October 22, 2018

Atheist Revolution's Ghost Trilogy

dogs in ghost costumes for Halloween

It is fun to think about ghosts. At least, I think it is fun to think about ghosts, especially as Halloween nears. Are they real? If they were real, how would we know if they were real? If they were real, would they necessarily mean that some sort of god had to exist? But mostly, I think I find them fun to think about because they remind me of a time in my life when I could almost convince myself that they might be real just long enough to get a good scare.

Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather hold true beliefs than be entertained by false ones. I am happy to trade the thrills of thinking that ghosts, demons, gods, or whatever else might exist with accepting the reality that there is no evidence that they do. I think it would be pretty cool if evidence of ghosts were to emerge, but I'm not exactly holding my breath in anticipation that it is going to happen. And besides, I am still capable of temporarily suspending my disbelief to help me experience transient scares when desirable.

I am not sure why I found myself writing about ghosts during the summer of 2018, but it probably had something to do with looking forward to Halloween. I wrote three short posts on the subject:
  1. Do Ghosts Have To Be Supernatural?
  2. Do Ghosts Require the Christian God?
  3. How Would We Know If Ghosts Exist?
Many people, including some atheists, believe in ghosts. Maybe that is part of what makes them interesting. Of course, the number of people who believe in them does not make them any more likely to exist. What it does mean, though, is that we will continue to run into people who believe in ghosts, making the subject at least somewhat relevant.

Compared with Jesus-believers, there does seem to be at least one fascinating difference as far as some ghost-believers are concerned: it often looks like they are actively seeking evidence. I have mocked the many paranormal investigation and ghost hunting shows that air on cable this time of year, and I will probably continue to do so. Still, I have to acknowledge that the people on these shows are at least depicted as if they are trying to find evidence to support their belief in ghosts. I know that it is staged and hardly scientific, but they at least seem to be looking in a way that most Christians are not.

Of course, most people who believe in ghosts probably aren't running around looking for evidence. At least, most of those I know who have told me they believe in ghosts are perfectly content to base their belief on an experience or two they've had. These experiences often sound similar to the kinds of experiences Christians point to in support of their god-belief. And yes, they also sometimes sound like common reactions to the death of a loved one, stress, trauma, or other mental health conditions.

I've had a few paranormal experiences too. They never led me to be absolutely certain that what I experienced was real, but they did briefly make me wonder about the possibility. I can't say they had much of a lasting impact. As I learned more about how the mind works, I found many more plausible explanations for what I experienced. If I was strongly motivated by a desire to believe in something paranormal, I have had experiences on which I could draw to support such a desire. Fortunately, this is a case where I'd much rather base my beliefs on evidence than seek evidence to confirm what I'd like to believe.