July 11, 2010

Paranormal Experiences

Brown Lady.jpgAre atheists simply hard-headed sorts who have never had the sort of inexplicable experiences that so many others interpret as evidence of supernatural entities? Maybe we've been surrounded by ghosts, angels, and demons and have just bee too stubborn to see them. Have you ever had an experience that you considered paranormal at the time? If so, how were you able to override that personal experience to reach the conclusion that none of it was real?

Like many people, I had a variety of experiences during my teenage years that I interpreted as evidence of paranormal phenomena. Collectively, I am now content to explain these experiences as resulting from a complex interplay of developmental factors, substance abuse, stress, personality characteristics, and emotional problems. At the time, however, they seemed perfectly real and difficult to explain.

I can remember a handful of particularly vivid experiences of seeing things that turned out not to be there. I had no idea at the time that these experiences were fairly common for teenagers. I did not know how to explain these experiences, and so I drifted toward explanations that seemed more entertaining or which fit the demands of the situation. I didn't realize that this was what I was doing at the time, at least not fully. It was easy - and fun - to make the jump from strange experiences to supernatural entities.

Looking back on it, I could imagine how someone might craft the standard sort of argument we hear from those who continue to believe in such things. I was more open in my youth, less quick to dismiss novel experiences. With age, I've become too closed-off, too cynical. Perhaps there is even some merit to this argument. Still, I find it far more likely that I know how to think more clearly than I did back then and have fewer motives to misinterpret experiences to fit a particular context or set of expectations.

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