posted on Sep, 6 2012 @ 05:12 PM
With interest in the paranormal soaring these days, and with Hollywood at the helm with shows like "Medium" and "Ghost Whisperer," people often
ask me what the relationship is between religious belief and belief in the paranormal.
I think what they're really asking is, "Can I be a good member of a church or synagogue and still believe in the paranormal?"
It's a very good question.
Interest in the paranormal soars in wartime and whenever the economy sours. Add to that the mistrust many people now have for the mainline churches
and the clergy because of recently revealed sex scandals, etc., and people become desperate for something to turn to. We are, after all, homo adorans
("worshipping man"): Worshipping God is part of the way we are built. Hollywood excels in picking up on this need and capitalizing on it, therefore
fueling even more interest among viewers.
Popular science can get into the act, too. Far from debunking the supernatural and religion, some modern scientific theories, especially quantum
mechanics and string theory, are trashing scientific materialism (the belief that matter is basically all there is) and indirectly encouraging a new
(rather stunning, I think) interpretation of the paranormal, which my own books on the subject espouse. While their theology may not jive with that of
the local clergy, some scientists today are routinely talking about God.
In the end, people believe what they want to believe, even within highly dogmatic religious groups. They will interpret even the strictest official
teachings in their own ways and learn to be comfortable with them. They will rationalize nearly any belief or practice with the religion in which they
were brought up or in which they feel most at home. That's why there are pro-choice advocates among Roman Catholics and Tarot card readers among
evangelicals, to name just a few.
Most any student of folklore will tell you that all our religions had their origins in (for all intents and purposes) the paranormal. They resulted
from the primal and universal human need to explain the unexplained, especially death. The ultimate drive was and is a gut need to know that our loved
ones are okay, and that we will be okay -- that, when all is said and done, Someone loves us. When this need is answered to our satisfaction -- by
religion, the paranormal or both -- we have the sense of security, belonging and well-being we all thirst for.
I think interest in the paranormal coexists very comfortably with religious belief, and this draws strength from the fact that modern religious
institutions no longer adequately answer the simple questions of “Are they okay? Will I be okay?” When it suits them, people are picking their way
beyond the institutional religions into paranormal interests, if not actual occult practices, because mainline religion isn't -- or is no longer --
answering their ultimate questions in ways that satisfy them.
So is it okay to belong to a church, temple or other organized religious group and still believe in ghosts, clairvoyance, ESP and all that when the
group officially frowns on such beliefs?
There is the question of honesty. In many religions today, you can in good conscience believe pretty much anything you want. Others still have a
notion of discipline and obedience. To be faithful to your group and to yourself, you should deal with the question of whether you belong to the right
And I offer the same warnings to religious believers that I do to those interested in the paranormal: Beware of anyone (clergy, medium or whoever) or
anything that tells you what God thinks and what God wants. Learn from those with more experience than you, of course. Use your own brain, your own
heart and your own faith. And don't be afraid to judge!
In the end, after all the talk, all the books and all the dogma, it's just you and God. And all theology and all science end in silence.