October 18, 2013

This Skeptic Still Enjoys Horror Films

Promotional poster of American Horror Story.
Promotional poster of American Horror Story. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have made no secret of my love for horror films. I look forward to October, in part, because a few of the cable stations play lots of horror flicks. I have heard a few skeptics say that they can no longer enjoy horror films now that they do not believe in ghosts, monsters, demons, etc. I have never had this problem, as I can willingly suspend disbelief for 90 minutes to enjoy a movie. This does not mean that I somehow will myself to believe in ghosts or demonic possession; it just means that I am able to mute the skeptical part of my mind for awhile to enjoy what I'm watching. I doubt this makes me unique, as I suspect it is a common experience.

One of the things I've noticed this year when watching the few horror films I've had time to watch is that I can still enjoy many of them even when I do not mute my skepticism completely; I just enjoy them in a different way. I caught Paranormal Activity the other night. I saw it when it first came out but not again until now. When I watched it the first time, I muted my skepticism and enjoyed it a bit even though I did not find it particularly scary and felt somewhat let down by the marketing hype. I watched it this time without the skepticism muted so much and still found it entertaining. It was more funny than scary this time around, and while I realize that this probably was not what the filmmakers were aiming for, the point is that I was still able to enjoy it.

And while only one episode has aired so far, I am psyched for the new season of American Horror Story. I will admit that the story does not look particularly compelling, but I cannot resist the opportunity to see Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett together on the same show. I don't imagine that I will find myself unable to enjoy the series just because I am a skeptic who does not believe in any of the supernatural elements.

When Christians claim that we atheists and/or skeptics cannot possibly enjoy life because we have stripped it of any mystery or sense of awe, they reveal how little they understand about the human mind. My path to skepticism did not require me to stop being human. My sense of awe as an atheist is as strong as it ever was as a Christian (sorry, Oprah); I just interpret it differently. I am not immune to beauty, the wonders of nature, or the stimulation that comes from pondering life's big questions. I recognize that we are surrounded by mystery; it just isn't supernatural. At least, not unless we want it to be for 90 minutes or so.

Do you find that there are things (like horror movies) you used to like that you can no longer enjoy even though you really want to because of your atheism/skepticism?

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