensible to believe in one man in the sky than many men in the sky. I merely commented that it is more parsimonious.

    Now, please have a go at convincing me that “no man in the sky” is more parsimonious, or even more sensible, than one man in the sky.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I don’t believe in any men in the sky. I think “the man in the sky” is a fiction created by evolutionists [like rvb8]. So I find it puzzling that they want to get rid of him.

    Where would evolutionary theory be without it’s appeals to sub-optimal design?

  11. 11
    Pindi says:

    If its a fact that spirits exist in the biblical tradition, how can regular church goers be less likely to believe in them? I guess that says that regular church goers don’t believe in the bible (or at least in respect of its references to spirits)?

  12. 12
    rvb8 says:

    Mung,

    For once in any thread try clarity, I implore you. When you are on the defensive you resort to word salad; OK, let’s try.

    In Biology you do know ‘parsimonious’ has a particular importance? It is known as the ‘principle of parsimony.’

    This means, that biological systems or parts, are usually connected or behave in the simplest, or most economic way; usually!

    A huge help for evolutionary biologists when looking at systems such as blood clotting, and the immune system etc.

    So, applied to help explain your silly demand to know how ‘no man in the sky’, is more parsimonious than ‘one man in the sky’, is quite easy.

    You see ‘no man in the sky’ implies no supernaturalism, and thus is simpler (more parsimonious), than ‘one man in the sky.’

    Mung @4, you said it is more parsimonious to believe in one man in the sky than many, you were correct. However, it is more parsimonious still to believe in no men in the sky than one.

    Leave the ‘sky man’ out, and rely on nature, and then ‘biological parsimony’ is at last satisfied.

  13. 13
    ET says:

    rvb8:

    Leave the ‘sky man’ out, and rely on nature, and then ‘biological parsimony’ is at last satisfied.

    LoL! Then you have to rely on countless lucky incidents. And that means you have left parsimony far behind. But then again you won’t be able to understand that one design is more parsimonious that countless lucky incidents

  14. 14
    polistra says:

    It’s just a question of intellectual property. Licensing and copyrights. Churches want to license a single brand of spirit so they can claim the royalties. Bootleg spirits don’t support the priest.

    Nothing wrong with copyrights. Just be honest about it.

  15. 15
    News says:

    rvb8 at 9, you do get things mixed up.

    The basic position of the Biblical literature is that humans are forbidden to attempt to contact “spirits” or “ghosts.”

    It is all the same if:

    1. There are ghosts and they can help or hurt.
    2. There are ghosts but they cannot help or hurt.
    3. There are no ghosts so trying to contact them can hurt.

    We hear little about ghosts in the Scriptures because the authors of the Scriptural witness assume that anyone who is likely to benefit from their work will consider themselves duly warned and will not need much further information.

  16. 16
    rvb8 says:

    NEWS @15,

    thanks for the explanation.

    Your number 1., to an atheist such as myself is pointless, you understand why of course? Your number 2., is likewise, to an atheist such as myself.

    It is your number 3. which is baffling to an atheist. The only people who I can imagine would attempt to contact that which does not exist, are people who are seriously superstitious.

    You see, there is no harm in contacting that which does not exist, because well, it’s not there. Although if you attempt this ‘calling’, enough times you might undermine your mental capacities. (Does this include prayer?:)

    The fact that you included this weird number 3., tells me you actually believe ghosts ad spirits exist; please, disabuse me of this notion, or your writings on science may be more compromised than I thought.

  17. 17
    Bob O'H says:

    Am I the only one who read the headline and thought “what about the holy ghost?”?

  18. 18
    News says:

    rvb8 at 16: There is indeed harm in trying to contact that which does not exist – as a moment’s reflection will show. The harm it does is time wasted that could have been wisely spent and is now irrecoverable, while the problem remains unsolved, perhaps worsening in the meantime.

    The account in Samuel 28, http://biblehub.com/niv/1_samuel/28.htm
    tells pretty much the same story whether one believes that the witch called up the ghost of Samuel or only caused Saul to imagine that she had, and whether or not the ghost of Samuel could influence the course of events.

    In other words, possibilities 1 through 3, as above, are all consistent with the “here’s what happened” story we read in 1 Samuel. To determine which is the most likely interpretation, one must look to other sources for the bigger picture.

    I think it is significant that Saul learned from the figure only what he already knew and feared but refused to acknowledge: The last time Saul and Samuel saw each other alive, Samuel had told Saul that he was no longer the rightful king. The figure the witch sees repeats that message to Saul.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%2015:24-30

    The figure then adds that Saul and his sons will be killed in the upcoming battle in which his army will be defeated. But Saul senses that himself, which is why he is so desperate as to seek out a medium, which was forbidden, in the first place.

    In an altered state of consciousness, Saul acknowledges and understands what is usually hidden from his waking mind.

    For the record, I do not believe that mediums can call up departed spirits at their own will and this story does not provide evidence that they can.

  19. 19
    harry says:

    News @18,

    They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
    — Luke 24:37-39

    Christ does not declare that there is no such thing as a ghost. He says instead that ghosts do not have flesh and bones.

    Angels and demons do not have physical bodies, yet angelic beings somehow appear to humans in the Scriptures. A soul of a human who has died does not have a physical body but can somehow make manifest its presence to living humans at times, too.

    For the reasons stated above, and because the Church Fathers seem to have unanimously considered the books of Samuel to be historical, I take the account of Saul and the Witch of Endor literally and at face value.

  20. 20
    News says:

    Harry at 19, I have no problem with your interpretation or theirs. I am saying that the account as given does not compel us to see the matter that way.

  21. 21
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Scripture states that angels and demons—non-human spiritual beings of a higher order than humans—are all around us. What it does not state, and in fact explicitly contradicts, is the idea that the human spirits of those who have died have any contact with the living. Only in two examples has this ever occurred: that of Samuel, mentioned above, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. These were apparently God-appointed exceptions.

    The terrified reaction of the medium at seeing the real human spirit of Samuel, apparently the first time she had ever seen a real human spirit, and the witless reaction of the three disciples at seeing the real human spirits of Moses and Elijah, are the two exceptions that prove the rule, as are Enoch and Elijah who never experienced death.

    Demons pretend to be spirits of the departed human dead, I am sure. Beyond that, we have all the knowledge of the supernatural we need: our only direct and willing contact with the supernatural is to be through God himself. If we encounter demons, as did my brother in law in Africa, we deal with them as Jesus did, and move on.

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