For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by people who firmly believe in the existence of ghosts. Members of my family are convinced that my aunt's house is haunted by a little girl who sits at the end of people's beds. My grandmother and all of her brothers and sisters swear a ghost, believed to be the protective spirit of my grandmother's father, threw one of the sisters across the room when she mocked my grandmother for believing in ghosts. Apparently she even had a red handprint on her face to prove it, and all of the sibling swear by it. This same grandmother apparently predicted the deaths of several members of the family, saying she had seen their ghosts appear in front of her before the phone rang announcing they had passed away. My grandmother also used to say that by the koppies (hills) where she lived she often saw khaki boere (old South African white farmers) walking, dressed the same way they were when they were killed at those same koppies in pre-Apartheid boere wars. A couple of years ago myself and some other women in my family were having a candlelit dinner and we started speaking about a woman in our family who's husband had "accidentally" shot her, and the candles went out. My mom mentioned it again yesterday saying she could feel Jeanette was in the room with us.

I can think of a thousand more stories like these.

I don't know what to make of all of this. I really want to do a stake-out at my aunt's house, for one thing. So many people have said that that house is haunted that there must be something up, right? There's a long history of belief in ghosts in my family, and it's really beginning to clash with my worldviews.

I consider myself a skeptic and therefore I am not inclined to believe in something because of hearsay or based purely on anecdotal evidence. However, what if there are ghosts? What would this mean for a belief in an afterlife? If ghosts are simply spirits who had passed away suddenly or still had unfinished business, as my mom believes, then why isn't the surface of the planet swarming with the billions and billions of spirits whose bodies died in car accidents, wars, genocides, murders etc.? If there are ghosts then that would mean that we have souls.

And so the belief in one intangible thing automatically entails a belief in a whole cohort of intangible things. I don't believe in a soul or in an afterlife, but what do I make of all of these ghost stories? My mom is convinced that I should be able to see ghosts because every second woman in our family is apparently met die hemel gebore (born with a sixth sense/touched), and since my ouma (grandmother) could see ghosts I should be able to too. But I don't. I've tried. I've played glassy-glassy when I was younger and I've tried speaking to ghosts. I just don't find this belief in the ethereal to be realistic.

Am I being rash in thinking that? How do I reconcile these family stories and beliefs with the way I see the world? Should I do that stake-out at my aunt's house and see what happens? What if there's a ghost there though? What if there really is something there? What then? Will I become some sort of weird New Age believer?

Gawd, I'm confused.

Tags: afterlife, ghosts, spirits, spiritual, supernatural

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I've had experiences like this with dreams and memories. I think all memories fade and we keep them alive by re-remembering them. The thing is, whether they start out as real or imagined, they change a little bit every time we re-remember. Our world is made up of memories of memories. No wonder its so hard for people to know what's real. This leads us to why science is such a great tool. Once you are familiar with how it works, you can use the scientific method to test your reality. People without this tool are almost perfectly rudderless against religious dogma or fantastical beliefs.
What had you been drinking.
Some people have to make up stories to keep themselves occupied. I often awake from a dream thinking at first it was real, after 2 seconds I just realise it is a dream where many cannot.
How do we know all these experts are not lyhin g to us. It can make some people feel important.
How about virgins if you blow yourself and others up, if you have any intellegence you would tell them to get lost.
Well... call the ghostbusters. That'll end their absurdity.

hah, Jests aside, just explain to them the foolishness of believing in things when it's perfectly clear that all things that happen around you are explainable... and if it's not, investigate it to come up with a reasonable explanation.

Use the points in this video:
Ghosts... they are very alluring, but I am certain there is always a rational explanation. For example a few years back I worked for a company based in an old church. Many of the people swore they had seen a white lady in the reception as they passed through. One day I saw it too. Well more like I felt as if I had seen it. The experience was strong enough for me to feel I needed to examine further, so I stopped dead in my tracks and looked around. I could see nothing so I backtracked slowly, all the way back to the door I entered through, which was situated in a short corridor. I noticed a small but deep set window in the corridor's outside wall, right next to the door. I walked up to it but could see nothing until I was stood directly in front of it. And there right at the back of the windowsill was a small white marble statue of a woman. This was the ghost. As people walked in they saw the statue but it did not register until they had passed the window. Looking back they could see nothing but the front of the window recess. But they had the image of a white lady in their mind.
So they assumed it was a ghost they had seen.
That's absolutely fascinating. It's amazing how something like that can happen to so many people before someone actually thinks to investigate it.

That's something I haven't considered yet: your subconscious being fed information through peripheral vision and your brain not consciously making you aware of it. I've considered this before in other fields.
I was once convinced I didn't have a lecture, and then I found out hours later that I had missed the lecture I thought I didn't have, but it turns out that I really didn't have a lecture, so it sort of got me thinking that it was nearly as though my brain knew something that for a moment I wasn't consciously aware of. It totally spaced on reminding me to go to a lecture even though on the surface I thought I had a lecture, because I didn't actually have a lecture. It was as though my brain and I were too separately functioning entities because of this distinction between the conscious and subconscious. (hope that made sense. I realise it's not quite as legit as the marble statue story).
When enexpected sensory data such as unusual sounds are switched from my hypothalamus my amygdala tells my motor cortex to turn my head in the direction ordered by my auditory evaluation system and my paralymbic system screams "potential dangerous agent". Then my visual cortex records no unexpected visual stimulii, but for a few milliseconds my paralymbic system insists that despite the lack of supporting data "maybe there's an agent, like a ghost". Then my prefrontal cortex catches wind of this, runs a few executive calculations using some innate and some expressed algorithms, spits out "division by zero" and notifies my conciousness that I'm an idiot for succombing my reptilian mental faculties even momentarily, but that at least I overcome it, and that it could be worse. Other peoples' PFCs don't work as well, so they just run around believing their reptilian brains, and they end up believing in Jebus.
Nobody's said anything - sorry guys - I hope I didn't kill the thread - I was enjoying everybody's participation.
I find it ironic that a bunch of atheists are arguing about the existence of ghosts.
Why? Atheism just pertains to deities. Not believing in a god does not automatically mean that the person is going to have a rational, skeptical outlook on other topics. It's very common, yes, but not mandatory. I've met several atheists who had beliefs on non-deity-related topics which were just as lacking in evidence as the existence of a god but they hadn't critically examined those beliefs.

For myself, I try to maintain a skeptical position on any topic, only coming to a conclusion after going over the evidence, pro and con. I no more believe in ghosts, crystal healing, Bigfoot, reincarnation, homeopathy, remote viewing or any of a number of other topics than I do in a deity.
It would be very cool, yes. And I'd be ecstatic if it turned out that Nessie actually *was* a plesiosaur family hiding out at the bottom of Loch Ness. :D Sadly, the evidence isn't there.
Certainly not. Clearly, it is Bigfoot taking a bath. :)
why does not believing in god have it's own label "atheist", but not believing in ghosts doesn't? Or does it?


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