|This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 29th week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Many atheists are fond of mocking Christians for their belief in angels, and I can't say I blame them. The existence of angels seems every bit as absurd as the existence of gods. But there's at least one problem with mocking Christians for believing in angels: some of the atheists doing this share another silly belief with the Christians they are mocking: ghosts.
An atheist is someone who does not believe in gods, and this leaves atheists free to believe in all sorts of other supernatural nonsense, including souls, ghosts, haunted houses, and other things we tend to hear about during the month of October. I suspect that the majority of atheists do not believe in these things, but some certainly do. There is nothing inherent in atheism that precludes such beliefs.
What I find interesting is that when one asks ghost-believing atheists why they are mocking Christians for believing in angels, the reasons they provide are often the same ones given by those of us who find belief in any supernatural entities ridiculous. It is almost as if they have a blind spot of sorts when it comes to the particular supernatural beings in which they believe. Angels are silly; ghosts are real. Of course there are no gods, but spirits somehow survive the death of the brain and linger as some sort of intelligent energy fields.
This October, I think it might be useful to entertain the possibility that irrational belief is all around us. Being an atheist may mean that one has managed to shed one particular form of it; it does not necessarily mean that one has escaped many other forms. As we pat ourselves on the back for shedding belief in gods and angels, we would do well to remain vigilant for other areas where we cling to beliefs without sufficient evidence.